Landlord tax obligations under COVID-19 circumstances
Tax | 06 18th, 2020|

Property investors may have a number of tenants that have temporarily paused their rent payments or are not paying the full amount of rent owed due to being impacted by COVID-19. Regardless of rental income changes, landlords are still entitled to claim deductions on rental property expenses if they are still incurring regular rental property expenses.

Landlords who receive a back-payment of rent, or an amount of insurance as a result of a decrease in rental income, will still need to include these amounts in their assessable income for the tax year that they receive the payment.

Additionally, landlords may be faced with deferred loan repayments as a result of COVID-19. In this case, if your loan accumulates interest it will be considered as an incurred expense, meaning that you will still be able to continue claiming a deduction on your loan interest.

It is likely that landlords of short-term rental properties have had their situation compromised by COVID-19 due to cancelled bookings and low demand. If your property is used both privately and for renting out short-term accommodation, you will be able to continue deducting property expenses in the same proportion as you were entitled to prior to COVID-19. If you had begun using the property differently in the period after your latest tax return and before COVID-19, the proportion of expenses you can claim may vary. This can include situations where:

  • You have increased the amount of private use of the property by you, your family, or your friends.
  • You have made the decision to permanently stop renting out your property once COVID-19 restrictions end.
Options to consider before declaring bankruptcy
Business | 06 11th, 2020|

Businesses struggling with debt may feel like declaring bankruptcy is their only option. Premature bankruptcy is an unfortunately common scenario but there are ways businesses can deal with unmanageable debt before declaring bankruptcy.

Temporary Debt Protection (TDP)

Businesses with debt they can’t pay or are being taken action against by unsecured creditors can apply for TDP. TDP provides a six-month protection period where unsecured creditors can’t take enforcement action to recover the money businesses owe them. Businesses are encouraged to use this time to seek advice from the Government’s free financial counsellors, negotiate payment plans with creditors and consider other formal insolvency options which may work better for them.

Declaration of intention (DOI)

A DOI is a short-term option similar to TDP and protects businesses for 21 days from unsecured creditors. During this time, creditors can’t take further action to recover their debts.

Debt agreement

A debt agreement details how businesses will settle their debt and is a flexible way to help businesses come into an arrangement without becoming bankrupt. A debt agreement means either paying a lump sum that may be less than the original amount owed, or repaying debt in instalments. Businesses can apply for a debt agreement if they:

  • Are unable to pay debts when they are due.
  • Have not been bankrupt, had a debt agreement or personal insolvency agreement in the last 10 years.
  • Have unsecured debts and assets less than the set amount.
  • Estimate their after-tax income for the next 12 months to be less than the set amount.

Debt agreements can go for up to three years.

Personal insolvency agreement (PIA)

A PIA lets businesses pay off their debt in a way that suits their financial situation. It is similar to a debt agreement but a business’ debt, income and assets do not have to be under a certain limit.

Keep in mind that while these methods are effective in helping businesses avoid bankruptcy, there are still consequences. While usually producing positive results, be sure to weigh up these options and consider whether the long-term effects of implementing them are worth avoiding bankruptcy.

Divorce and splitting your SMSF assets
Super | 06 11th, 2020|

Running an SMSF under regular circumstances comes with enough compliance obligations as it is. Adding divorce or separation into the equation can raise even more legal and tax issues that need to be addressed.

The breakdown of your relationship does not absolve you from your responsibilities as an SMSF trustee; you are still expected to continue acting in accordance with super laws and in the interests of all members. As a trustee, you must:

  • include another trustee in the decision-making process, and
  • acknowledge requests to redeem assets and rollover benefits to another super fund.

