Setting Your 2021 Financial Goals

FINANCIAL GOAL SETTING

Letting your trusted team of advisors at Canny Accounting, Canny Advisory + Canny Legal help you set and achieve your financial goals!

Last year we all learned a lot about our spending habits, thank you COVID-19!  Now let us help you put some plans into action that will really help to improve your financial life going forward.  These are all very achievable and with the help of Canny Accounting, Canny Legal and Canny Advisory we can set you on a path to financial order. 

Money is just a tool and learning to get your financial life in shape is just learning to use that tool well. We want you to feel in control of your money, not the other way around. And it’s not all about the money either, we have listed some other great strategies for you to consider as well. 

Here are some manageable tips to get you started…

QUICK + EASY WINS WITH YOUR BANK

You get charged around 20% interest on credit card balances.  Unpaid credit card balances are the fastest way to go backwards financially.

Focus on reducing your Credit Card balances to NIL before you do anything else.  Then keep your spending down so you can repay your credit card balance each month.

It’s too hard to know where you are financially with just one bank account.  Using 3 different accounts to keep your Bills money and your Cash Savings separate from your Everyday Account helps you tell at a glance what you can afford to spend each week.  Go ahead and set these up now.

Pay yourself first!  Have your bills and cash savings covered automatically – and then spend what’s left in your everyday account.  So easy to keep on track by this one simple strategy.  Set up auto transfers using internet banking to transfer a set % of your wages each week into your Bills Account and into your Cash Saving Account.

Aim to create a cash reserve to last you for 3 months.  Most income protection insurance takes 1 to 3 months to start up – so you’ll need a cash reserve if anything stops you working.  You can set up Cash Savings account separate to your everyday account.  Try to put aside into this account 5% of your weekly pay and build up a 3 month cash reserve.

Your bank won’t offer you an interest rate reduction on your loan unless you ask for it.  So… ask for it!  This could save you thousands of dollars each year.  When contacting your bank to ask for a reduction in your interest rate, have quotes available from another bank to show that you have done your homework and you know what is available out there!

BE TAX EFFECTIVE

Being smart about where you keep your cash savings can reduce your overall family tax payable.  By moving your family savings into either a home loan offset account or into the name of your partner or spouse who has a lower tax rate can save you money.

We always advise clients not to have debt – if they are in that enviable position.  But many of us are not.  So, if you do have debt, the next best thing is that it is tax deductible debt.  If you are considering borrowing money to buy an asset that is for work or business purposes, or perhaps an investment property where you should be able to claim the interest being charged, this is ‘good debt’ in that it is at least tax deductible.  You should therefore prioritise getting rid of ‘bad debt’ such as credit card debt and your home mortgage as it is of no advantage to you in terms of tax deductibility.

Part of your savings plan may be to contribute to superannuation (on top of what your employer is putting in).  Make sure that you understand how before and after tax contributions work so that you are getting the most benefit.  When you contribute before tax, that is you get a tax deduction for your contribution, the maximum amount that can go into your super fund from any source is $25,000 in one year.  When it is an after tax contribution there is a maximum of $100,000 per year that can go into your fund (or you can bring forward 2 extra years) You can also have a combination of both.

Other simple tax tips are – Keep all your receipts for anything that is purchased to help you do your job and record the travel that you do in your own car that relates directly to work.  If you are studying and it is related to your current job, keep all your fees (not if you are paying via HELP) and any reference books, stationery, uni parking and internet costs to do with study and we will determine if you are able to make a claim.

GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER + THEN REST EASY

Make sure that if you are running your own business, you have a robust structure set up to protect your personal assets.  If you are operating as a company, give some thought to who would be your replacement should something happen to you.  We can help you to document a successor director.

While we are on this subject, give some thought to an Advance Health Directive.  If you are unconscious or incapacitated and cannot make personal health decisions – you will need someone who can.  This can be covered during an estate planning session with one of our lawyers and of course there is the matter of an effective Will.

If you die without a Will, the Public Trustee will charge your estate (could be up to 5% of the total estate) and your wealth may not go where you want it to.  With your instructions and Canny Legal guidance, we can help to have your wishes carried out.  Also, if there comes a time where you are incapacitated and cannot make decisions, you will need someone who can make financial decisions on your behalf.  We can facilitate a Power of Attorney and you can rest easy that that is done!

We are here and happy to help you get rolling with the journey to reaching your goals, you just have to make the first move.

