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Choosing the right bank account for your business

There are many advantages associated with having a specialised business banking account. It allows you to keep track of your cash flow accurately, easily produce proof of expenses in the event of an audit and can be helpful when making business decisions.

Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid fees on small business banking accounts. It is often worth taking a close look at the business banking products on offer and considering whether it might be in your best interests to pay slightly higher fees to ensure that you have all of the functionality that you require.

Generally speaking there is a trade-off between a high interest rate and low fees, you cannot have both. High interest accounts tend to have a cap on the number of transactions that can be made, with additional fees being charged if you need to make additional transactions.

If you are diligent enough to keep separate business banking accounts then the best strategy can be to have two accounts. One can be used for day to day transactions and will attract little interest. The other can be a high interest account in which you put aside larger sums of money, for example, your PAYG or super contributions.

Take the time to examine the fee schedule associated with the account you are considering. Many banks do have hidden fees, such as a charge for a teller operation or annual business credit card fees.

Posted on 26 June '14, under money. No Comments.

Etiquette tips for business lunches

Having lunch with a potential client, investor or employee can be a great way to make a good impression while taking care of business matters at the same time. However, there are a lot of etiquette considerations, some of them extremely subtle, that you should be aware of. Here are some tips for conducting yourself at a business lunch:

-When extending the invitation you should always offer your guest a couple of different options for time and location

-Arrive a little early to make sure that your table isn’t in an overly crowded or busy area; this can inhibit productive conversations

-Always allow your guest to order first so that your choices don’t impede their decision

-Either organise payment prior to the lunch or be quick and confident in laying down your card

-Refrain from checking your phone throughout the meal

Posted on 25 June '14, under business. No Comments.

Claiming a computer as a tax deduction

If you use a piece of equipment, such as a computer, for work related activities then you may be able to claim it as a tax deduction. If the item is valued at over $300 then you cannot claim the entire cost in the year of purchase. Instead, you will need to calculate the depreciation in value each year.

When equipment is used for both professional and personal use, as computers so often are, then you can only claim a tax deduction for the equivalent portion that is used for professional purposes. For example, if you use the computer half for work and half for leisure then you may only claim half of the value of the depreciation of the computer as a tax deduction.

The ATO has indicated that it will be focusing on tech related expenses this year, with a particular focus on ensuring that individuals accurately report the work/personal breakdown of use. It is advisable to retain all documentation, including diary entries if necessary, relating to the use of a computer you are claiming as a tax deduction.

There are also other costs associated with a computer used for work purposes that can be used as tax deductions, such as the interest paid on a loan for a computer or the cost of repairs. Upgrades cannot be claimed as repairs and, if they cost over $300, should be included as a separate depreciating expense.

Posted on 25 June '14, under tax. No Comments.

Changes to self managed super funds in 2014

From July 2014 there will be a new range of penalties that will apply to SMSF trustees in breach of superannuation rules. Currently, the only significant financial penalty that has applied to non-compliant SMSF trustees is the penalty tax that allows the ATO to confiscate half of your assets.

However, from July11 2014 the ATO will be able to impose a range of financial, administrative and educational penalties. One feature of the new regulations will prohibit trustees from paying fines from their SMSF assets. As an SMSF trustee, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are aware of all changes to legislation.

Posted on 20 June '14, under super. No Comments.

Getting your product range right

As businesses grow, they tend to add more products and services to their range. Research demonstrates that this can lead to reduced sales as customers often become overwhelmed. Creating products with only minor points of difference can also be annoying for customers, as they have to spend time trying to work out which is the right choice. It is businesses’ responsibility to select only the best products to offer customers.

Limiting your range of products/services also demonstrates a degree of confidence in the quality of your products. Not only are customers less likely to purchase a product from an unnecessarily extensive range, but they will also be less satisfied when they do. A customer who is less satisfied is also less likely to purchase the same product again in the future. Additionally, continuing to offer out of date products is not good for your business’s image and brand.

Posted on 20 June '14, under business. No Comments.

Changes to non-concessional super contributions

Non-concessional contributions to superannuation are contributions that are made from your income after tax. In the 2013-14 financial year the cap on non-concessional super contributions was $150 000, with contributions exceeding this being taxed at 46.5%. As non-concessional contributions to super have already been taxed this meant that contributions exceeding the cap were potentially being taxed at 93%.

Many Australians over the age of 60 were making substantial contributions to their super in order to take advantage of the tax breaks and accidentally exceed the cap.

