Investing on arm’s length
Super | 03 23rd, 2017|

Running a self-managed super fund requires trustees to adhere to complex laws and follow a number of onerous rules.

One of the most fundamental investment rules for SMSFs is that the trustees must transact on an arm’s length basis to ensure no conflict of interest arises. An arm’s length transaction requires trustees to conduct on a commercial basis as if there was no relationship between the parties.

This means the purchase and sale price of fund assets should always reflect the true market value of the asset, and the income from the assets held by the fund should always reflect the true market rate of return.

SMSF trustees must obtain independent valuations for assets which are not listed on a public market. Furthermore, if a SMSF sells an asset to a related party or member of the fund, the sale price must be at market value.

Any non-arm’s length income is taxed at the highest marginal tax rate. The ATO considers non-arm’s length income as income which is derived from a scheme in which the parties were not dealing with each other at arm’s length and if it is more than the SMSF might have been expected to derive (if the parties had been dealing on a arm’s length basis).

Preparing for the FBT year-end
Tax | 03 23rd, 2017|

With the fringe benefits tax (FBT) year ending 31 March 2017, now is the time for business owners to get their FBT affairs sorted.

When calculating FBT liability, employers must gross-up the taxable value of benefits provided to reflect the gross salary employees would need to earn at the highest marginal tax rate (including Medicare levy) to buy the benefits after paying tax.

To calculate fringe benefits taxable amounts, employers must use two separate gross-up rates:

  • Type 1: Higher gross-up rate is used where employers (or other benefit providers) are entitled to a GST credit for GST paid on benefits provided to an employee. The type 1 gross-up rate for year ending 31 March 2017 is 2.1463.

  • Type 2: Lower gross-up rate is used where there is no entitlement to a GST credit. The type 2 gross-up rate for year ending 31 March 2017 is 1.9608.

The FBT rate for the year ending 31 March 2017 is 49 per cent.

Whether the benefits provided to the employee are type 1 or type 2, only the lower gross-up rate is used for reporting on employees’ payment summaries.

Tips for successful networking
Business | 03 14th, 2017|

Whether you are looking to make new contacts in your industry or searching for your dream job; networking is essential to forming new relationships and expanding your connections.

Here are three ways to improve your networking skills:

  • Listen

Networking is all about building relationships. One of the best ways to establish a connection faster is to simply listen to the other person with no interruptions. Listening helps to understand the other person’s concerns and identify opportunities where you can offer them value.

  • Ask for an introduction

Ask friends and acquaintances for introductions to people they know or people who you would like to meet. Being introduced through someone else can help ease nerves and take the pressure off approaching a stranger.

  • Prepare questions

Preparing a few ice-breaker questions can help to get the conversation going and avoid small talk. If you are attending a networking event, do some research ahead of the event about the people who will be there and formulate your questions around their interests, knowledge etc. Having a list of well-prepared questions also helps to increase your confidence and demonstrate your enthusiasm.

Transitional CGT relief for SMSFs
Super | 03 14th, 2017|

Self-managed super funds can access Capital Gains Tax (CGT) relief to provide temporary relief from certain capital gains that might arise as a result of individuals complying with the transfer balance cap, and Transition to Retirement Income Stream (TRIS) reforms, commencing on 1 July 2017.

The transitional CGT relief is designed to preserve the income tax exemption for certain, accrued capital gains which would have been exempt, if the underlying CGT assets had been disposed of before the changed treatment of TRIS’s and before a member transfers to comply with the transfer balance cap starting.

CGT relief is available for certain CGT assets held by a complying SMSF at all times between the start of 9 November 2016, to ‘just before’ 1 July 2017. However, the CGT assets eligible for the relief depends on whether they stopped being segregated current pension assets during this period, or whether the fund continued using the proportionate method for the 2016-17 income year.

Trustees need to be aware that CGT relief is not automatic – it must be chosen by a trustee for a CGT asset. SMSF trustees will need to review their fund’s circumstances and determine if CGT relief is available and appropriate. If trustees do decide to obtain CGT relief, trustees must advise the ATO in the approved form on, or before, the day they are required to lodge their fund’s 2016-17 income tax return.

As the decision is irrevocable, careful planning is required. Trustees should seek professional advice if they are unsure if CGT relief is suitable for their circumstances.

Easier GST reporting for food retailers
Tax | 03 14th, 2017|

Many small food retailers buy and sell products that are both taxable and GST-free. Depending on the point-of-sale equipment used, identifying and recording these sales can be difficult for business owners.

The ATO has introduced a series of simplified accounting methods (SAMs) to make it easier to account for GST and work out the amount of GST that is liable at the end of each tax period.

There are five SAMs to choose from. The SAM you choose will depend on your business’ turnover, the nature of your business and the nature of your point-of-sale equipment (except for the purchases snapshot method).

These methods help you work out the information you need to correctly complete the GST section of your activity statement. However, they can only be applied to sales and purchases of trading stock.

