Tax Office

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Taxation: The three Ds of paying dues

4:35AM | Tuesday, 8 April

I know it’s not officially the end of the financial year just yet, but it feels as if, in my office at least, it’s always time to pay or take care of a tax of some sort; GST, PAYG…all that stuff. And then there’s preparing for, submitting and paying BAS, which I have been told stands for Bloody Annoying System. The dues come around so quickly and I rarely feel ready.   One reason for this is probably because my filing system is constantly evolving. By which I mean that I keep changing it in the hope of creating one that works and so am always between methods and can never find anything. This is not really helping and adding considerably to my workload in the process.   So here are three things you (and I) could be doing to minimise the worry of the ever looming, lurking, hovering duties and to make the necessary task a bit more bearable. Keep in mind that two of these three are still theoretical for me, but I am assured by my solo colleagues that they do work.   Do it   Just do it. Often and consistently. Even an hour a week would get my dollars deducted and my cents making sense. And then there wouldn’t be a mad kerfuffle at the end of each three months.   Procrastination on this score ends up costing money, as the Tax Office, while quite reasonable about payment plans when you have a genuine situation, is not all that sympathetic when the delay is down to being slack. I know – I have had to pay up big in the past for pretending it would all go away if I didn’t look at it.   Avoidance is not a tactic.   Design it   If it looks good you are more likely to use it, so harness this fact in buying matching manila folders, or using pretty or coloured icons on the laptop filing system. It doesn’t make filing more fun but it does make it a tad less tedious, or even less serious, and colour coding can speed up the seeking and finding of items.   Strong design can also speed up and slim down the process. Two good things about taxes are that they are predictable and repetitive, so even though we may not know the exact figure, we know that they will be due and when. This means developing a system should be easy.   Delegate it   As soon as funds allow, get someone else t do as much of it as possible, such as a bookkeeper, virtual assistant or accountant. Whoever is available, use their time and skills to buy you more time to do what you do well.   Remember to choose someone whose work method ties in with yours – for example – who is familiar with the software program you currently use, and if you prefer electronic records they should too. Sounds obvious, but I have been caught here before and had to print everything because I forgot to ask if they could use or were willing to learn to use the cloud to share information.

How to determine whether you qualify for the R&D Tax Incentive

2:13AM | Monday, 10 February

My business is innovative and experimenting with new ideas. How do I determine whether we qualify for the R&D Tax Incentive?   The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive program was developed to assist businesses recover some of the costs of undertaking R&D.   The program is administered jointly by AusIndustry and the Tax Office. The R&D tax incentive provides a tax offset to eligible companies that engage in R&D activities.   Companies engaged in R&D may be eligible for either:   a 45% refundable tax offset (equivalent to a 150% deduction) - for entities with an aggregated turnover of less than $20 million per annum, or a 40% non-refundable tax offset (equivalent to a 133% deduction) - for all other entities.   Eligibility begins with the structure that is conducting the R&D. The following are considered eligible entities:   an Australian resident company; or a foreign company that: is a resident of a country with which Australia has a double tax agreement; and carries on R&D activities through a permanent establishment in Australia; or a public trading trust with a corporate trustee.   If you are operating through an eligible entity, you must register your R&D activities with AusIndustry:   within 10 months after the end of the income year (registering for the income year in which the offset is to be claimed), and prior to claiming the R&D tax offset in the tax return.   This means that you have until 30 April to submit your R&D application with AusIndustry. Once you have met the deadline and submitted your application, AusIndustry will review your activities in order to determine whether they are eligible ‘core activities’.   To be eligible, core activities must be experimental. Experimental activities are (as per the Tax Office's Guide to the Research and development tax incentive):   activities whose outcome cannot be known or determined in advance on the basis of current knowledge, information or experience, but can only be determined by applying a systematic progression of work that: is based on principles of established science; and proceeds from hypothesis to experiment, observation and evaluation, and leads to logical conclusions, and that are conducted for the purpose of generating new knowledge (including about creating new knowledge or improved materials, products, devices, processes or services).   Excluded activities can be found through the AusIndustry website.   Non-core R&D activities include:   market research; management studies or efficiency surveys; developing, modifying or customising computer software for the dominant purpose of internal administration of business functions; and commercial, legal and administrative aspects of patenting, licensing or other activities.   The registration of R&D activities is managed by AusIndustry, which checks that the activities comply with the law. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) determines the eligibility of the expenditure claimed in the company tax return.   A common misconception is that the R&D Tax Incentive is a government grant.   It is a tax incentive and its benefits flow through the company tax return. This means that the R&D Tax Incentive has nothing to do with government grants.   The law and logic here is that anyone advising businesses on R&D Tax for a fee must be a registered tax agent. Make sure that your adviser is one and has the experience necessary to guide you. If in doubt, visit the Tax Practitioners Board website.   One final note – the deadline for the 2012/13 financial year for the submission of the R&D application and activity registration form is 30 April 2014. Best to connect with your tax advisor before the April rush.

