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Associate Lease

You have probably heard of salary packaging, a flexible remuneration scheme where employees agree to forgo part of their salary (thus the term salary sacrifice) in exchange for certain non-cash benefits.

An Associate Lease is one of the ways through which employers can provide their employees with car benefits under a salary packaging agreement. With an associate lease in place an employee can reduce their taxable income in exchange for a motor vehicle.

What is an Associate Lease?

An Associate Lease is a lease rental arrangement whereby an Associate of the employee (eg partner, spouse) owns the motor vehicle and leases it to the employer.

The motor vehicle is then provided to the employee on a fully maintained basis. Once the lease is in place, the motor vehicle is recognised as an Employer provided motor vehicle for both the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Fringe Benefits Assessment Act.

The Benefits of Associate Leases

The Associate leases arrangement provides two key benefits:

  1. Lease payments are paid as income to the associate who would generally be in a lower tax bracket than the employee.
  2. All of the running and maintenance costs are paid for and claimed as a deductable expense by the employer.
  3. Employee forgoes income in exchange for car benefits thereby reducing tax liability

An associate lease is thus a salary sacrifice arrangement that is very similar to a novated lease agreement. However, in an associate lease, the employee’s associate is the owner and thus the lessor of the vehicle provided by the employer to the employee whereas, in a novated lease, a finance company is the lessor.

However convoluted it may seem on the surface, an associate lease is simply an arrangement in which the employee through his associate leases the employer his or her existing car so that the employer can provide him or her with car fringe benefits, which he or she pays for by sacrificing part of his or her future salary.

Under an Associate Lease Agreement, the associate is liable to pay taxes on the lease payments received. However, if the associate in the agreement happens to be someone who has no or quite low income (e.g. adult child attending university), then income tax savings can still be considerable. After all, the marginal tax rate would still be lower than the rate that the employee would have to pay had the amount been on his or her assessable income. The depreciation allowance for the first year also leads to further reduction in the associate’s assessable income.

More information and how to download an Associate Lease Agreement Template