Managing risk when growing your business

It’s a risky business being in business for yourself, so knowing how to identify and manage risk is an important part of running a thriving business.

Anything that impedes a company’s ability to achieve its financial goals is considered a risk, and there are many issues that have the potential to derail a successful business. Some of these can ruin a business, while others can cause serious damage that is difficult to recover from.

However, taking risks is an essential part of growing a business – it’s how you thrive and expand. The key to achieving the rewards that come with risk and avoiding the devastation that can occur, is identifying and actively managing your business risk.

Assessing your tolerance for risk

The first step is to think about what level of risk you are comfortable with. A range of factors influence your appetite for risk including your individual circumstances, financial resources, specific industry dynamics, economic conditions, and business goals.

It’s important to acknowledge the relationship between risk and reward. High-risk activities may provide the potential for significant returns when you are going for growth but are also associated with greater uncertainty and the potential for larger losses.

Not all risk is equal

Some types of risk are best managed through insurance while others can be managed through thoughtful decision making and risk mitigation.

Risk taking is often associated with innovation and entrepreneurship and there are countless examples of reckless business behaviour that paid off – and as many examples that did not pay off. To expand, evolve and stay relevant in a changing marketplace, businesses may need to take calculated risks. This can encompass the development of new services or targeting a different client base, employing staff, developing new products, the adoption of emerging technologies, or exploring new markets.

Taking calculated risks involves some planning – conducting research, gathering supporting data and considering possible outcomes before making a decision. Informed, calculated decisions have a greater chance of success and doing your homework is a great way to mitigate risk in business.

Managing business risk

There are many ways to manage business risk, depending on the type of risk. Threats come in many shapes and forms and can include strategic, compliance, operational, environmental, and reputational, but one of the most fundamental risks is that of the business no longer being financially viable. All the above can impact a businesses’ bottom line so when considering your strategies, it’s a good idea to identify the risks that could affect your business’s ability to meet its financial obligations.

Setting up and maintaining a cash reserve is critical for small businesses, particularly ones with narrow margins. Half of all small businesses hold a cash buffer of less than one month which may not be adequate.i A cash reserve is a great risk mitigation strategy as it can help you get back on your feet when faced with an adverse event.

Keep an eye on cashflow

Growing a business can put pressure on cashflow, and managing your cashflow is a powerful way of managing your business risk.

If you have not already done so, creating, and maintaining a cash flow forecast helps you anticipate and cash shortages. Monitoring your cash flow over time gives you visibility of your financial situation and an understanding of any seasonal ebbs and flows.

Some things you can do to manage your cashflow include being responsive with invoicing and chasing overdue payments. Negotiate payment terms that support your cashflow requirements and consider offering incentives for early payments or penalties for overdue invoices.

For many businesses, one of the leading causes of cash flow shortfalls is overstocking, which increases the amount of cash you have locked up in your stock. Effective inventory management and working with suppliers to reduce lead times can assist with cashflow.

We can help you develop solid cash flow management and provide expert advice to make growing your business less of a risky proposition.

https://www.jpmorganchase.com/institute/research/small-business/report-cash-flows-balances-and-buffer-days

Living your best life in retirement

If you’re nearing retirement age, it’s likely you’re wondering if you will have enough saved to give up work and take it easy, particularly as cost-of-living increases hit some of the basic expenses such as energy, insurance, food and health costs.

Fortunately, someone has already worked out what you might need.

The Association of Superannuation Funds in Australia (ASFA) updates its Retirement Standard every year, which provides a breakdown of expenses for two types of lifestyles: modest and comfortable.i

Based on our average life expectancy – for women it is just over 85 years and men 81 – if you are about to retire at say age 67, you will have between 14 and 18 years in retirement, on average and depending on your gender.ii

ASFA finds that a couple needs $46,944 a year to live a modest lifestyle and $72,148 to live a comfortable lifestyle. That’s equal to $902 a week and $1387 respectively. The figure is of course lower for a single person – $32,666 for a modest lifestyle ($628 a week) or $51,278 ($986) for a comfortable lifestyle.iii

What does that add up to? ASFA estimates that, for a modest lifestyle, a single person or a couple would need savings of $100,000 at retirement age, while for a modest lifestyle, a couple would need at least $690,000.iv

A modest lifestyle means being able to afford everyday expenses such as basic health insurance, communication, clothing and household goods but not going overboard. The difference between a modest and a comfortable lifestyle can be significant. For example, there is no room in a modest budget to update a kitchen or a bathroom; similarly overseas holidays are not an option.

