9 ways for small business owners to keep the taxman happy

When Benjamin Franklin said that the only things certain in life were “death and taxes” most people didn’t consider that they may be closely linked.

But problems with taxes can lead to the death of your small business unless you take steps to keep the taxman off your back.

With sales meetings, recruitment, salaries, cashflow issues, marketing, suppliers, and a whole string of other things for small business owners to worry about, there’s no need to add the taxman to the list.

A robust financial system that keeps the tax authorities happy should be the foundation that underpins your business – allowing you to focus on the multitude of other issues that require your attention.

The specific requirements set out by your tax authority will differ by location but many of the basics remain the same wherever you are.

And most authorities are currently tightening the rules and clamping down on tax cheats and tax avoidance.

Nine of the most important general guidelines are detailed below: wherever you’re located, whatever your business size, and whatever industry you’re in, these will help you identify red flags in your tax setup:

1. Understand all the tax requirements – or find someone who does

Do you think your tax affairs are simple? They’re probably not. Ninety-nine percent of small business owners don’t fully understand tax legislation – so it’s important to seek specialist help.

The temptation a business owner is to try to look after everything yourself. With tax, this can be a false economy: not only can it take ages to get to grips with what you need to do; it’s likely that you’ll miss something important. And the taxman will be on your back!

2. File returns on time

The general rule is to file tax returns within twelve months of the end of your accounting period but this may vary with location.

Good planning in your business will ensure that you’re ready for the process; you know when it’s coming, have scheduled time to do it each year, and don’t end up scrambling around at the last minute to avoid penalties.

3. Keep consistent & accurate records

You should already understand the importance of accuracy and consistency: quite apart from generating the management reports to make good business decisions, the tax authorities love you for it too.

Being consistent and accurate will help you flag any changes that affect your tax liability and explain any changes that raise questions from the tax authorities.

If you have some bookkeeping experience, you may be able to manage this yourself with user-friendly cloud software like Xero and Quickbooks Online. Otherwise, it’s best to have a certified bookkeeper or accountant keep your accounting records up to date.

4. Keep the ‘evidence’ together

Keep the receipts and invoices for business expenses together. Most business owners know they should do this but it’s surprising how many find themselves scrambling around looking for receipts when the time comes to do tax returns.

And even when they do find the receipts, they don’t know what they relate to.

Keep it organised. All tax authorities want to know that there is sufficient documentation to justify business expenses. Receipts don’t have legs. Your own inefficient system is responsible for losing them or causing confusion about their origin.

One of the benefits of using a cloud computing app such as Xero is the ability to take a photo of a receipt with your smartphone to ‘scan in’ an expense receipt straight into Xero; or you can use specialist apps that integrate with Xero such as Receipt Bank or Expensify.

5. File business & personal expenditure separately

It’s easy to confuse business and personal expenditure. Unfortunately, it’s one of the quickest ways to get offside with the tax authorities.

By keeping them separate, you can see at a glance what you can deduct and what you can’t: that means two separate (probably electronic) filing systems. Don’t be tempted to think “I’ll sort them out when the time comes for my tax return”. You’ll forget or cause delays.

6. If you’re a cash-based business, take extra steps

For small business owners such as tradespeople, who often get paid in cash, take extra steps to keep things transparent. You can guarantee that you will be on the taxman’s radar at some point.

For income, keep additional records to back up bank deposit records, such as cash register printouts or manual records of daily sales that can be matched to the bank records.

One of the benefits of moving your accounting systems to the cloud, is the ability to do things faster and easier with paperless processes. For example, trades-based businesses can use apps like ServiceM8 to quote and invoice in the field and even take electronic payments on site.

If you’re thinking, “I prefer to be paid in cash,” the ‘cash economy’—where a business does not declare all its income in order to reduce profits and therefore tax—is not such a great idea. Your business will be more valuable when it comes time to sell it if you have always shown all your sales revenue ‘on the books’.

