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Celebrating Christmas in your office

Posted on 7 December '17, under Business.

Christmas can be a very exciting time for many, and it can also be the dreaded season for others.

Consider the following tips for celebrating Christmas in style, to ensure that all your staff get the most out of this period.

Office Christmas party
Holding a work Christmas party can be risky, particularly if alcohol is provided. People can take advantage of this and can see you and the business liable should something go wrong. For many employees, attending a Christmas party, especially one outside of business hours, can be quite a hassle.

The safest and easiest option to have a great Christmas party is to hold it in the office. Cater with delicious food, decide whether you want some kind of entertainment such as challenge games with a prize for the winning team, or a performer such as a comedian. If providing alcohol, limit the supply and be sure to provide low-alcohol options and soft drinks as an alternative. And most importantly, let everyone go home early after the party has wound up so they can spend time with their family or prepare for Christmas.

If you’re giving gifts, put thought into them
Giving gifts can take up your time; time that you could be spending with your family. So if you’re going to give gifts, put thought into them and make it worthwhile, otherwise there is no point. Perhaps instead of getting something meaningless for all your staff, organise an office Kris Kringle, with a monetary value for the present. To avoid anyone getting a useless gift, they can write three options for gifts within the monetary value they would appreciate, making it easier for everyone to purchase a great present.

Decorate
Christmas is one opportunity to bring excitement and fun into the office. Decorating can bring the team together and make the stress of work seem to disappear. Not only do decorations make the working environment more pleasant for employees, but it also makes it exciting for customers.

ATO action on overdue SMSF annual returns

Posted on 7 December '17, under Super.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is cracking down on self-managed super funds (SMSFs) that have overdue SMSF annual returns, particularly those with two or more returns overdue.

As part of its compliance action, the ATO is currently:
– Cancelling approximately 9,000 ABNs of SMSFs that show no evidence of operating
– Writing to SMSF trustees who are in pension phase to remind them that they still have a lodgment obligation
– Continuing to focus on SMSFs with high levels of income and/or high-value assets who also have overdue returns
– Taking further compliance and audit action on selected SMSFs
– Visiting selected tax agents to obtain feedback on why their SMSF clients’ lodgments are overdue
– Contacting tax agents by phone to obtain an agreed date for lodgment of overdue SMSF annual returns.

SMSFs that do not meet the agreed lodgment timeframes will be subject to serious financial implications.

Early payments

Posted on 7 December '17, under Tax.

Taxpayers are being reminded they can prepay amounts towards their expected tax bill to help stay on top of their tax and avoid falling into debt.

To make a prepayment to the Tax Office, you must get the correct payment reference number, decide how much to pay and choose a payment method.

Using the correct payment reference number is critical in ensuring the ATO credits the right account.

The payment reference number can be found on a relevant notice or payment slip received from the ATO, or through the ATO portals.

The ATO’s research shows keeping amounts for GST, super and income tax payments separate from other business affairs, i.e., in a separate bank account or by making a prepayment helps to stay on top of payments to the Tax Office.

Time wasters to avoid

Posted on 22 November '17, under Business.

Understanding what behaviours and factors which cause employees to waste time is important. Only when you understand why time is not being used efficiently can you implement strategies to overcome this.

Consider the following:

Technology
Technology helps us do things in a fraction of the time, it allows us to do things that are otherwise impossible to do from day to day. While it is extremely valuable, it is also one of the greatest distractions in the workplace. The amount of time employees spend checking their phones each day adds up and breaks down the flow of productivity. Another way technology becomes a time waster is when it isn’t working efficiently. Slow internet connection or slow software updates, failure to set up firewalls and virus protection can slow down an employee’s day drastically.

Lack of motivation
Employees who aren’t motivated are a big source of wasted time. Being motivated to get a task completed means you are going to complete it faster and to a higher quality. If employees aren’t motivated, they are likely to waste time procrastinating and doing anything other than the work they should be doing.