Tax Office hunts for 5600 cheats in cross-border raid

4:36AM | Tuesday, 2 April

The Australian Taxation Office is on the hunt for 5600 Australian taxpayers who didn’t respond to letters about hiding cash and assets in tax havens as part of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative.   The ATO says it is well placed to track them down, last week unveiling a new weapon in its fight against tax haven cheats known as the Multilateral Convention. Australia and 42 other countries from across Europe, South America and Africa have agreed to share information and conduct joint audits.   The Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters — developed jointly by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Council of Europe — allows for the exchange of taxpayer information, as well as for assistance in the recovery of taxes and for the service of documents. It will also allow tax auditors to enter other countries to interview individuals and examine records. Membership of the accord is expected to grow.   Crikey understands the ATO is currently pursuing some old international debt cases. A Tax Office spokesperson said:   “For operational reasons we cannot disclose specific information on the secrecy jurisdictions that are on our watch list. However, given the information made available publicly to date, I can confirm that Switzerland is among the jurisdictions where Project Wickenby continues to have a major focus. Other secrecy jurisdictions of concern where there is no effective exchange of information with Australia include Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Panama and the Seychelles.”   The OVDI initiative — the Tax Office wrote to taxpayers offering them a deal to make voluntary disclosures in return for lenient treatment such as reduced penalties — has now ended. The ATO sourced information from banks, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and other authorities overseas to come up with a hit list of potential cheats.   More than 8000 taxpayers came forward to disclose over $950 million in omitted foreign income, capital gains and over-claimed deductions from assets across 60 jurisdictions. The value of offshore assets held by individual taxpayers, companies, partnerships and trusts ranged from as little as $1 up to $80 million. Taxpayers submitted disclosures as far back as the 1970s, declaring a vast range of foreign assets and income. Disclosures varied from simple bank interest and dividends to more complex structures involving trusts, foreign investment funds and Wickenby arrangements (Project Wickenby is a cross-agency taskforce charged with combating tax evasion).   “Simple investments disclosed were mostly linked to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Singapore, with the more complex arrangements involving funds controlled by financial institutions operating out of Switzerland,” said Mark Konza, the ATO’s deputy commissioner of taxation.   After the offer closed, the Tax Office conducted a follow-up review of the cross-border fund transfers of taxpayers who did not respond to letters sent under the OVDI. This resulted in over 9000 cases, raising another $216 million in net revenue. “A further 5600 taxpayers will be reviewed in 2013,” said Konza.

Seven key challenges set to hit SMEs in 2013

3:31AM | Thursday, 14 March

Another year is underway. Most businesses are now back on deck and it’s time to think about what is likely to occur over the coming months.

How divorce can cause a messy split in your business

12:10PM | Wednesday, 5 December

Divorce statistics don’t make for great reading. One in three first marriages and one in two second marriages end in divorce.

Claims of a "tick and flick" approach by the ATO

3:41AM | Monday, 11 March

CPA Australia has expressed concern following claims of a "tick and flick" approach to audit decisions by the Australian Taxation Office.

When the taxman comes knocking

11:55AM | Friday, 23 November

“I’m from the Tax Office and I’m here to help you.”

How can I get my accounts sorted out so they don’t put off any potential investors?

11:08AM | Wednesday, 7 November

A potential investor has asked for financial information in order to complete due diligence.

Tax watchdog calls for improvements to ATO’s audit processes

3:55AM | Tuesday, 12 March

The tax watchdog wants the Tax Office to improve its audit processes, after the ATO wrongly investigated almost 6,000 small business owners as part of a crackdown on the cash economy.

Travelling IT contractors warned over ATO scrutiny

8:31AM | Thursday, 9 August

A tax expert has issued a warning to “on call” home-based IT professionals, after the Australian Taxation Office confirmed it will place greater scrutiny on claims made by IT workers.

How creative can you be with your taxable profits?

7:56AM | Wednesday, 18 July

With the financial year finished, you may be looking at your end of year position. Hopefully it is a nice healthy profit, in which case you may be thinking about the best way to manage those profits for tax purposes. Everyone will agree that the less tax you have to pay the better.

NSW transport company Happy Cabby accused of sham contracting

7:33AM | Thursday, 12 July

The operators of a NSW transport business face substantial fines after the Fair Work Ombudsman launched a prosecution against them, alleging they were involved in sham contracting activity.

Keeping out of the tax spotlight

7:08AM | Wednesday, 4 July

The end of the financial year has come and gone but that doesn’t mean you can become complacent about the role of tax in your business.

Give your team a scam lecture

6:35AM | Tuesday, 5 June

This article first appeared on May 29, 2011   The end of the financial year means so many things to so many people. For many, it’s a time of closing budgets. For others, it’s a time of celebration of jobs well done. For others, it’s a frantic rush to get their tax affairs sorted.

Watch out for the post-budget Sheriff of Nottingham

5:09AM | Wednesday, 9 May

The federal budget attempts to be a Robin Hood budget, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, but like the classic tale it might be the Sheriff of Nottingham (aka the Tax Office) that business needs to watch out for.

THE NEWS WRAP: Reserve Bank under pressure to cut rates

4:29PM | Monday, 30 April

The Reserve Bank is under pressure to trim interest rates today, following new figures that show inflation is soft and new home sales are weak in the Australian economy.

Five key tax busting strategies

5:12AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Look at any company that is in financial trouble and you will probably see the Tax Office as one of the larger creditors.

Top 10 home-based business myths

1:53AM | Thursday, 10 January

This article first appeared on July 17th, 2012.   The advantages of starting your business from the comfort of your own home are clear – you keep your overheads to a minimum, you eliminate the daily commute and you can be flexible with your hours.

Five things to expect in 2012

3:21AM | Monday, 11 March

The New Year is now well and truly under way. Knowing what to expect in the year to come will give your business a head start.

Working out your best assets

5:26AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Starting up may mean launching your own venture. But it can also involve buying another business. However, be aware that the latter option isn’t hassle-free.

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