When it comes to dividing SMSF assets, separating couples can transfer assets, such as property, from one SMSF fund into another. During this process it is important to consider:

  • How they will decide to split their superannuation fund. They can choose to enter into a formal written agreement, seek consent orders, or if the separating couple cannot reach an agreement, they can seek a court order.
  • Whether they have the necessary documentation readily available, as it is essential in the event of an ATO audit. Due to there being beneficial tax consequences in splitting a superannuation fund, it is essential that the documentation, such as the notice for splitting the super, shows a genuine separation.
  • Where the new fund is to be a single member fund, it is advisable to incorporate a special purpose company to be the trustee. This avoids having a second person as a trustee.
Claiming self-education expense deductions
Tax | 06 11th, 2020|

Individuals upskilling and educating themselves during these down times may be eligible to claim a deduction for their self-education expenses. The deductions apply to self-education activities that are directly related to an individual’s work as an employee.

In the case that individuals are looking to claim self-education expenses based on a course’s relation to their work, the relation must mean:

  • maintaining or improving the specific skills or knowledge the individual requires in their current work activities;
  • resulting in, or likely to result in, an increase in the individual’s income from their current work activities.

There are many types of expenses you can claim as part of your self-education deduction, including:

  • General course expenses (e.g. tuition fees, stationary, textbook, student union fees)
  • Depreciating assets (e.g. computer, desk)
  • Repair costs to assets used for self-education purposes
  • Car assets (claimed using the cents per kilometre method)

Work-related self-education expenses cannot be claimed as part of a deduction. These expenses include travel expenses, child care costs related to attendance of courses and capital costs of items (e.g. computers, desk) acquired for self-education purposes.

Keep in mind that self-education courses which enable individuals to get new employment are not eligible for deduction claims. Some expenses also need to be apportioned between private purposes and use for self-education such as travel costs and depreciating assets. You will need to estimate your apportions and provide information on such expenses to be eligible to claim.

For more information on what you claim as self-education expenses, visit the ATO website or consult with a financial advisor.

Creating a business cash flow forecast
Money | 06 2nd, 2020|

Small business owners are often faced with stressful financial decisions and periods of uncertainty. Having a cash flow forecast can help your business avoid cash shortages by allowing you to track whether your spending is on target, prepare for business expansion, plan for upcoming cash gaps and plan budgets. Here are some tips on cash flow forecasting to help your business be in control of its finances.

Prepare a sales forecast
Existing businesses can look at past years’ sales figures, taking note of busy and quiet periods, and prepare an income prediction based on historical trends. If you’re a new business, you can start by making cash outflow estimates. This can help you plan for what sales you should aim for to cover this and make estimates of predicted sales.

Knowing how much money you’ll have in a week or a month is central to being able to budget and know when to pay your expenses. Whether you receive customer payments at the time of sale, or you receive payments based on a subscription or service, you can schedule expenses and budget based on payment periods.

Account for other income forms
Your business may generate income from sources other than customers. Having an estimate of what income you’ll receive and when allows you to refine your budget and plan around payments. These income sources could include:

  • Grants (such as government grants).
  • Tax refunds.
  • Investments in the business.
  • Deposits.
  • Loans.

Estimate your expenses
Your cash flow forecast should include all your predicted expenses, giving you a detailed outline of the amount you’ll spend and when to help you determine a budgeting schedule and avoid cash shortages. Expenses to consider in your forecast include:

  • Bills such as electricity, water, rent, telephone and internet.
  • Staff wages, including taxes, superannuation or bonuses.
  • The cost of supplies and equipment.
  • Packaging and delivery services.
  • Software subscriptions, such as an office messaging system, accounting system, anti-virus protection, website developing etc.
  • Maintenance and repairs.
  • Business loan or credit card repayments.
  • Staff events.
  • Buying new assets.

Update and refine your forecasts
As your business grows and evolves, your financial situation may change. To keep your projections on track and as accurate as possible, update your cash flow forecast regularly to account for any miscalculations, unpredicted expenses or income and business changes. Taking a few moments every month or so will keep you prepared and prevent you from being caught off guard by a sudden cash flow crisis.

