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Small business owners struggling with tax and at risk of major fines

6:33AM | Wednesday, 19 June

Small business owners are running serious financial risks due to knowledge gaps about tax, new research has found.   More than 1000 Australian small business owners were surveyed in a study commissioned by American Express.   While most small business owners (73%) understood they were responsible for errors in their tax returns even if they used an accountant, many were not clear about GST responsibilities, tax deductions and write-offs.   Tax consultant Adrian Raftery told StartupSmart the survey reveals why so many small businesses fail within seven years, adding there could be a link between failed businesses and a lack of understanding of tax obligations and concessions that are available.   “With knowledge gaps like this, how are they reading their profit and loss sheets? Are they saving for tax time so it doesn’t impact cashflow too much?” Raftery says.   He says the risk of getting caught and fined is quite high for small business owners.   “Even if it’s an honest mistake, the chance of getting caught is still reasonably high because of data matching and the analysis the ATO can do these days,” he says.   Raftery says the combination of the interest charged on missing tax combined with penalties could cause critical issues for small businesses.   The research shows ongoing confusion around GST with 65% of small businesses believing they need to register for GST once they are turning over $50,000 a year, when they actually don’t need to register for GST until they’re turning over $75,000.   Small business owners are also missing out on concessions and possibly making expensive errors because of confusion around claiming receipts and write-offs. Only 9% of businesses thought they were too small to come to the attention of ATO auditors.   Young entrepreneurs are significantly more at risk, with the research revealing 51% of entrepreneurs under 34 were not aware they were responsible for errors in their tax returns. They were also more likely to lose receipts.   Raftery says the confusion often comes from misunderstanding the tax system.   “Accountants devote their whole lives to knowing and keeping up with this. But business owners should make an effort to be aware of the tax landscape and the rules,” he says.   Losing receipts was more of an issue for companies with three or more employees. Across all the business owners surveyed, the receipts most likely to be lost were petrol (40%), stationery (32%) and food and beverages (23%).   A key confusion for small business owners was entertainment deductions. According to Raftery, most small business owners don’t realise that any meal that involves alcohol can’t be claimed, as the write-off is for working lunches and “mere sustenance”.   Almost half (46%) of the small business owners surveyed thought they could claim $300 worth of deductions without receipts. This option is only available for individual tax returns, not for company returns.   Many of those surveyed also didn’t realise they could claim taxes paid last year based on losses made this year. Just over half didn’t realise they could claim write-offs for equipment purchased for home-based businesses.   One in three small business owners surveyed still kept their receipts in a shoebox and 42% used accounting software.   “The most common honest mistakes come from mathematical errors, just the general calculation errors. If you’re not using accounting software, you’re doing more calculations and so you’ll be at greater risk.”   Not only were many small businesses struggling to navigate the tax system, 69% said tax reporting was increasingly complicated.   But Raftery says it gets easier.   “The tax obligations can seem quite complicated and onerous. With experience and doing quarterly BAS and an annual return and knowing what to claim and being educated over a couple of years, it does get easier. But you do need to invest the time at the beginning to understand it, and make sure you have a good accountant.”   Concern around navigating the tax system was higher for more profitable companies, with 75% of those making more than $200,000 a year saying it was getting increasingly complicated.   According to the survey, small businesses spend an average of 20 hours a year on tax reporting, with businesses turning over $200,000 or more spending more than double that each year.

Gamification takes centre stage in new innovation tool Blitz

2:41AM | Wednesday, 27 February

Australian gaming company 3rd Sense has outlined how it built an online tool called Blitz, developed by Dr Ken Hudson, which uses gamification principles to drive corporate innovation.

Start-ups strut their stuff at CES 2013

3:19AM | Monday, 11 March

The 2013 International CES, the largest in the tech show’s 45-year history, has wrapped up, with start-ups ranging from the Pebble ‘smartwatch’ to a device that informs people if they haven’t taken prescribed medication grabbing attendees’ attention.

Young entrepreneurs trump older bosses in profit stakes: Report

9:24AM | Wednesday, 26 September

Companies run by young entrepreneurs are more likely to make a profit than those run by older business owners, new research shows, although a lack of industry knowledge remains a major roadblock for tyros.

Why not you?

8:22AM | Thursday, 9 August

Back in the 1800s and early 20th century, women in Britain used to gather in homes to make chains.

Australian consumers will spend 12% more for good service, survey shows

7:13AM | Friday, 13 July

Australian consumers are willing to spend an average 12% more for excellent service, according to an American Express report, but 40% of consumers say Australian businesses miss the mark.

Top 10 Android apps for start-ups

6:48PM | Thursday, 14 June

This week’s Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco saw the tech giant ratchet up its battle with Google, unveiling its own mapping service and a beefed-up voice-activated service. 

American Express to plough $100 million into digital start-ups

11:45AM | Friday, 11 November

American Express has unveiled plans to invest $100 million in eCommerce-based start-ups, with the credit card giant set to accept applications from around the world.

Female entrepreneurs more likely to use social media: Report

11:34PM | Thursday, 10 November

Female business owners are 6% more likely than their male counterparts to use at least one form of social media in their business, according to a new study released by American Express.

DealsDirect buys corporate shopping and reward site Shoppers Advantage in its biggest ever acquisition

10:10AM | Friday, 14 October

Online department store DealsDirect has upped the ante on its string of acquisitions, purchasing the corporate shopping group Shoppers Advantage in a deal that will add around $25 million in revenue per year and a member database of over three million.

Corporates and start-up apps scoop 2011 Mobile Awards

9:58PM | Sunday, 11 September

Architecture software maker Aconex, Rebel Sport and start-ups LookOut Mobile and Apps Perhaps have been named as some of the winners of this year's Mobile Awards, organised and run by eBusiness consulting firm A Thinking Company.

Six key ways to improve your customer service

5:51AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Your business can’t survive without a steady stream of happy customers. But despite this, large numbers of Australian businesses aren’t putting enough emphasis on customer satisfaction.

Aussie businesses falling down on customer service: Survey

7:10PM | Thursday, 28 July

A third of Australian consumers believe businesses pay less attention to giving good customer service in the current economic climate, according to a new global survey.

Eight in 10 start-ups in the dark over tax deductions: report

6:17AM | Wednesday, 29 June

More than eight in 10 start-up entrepreneurs do not know what constitutes an allowable tax deduction, new figures reveal, suggesting tomorrow will be a fraught end of financial year for many emerging companies.

Reach out to your local market

6:24AM | Thursday, 2 June

While there’s been plenty of talk about Australian consumers increasingly purchasing goods from overseas website, it’s not completely one-way traffic.

Currency consultancy

5:21AM | Tuesday, 17 May

The fluctuating Australian dollar continues to be a cause for concern for many Australian businesses, suggesting there is an opportunity to develop a service around the notion of currency “protection”.

Restaurateurs facing rising costs pressure

2:05PM | Tuesday, 15 February

More than 80% of restaurant operators identify rising costs as a major challenge in running their business according to an American Express survey.

Negative consumer reviews impact on sales

12:46AM | Monday, 6 December

Sixty per cent of Australians say a negative review or online posting influences their decision to purchase from a store or supplier, according to new research.

Small firms urged to make non-paying customers a 2011 focus

1:44PM | Sunday, 16 January

Small businesses should focus on identifying non-paying customers and make it a key priority in the New Year, according to a new report.

Up, up and away

4:58AM | Friday, 27 April

From a consumer perspective, the appeal of RedBalloon is clear – the gift of experiences as thrillingly diverse as rally driving and wine tasting. However, the business has managed to find a value proposition that reaches far beyond its consumer-facing image.

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