How to party smart this Christmas (and avoid being stung by FBT afterwards)

With Christmas fast approaching, a lot of business owners are starting to think (or already thinking!) about how they are going to celebrate Christmas with their employees and clients.

While it is a festive season where you normally spend a little more in treating your employees, their families and clients with good food, wine and some activities, enjoying the time and having some fun, business owners may unknowingly provide Fringe Benefits where it may end up costing you more.

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Who are you?

In life we play different roles which gives us different names. You can be a parent at home, a child of your parents, a customer at the shops, or, if you run a business, a business owner. But do you know the correct name to call yourself when you run a business?

Very often we get business owners ringing saying they are the director of their company, when in fact they may not even own a company to start with. Understanding what structure your business is in is very important to avoid confusion down the track. Below is a brief description of each business structure and how you can call yourself when speaking to your suppliers or customers.

Sole traders

If you run your business as a sole trader, you will have an ABN for yourself, and your business is run under this ABN. You do not hold a separate entity and therefore cannot call yourself a company director.

In this case, you can call yourself a business owner, or a sole trader.

Partnerships

A partnership involves two or more people (up to 20, with some exceptions) going into business together with a view to making a profit.

If you are running a business under a partnership with others, then (to put it simply) you are the business owner of the partnership.

Companies

A company is a separate legal entity that consists of directors and shareholders. A company director is someone who makes decisions on behalf of the company, whereas shareholders hold shares for the company and is eligible to receive any dividends declared by the company.

If you run your business under a company, and you are the director of the company, then you can legally call yourself a director when speaking to your suppliers or customers.

Trusts

A trust is a structure where a trustee carries out the business on behalf of the trust’s members (or beneficiaries). A trust is not a separate legal entity. You can have individuals or companies acting as trustee(s) of your trust, and individuals, companies or trusts to be a beneficiary of your trust.

If you run your business through a trust, you are the business owner of your business.

Wrapping up…

Only directors of a company can legally call themselves a director, if you run your business in any other format, you can call yourself a business owner.

If you are confused about what structure your business is in, we suggest going through your business documents eg bank statements for your business bank account which will contain the details of the account holder. Otherwise, if we run your books and prepare your tax return, give us a call.

Why you should consider moving onto the cloud

In recent years many desktop accounting systems started chasing after “the cloud” by establishing their online presence. Some are moving their software to the server/online environment, while the others completely revamped the look and functionality of their software to compete with other online software.

Cloud Accounting is the new, easy and efficient way for you to take control of your business paperwork and have more time to increase your profits or spend with your family.  What will you do with the time you save?

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Exciting updates from XeroCon 2018

In early September 2018 two of us went to XeroCon in Brisbane to learn about the new tips and tricks of using Xero to make it a better experience to our Xero clients. During the 3 intensive but fun days, we learned new ways to do things to improve business in general, such as ways to reduce the number of days for an invoice to be paid, new ways of using the Xero mobile app and more…

A summary of a handful of the new features that will be implemented are:

Complete revamp of Xero mobile app

– you will soon be able to view reports such as Profit & Loss account on your mobile app. Currently  you need to log on to the desktop version of Xero to run the reports and see how the business goes. With the improved Xero mobile app business owners can see how well their businesses perform on the go.

– revamp of the invoicing module – Xero is moving towards a “code free accounting” meaning that Xero will take care of where the transaction be coded to so you don’t have to worry about it, making it easier and faster for you to prepare and email invoices out to customers – and get paid faster too with their new payment services (see below)!

(iOS app users) ability to attach files directly from cloud storage and ability to use AirPrint – huge improvement for those who would like to attach photos to invoices and print out invoices to non-Xero clients.

Updates to Xero Business

Email to bills – for those who keep track of bills on Xero, you have the option to email the PDF bills to Xero where it will create a draft bill to be approved. Xero is improving on this by using machine learning to extract information out of the bills and pre-fill them onto the bills – so you don’t have to!

new API to allow all banks to integrate with Xero – we expect this will mean a simpler process in setting up bank feeds on Xero with any bank account.

automatic bank rules reconciliation – a great time saver for those who set bank rules to help reconcile their transactions – instead of clicking OK on each transaction, soon you will be able to reconcile it all in just one single click!

– ability to preview invoice on both desktop and mobile version prior to sending them out

– Xero has partnered with Go Cardless to provide payment services through their invoices – this is similar to current payment services like Stripe and Paypal.

ATO eye on ‘standard’ deductions

The ATO have recently issued warnings of increased audit activity such as motor vehicle claim for 5,000kms, work-related expenses up to $300 and laundry expenses of $150. These items are claims you can make where you do not have to have kept actual receipts for every expense, however the ATO is stressing that this does not make them “standard deductions” that everyone can claim automatically.

The ATO are not saying that you cannot claim these in any circumstances, but they are saying that they can only be claimed where you have actually incurred the expense and have made a reasonable calculation of the amount you are claiming.

Motor vehicle expenses

For motor vehicle expenses you need to be able to show how you calculated the number of kilometres you travel for work and have you remembered that you cannot claim travel between home and work unless you need to carry bulky tools.

Laundry

For laundry expenses the ATO allow up to $150 claim without substantiation. However, you need to be able to show that you need to wash your registered uniform or protective clothing using the ATO’s estimate of $1.00 per full load and $0.50 per part load. So to claim the full $150, you will need to be able to justify that you wash your uniform 150 times per year.

Work-related expenses

For work-related expenses you need to be able to explain what sort of expenses they were and how they add up to the amount you are claiming. If you are claiming for a home office as part of your work-related expenses, you need to have a dedicated office space and a reasonable estimate of the number of hours that you work from home.

The ATO are concerned that a large number of taxpayers are using Motor Vehicle, Work-related expenses and Laundry as “standard” deductions when they do not actually need to incur the cost for their work.

If you have these type of deductions we will contact you prior to finalising your return to make sure you are comfortable that you could provide further information if your tax return is reviewed by the ATO.

The ATO have sent out many media releases about this in the past few weeks, so you may have already been alerted to their increased audit activity from items in the news. Here is a link to one of ATO’s media releases about the dangers of claiming unsubstantiated deductions.

There is a more comprehensive summary of the ATO’s crackdown here.