7. Create a clear policy for employee reimbursement

Tax auditors want to know that you’re following the regulations with regards to employee reimbursement for travel, mileage, personal expenses, etc. They also want to know that expenses are appropriately signed off within the business to indicate that the business accepts liability.

Document a clear policy that determines what employees can claim for and how they go about claiming it. Make sure that this is clearly communicated to all employees.

8. Plan for your tax bill

There’s no room for surprise tax bills on the path to success. Tax is generally predictable and consistent. This means that you can – and should – plan for it in advance.

Sit down with your tax professional, understand what’s coming and when, and create a fund that can be used to pay the bill when it arrives. Maybe lock away a set sum every month. That way there are no nasty surprises ahead.

9. Never avoid the letters

Just because your tax authority writes to you asking questions or requesting records, it doesn’t necessarily mean the worst. Never avoid or delay answering these questions, as they don’t go away.

Answer in a timely fashion – there will normally be an expected response date detailed on the letter. Don’t go beyond this.

Take some tax advice and answer the questions to the best of your abilities. Most tax issues can be solved relatively easily if they are dealt with before they spiral out of hand.

Don’t get caught out by non-compliance with tax or it can cost you and your business. Get the right tax advice from the start and follow the tips above to keep the taxman happy.

If you need any specialist tax advice for your business, contact one of our advisors to talk it through.

Your 9 point checklist for paying less tax this year (and why this checklist will be useless to you in a few weeks’ time)

Time is running out.

If you want to take a few simple preventative measures to minimise or defer how much tax you will pay for this Financial Year, you need to do two things:

  1. Read the following 9 point checklist, then
  2. Call or email us as soon as possible so we can make a time to sit do with you to assess which of these preventative measures can be done for you in your circumstances.

Depending on your situation, this tax planning process could save you many thousands of dollars. That’s cash in your bank account, rather than the Tax Office’s.

After all, why pay one more dollar in tax than you have to?

I’m sure you have better uses for your money, such as investing in your future or just investing in the here and now and rewarding yourself with a little ‘lifestyle indulgence’.

Now … to the checklist. Tick each item you think is relevant to you:

❑ Review debtors Your income tax is payable on any invoices you’ve issued, even if you haven’t been paid. Don’t pay tax on any invoice you know won’t ever get paid. Review the list of those who owe you money and write off those ‘bad debts’ now.

❑ Review your stock levels The value of your closing stock directly affects your business profit, the higher your stock value the higher your profit and tax. Review and identify any obsolete or old stock and scrap it or re-value it to its correct value. Individual items of stock can be valued at cost, market value, or replacement value.

❑ Review your business assets Write off any obsolete asset and claim its remaining book value now. There are also new ways assets can be depreciated, called pooling, that will increase the depreciation expense. This isn’t suitable for all business, but it is worthwhile reviewing.

❑ Defer income — A simple tip that can defer a lot of tax for you If your cashflow allows, you may consider deferring some of your invoices until July. If the income was not invoiced this financial year, it can’t be taxed this financial year. Before taking this option we recommend having a budget to manage these months income and expenses. We can help you with that.

❑ Review your invoices issued If you have invoiced someone in advance for services you will provide in the next financial year, then you may not have earned that income in this tax year. That income may belong in the year you provide the service. Again, this is something we can work out with you when we meet for tax planning.

❑ Pay the June quarter superannuation Superannuation if paid on time is deductible when paid. Since you have to pay the 9.5% superannuation by 28 July, bring it forward a month and pay it now and claim the deduction now. Why wait a whole year to reduce your tax?

❑ Using all of your superannuation cap If maximising your superannuation is part of your retirement plan, then don’t forget to contribute as much as you can into your super fund. We can guide you as to how much you can contribute. It’s a missed opportunity not to do this each year.

❑ Employee bonuses Bonuses to employees are deductible when the business has committed to paying them and it is not subject to any discretion. So finalise and sign off on the bonuses to be paid and reduce this year’s tax.