Personal Income Tax Rate Changes To Get Excited About

There has been some exciting changes to the personal income tax rates thanks to the new Federal Budget that has been handed down.  However, there is certainly some confusion around what the tax cuts actually mean and who is effected by them.

Essentially, there are three “tax brackets” that have changed, and these changes have been backdated to 1st July 2020.

  • The 19% rate applies to income between $18,200 – $45,000
  • The 32.5% rate applies to income between $45,001 – $120,000
  • The 37% rate applies to income between $120,001 – $180,000

The Budget was applied on 6th October 2020, so when you do your 2021 income tax return, you will benefit from the excess tax you have been paid between 1st July and 6th October 2020 as a larger refund (or reduction in the amount that is payable).  So let’s put into practice these changes for the exciting personal income tax rates so you can see where the benefits lie…

FOR EXAMPLE

Oliver earns $44,000 per year;

  • Under the old tax rate, he would pay $5,847 (excl Medicare Levy)
  • Under the new tax rate, he would pay $4,902 (excl Medicare Levy)

Taylor earns $79,000 per year;

  • Under the old tax rate, he would pay $17,222 (excl Medicare Levy)
  • Under the new tax rate, he would pay $16,142 (excl Medicare Levy)

WHAT IS THE MEDICARE LEVY?

The Medicare Levy helps fund some of the costs of  Australia’s public health system, known as Medicare.  The Medicare levy is 2% of your taxable income, in addition to the tax you pay on your taxable income.  It is possible for there to be a reduction or exemption from paying the Medicare Levy, depending on your and your spouse’s circumstances.  You need to consider your eligibility for a reduction or an exemption separately.  Have a look at the Medicare Levy calculator to work out your Medicare levy.

LOW INCOME TAX OFFSET

As an added bonus, there has also been some changes to the Low Income Tax Offset and the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset, see below:

  • The Low Income Tax Offset has also increased to $700 per year for incomes under $37,500 and then reduces
  • The Low and Middle Income Tax Offset has been retained for another year and is $1,080 for taxable incomes between $48,001 – $90,000.  A further $255 for taxable incomes of less than $37,000

If you would like more information on any of the Federal Budget that was handed down earlier this year, get in touch with our team and we would be happy to go through these changes with you.

 

Amanda Wilkens – Director

CPA

International Men’s Day – “Better Health For Men + Boys”

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value” – Albert Einstein

On the 19th of November, Australia and over 80 other countries will host the annual international men’s day to celebrate and reflect on the men in our lives whether it be a father, brother, uncle, nephew, husband or friend and to express appreciation for their efforts and contribution to our lives and society as a whole.

It has been found that men are less likely to see treatment for depression, and this can intensify the associated personal and financial problems they experience.  Melbourne psychologist Shaun Delaney, author of the study Divorce and the experience of Australian men, says “research has consistently found that men avoid or delay seeking help for physical and mental health problems”.  A common issue encountered by Delaney in his interviews with men was a feel of despair over the loss of financial security and a pessimism about future projects.

Stephen Carbone from the mental health advocacy group Beyond Blue, says despite increasing awareness about depression, men very often do not recognise that they have a mental health condition, or if they do are less likely to reach out.  “There is a reluctance to seek help, so they struggle on without help and put themselves more at risk,” Carbone says.  The symptoms of depression can include persistent flat moods, pessimism, hopelessness about the future, irritability, anger, diminished confidence and lack of motivation.  “All of these conditions affect your day-to-day life including your ability to do your work to the best of your ability,” Carbone says.

As a result, men’s mental health and financial security can deteriorate, making it increasingly difficult for men to function in their day-to-day life.  The additional burden of financial stress can have serious long-term effects on their health, finances, and future prospects, including their plans for retirement.  One participant of Shaun Delaney’s study said: “As a man after 28 years of marriage I don’t have the financial means or my youth to start again.  My future is bleak, and I foresee that I will be in the workforce until I die.”

In addition, financial stress and insecurity can lead to harmful activities like gambling.  When the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation conducted a comparative study of men and women gamblers in Victoria in 2014, it was found that men have higher participation rates than women in most forms, including informal betting, gaming machines, table games, race betting, sports betting and Lotto.  Men also spend more on average in a year on their man gambling activities than women, $2,959 vs $664.  Gambling can exacerbate existing mental health issues and lead to sever financial stress and insecurity for these men and their families.