How to improve your hiring process as a small business
Business | 06 2nd, 2020|

Small businesses coming out of COVID-19 may be looking to expand and grow as quickly as possible to prepare for a changing economy. One of the ways you can effectively grow your business is by improving your hiring strategy and making sure it is efficient.

Analyse and catalogue your needs
To make sure your hiring process is fit for your business, spend some time analysing your needs. For example, consider how quickly you are looking to expand, how many employees you are looking to and capable of hiring, the space you have available for additional employees, and other similar conditions. By being specific with your requirements, you are making this easier for yourself in the long run and trimming away unnecessary expenses before you even know it.

Consider hiring part-timers and contractors
Expanding your conditions for potential employees will widen the pool of talent available to you. Instead of being set on particular working conditions such as full-time working hours or in-office working, consider being more flexible with your working arrangements. Hiring part-timers and contractors will be more advantageous to businesses looking to grow quickly and substantially, as part-timers and contractors come with lower costs and you do not have to worry about employee retention for the long-term.

Invest in training your new recruits
Make sure to spend time training your new hires by providing them with the education and resources they need to be successful in your business. While it may not seem worthwhile to invest in part-timers and contractors, building a training procedure will be beneficial in the long run for future employees as you will establish a strong workplace culture while also developing a process that is most suited to your preferences.

Focus on hiring one at a time
It is understandable for you to have many positions open at one time, but to make sure you make accurate judgements on the best potential employees, try to focus on one position at a time. This way, you will avoid being overwhelmed with business decisions involving both ordinary business proceedings and new recruits. Use the same approach when you are hiring a team for a particular project or a new location as well.

SMSF property investment regulations to keep in mind
Super | 06 2nd, 2020|

Property is a common investment option for SMSFs, however, the ATO has a number of regulations SMSF owners need to be wary of. The ATO is particularly concerned with those using SMSF assets to invest in property in a way that is detrimental to retirement purposes.

To ensure you do not breach provisions of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SISA), here is a breakdown of the ATO’s common regulatory concerns:

  • Whether arrangement amounts to your SMSF are being made to purposes outside of the sole purpose test (referred to as a collateral purpose).
  • Whether your SMSF meets operating standards such as record-keeping, ensuring assets are appropriately valued and recorded at market price, and keeping SMSF assets separate from members’ assets.
  • Whether the arrangement includes the SMSF acquiring assets from a related party.
  • If the arrangement features the SMSF borrowing money and meets borrowing provisions.
  • Whether the SMSF has contravened the in-house assets by exceeding the level of in-house assets allowed.
  • Cases of illegal early release of superannuation when SMSF arrangements do not meet relevant payment standards.

Also keep in mind that you cannot improve a property or change the nature of a property while there is a loan in place. While you can look to make additional contributions to your SMSF to speed up the loan repayment process, you will be precluded from making further contributions to your SMSF if any outstanding loans in your super balance exceed $1.6 million.

In the case that any of the ATO’s regulatory concerns apply to you and your SMSF’s involvement with property investment, confirm your situation and report your circumstances to the ATO. Additional regulatory matters regarding income tax such as non-arm’s length income (NALI) provisions as well as GST need to be reported as well.

Closely held payees exemption to be extended
Tax | 06 2nd, 2020|

Employers with 19 or fewer employees are temporarily exempt from reporting ‘closely held (related) payees’ through Single Touch Payroll enabled software. The exemption deadline has been extended from 1 July 2020 to 1 July 2021 as part of the ATO’s response to the COVID-19 situation.

A closely held payee is an individual directly related to the business, company or trust that pays them. Commonly, these are:

  • Family relatives of a family business.
  • Directors or shareholders if a company.
  • Beneficiaries of a trust.

The closely held payees exemption is automatically applied, and employers do not need to report them to the ATO.

Employers still have the option to report their closely held payees’ payroll information through Single Touch Payroll if they wish to. This can be done each time a payment is made, following the same process that applies for regular employees.