❑ Capital Gains Tax (CGT) Minimising your capital gains tax is often about timing. Ensure the asset has been owned for at least 12 months. If you already have a capital gain, are there any investments making a loss you can sell? Do you qualify for any capital gain rollover relief concessions? (Again, we can guide you here.) CGT is a whole topic on its own, and the potential savings are so great, it is definitely an area in which you should seek our guidance.

If you ticked any of the above items, then we need to talk. And soon.

Call us now on 3421 3421 (Brisbane) or 5474 8955 (Sunshine Coast) or email Rob, Sam, Peter or Myself to make a time to meet and discuss your tax planning options.

A 9-point checklist for paying less tax (providing you act quickly)

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Time is running out.

If you want to take a few simple preventative measures to minimise or defer how much tax you will pay for this Financial Year, you need to do two things:

  1. Read the following 9 point checklist, then
  2. Call or email us as soon as possible so we can make a time to sit do with you to assess which of these preventative measures can be done for you in your circumstances.

Depending on your situation, this tax planning process could save you many thousands of dollars. That’s cash in your bank account, rather than the Tax Office’s.

After all, why pay one more dollar in tax than you have to?

I’m sure you have better uses for your money, such as investing in your future or just investing in the here and now and rewarding yourself with a little ‘lifestyle indulgence’.

Now … to the checklist. Tick each item you think is relevant to you:

Review debtorsYour income tax is payable on any invoices you’ve issued, even if you haven’t been paid. Don’t pay tax on any invoice you know won’t ever get paid. Review the list of those who owe you money and write off those ‘bad debts’ now.

Review your stock levelsThe value of your closing stock directly affects your business profit, the higher your stock value the higher your profit and tax. Review and identify any obsolete or old stock and scrap it or re-value it to its correct value. Individual items of stock can be valued at cost, market value, or replacement value.

Review your business assetsWrite off any obsolete asset and claim its remaining book value now. There are also new ways assets can be depreciated, called pooling, that will increase the depreciation expense. This isn’t suitable for all business, but it is worthwhile reviewing.

Defer income — A simple tip that can defer a lot of tax for you. If your cashflow allows, you may consider deferring some of your invoices until July. If the income was not invoiced this financial year, it can’t be taxed this financial year. Before taking this option we recommend having a budget to manage these months income and expenses. We can help you with that.

Review your invoices issued. If you have invoiced someone in advance for services you will provide in the next financial year, then you may not have earned that income in this tax year. That income may belong in the year you provide the service. Again, this is something we can work out with you when we meet for tax planning.

Pay the June quarter superannuationSuperannuation if paid on time is deductible when paid. Since you have to pay the 9.5% superannuation by 28 July, bring it forward a month and pay it now and claim the deduction now. Why wait a whole year to reduce your tax?

Using all of your superannuation cap. If maximising your superannuation is part of your retirement plan, then don’t forget to contribute as much as you can into your super fund. We can guide you as to how much you can contribute. It’s a missed opportunity not to do this each year.

Employee bonuses. Bonuses to employees are deductible when the business has committed to paying them and it is not subject to any discretion. So finalise and sign off on the bonuses to be paid and reduce this year’s tax.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Minimising your capital gains tax is often about timing. Ensure the asset has been owned for at least 12 months. If you already have a capital gain, are there any investments making a loss you can sell? Do you qualify for any capital gain rollover relief concessions? (Again, we can guide you here.) CGT is a whole topic on its own, and the potential savings are so great, it is definitely an area in which you should seek our guidance.

If you ticked any of the above items, then we need to talk. And soon.

Call Rob, Sam, Peter or myself or email us to make a time to meet and discuss your tax planning options.

 

John Siemon

Partner

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For An Obligation Free Discussion

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New ASIC fees for the 16/17 year

 

New ASIC fees for the 16/17 year.