Failing to adapt
There could be ten processes to complete the one task, but only one of these will be the most efficient. Encourage staff to communicate about what the most efficient and beneficial process for completing tasks is and allow adequate time for training all staff how to use this process. Remember that even if staff know the faster process, if they don’t know how to complete this process, the work isn’t going to be completed any quicker.

SMSFs warned of risky retirement planning

Posted on 22 November '17, under Super.

The ATO is warning self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustees about the risks of some emerging retirement planning arrangements.

Retirees or SMSF trustees who are involved in any illegal arrangement, even by accident, may face severe penalties, risk losing their retirement savings, and potentially, their rights as a trustee to manage their own fund.

The Tax Office has released additional information through their Super Scheme Smart Program to help educate retirees and trustees of these complex tax avoidance schemes and arrangements.

Super Scheme Smart provides case studies and information packs to ensure taxpayers are informed about illegal arrangements including what warning signs to look for and where to go for help.

Many of the arrangements are cleverly designed to look legitimate, give a taxpayer a minimal or zero amount of tax or tax refund or concession, aim to give a present day tax benefit and involve a fair amount of paper shuffling.

Some arrangements may be structured in a way which appears to satisfy certain regulatory rules, however, these arrangements are often ‘too good to be true’ and are in fact illegal.

Among the ATO’s previous concerns about dividend stripping arrangements and contrived arrangements involving diversion of personal services income to an SMSF, there are some new arrangements on the Tax Office’s radar, including:
– Artificial arrangements involving SMSFs and related-party property development ventures.
– Arrangements where an individual or related entity grants a legal life interest over a commercial property to an SMSF. This results in the rental income from the property being diverted to the SMSF and taxed at lower rates whilst the individual or related entity retains legal ownership of the property.
– Arrangements where individuals (including SMSF members) deliberately exceed their non-concessional contributions cap to manipulate the taxable component and non-taxable component of their fund balance upon refund of the excess.

If you are concerned about your involvement with such arrangements, you can contact the Tax Office early to work towards a resolution.

ATO’s data matching programs

Posted on 22 November '17, under Tax.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has sophisticated data matching programs in place to ensure individuals and businesses are complying with their obligations and to uphold the integrity of the tax system for the community at large.

The Tax Office uses data matching to pre-fill tax returns, ensure people and businesses are lodging tax returns and activity statements when required, correctly declaring their income and claiming offsets, and meeting their tax obligations.

It helps to detect dishonest individuals and businesses operating outside the tax system, detect fraud against the Commonwealth and to recover debt.

The following areas are currently under close scrutiny:

Credit and debit cards
The ATO obtains data from banks and financial institutions to identify the total credit and debit card payments received by Australian businesses.

Specialised payment systems
Data on electronic payments made through specialised payment systems to Australian businesses is analysed in conjunction with data collected through the credit and debit card data-matching program.

Business transactions through payment systems
Data is collected from organisations that process electronic payments for businesses in a report.

Online selling
Details of online sellers who sell goods and services to the value of $12,000 or more is attained. Data is obtained from online selling sites where the data owner or its subsidiary:
– Operates a business in Australia that is governed by Australian law.
– Provides an online marketplace for businesses and individuals to buy and sell goods and services.
– Tracks the activity of registered sellers.
– Has clients whose annual trading activity amounts to $12,000 or more.
– Has trading activity for the years in focus.

Ride-sourcing
Data is obtained from ride-sourcing facilitators operating in Australia and/or their financial institutions to identify ride-sourcing drivers. This information is used to notify drivers and help them understand their tax obligations.

Motor vehicle registries
The Tax Office acquires data from all the state and territory motor vehicle registering bodies to identify all motor vehicles sold, transferred or newly registered, where the transfer and/or market value is $10,000 or more.

Getting customers to settle debts

Posted on 15 November '17, under Money.

Good credit management is an important business strategy to maintain cash flow and stable finances.