“It’s the nature of mental health conditions that they don’t allow you to be at your best, at your full potential,” Carbone says.  Understanding more about depression and its causes can help to empower men to overcome their illness, and it supports them in improving their lives, personal finances, and future prospects for themselves and their families.  In addition, a sound financial plan that incorporates a long-term approach to saving, investing, and achieving financial security can help to improve future prospects and lead to better outcomes.  The best time to start a new and improved financial plan is now.  It is never too late to start and sometimes it can make all the difference to someone’s outlook on life and their own financial situation.

International Men’s Day main purpose is to show the positive value men bring to the world encouraging the practical side of male identity as well as highlighting the social issues that men and boys face.  The 2020 theme is “Better health for men and boys”, focusing on mental health, improving gender relations, gender equality, and highlighting of positive male role models.

THE STATS:

November 19th is also a day to raise awareness to the challenges that men face in life – especially in relation to the international male suicide rate.  Some key statistics on social issues men face that need awareness are:

  • Men make up an average of six out of every eight suicides every day in Australia, nearly double the national road toll
  • One in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives
  • Men are 32% less likely than woman to visit a health professional
  • Men are twice as likely to die of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Men make up 94% of all workplace fatalities and have an average life expectancy almost five years less than women

None of these issues are unique to men specifically or are being used to try and diminish similar issues woman face but it is important to see how overrepresented men are in some of these areas.

GOOD EMPLOYEE HEALTH IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS:

It is also important to be aware about the direct impact mental health can have on a business and workplace.  Making up roughly 54% of the workforce it is important for men that workplaces encourage prioritising their own health and wellbeing and promote the message that there is nothing wrong with looking after yourself or admitting that something is wrong.

Studies show that more than half of men suffer from work-related stress; with 13% of them citing their stress as unmanageable.  Workplaces are working towards helping de-stigmatise discussing mental health and acknowledge normal feelings of sadness or anxiety especially during this year with so much uncertainty due to the global pandemic.  This will not only improve peoples’ engagement in their overall wellness but significantly boost the health, wellbeing, and peace of mind of the workforce.  The benefits towards the business have been shown to improve morale and productivity, decreased sick leave, lower turnover, and increased loyalty.

If you or someone you know needs support and would like to talk to one of our team members, our doors are always open and you are always welcome to contact us!  We have also listed a number of crisis support services that can be reached 24 hours a day:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800;

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

 

 

Get Motivated For Spring Cleaning!

Don’t think you need to spring clean your business affairs? Perhaps not, but what if I told you this was a great time to set yourself up for success. 

Your spring clean can get you organised, get your filing done, and get your desk and your mind clear to set goals and make great decisions!  Having clarity on your situation when making decisions and setting goals is hugely valuable. 

CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP YOU? 

You bet!  Did you know that Xero has an app called HubDoc that you can load on your phone, take a picture and send that to your digital filing cabinet?  If it is a receipt you have done this with before, it can even file the receipt for you AND send the information straight to your Xero accounting system. All from your phone! 

There are other tech tools that can help you automate your spring cleaning, and once you have it set up, keep that spring clean feeling through the year! 

WANT TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR SPRING CLEAN? 

If you don’t know where to start, then call in the experts.  We can guide your clean! 

And, when you have the hard work done, we can help you supercharge your spring clean by providing insight and advice to turn your new found clarity into actions and help you achieve your goals. 

Whether you want to set up a budget and turn that into a cashflow forecast, get to work on optimising your tax position for 2021, or considering how best to invest in your business, calling in the experts can really supercharge your spring clean! 

 

Adam Ramage – Senior Business Adviser + Accountant

B.Bus, CA

Help Through Troubled Times

What a year it has been so far.  We thought that it was important for us to remind you that we care about our client’s psychological well-being as well as financial well-being.  For those who are managing the stress of working from home, reduced income and an uncertain economic future, we understand completely how difficult it is.

Thankfully a wide range of assistance is available to help us get through these unusual circumstances.