To Register a New Company

$469.00 (was $463.00)

Late lodgement fees

If paid within 1 month after payment due date –$76.00 (was $75.00)

If paid after 1 month of payment due date –$316.00 (was $312.00)

Annual Review Fees

Proprietary company –$249.00 (was $246.00)

Special Purpose Company –$47.00 (was $46.00)

Change Company Name

$387.00 (was $382.00)

 

Voluntary Deregistration
$38.00

 

Using EOFY to strengthen your business

McAdam Siemon Business Accountants Upper Mt Gravatt, Noosa Heads & Maroochydore. Specialising in Accounting, Taxation, Management Rights, SMSF Administration, Business Advisory, Business Valuations , Management Rights specialist accountants

Using EOFY to strengthen your business

(source: Sean O’Meara) 

With the end of the financial year quickly approaching it is critical that small business owners use this time to make a strong plan for the year ahead. It is vital to analyse your business and try to find any opportunities and improvements that can be made, no matter how small they may seem.

The additional administration time required at EOFY can make the lead up to 30 June extremely stressful. So the keep your business goals in check. Here are some strategies that will improve your business to maximise your growth in 2016/2017.

It’s time to review your businesses situation 

You are probably already using reporting throughout the year to track your revenue, gauge your sales trends etc but it is important to take a second look at how your business performed on the whole and compare this to previous years.

“By looking at year-on-year sales and revenue we can see how public holidays or seasonal changes affect the business and enables us to do more accurate forecasting, rostering and budgeting for the year ahead. It also helps us make informed decisions on whether to spend now or later,”

Take advantage on the low interest rates

Interest rates remain low so it could be an opportunity to invest in capital equipment and paying off debts. 

Review business partners and suppliers

Ensure you are getting an excellent price for quality products. New businesses keep coming into the market, so be sure to do your research and renegotiate with your present partners and suppliers.

Your customers are probably reviewing their own strategic plan and making changes for next year so don’t forget to let them know that their business matters to you.

Take a long – term view of your cashflow 

  • How is your cashflow?
  • Is your business seasonal, with peaks and troughs?

Do some advanced planning -review your budget and anticipate what may happen in the year ahead. It may be all that is needed to free up liquid assets and ensure ongoing profitability. This is the best way to ensure you have safeguards in place to keep your business afloat during low times. 

Capitalise on tax breaks 

  • Have you any expenses that can be pre-paid?
  • Think about maximising your superannuation contributions to the relevant caps.
  • Consider investing in areas that will support your business; new equipment and/or technology that will provide your business with greater efficiencies and productivity The Government still has an immediate tax deduction on assets coasting less than $20,000.

Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you would like to discuss anything EOFY’s.

Kind regards

The Team at McAdam Siemon

Pushing too hard with deductions!

In 2014, a Sydney man had to pay a hefty penalty after the ATO discovered he was falsely claiming thousands of dollars on work related expenses.

McAdam Siemon Business Accountants Upper Mt Gravatt, Noosa Heads & Maroochydore. Specialising in Accounting, Taxation, Management Rights, SMSF Administration, Business Advisory, Business Valuations , Management Rights specialist accountants, If you push too hard the tax man will get you.

If you push too hard with deductions the taxman will get you.

This guy worked as a salesperson and under the conditions of his employment he was able to work from home. He was advised by a Registered Tax Agent.

The dispute arose out of an audit of his tax affairs triggered by his 2010 tax return in which he declared a taxable income of $21,377, and claimed deductible items to the value of $97,162.

The ATO disallowed various tax deductions for the 2011 and 2012 financial years.

The tax office also imposed a penalty on the basis that he or his agent had “failed to take reasonable care or comply with tax law when claiming work related expenses”.

The sales person disputed this and took the matter to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Here are examples of some of the expenses he tried to claim deductions for:

  • Thousands of dollars for secretarial services completed by his son. (His son was around 7-years-old at the time)
  • Thousands of dollars of groceries as work related expenses (The groceries included cheese in a can and 39 packets of Monte Carlo biscuits.
  • Clothing, rubber soled shoes, dry cleaning, sunglasses, broad rimmed hat and sunscreen (just to name a few!)
  • Home office expenses
  • Other work related expenses

To read the full rulings click on the link below.

To find out more, please contact us

So, what are the deductions you can claim?