Employers will need to provide payment summaries to their closely held employees and a payment summary annual report to the ATO at the end of the financial year unless they:

  • report through Single Touch Payroll for their closely held employees, and
  • lodge their finalisation declaration by the due date.
Conducting your business’ health-check
Business | 05 28th, 2020|

With the current economic slowdown, now is the perfect time to review your business strategy and conduct a business “health check” to come out the other side improved and ready to go. Analyse whether or not your business is in the state that you want it to be in and any improvements you can make to prepare for when the economy starts to recover.

Clients and customers

Client and customer loyalty is a trait all businesses should appreciate, but if your clients’ values are misaligned with yours, conflict is inevitable. Hence, now is the time to re-evaluate which clients you want to keep loyal and which ones you can see a cooperative future with. Re-assessing your target audience and deepening your understanding of the wants and needs of your clients would also be beneficial, as you can perfect your marketing strategies now while you have the time. If you have clients who frequently struggle to pay you on time, rude to your service and employees and generally disrespectful to your business, take the time to assess whether your attention is worthwhile and if you would like to continue to work with them when the economic situation improves.

Employees

Your employees are another stakeholder to check up on during this downtime opportunity. Your employees will always be your business’ representatives so make sure they are up to standard and help them improve on their skills now when they have the time to. Take the time to teach your employees more about your business goals and strategies and improve the team atmosphere by introducing team recreational activities. Your relationship with your employees now during a global crisis will dictate how they feel about you as a leader and if they can rely on you in the future. Foster respectful, strong and healthy bonds between you and your employees and only good things will be coming your way.

Suppliers

The key question to ask when reviewing your suppliers is whether or not you are getting what you need from them at a reasonable cost. Of course, not all sales deals are made equally and while you may get the bad end of the stick now, that is sometimes for the benefit of the long term. However, if this is not the case and you feel that your suppliers are asking too much from you, letting you down with their product quality or causing other complications, take the time now to look for other options. As most businesses struggle through current economic conditions, more and more suppliers are becoming competitive and hence, there are more options to consider. Do your research and decide on the suppliers you want to work with for the long-term future.

Financing

Managing your finances is always a difficult task but it is now more important than ever. Your budget and profit predictions for this year are likely going rogue so reevaluate your finances and research other funding options such as commercial rent, interest rates and banking services. Consider how you can minimise cost while maximising efficiency and productivity, save as much money as you can during these downtimes, and review your investments in detail to determine whether or not they are worthwhile.

Spouse contributions – when are you eligible for a tax offset?
Super | 05 28th, 2020|

Contributions made on behalf of your spouse to a complying superannuation fund or a retirement savings account (RSA) may be eligible for a tax offset.

The 2019/2020 tax rules allow you to claim an 18% tax offset on super contributions up to $3,000 on behalf of your spouse. While you are able to contribute more than $3,000, there will be no spouse contribution tax offset over this amount. The amount you can claim depends on your spouse’s annual income:

  • $540 for spouse income of $37,000.
  • $360 for spouse income of $38,000.
  • $180 for spouse income of $39,000.

The tax offset may be available for individuals who meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Your spouse’s assessable income, fringe benefits amounts and employer superannuation contributions equate to under $40,000.
  • Contributions made on behalf of your spouse were not deductible to you.
  • You and your spouse were Australian residents at the time of contributions.
  • Your spouse did not have non-concessional contributions that equated to a higher amount than their non-concessional contributions cap, or they did not have a total superannuation balance of $1.6 million or more at 30 June 2018.
  • Your spouse is younger than their preservation age, or are not retired while being between 65 and their preservation age.

Under Australian superannuation law, your spouse can be either:

  • Your partner who you are married to and live with, or;
  • Your de facto partner, who you live with on a genuine domestic basis.

The spouse contributions tax offset can be claimed on your tax return.

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