The rule of thumb for a comfortable retirement is an estimated 70 per cent of your current annual income.v (The reason you need less is that you no longer need to commute to work and you don’t need to buy work clothes.)

Building your nest egg

So how can you build up a sufficient nest egg to provide for a good life in retirement? There are three main sources: superannuation, pension and investments/savings. Superannuation has the key advantage that the money in your pension is tax free in retirement.

Your superannuation pension can be augmented with the government’s Aged Pension either from the moment you retire or later when your original nest egg diminishes.

Your income and assets will be taken into account if you apply for the Age Pension but even if you receive a pension from your super fund, you may still be eligible for a part Age Pension. You may also be eligible for rent assistance and a Health Care Card, which provides concessions on medicines.vi

Money keeps growing

It’s also important to remember that the amount you accumulate up to retirement will still be generating an income, whether its rentals from investment properties or merely the growth in the value of your share investments and the accumulation of money from any dividends paid.

You can also continue to add to your superannuation by, for instance, selling your family home and downsizing, as long as you have lived in the home for more than 10 years.

If you are single, $300,000 can go into your super when you downsize and $600,000 if you are a couple. This figure is independent of any other superannuation caps.vii

Planning for a good life in retirement often require just that – planning. If you would like to discuss how retirement will work for you, then give us a call.

Retirement Standard – Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia
ii Life expectancy, 2020 – 2022 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)
iii https://www.superannuation.asn.au/media-release/retiree-budgets-continue-to-face-significant-cost-pressures
iv https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/retirement-standard/
https://www.gesb.wa.gov.au/members/retirement/how-retirement-works/cost-of-living-in-retirement
vi Assets test for Age Pension – Age Pension – Services Australia
vii Downsizer super contributions | Australian Taxation Office (ato.gov.au)

Federal Budget 2024-25: Tax Implications

Major tax cuts were the centrepiece of the Albanese government’s third Federal Budget, even though the changes have already been announced and legislated.

Small businesses can breathe a sigh of relief, with the popular $20,000 instant asset write-off hanging on for another year and a valuable bill rebate on the way to help with the burden of high energy bills.

Tax cuts for everyone

From 1 July 2024, all 13.6 million Australian taxpayers will receive a tax cut, with the average taxpayer’s tax bill being $1,888 (or $36 a week) lower.

Under the new rules, the lowest tax rate reduces from 19 per cent to 16 per cent, with the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate reducing to 30 per cent for individuals earning between $45,001 and $135,000.

The current 37 per cent marginal tax rate will be retained for people earning between $135,001 and $190,000, while the existing 45 per cent rate now applies to income earners with taxable incomes exceeding $190,000.

Low-income earners (under $45,000 p.a.) are the biggest winners from the changes. A single taxpayer with a taxable income of $40,000 who pays $4,367 in tax in 2023 24, would have received no benefit from the original Stage 3 tax plan, but now receives a tax cut of $654.

Boost for tax compliance

On the revenue side, the Budget includes savings of $2.5 billion in tax receipt measures through a crackdown on the shadow economy, fraud, and tax avoidance.

Taxpayers can expect the ATO to continue its recent tougher stance, with technology upgrades to enable better identification and blocking of suspicious activities in real-time and a new compliance taskforce focussed on recovering lost revenue and stopping fraudulent refunds.

Foreign residents will pay an additional $600 million over the next three years due to strengthening of the capital gains tax rules applying to this group.

Law change for old tax debts

However, one controversial measure, labelled ‘robotax’ by the media, may be abandoned, according to the Budget papers.

The ATO had been calling in historical tax debts, some accrued more than a decade ago, saying it had no choice under current laws. But the government now intends to change the tax law to give the ATO discretion about whether to collect the individual, small business, and not-for-profit debts.