Here is a summary of the five SAMs you can choose from:

  1. Business norms

Turnover threshold: SAM turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You apply the standard percentages to your sales and purchases.

  1. Stock purchases

Turnover threshold: SAM turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You take a sample of purchases and use this sample.

  1. Snapshot

Turnover threshold: SAM turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You take a snapshot of your sales and purchases and use this.

  1. Sales percentage

Turnover threshold: GST turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You work out what percentage of GST-free sales you made in a tax period and apply this to your purchases.

  1. Purchases snapshot

Turnover threshold: GST turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You take a snapshot of your purchases and use this to calculate your GST credits.

After electing to use a SAM, you cannot change your method of GST accounting in the first 12 months.

Understanding financial ratios
Money | 03 8th, 2017|

Financial ratios are useful tools for business owners to monitor, analyse and improve their business performance.

A financial ratio contains one or more financial figures and is expressed as a ratio, rate or percentage. Financial ratios are used to measure profitability, cash flow and liquidity, risk and return, and stock turnover and sales.

Here are some common financial ratios used in business to:

– Measure profitability
Gross profit margin is a percentage of gross profit on sales.
To work out: (Gross profit x 100) divided by sales.

Net profit margin is a percentage of net profit on sales.
Method: (Net profit before tax x 100) divided by sales.

– Monitor cash and liquidity
Working capital ratio measures the liquidity of a business (i.e. how much money is available to meet creditors’ demands).
To determine this ratio: Working capital = current assets divided by current liabilities.

Quick assets ratio measures the solvency of your business, or its ability to meet its immediate commitments.
Method: Current assets (minus stock) divided by current liabilities.

– Measure turnover and sales
Stock turnover ratio measures the number of times stock turns over.
Method: Cost of goods sold divided by (0.5 x opening + closing stock)

Material to sales ratio measures the percentage of sales dollars spent on materials.
To determine this ratio: (Direct materials x 100) divided by sales.

Acting on customer feedback
Business | 03 8th, 2017|

Customer feedback is a great learning source for any business looking to improve their competitive edge. But actually acting upon this feedback is the most important, an often neglected next step.

Feedback from customers is a valuable asset for many businesses. It provides them with customer insights which can assist in improving services, products and overall customer experience. Feedback has also been shown to improve a business’s customer retention rates.

But while feedback does create a competitive advantage for businesses, that advantage doesn’t just come from collecting the feedback. It is how a business chooses to act based on this feedback that makes all the difference.

Businesses may like to treat the challenges that come to light through customer feedback as projects with defined deadlines and expected outcomes. Details such as how long it will take to address a challenge, what strategies should be used or what actions need to be taken, should be taken into consideration when
developing the projects.

An action log can help to maintain the momentum and focus of these projects, and after a reasonable period of time, may serve to give businesses a good understanding of whether goals and targets were achieved in an adequate space of time.

Communicating results with customers is the next important stage. When businesses make any changes that are customer-based, it is important to keep customers who were part of the feedback process updated. This encourages customers to continue giving their input if they know they are being heard and are responsible for any positive changes.

A business may want to conduct follow-up feedback once customers have experienced the improvements. Customer feedback, after all, can be the reason for short-term programs as well as entire company transformations.

When collecting feedback, the overall task isn’t in the listening, but the actual implementation and follow-up. The more businesses can get their customers to participate in these kinds of projects, the more likely a business is to grow.

Understanding death benefits under the new transfer balance cap
Super | 03 8th, 2017|

The introduction of a $1.6 million transfer balance cap for superannuation will take effect from 1 July 2017 which is likely to impact fund members who collectively with their spouse exceed $1.6 million in super.

When an individual with a super account dies, the trustee of the super fund will generally pay the deceased’s remaining super interests (accumulation and retirement phase) as a death benefit lump sum to a beneficiary.

Superannuation death benefits can be cashed:
– to a beneficiary or beneficiaries as superannuation lump sums that are paid out of the super system, or
– to a dependant beneficiary or beneficiaries as superannuation income streams that are retained in the super system, or
– to a dependant beneficiary or beneficiaries using a combination of the two.

A dependant is a person who is either a spouse of the deceased, a child of the deceased (less than 18 years old, financially dependent under 25 years old or has a disability) or a person who was in an interdependency relationship with the deceased.

When a death benefit income stream is paid to a dependant beneficiary, a credit arises in the beneficiaries transfer balance account. This may result in the dependant exceeding their transfer balance cap.

In this case, the beneficiary can choose to reduce their transfer balance account by commuting the death benefit income stream fully or partially. When this occurs, the commuted amount will need to be cashed out as a lump sum and paid to the individual – rather than being kept in an accumulation account, as this contravenes the regulatory requirement to cash the benefit out of the super system as soon as practicable.

Reversionary super income streams
A death benefit can be either reversionary or non-reversionary.

Reversionary death benefit income streams are super income streams that revert to a reversionary beneficiary automatically upon the member’s death. A non-reversionary death benefit income stream is a super income stream created and paid to the dependant beneficiary or beneficiaries.

