Personal Services Income vs Business Income - Key Differences

March 12, 2024

Simon Madziar
Simon Madziar

Personal Services Income vs Business Income - Key Differences

Key Highlights

  • Personal services income (PSI) is income that is earned mainly from an individual's personal skills or efforts.
  • PSI can be earned in any industry or profession and is subject to special tax rules.
  • Business income, on the other hand, is income generated by a business entity through the sale of goods or services.
  • The classification of income as PSI or business income affects the tax treatment and deductions that can be claimed.
  • The PSI rules determine whether income is classified as PSI and apply to sole traders, companies, partnerships, and trusts.
  • Understanding the key differences between PSI and business income is crucial for tax planning and compliance.


Are you a sole trader working as a contractor, consultant, or freelancer? Or do you offer products or services that are based mainly on your personal skills and labor? If so, it's important to understand the difference between personal services income (PSI) and business income. The classification of your income can have significant implications for your tax obligations and deductions.

Personal services income (PSI) refers to income that is mainly earned from your personal skills or efforts as an individual. This can include income earned as a consultant, freelancer, or any other profession where your expertise and labor are the primary sources of income. PSI can be earned in almost any industry or trade.

On the other hand, business income is income generated by a business entity through the sale of goods or services. This includes income earned from the operation of a business, such as manufacturing, retail sales, or service provision. Business income is not dependent solely on an individual's personal skills or labor, but rather on the operation and success of the business as a whole.

Understanding the distinction between PSI and business income is important because it affects the tax treatment and deductions that can be claimed. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has specific rules and guidelines in place to ensure that PSI is properly classified and taxed. By understanding these rules, you can ensure that you meet your tax obligations and optimise your deductions.

Understanding Personal Services Income (PSI)

In order to understand the differences between personal services income (PSI) and business income, it is important to first understand what is meant by PSI. PSI refers to income that is predominantly earned from an individual's personal skills or efforts. The ATO has specific rules in place to determine whether income is classified as PSI, including the results test, the employment test, and the clients test. These tests help to determine whether income is generated primarily from an individual's personal skills or whether it is generated through the operation of a business. By understanding these rules, individuals can ensure that they accurately report and classify their income for tax purposes.

Common Misconceptions about PSI

There are some common misconceptions about personal services income (PSI) that individuals should be aware of. One common misconception is that PSI only applies to income earned by professionals with specialised skills. In reality, PSI can be earned in almost any industry or profession where an individual's personal skills or labor are the primary sources of income.

Another misconception is that the special tax rules that apply to PSI are overly complex or burdensome. While the rules can be complex, they are in place to ensure that PSI is properly classified and taxed. By following these rules, individuals can ensure that they meet their tax obligations and optimise their deductions.

It is also important to note that PSI income is subject to special tax rules, which may limit the deductions that can be claimed against this income. Individuals who earn PSI should consult with a tax professional to ensure that they understand the specific rules and regulations that apply to their situation and to maximise their tax benefits.

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Examples of personal services income

PSI include a wide range of professions and industries where individuals can earn such income. The PSI rules apply to various personal services businesses, such as:

  • consulting,
  • creative services,
  • health and wellness services,
  • technical services,
  • trades services,
  • personal care services,
  • education and training services,
  • professional services,
  • and hospitality services.

Exploring the Nature of Business Income

Key Characteristics of Business Income include its diversity, derived from various sources beyond personal efforts. Business income differs markedly from other income types as it encompasses revenue from the sale of goods or services, operating in a business structure subject to normal tax rules. Market value underpins income determination, where assets and skills contribute to revenue generation. Moreover, business income requires strategic tax planning to optimise deductions and comply with tax obligations, demanding a sound business premise and professional advice.

Key Characteristics of Business Income

Business income is distinct for its source being a business entity rather than an individual's efforts. It encompasses revenue generated from a mix of PSI, products, or services. The sale of goods or provision of professional services contributes to this income type. Taxable under normal tax rules, it often involves the use of assets or a specific skill set. Understanding the nuances of business income is crucial for managing tax return obligations effectively.