Instant asset write-off retained

The deadline for the $20,000 instant asset write-off will be extended to 30 June 2025, allowing small businesses with annual turnovers of less than $10 million to immediately deduct eligible assets.

In addition, $23.3 million will be spent boosting adoption of eInvoicing to help improve small business’ cash flow and productivity.

Relieving energy bill pressure

Direct relief for small business energy bills will come in the form of a $325 rebate, while there will also be new funding for reforms to help businesses find their best electricity contract.

Assistance for smaller entities

With trading conditions remaining difficult, small business will receive $641.4 million in new targeted support. This includes $10.8 million to extend both the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program providing free mental health support and the free phone-based Small Business Debt Helpline.

An additional $25.3 million will be provided to expand the Payment Times Reporting Regulator and help improve payment times.

Nuisance tariffs abolished

From 1 July 2024, 457 nuisance tariffs will be abolished by the government to cut business compliance costs.

New funding to expand the government’s Digital ID system is designed to lower the administration burden for small businesses storing identification data on their customers and employees.

Anti-money laundering crackdown

The Budget includes $168 million over four years to pay for reforms to Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime. Tighter rules are expected to result in lawyers, accountants and real estate agents being required to undertake due diligence on their customers and report any suspicious activities. Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2024-25 and Federal Budget Support documents.

It is important to note that the policies outlined in this article are yet to be passed as legislation and therefore may be subject to change.

Navigating FBT and your obligations

Businesses looking to attract and retain staff often provide employee benefits, on top of salary, as a way to sweeten the deal.

Many of these benefits (but not all) can have potential tax consequences – known as fringe benefits tax (FBT) – so it is important to weigh up the effect on your business.

FBT is separate to income tax and is calculated on the value of the benefit provided to the employee. Employers must work out the amount of FBT they owe each year and lodge a return.

It is worth noting that the FBT year is not the same as the financial year. It runs from 1 April to 31 March.

What to report

Most fringe benefits must be reported to the ATO. Some examples of benefits include: the use of a company car outside of work; free parking; gym membership; payment of school fees; tickets or vouchers for concerts, meals or movies; and living accommodation.

Some benefits do not need to be reported and do not incur FBT.i These include a number of benefits provided to employees working in remote areas, such as living assistance.

Other fringe benefits that are exempt from tax include work-related items such as portable electronic devices, computer software, protective clothing and tools of trade.

If the taxable value of an employee’s fringe benefits for the FBT year (1 April to 31 March) is less than $2,000, no reporting is required.

In adding up the fringe benefits, the ATO says you will need to make sure you include the employee’s part of any benefits they share with other employees as well as the value of any benefits provided to the employee’s associates, such as their partner.

Doing the numbers

For each employee, you’ll need to calculate their ‘reportable fringe benefits amount’ (RFBA) by multiplying the total taxable value of the benefits provided by an ATO ‘gross-up rate’.

The Type 1 gross-up rate is used where a GST credit entitlement is applicable to the benefit. The Type 2 gross-up rate is used where there is no GST credit entitlement applicable to the benefit. (For the FBT year ending 31 March 2023, the Type 1 rate is 2.0802 and the Type 2 rate is 1.8868.)

This calculation grosses up the pre-tax income the employee would have had to earn to buy the benefits themselves.

FBT and salary sacrifice

Benefits provided to employees through salary sacrificing may also attract FBT.

Under a salary sacrificing arrangement, an employee agrees to forgo part of their salary in return for benefits of a similar value, such as more super or a car. As a result, the employee pays less income tax and the employer pays FBT on the benefits provided.

Extra super contributions made under a salary sacrificing arrangement are not subject to FBT and are treated differently. They are considered employer contributions and are taxed in the super fund.

Claiming deductions

Employers can claim income tax deductions for the FBT they are required to pay. You can also claim an income tax deduction and GST credits for the cost of providing the fringe benefits.

The ATO provides some suggestions for reducing FBT liability. For example, employers do not incur an FBT liability if you give an employee a benefit they would have been able to claim as an income tax deduction if they had paid for it. Your FBT liability can also be reduced if the employee contributes towards the cost.