(Source: ATO, 14 March, 2016)

When completing your tax return, you’re entitled to claim deductions for some expenses, most of which are directly related to earning your income.

To claim a work-related deduction:

  • you must have spent the money yourself and weren’t reimbursed
  • it must be related to your job
  • you must have a record to prove it (there are some limited exceptions)

If the expense was for both work and private purposes, you can only claim a deduction for the work-related portion.

Follow the links below for specific deductions you can claim:

The staff at McAdam Siemon will get your deductions right because we have the checks and balances in place.

 

 

2016 represents the 20th year of McAdam Siemon

Well Christmas seems but a distant memory and Easter is just around the corner (I think Hot Cross buns hit the stores on 6 January), kids are back to school and the year is well and truly underway.

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2016 represents the 20th year of McAdam Siemon when John  and I opened our doors on 1 January 1996 at Kangaroo Point and a hole in the wall at Noosa Junction with 4 staff. 

Today we operate out of Upper Mt Gravatt, Noosa Junction and have just opened an office in Buderim.  Sam Hodgetts joined us as a partner in 2013, having started work in the Noosa Office and 12 staff.

It has been an amazing 20 years with us still acting for clients from our inception.

John, Sam, and I certainly appreciate and never underestimate the loyalty shown by our clients through the good times and bad. (luckily lots more good times.) 

This year the team at McAdam Siemon will be focusing on working with our clients so that they can focus and achieve your goals.

To help you achieve this we have developed a number of tools that will allow you to have a better understanding of your business and focus that is required. 

1. Breakeven analysis

2. Using your accounting package effectively and efficiently to save time and money. 

3. Tax planning tool

4. Fathom – to truly understand your business and set goals 

We will discuss these in more detail in future newsletters and of course our experienced team will discuss them in more detail when they meet with you. 

We look forward to our continued close working association with you.

Record Keeping for Tax Purposes

 

 

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Frequently our clients ask us these questions with regards to record keeping for tax purposes.

  • How long should I keep my records
  • Is it acceptable to keep my records in an electronic format, or are paper copies sufficient?
  • Why should you keep records?
  • How do I know what records I should keep?

How long are you required to keep your records? 

Generally speaking, all of your evidence must be kept for five years from the date you lodge your tax return:
i.e. If you lodge your 2015 tax return on 1 December 2015 any records associated with that return (generally) can be destroyed on 2 December 2020.

However: 
·      If you acquire or dispose of an asset (e.g. shares or a rental property, dividend reinvestment statements) – 5 years after it is certain that no capital gains tax event can happen.
·      If you are in a dispute with the ATO – 5 years from the date you lodged your tax return and the dispute is finalised.

The Australian tax system relies on taxpayers self-assessing, so what do you need to keep?

As far as the ATO is concerned, you can store your documents in either format. Remember though…

  •  If you keep paper copies they must be a true and clear reproduction of the original.
  • If you keep your records electronically, we strongly recommend that you keep backup copies – what if your hard drive is corrupted?

Why should you keep records?

  • To provide written evidence of your income and expenses.
  • To help you or your tax agent prepare your tax return.
  • To ensure that you are able to claim all your entitlements.
  • In case the ATO asks you to prove the information you provided in your tax return.

What records should you keep? 

  • Any payments you have received.

  •  Any expenses related to payments you have received.
  • When you have acquired or disposed of an asset (shares or rental property)

  • Any tax deductible gifts, donations and contributions.

You may also need to keep records in some other categories, or for other members of your family – for example, if you receive the family tax benefit.

You may decide not to keep particular records – for example, because you expect to claim for only a small amount of business travel. If it turns out that you travel more than you expected during the year, you may be limited to a smaller claim than if you had kept more records.

If you are unsure about whether to keep or destroy a record please do not hesitate to give one of the team at McAdam Siemon a call.