If an individual receives a reversionary super income stream, the value of the entire supporting super interest at the time it becomes payable to the beneficiary counts towards their transfer balance cap.

If you are the recipient of a reversionary pension, the income stream will not count as a credit in your transfer balance account until 12 months after the death of the member, giving you time to adjust your affairs and reduce any amount that may cause you to exceed your transfer balance cap.

Preparing for contribution cap changes
Tax | 03 8th, 2017|

From 1 July 2017, many of the 2016 Federal Budget super reforms will take place, including the reduction of both the annual concessional and non-concessional contribution caps.

Concessional contributions
Concessional contributions include employer contributions and salary sacrifice amounts. Personal contributions claimed as a personal super contribution deduction also count as concessional contributions.

The concessional (pre-tax) contributions cap will be lowered to $25,000 for everyone. Previously, those aged 50 years and older could contribute up to $30,000 and $35,000 for everyone else.

Individuals who wish to make extra concessional contributions before 1 July will need to check what concessional contributions have been made to all their super funds from 1 July 2016 and arrange for the additional concessional contributions (up to their age cap) to be paid to their super before 30 June 2017.

A new super rule will be introduced effective from 1 July 2018 which will allow individuals with a total super balance of less than $500,000 at the end of 30 June of the previous year to ‘carry-forward’ their unused concessional contributions cap. This allows individuals to access their unused cap space on a rolling basis for five years.

For example, in 2018-19, Tom makes $10,000 in concessional contributions, leaving an unused amount of concessional contribution cap of $15,000. Tom can carry forward for up to five years to increase his concessional contribution cap. In 2019-20, in addition to his normal $25,000 concessional cap, Tom can use the $15,000 of unused cap from the previous year. This means Tom’s total concessional cap for 2019-20 is $40,000.

Non-concessional contributions
Non-concessional contributions include personal contributions for which you do not claim as a tax deduction. All non-concessional contributions made to all your super funds are added together and count towards the cap.

The annual non-concessional (after-tax) contribution cap will be reduced from $180,000 to $100,000. Those aged between 65 and 74 years old can still access this cap, provided they satisfy the work test.

Individuals who make non-concessional contributions with a total super balance greater or equal to the general transfer balance cap for the year ($1.6 million for the 2017-18 financial year) at the end of 30 June of the previous financial year will give rise to excess contributions.

For those under 65 years, you can still bring forward three years worth of non-concessional contributions. However, as the non-concessional cap has lowered to $100,000, you will only be able to bring forward $300,000 in a single year from 1 July 2017 onwards.

To access the non-concessional bring forward arrangement for 2017-18, you must be under 65 years for one day during the first year and you must have a total super balance less than $1.5 million.

The remaining cap amount for years two or three of a bring-forward arrangement is reduced to nil for a financial year if your total super balance is greater than or equal to the general transfer cap at the end of 30 June of the previous financial year.

Transitional arrangements will apply to those individuals who have triggered the bring-forward period in the 2015-16 or 2016-17 financial years but have not fully used their bring-forward before 1 July 2017.

Understanding cloud storage
Business | 03 1st, 2017|

Cloud-based storage is becoming increasingly advanced with age. The service’s easy access, tight security, and flexibility are attracting both big and small business owners.

Cloud storage refers to an online space that is used for the storage of data. It allows its users to backup data to a network of servers that are hosted by a cloud service provider. This data is then available through any Internet-connected device.

The main advantage of cloud storage is the flexibility of anywhere access. The data stored in the cloud can be accessed through any Internet-connected device, such as an iPhone or laptop at any location.

Cloud storage is cost-effective when compared to traditional security measures for protecting data. Traditionally, businesses had to pay for equipment, software, and personnel to ensure the security of their private data. The cost of data security in cloud storage is generally covered through a subscription cost.

Another advantage of cloud storage is the ability for businesses to easily scale up or down and only pay for what they actually use. Business owners have been wary of storing private information in the cloud due to the threat of data hacking and privacy concerns. However, cloud security is far stronger than any security devices a company can offer.

Current cloud providers are highly concerned with the security of their systems. They will often utilisecutting-edge data encryption and other security tools to protect data from being hacked. Some of the advanced cloud providers can include advanced intrusion detection, allowing security teams to fend off hackers even before they attack.

Also, physical data storage, such as an external hard drive, can easily be damaged or lost. Data that exists in the cloud is not physical and, therefore, cannot be fractured in the same way an external hard drive can.

There are a lot of benefits to making the switch to cloud storage. The software is provided immediately, and there is no wait on what the business has paid for. Working on the cloud allows businesses to be nimble, efficient and cost-effective.

When considering making the switch to cloud-based storage it is necessary to do some competitive shopping first. Business should consider the following:

  • how much they are willing to pay, or whether a free account is the best idea

  • their need for customer management, help and guidance

  • the licensing arrangements of each service provider

  • the capacity constraints of each provider

  • whether the provider can still benefit the business in the future

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