Fringe benefits can be a valuable and strategic tool in your recruitment and retention toolbox. We can help you understand and comply with the reporting requirements and be clear about the impact of FBT on your business.

Fringe benefits tax – a guide for employers | Legal database (ato.gov.au)

Tax Alert March 2024

New controls for ATO Online and tax charges non-deductible

Following the use of stolen personal data to access ATO Online accounts, the federal government has tightened the access rules to online tax accounts as part of an increased focus on the vulnerability of small and medium businesses to cyber incidents.

ATO interest non-deductible

From 1 July 2025, taxpayers will no longer be able to claim tax deductions for ATO interest charges.i

Although not yet law, the government made the announcement in its 2023-24 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Since deductions for general interest charges (GIC) and shortfall interest charges (SIC) will not be permitted after July 2025, any GIC or SIC later remitted by the ATO need not be included in assessable income.

New fraud controls

Tighter controls for taxpayers’ ATO online accounts will make it more difficult for criminals to commit identity fraud using stolen personal information such as bank and ATO statements and tax file numbers.

The changes mean taxpayers who use their myGovID to log into the ATO will need to use myGovID for all future logins, leaving criminals unable to access the account without it.

The government is urging Australians to upgrade to myGovID when interacting with government agencies online and has released its new Cyber Security Strategy to support small and medium businesses vulnerable to cyber incidents.

Holiday home claims

The ATO is continuing its crackdown on tax deductions for holiday homes by encouraging tax professionals to check how clients are using their property and if they are correctly apportioning deductions in line with the time period the property is producing income.ii

Some holiday homeowners are not reducing deduction claims if they are reserving their property during peak periods or are placing unreasonable conditions restricting the likelihood the property will be rented.

We have been requested to check the number of days the property is blocked out for the owners, how and where the property is being advertised, whether family or friends used the property, and if any parts of the property are off-limits to tenants.

Checking R&D claims

Working in conjunction with the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, the ATO will be undertaking random reviews of companies taking advantage of the government’s R&D tax incentive.

The reviews will be assessing the eligibility of company’s R&D tax incentive activities and expenditure, with companies selected for review being contacted directly.

If common errors are identified during the review process, the ATO will share them with all program participants.

Tough times may mean a payment plan

With some small businesses facing difficult trading conditions, the ATO is reminding taxpayers in financial distress they may be eligible to set up a payment plan if they are unable to pay their tax bill in full and on time.

Eligible taxpayers who have a tax bill of up to $200,000, may be able to set up their own payment plan using the ATO online or self-help phone services.

Payment plan eligibility requires the business to be viable and able to make an up‑front payment with completion within the shortest possible timeframe to minimise accruing GIC (currently 11.15 per cent).

Medicare safety net thresholds increase

Thresholds for the Medicare safety nets rose from 1 January 2024, resulting in an increase taxpayers need to spend on out-of-hospital medical expenses before qualifying for a higher rebate.

The increase is in line with indexation based on inflation and rose to $560.40 on the original Medicare safety net for concessional and non-concessional individuals and families.

The extended Medicare safety net increased to $811.80 for concessional individuals and families and $2,544.30 for non-concessional.

Translated cybersecurity guides available

The government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre has released five popular cyber security guides in more than 20 languages to help business owners from non-English speaking backgrounds to improve their cyber security knowledge.

The five free guides include a small business cyber security guide, personal and top tips for cyber security, easy steps to securing devices and accounts, and a seniors guide to securely using the internet.

https://www.ato.gov.au/about-ato/new-legislation/in-detail/businesses/deny-deductions-for-ato-interest-charges
ii https://www.legacy.ato.gov.au/Tax-professionals/Newsroom/Income-tax/Do-your-clients-have-a-holiday-home-/

Market movements and review video – February 2024

Stay up to date with what’s happened in markets and the Australian economy over the past month.

Cooling inflation and a strong economy with relatively low unemployment has sent investors back to Australian shares towards the end of January.

The lower than anticipated inflation figures fuelled optimism at the end of the month, for the possibility of earlier cuts in domestic interest rates.

Click the video below to view our update.

Please get in touch if you’d like assistance with your personal financial situation.

Tax offset v tax deduction: What’s the difference?