The Crucial Differences Between PSI and Business Income

Legal and tax implications distinguish personal services income (PSI) from business income. Understanding the impact on deductions and claims is vital. PSI rules are pertinent, affecting when they apply, exemptions, and exceptions. Maximising deductions for PSI involves strategic planning and optimising eligible deductions. The distinction lies in the nature of income earned: PSI reflects personal efforts, while business income encompasses a broader scope, including the use of assets and business premises. Managing these disparities is key for navigating tax obligations effectively.

Legal and Tax Implications

Engaging in personal services income vs business income holds significant legal and tax implications. Understanding the nuances can impact your tax return and overall financial obligations. Compliance with psi rules is crucial to avoid penalties. Differentiating between personal services business and other income types is key to managing tax obligations efficiently. Seeking professional advice on structuring your business entity can optimise deductions within the normal tax rules. Consider the specific skill set involved and the use of assets to navigate the legal and tax landscape effectively.

Impact on Deductions and Claims

Maximising deductions and claims is pivotal when differentiating personal services income from business income. Understanding the nuances can lead to significant advantages in managing tax obligations. By comprehending the implications on deductions and claims, individuals can optimise their financial strategies effectively. Navigating through the specific rules and regulations concerning deductions and claims is essential for maximising tax benefits and ensuring compliance with the Australian Taxation Office guidelines. Strategic planning is crucial to leverage deductions seamlessly within the framework of personal services income and business income.

Navigating PSI Rules and Regulations

Understanding and complying with PSI rules is vital for anyone involved in a personal services business. These rules govern how income is treated for tax purposes, impacting deductions and claims. Knowing when PSI rules apply to you, along with any exceptions or exemptions, is crucial. Seeking professional advice to navigate these regulations can optimise your tax return obligations and ensure compliance with the Australian Taxation Office. Stay informed about the nuances of PSI rules to maximise deductions and minimise tax liabilities.

When Do PSI Rules Apply to You?

To determine when PSI rules apply, consider if your income comes mainly from personal efforts. If you provide services directly to clients without substantial business structure, PSI rules likely apply. Understanding these rules helps in compliance and tax planning.

PSI Tests

A set of assessments are utilised to establish if an agreement qualifies as an employment arrangement (thus falling under the PSI rules) or if the earnings stem from a Personal Services Business (thus exempt from the PSI rules). These assessments must be conducted annually for PSI cases, and when there are several individuals earning PSI within the business, each person is assessed individually.

There are five distinct PSI tests:

  • Results Test,
  • The 80% Rule,
  • Unrelated Clients Test,
  • Employment Test,
  • Business Premises Test.

Exceptions and Exemptions in PSI Rules

In certain instances, there are exceptions and exemptions in PSI rules that individuals should be aware of. These exceptions may apply to specific professions or circumstances, providing relief from certain obligations or requirements typically associated with PSI. Understanding these exceptions is crucial for navigating the complexities of personal services income and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations. By being knowledgeable about these exemptions, individuals can make informed decisions regarding their tax obligations and optimise their financial strategies.

Personal Services Income Deductions – What can I claim?

If you are subject to PSI regulations, your reporting of income to the ATO and the deductions for personal services income may be impacted. Specific questions related to PSI must be answered in your tax return.

Potential deductions for personal services income may cover:

  • Costs incurred to secure work, like advertising expenses, tenders, and quotes
  • Fees for registration and licensing
  • Account-keeping charges, including bank fees
  • Certain insurance expenses, such as public liability and professional indemnity insurance premiums
  • Payments for salary, wages, and super contributions for an arm's length employee (not an associate)
  • Reasonable payments made to an associate for primary work
  • A proportion of home office costs, including heating, lighting, phone, and internet. Rent, mortgage interest, rates, or land taxes cannot be claimed

Additional deductions may be available based on your business type and contractual agreements.

As a sole trader, you are restricted from claiming certain deductions against your PSI and must fulfil specific tax return obligations when the PSI rules are enforced. Nevertheless, you can still claim PSI deductions for expenses related to earning alternative income in accordance with standard tax regulations.