In the 2014-2015 financial year, the cap on non-concessional super contributions will be raised to $180 000. The government has also announced that it will lift the non-concessional contributions tax. Individuals may withdraw their excess contributions, along with any earnings, and have these taxed at their usual marginal tax rate. This will apply to excess contributions made after 1 July 2013.

Further details of the plan have not yet been decided, as the government is consulting with the superannuation industry.

Posted on 6 June '14, under super. No Comments.

Making your office more productive

It is incredible the impact that the physical characteristics of an office can have upon workplace productivity. Elements such as colour schemes and office layout, which may seem inconsequential, can have tremendous impacts on productivity. Here are three things to consider when redecorating your office space:

Lighting: Natural light has a positive effect on people’s mood and tends to improve their work. Obviously letting in more natural light is not an option for most businesses, but what you can do is rearrange your office to maximise your employees’ exposure to natural light.

Colour: While there has been some of contradictory research into the psychological effects of colour, one thing that people seem to agree on is the stimulating effect of bright and saturated colours. Whenever possible, choose vivid colours for office supplies and furniture.

Plant life: A few nice plants around the office will help to brighten the mood and increase concentration levels. A small pot plant on each desk can be a great way to show employees your appreciation.

Posted on 6 June '14, under business. No Comments.

Claiming tax deductions on investment properties

If you own a rental property or are considering purchasing an investment property, it is important to be aware of the tax deductions you can claim. Claiming all of the legitimate deductions on your investment property can save you a lot of money. On the other hand accidently claiming illegitimate deductions can cost you a lot of time and energy, potentially even leading to an investigation by the ATO.

There are some immediate deductions that you can make on a rental property, for example, advertising fees, agent costs, repairs and administrative expenses. Legal fees that are directly related to renting a property, for example those associated with debt recovery, may be claimed. However, you may not claim legal costs incurred at other times, for example the solicitor’s fees when you purchased an investment property.

There are also long term costs associated with investment properties that you can claim as deductions. These include borrowing costs, depreciation on equipment and deductions on structural improvements.

Many costs associated with the loan you have taken out on an investment property are legitimate deductions, but interest on the loan is not. Examples of legitimate costs include mortgage registration, stamp duty on mortgage and loan application fees. These deductions are applicable to loans of five years and under (for longer loans the deductible period is limited to five years).

As the value of the equipment with a limited life, for example carpet, depreciates you may claim this as a tax deduction. The ATO website has a list of the depreciation rates on different moveable household items. The entire cost of items under $300 may be included in your depreciation claim.

If you have spent money on an extension, structural improvement or renovation for your rental property then this cost can be claimed as a long-term deduction (usually 2.5% p.a. over 40 years). This does not cover work done immediately after purchase, and you can only claim this for periods that the property has actually been rented out.

Posted on 5 June '14, under tax. No Comments.

Reducing the risk of refund fraud

Refund fraud occurs where tax returns, activity statements and other documents are deliberately falsified in order to claim a tax refund a taxpayer is not entitled to.

Fraudulent claims can be lodged by individuals on their own account or third parties on behalf of others. Often, this can involve identity crime, where taxpayer identities are used by third parties to make fraudulent claims for personal gain.

Some examples of refund fraud are deliberately over-claiming deductions, offsets, or expenses by providing false or misleading information, understating income and/or providing fictitious payment summary details, providing false information in a business activity statement and making claims through fraudulent registrations or using false or stolen identities.

The ATO have a range of controls and systems in place to detect potential refund fraud, these include:

-analytical  models that use behaviour and statistical algorithms to analyse information on income tax returns, business activity statements and other tax forms lodged

-sharing data and intelligence with their partner agencies

-obtaining information about suspected fraud from the community and other government agencies

Posted on 30 May '14, under tax. No Comments.

Temporary Budget Repair Levy

The Government has introduced a three-year Temporary Budget Repair Levy on individuals who have a taxable income in excess of $180,000.

The levy is payable at a rate of 2 per cent of each dollar of a taxpayer’s annual taxable income over $180,000. No levy is payable where the taxpayer has a taxable income of $180,000 or less.

The levy will apply from 1 July 2014 and apply to the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years. It is expected to raise around $3 billion.

The introduction of this levy means that individuals with taxable incomes exceeding $180,000, and who are liable for the Medicare levy surcharge, will be subject to the top marginal rate of 50.5 per cent of income.

Non residents are also expected to bear the burden of the Temporary Budget Repair Levy.

Posted on 30 May '14, under super. No Comments.

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