This year’s Federal Budget was full of talk about one-off support for households in the form of tax offsets, but most people are a bit hazy on the difference between a tax offset and a tax deduction.

Both can help reduce the amount of tax you pay each year, but a tax offset generally results in a bigger dollar tax saving than a tax deduction of the same amount. The key difference is the point at which they are applied to your income when calculating the final amount of tax payable.

What is a tax deduction?

A tax deduction is one of the first things applied to your income when calculating your tax bill. It reduces your taxable income and hence the amount of tax you pay, potentially moving you into a lower tax bracket. Deductions are intended to ensure you only pay tax on income exceeding the costs associated with earning that income.

For a small business, deductions ensure it doesn’t pay tax if its running costs exceed its revenue. Common deductions include operating expenses such as stationery, and capital expenses such as equipment.

There are also temporary deductions, such as the additional 20 per cent deduction for costs related to digital adoption (like portable payment services and cyber security) and employee training expenditure announced in the 2022 Federal Budget.

Employees can claim deductions in a similar way. Personal deductions include work-related expenses like the cost of a computer if you have a home office, or supplies purchased for classroom use by a teacher. Other deductions include the cost of managing your tax affairs, donations and income protection insurance.

Offsets are similar but different

Tax offsets on the other hand, are deducted at the end of the calculation process and directly reduce the tax you pay.

Offsets are used by the government to encourage specific outcomes, such as uptake of health insurance through the Private Health Offset, or adding money to your spouse’s super through a contribution offset. They are also used to provide tax relief or financial support to certain groups in the community.

Calculating tax using offsets and deductions

The easiest way to understand the difference between an offset and a deduction is to walk through an example.

In the table below, we have two taxpayers. One person has an income of $30,000 a year paying tax of 19c on every dollar above the tax-free threshold of $18,200. This results in tax of $2,242 before any deductions or offsets. The other earns $130,000 a year, paying the top marginal tax rate of 37c in every dollar above $120,000, resulting in tax of $33,167.

As you can see in the table below, the impact of a $1,000 tax deduction provides a bigger tax saving of $370 for the higher income earner, compared with $190 for the lower income earner.

However, not only does a $1,000 tax offset provide both taxpayers with a bigger tax saving of $1,000 each, but it’s worth relatively more to the lower income earner at 3.3 per cent of $30,000 compared with less than one per cent of $130,000.

Impact of a $1,000 tax deduction and tax offset on tax owed

Assessable incomeTax owed$1,000 tax deduction$1,000 tax offset
Tax owedTax savedTax owedTax saved
$130,000$33,167$32,797$370$32,167$1,000
$30,000$2,242$2,052$190$1,242$1,000

Source (with updated figures for 2021-22 financial year): ANU Tax and Transfer Policy Institute Tax Fact #6

How tax offsets affect the tax you pay

Unlike tax deductions, the ATO automatically applies most offsets to your tax payable when you lodge your tax return.

In general, tax offsets can reduce your tax payable to zero, but they can’t be used to generate a tax refund if you don’t pay tax. If your taxable income is $18,200 or less, an offset won’t reduce the tax you pay as your tax payable is already zero. If you have paid any tax on this amount, you receive the tax back as a refund, but no offset is applied.

Also, most tax offsets don’t reduce the Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge (if any) you are required to pay.

The amount of tax offset you receive also depends on the particular offset and your taxable income. For example, with the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) for 2021-22, if your taxable income is $37,0000 or less, you will receive a $675 offset on your tax payable when you lodge your tax return. If your income is $48,001 to $90,000, however, the offset is worth $1,500.

9 tips for improving your profits

There are many advantages to running a small business. You have the flexibility and independence to make your own decisions, you can turn your vision into a reality and then reap the rewards.

However, there are financial risks and it can be difficult to make a profit, particularly when times are tough and there is strong competition for customers’ dwindling dollars.

In fact, many small business owners are currently taking home less than the average full-time adult wage, according to the Small Business Matters report by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

If the way you have always run your business isn’t creating the returns you want, it may be time to try doing things differently.

There are lots of areas to explore to improve profits. The good news is that many don’t require extra expenditure, just a different way of doing things, or a new mindset about your core clients and products.