For those operating under a company, partnership, or trust and subject to the PSI rules, deductions can only be made for income classified as PSI. If you earn any other income, you can still claim deductions for expenses incurred in generating that income as per regular tax guidelines.

In cases where you receive both PSI and other income, you must apportion your expenses between each income category. If the PSI is derived from multiple individuals, the deductions linked to that PSI should be assigned to the individuals who contributed to it.

Attributed and Non-attributed PSI – What’s the difference

When payments are made to a taxpayer as an employee, attributed PSI does not go to the entity with its own ABN but is treated as general employment income. In this scenario, the individual will receive a PAYG with the income and relevant tax details reported to the ATO by the payer. If your PSI is paid to a PSI entity, the income will be attributed to you unless the entity earned the income through conducting a personal services business or promptly paid it to you as a salary.

Attributing PSI

The PSI allocated to each individual in your business must be attributed to them after deductions, and they must report this income in their tax return.

Non-attributed Income

The PSI paid to the taxpayer as a sole trader should be reported as ABN income on the tax return. PAYG won't be received for this income, and it won't be reported to the ATO as a general rule. However, the ATO may receive information on ABN income paid to individual sole traders through other channels.


In conclusion, understanding the distinction between Personal Services Income (PSI) and Business Income is crucial for navigating legal and tax implications effectively. By recognising the key characteristics and implications of each income type, you can optimise deductions and compliance with rules and regulations. It's essential to seek professional advice to ensure compliance and maximise your financial outcomes. If you need further guidance on managing PSI or clarifying your income classification, don't hesitate to get in touch with our experts. Stay informed, stay compliant, and make informed decisions to secure your financial future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the 80% Rule and How Does It Affect Me?

The 80% rule restricts deductions for personal services income (PSI) if you earn 80% or more from one client. Understanding and complying with this rule can impact your tax deductions significantly. Learn how it affects your PSI to optimise your tax benefits.

Can I Switch from PSI to Business Income Status?

Switching from PSI to business income status is possible but requires meeting specific criteria. Factors like control over work, delegation, and ability to generate income without personal involvement influence this transition. Understanding these distinctions can help individuals navigate the process effectively.

How Do I Determine If My Income Is PSI or Business Income?

To determine if your income is PSI or business income, assess factors like control over work, business structure, and ability to delegate tasks. Consider your industry norms and legal definitions. Seek professional advice for accurate classification.

What Are the Penalties for Misclassifying Income?

Misclassifying income can lead to severe consequences such as fines, interest charges, and potential legal action by tax authorities. It's crucial to accurately categorise income to avoid penalties and comply with tax regulations. Understanding the repercussions can help you navigate income classification effectively.

Are There Specific Industries More Affected by PSI Rules?

Certain industries like IT, consulting, and engineering are more impacted by PSI rules due to the nature of services provided. Understanding these specific industry nuances is crucial for navigating PSI regulations effectively.

Can Incorporation Affect My PSI Status?

Incorporation can impact your PSI status. When deciding if incorporation affects your PSI, consider legal and tax implications. Understanding how incorporation alters your position is vital.

Tips for Managing PSI in a Changing Economic Landscape

Discover effective strategies to manage Personal Services Income (PSI) amidst economic shifts. Stay informed about evolving regulations and adapt your approach accordingly to maximise deductions and compliance. Stay ahead by understanding the nuances of PSI in a dynamic economic environment.

Where to Seek Advice on PSI and Business Income Classification

Seek advice on PSI and business income classification from qualified accountants or tax professionals. Consult industry-specific resources, online forums, or government websites for accurate guidance. Ensure compliance with regulations to make informed decisions.

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*Please note that the above information is general advice only. We recommend you seek advice from a specialist relevant to your personal situation. This information is correct at the time of publishing and is subject to change*

Tax laws and regulations can change over time, so it is important to stay informed about any updates or amendments that may affect your tax obligations. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is the authoritative source for the most up-to-date information regarding tax requirements and regulations in Australia.


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