A cornerstone of managing credit is not only making sure an invoice gets paid, but gets paid on time. Before a debt recovery process commences (which may delay payment further and damage a relationship with a customer), it is worthwhile for businesses to put a few processes in place to avoid customer debt in the first place.

Prepare your customers
Making sure the customers understand their payment terms from the start is the first step in training them to keep track of outstanding invoices and payment due dates.

Keep detailed records
Businesses should keep all customer records such as payment term agreements, customer limits and outstanding sales to date.

Follow up regularly
Starting following up procedures once a payment becomes overdue will help speed up the process. It is also very important to know exactly who to speak to about payment matters, it may be different to the person you had been dealing with during the transaction process. Being consistent when following up debts will help businesses maintain good customer relationships.

Implement payment in full
Most businesses adopt this policy in regards to payment procedures. This way the customer has a full amount to pay by a concrete due date. Sometimes ‘making it easier’ for the customer by staggering payments and due dates can confuse and delay payments even further. If there are ongoing problems of overdue payments, businesses can consider mediation or debt collection services.

Upfront payments
For labour and time intensive work, some businesses ask for a part payment or deposit up front. This works as a way of showing that the customer is financially committed to the project. It also allows a business to better manage cash flow, knowing that there won’t be months at a time when there are no payments coming in because of works in progress.

Legal action is very expensive and should be considered as a last resort.

How to ensure your branding is consistent

Posted on 15 November '17, under Business.

Consistent branding is a big factor in your business’ marketing strategy – it can help build loyal customers, improve recognition and trustworthiness.

Businesses that adopt consistent branding techniques gain a competitive advantage by differentiating their products and services from other competitors in the market.

Staying consistent also helps to stay on track in delivering the brand promise to customers and clients through every single touch point.

Here are three ways to focus on delivering a consistent brand:

Similar tone and showcase personality
Whether your business is advertising via social media, TV advertisement or email campaign, the content should be similar in tone. Your marketing campaigns are a way to express your business’ personality and values, so make sure you deliver on this. Use similar language, adopt the voice to suit the type of marketing (i.e., conversational v formal) and stick to key messages for target audiences.

Design
Colours, images, fonts, logos and so on all communicate your business’ brand and identity. Creating a style guide is very useful for communicating your expectations to a graphic designer. If the designer is given a vague brief with no rules or guidelines then you cannot expect their designs to match your overall brand. Ideally, your website, logo, physical store and various marketing communications need to be aligned.

Staff training
Marketing communications can only go so far in proving your business is consistent. Customers and clients want to receive consistent service when they visit your store or office, call and email you. Invest in training your staff in customer service so customers can be guaranteed they will always have an enjoyable experience with your business.

SMSF annual return for pension phase trustees

Posted on 15 November '17, under Super.

Self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustees who are in pension phase must lodge their SMSF annual returns if they remain active, or choose to wind up the fund.

The ATO is warning SMSF trustees about their regulatory obligations and is paying close attention to those SMSFs that are not meeting their lodgment obligations.

Trustees must lodge a Self-managed superannuation fund annual return 2017 if it was a self-managed super fund on 30 June 2017, or a self-managed super fund that was wound up during 2016-17.

Super funds that are not SMSFs at the end of 2016-17 must use the fund income tax return 2017 and, where required, a separate super member contributions statement.

Even if your fund does not have a tax liability, your SMSF must lodge an SMSF annual return.

Using the margin scheme for property sales

Posted on 15 November '17, under Tax.

Those selling property as part of a business sale may be eligible for the margin scheme.

The margin scheme is a way of working out the GST you must pay on the property that you are selling as part of your business. The scheme is only applicable if the sale of a property is taxable.

The GST on property sales is generally equal to one-eleventh of the sale price. If the margin scheme is used, the GST is calculated on the difference between the sale price and your purchase price of the property (or the property’s value on 1 July 2000 if it was acquired before that date).

To meet the eligibility requirements you need to be registered for GST or required to be registered for GST.

Contact our office to check your eligibility for the margin scheme when selling property as the application of GST to property-related transactions can be quite complex.