Here are nine ideas that could boost your profit margin and help improve the return you receive from all the hours you put into your business.

1. Go digital

Consider whether it’s time to add some digital solutions to improve the efficiencies within your business. Many manual tasks related to payroll, regulatory requirements and business reporting are ripe for automation. Introducing new software or technologies can see a big reduction in the time required to complete these necessary – but largely unprofitable – tasks within your business.

2. Understand your cash flow

Preparing a cash flow budget and automating your invoicing and collection processes can improve your cashflow and profits.

3. Collect what you’re owed

Taking steps to enhance your post-sale credit control may lose you a few customers, but these are usually the ones increasing your servicing costs by failing to pay on time.

4. Keep on top of essential reporting

Ensure all your business reports (such as BAS, Taxable Payments Annual Report, Single Touch Payroll and tax returns), are up-to-date and lodged online to save time and keep on top of your obligations. It’s also important not to forget your Super Guarantee records and payments, or you risk paying the Super Guarantee Charge.

5. Improve your visibility

Consider whether an enhanced social media presence could spread your message further. Check if your website and Google ranking are properly optimised. If Google cannot find you, potential customers are unlikely to know you exist.

6. Keep your customers close and sell them more

Think about the potential for selling more to your existing customers. Upselling – or the old ‘Would you like fries with that?’ – can add to your bottom line without the costs associated with finding and selling to new customers.

Check your customer ‘churn’ rate to identify how long customers stay with you. Experts estimate it costs between five to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Develop strategies to reduce your churn rate, as increasing retention rates by five per cent can increase profits by 25 to 95 per cent. i

7. Review pricing and products

Analyse your offer to see if unprofitable products need to be eliminated. Review your pricing by working out how much margin you need to cover your expenses and develop a pricing strategy.

8. Be ruthless about expenses

Audit your business expenses and identify any that can be eliminated or reduced by switching to cheaper suppliers or options (such as leasing and refinancing). Try negotiating if you are paying for recurring monthly services. Smarter spending on fixed costs is an easy way to gain extra dollars in profit.

9. Set aside time to plan ahead

Evaluate what is working in your business and what isn’t. Write a detailed business plan for the year ahead so you and your team know where you are headed and what is needed to get there. Consider outsourcing resource-intensive tasks (such as IT or marketing) to free up time so your employees can spend more time generating profits.

Call us today for some help with improving your business’s bottom line.

https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers

Financial wellbeing is a gift worth giving yourself

The festive season is a time of joy and celebration but, for some, it can also lead to a financial hangover in the New Year.

Overspending on gifts, parties, and decorations can quickly add-up, leaving us with unwanted debt in the New Year.

In 2022, Australians spent more than $66.7 billion during the pre-Christmas sales in preparation for the festive season. The rising cost of goods and services mean that even though many are trying to curb their spending, it is expected that we will spend a little extra this year.

5 ways to rein in Christmas spending

  1. Create a Christmas budget – A budget is an effective way of controlling spending. It may not sound like fun, but it helps you to understand what you would like to spend and how much debt you are prepared to live with. List all of the costs you can think of (gifts, decorations, food, travel and entertainment), then set limits for each category and stick to them diligently. Consider using budgeting apps or spreadsheets to track your expenses and ensure you stay on track.
  2. Embrace the spirit of giving – Instead of buying individual gifts for every family member or friend, organise a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa gift exchange. This not only reduces the financial burden for everyone, but it adds an element of surprise and excitement to the holiday festivities.
  3. Take advantage of sales and discounts – Begin your Christmas shopping early to take advantage of sales and discounts. Stockpiling non-perishable food items and other essentials before prices rise closer to Christmas can deliver big savings.
  4. Online shopping – You can often find better prices by shopping around online and various third-party websites offer cash back or rewards not available in store.
  5. DIY and personalised gifts – Tap into your creativity by making your own gifts. Handmade gifts can be a welcome and thoughtful way of giving. Consider creating homemade cards, photo albums, or baking treats for loved ones.

Tackle any debt now

With many household budgets feeling the pinch due to rising housing, power, petrol and other costs, debts may already be increasing. But if you are feeling burdened with debt, don’t decide to leave it until after Christmas. The time to tackle it is now before it gets out of hand.