Kind regards

Rob McAdam, McAdam Siemon Accountants

Rob McAdam

 

How to use the EOFY to strengthen your business

EOFYs blackboard

How to use the EOFY to strengthen your business

Many small business owners fall into the trap of managing business operations in a routine way without looking at their “side mirrors” or “blind spots” where new opportunities might come into view. However, with the End of Financial Year just around the corner, it’s crucial small business owners use this time to take stock and analyse the business to try and find small opportunities or improvements that could be made, and make a strong plan for the year ahead.

It can be hard enough to run a small business at the smoothest of times, but the additional administration burden at EOFY can make the lead up to 30 June an extra busy and stressful time of year for many owner-operators. However, in order to keep your business goals in check, it pays to be aware of the strategies and opportunities that will improve your business and maximize growth over the next 12 months.

Here are six ways that SMEs can use the EOFY to strengthen their business.

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Minimise year end opportunities and minimise risks

The end of the financial year will be here before you know it.

In this end of financial year update, we have summarised some of the key ways you can minimise your tax and reduce your tax risks prior to 30 June.

Plus, to ensure you are prepared for the new financial year, we’ve outlined some of the key issues you should be aware of.

Key Dates

Key Dates

Your End of Financial Year Obligations

Consider this Financial ‘house-keeping’:

Software

Before rolling over your accounting software for the new financial year, make sure you:

  • Prepare your financial year end accounts. This way, any problems can be rectified and you have a ‘clean slate’ for the 1025/2016 year. Once rolled over, the software cannot be amended.
  • Do not perform a Payroll Year End function until you are sure that your payment summaries are correct and printed. Always perform a payroll back-up before you roll over the year.

PAYG Payment Summaries

You need to provide all of your staff with their PAYG Payment Summary on or before 14 July 2015. This includes any staff that left your employment during the 2014/2015 financial year.

The ATO imposes penalties for the late lodgement of their PAYG Summary Statements with penalties of up to $2,750.

The annual PAYG Summary Statement for the year ending 30 June 2015 needs to be lodged with the ATO on or before 14 August 2015.

Reportable Fringe Benefits on PAYG Payment Summaries

Where you have provided fringe benefits to your employees in excess of $2,000, you need to report the FBT grossed-up amount on their PAYG Payment Summary. This is referred to as a “Reportable Fringe Benefit”(RFB) amount and you will notice that a label is included on the PAYG Payment Summary for this purpose.

You might not need to do a stocktake – using the simplified trading stock rules

Small Business Entities (operational businesses with an aggregated turnover below $2 million) have access to a range of tax concessions. One of these concessions is the simplified trading stock rules. Under these rules, you can choose not to conduct a stocktake for tax purposes if there is a difference of less than $5,000 between the opening value of your trading stock and a reasonable estimate of the closing value of trading stock at the end of the income year. You will need to record how you determined the value of trading stock on hand.

If you would like to take advantage of the simplified trading stock rules, call us today to make sure you are eligible to use the simplified rules and to talk through how to use them properly.

Top 5 simple tax saving strategies

Planning on giving to charity?  Make a donation now and claim the deduction this year. If you donate monthly to charities, think about paying the full year’s worth of donations upfront and take the deduction now.

Operate through a company? If you operate through a company structure and the company has advanced you money during the year or paid expenses on your behalf, then work out whether you are going to repay the loans or put in place a complying loan arrangement. If you already have loan agreements in place from prior years, make sure that you make the minimum repayment (including interest) before June 30.  If the company normally declares a dividend to cover these loan repayments, make sure the dividend is declared and set-off against the loan balance before 30 June.

Are your salary sacrifice agreements still relevant? If you have existing salary sacrifice agreements in place, review them to make sure they are still viable. Also, if your taxable income is over $180,000, don’t forget about the debt tax (see the article, can you plan around the debt tax).

For business, if cash flow allows, now is the time to accelerate deductions by paying for any required repairs, replenishing consumable supplies, trade gifts or donations before 30 June.

Run a business? Don’t forget your super. Your personal or company sponsored contributions need to be received by the fund before 30 June to be deductible this year.   Don’t forget to make sure the paperwork is in place and that you don’t breach your concessional contribution caps.

Please contact the team at McAdam Siemon if you would like further information.