One option to consider, is to consolidate your high interest debts into a single more manageable loan. This approach can simplify repayments and potentially reduce interest rates, making it easier to eliminate debt over time. But it is important to do your calculations carefully to make sure it is worthwhile for you and then to be vigilant about watching spending.

Another option is to take a cold, hard look at your expenses. Is there something that can be cut back, and that money diverted to repaying debt? Any reduction of your debt load will help, no matter how small. Some people like to implement the snowball method in tackling their debts: while continuing to make the minimum repayments on all your debts you pay a little extra on the smallest debt to pay it off faster. Getting rid of debts can help to inspire you to continue.

Taking control of Christmas spending and debt is crucial for starting the New Year on a positive financial note. So, start planning early, know what you can afford to spend and prioritise your financial wellbeing for a debt-free and stress-free holiday season.

If you are struggling with post-Christmas debt or need assistance to manage your finances, we are here to help. Contact our team of financial experts today to discuss strategies to regain control of your financial future. Make this Christmas season a time of joy and financial empowerment.

Pre-Christmas spending forecast to tread water as uncertainty looms for discretionary retailers | Australian Retailers Association

Making sure your deductions don’t get personal

It can be easy to overlook your personal use of business assets when it comes to completing your business and self managed super fund tax returns but be warned, the ATO is taking an interest in this area.

The ATO’s Small Business Random Enquiry Program found around 16 per cent of small businesses were either carelessly or deliberately overclaiming expenses in their tax returns.

If business assets are used for a mix of business and private use – such as vehicles and phones – the amount claimed must reflect only the business-related portion of the expense.

The ATO is urging taxpayers to remember this rule when claiming business-related deductions, including those for work-from-home expenses (such as internet and mobile phone usage), and work vehicles.

Rental properties under the spotlight

Holiday home rentals are also an area where many taxpayers are failing to follow the tax rules.

Deductions for holiday home expenses can only be claimed to the extent they relate to producing rental income, so you need to apportion your expenses if the property is only genuinely available for rent part of the year.

Apportionment is also required if you use the property for private purposes during the year, only use part of it to earn rent, or if it is used by family or friends at various times during the year.

Expenses relating solely to the rental of the property (such as agent commissions and advertising costs), don’t need to be apportioned.

Avoiding mistakes

To ensure you don’t invite attention from the ATO, review your treatment of business asset expenses annually, in case your private usage has changed.

New or additional private usage of the asset means you need to recalculate the percentage of business used to determine the correct deduction claim.

Proper business records explaining all relevant transactions (including payment to and receipts from employees, shareholders and associates) need to be kept to support your claims.

Common taxpayer errors

The ATO says there are some common errors when it comes to claiming deductions.

Taxpayers are not permitted to claim any deductions against business income for expenses relating to an asset entirely used for private purposes.

An example is an asset (such as a boat or plane) purchased and used for private purposes.

Deductions can only be claimed for the relevant percentage of business use. For example, if the private use component represents 60 per cent, only 40 per cent of the expense amount can be claimed in your return.

FBT and deemed dividends

Another common mistake is claiming a deduction for an asset giving rise to a deemed dividend. This arises when an asset is purchased through a company and used for private purposes by a company shareholder or their associates.

Under the tax rules, both the company and the dividend recipient must record such dividends in their income tax returns, as the asset is being used for their personal benefit.

Some small businesses also misunderstand the implications of purchasing an asset (such as a motor vehicle), that is used by an employee or the associate of an employee for personal purposes.

When this occurs, the benefit must be reported in the business’s fringe benefit tax (FBT) return and the resulting FBT liability paid.

Fixing lodgement mistakes

To avoid finding your business in the ATO’s spotlight, check you have correctly apportioned all expense claims before lodging your business or SMSF return.

You also need to consider whether the rules for private company benefits and FBT apply to any of your business assets. If you make a mistake with a deduction claim, you will need to amend or lodge an income tax or FBT return to correct your tax position. There are time limits on both business and super amendments.

We can help you to correct any mistakes and to deal with the ATO to ensure your tax reporting is smooth and worry-free.