  1. Majority of banks have put together Coronavirus support for businesses, including refund of merchant fees, moratorium on loan repayments and offering unsecured Business loans for working capital purposes.
  2. Housing Victoria has provided ‘’Coronavirus Rent Relief Grant’’ for up to $3,000 for people experiencing rental hardship
  3. Department of Health and Human Services also provides ‘’Utility Relief Grant’’ for eligible accountholders for up to $650 in a two-year period
  4. Beyond Blue which provides mental well-being services has a dedicated line to provide support for people struggling to cope during the pandemic
  5. National Debt Helpline also provide free services for people who need any form of debt management assistance
  6. JobKeeper #2 is about to be rolled out
  7. ATO Cash Flow Boost still has payments until end September
  8. Another round of Support Grants to be issued from the Victorian Government
  9. The ATO are being very understanding about outstanding debts and lodgements (at the moment)

When we have Treasury clarification on the new round of assistance that is being rolled out by end of September, we will keep all clients updated further, just as we have since the beginning of the pandemic.

As well as the wide range of assistance that is available during these troubled times, greater protection for this brave new world as the global pandemic we are all bravely facing is also important.  It has shown us just how important it is to ensure your family is protected and provided for in the unfortunately even of the death of a loved one.

With people losing their employment and lending institutions requiring more and more guarantees from their borrowers in order to secure finance, there is a greater need to ensure our assets are not diminished and are protected from creditors.

It is important to consider if your circumstances have changed and if your will, power of attorney documents, company or trust structures (estate documents) are serviceable to your wants and needs.

It is always recommended to review your estate documents every 3-5 years.  However, within that time if your circumstances do change, your estate documents may not provide the most appropriate level of protection and may leave your estate exposed.

Additionally, if you do not have any estate documents in place, it is vitally important to consider putting these in place to protect your loved ones and to ensure they are able to administer your estate as easily as possible during their difficult time.

Check out the list below that we have put together to help you!  This is a list of non-exhaustive matters to always consider when reviewing your estate documents:

  1. Who is your executor?
  2. Have you separated from your partner?
  3. Have you re-married or do you have a new spouse?
  4. Are you children still considered dependant upon you?
  5. Do you have life/death insurance and permanent disability insurance cover within your super?  Is the amount you are insured for enough?
  6. Have you in place a binding death benefit nomination for your life insurance and super?  Has the nomination lapsed or is the beneficiary an authorised person (spouse, child, financial dependant, estate)?
  7. Have you provided any specific assets of your estate to people under your will but no longer in your possession?
  8. Have you lost touch with a person who would currently benefit from your estate?
  9. Is there enough protections put in place for someone you are not providing for under your estate?
  10. Has anyone names within your will passed away?  What would happen to their share?  Has that been made clear within your will?
  11. Does your trust deed or company constitution provide provisions on what happens if you were to pass away?

If you are unsure on how to answer any of these questions, please get in touch with our team.  If you require a review of your estate it is recommended you have a discussion with one of our estate lawyers who will guide you on the best course of action.  We are here to give you greater protection for this brave new world!

A bonus of Canny Group is that our team is able to provide you with a holistic service with our lawyersaccountants and financial advisors working together to provide you with the most efficient and effective advice.

How To Avoid A Tax Debt

Sometimes when you were expecting a nice little tax refund into your bank account and you end up with a tax debit, it can be a little hard to swallow and leave you wondering why!?  If you have been in this position, we have put together a few points on how to avoid this same situation happening next year and how you can prepare in advance!

If your refund is less than you expect, these are the most common reasons which you may not have taken into consideration:

  • The refund amount has been offset against another debt, either another tax debt (previous income tax bill, or activity statement debt), or another government agency debt (Centrelink, or Child Support Agency)
  • Compulsory payments, such as: Higher Education Loan Program (HELP); Trade Support Loan (TSL); VET Student Loan (VSL); or Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) repayments
  • You need to pay Medicare levy surcharge because you stopped paying private patient hospital cover and your income is above a certain threshold
  • New or amended income tests
  • Excess concessional contributions to a super fund
  • Your employer incorrectly reporting reportable employer superannuation contributions on your payment summary
  • Tax was not withheld from a taxable payment (such as Jobseeker payments) and your total income for the year was more than the tax-free threshold
  • You incorrectly claimed the tax-free threshold.
  • You are an employee and enough tax has not been withheld from the payments made to you by your employer
  • You are a sole trader and have not paid enough tax to the ATO throughout the year
  • Receive other income where no tax was withheld such as Centrelink payments
  • Working for more than 1 employer and have compulsory payments, such as: Higher Education Loan Program (HELP); Trade Support Loan (TSL); VET Student Loan (VSL); or Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) repayments

TIPS FOR AVOIDING TAX DEBT AT THE END OF THE YEAR

  • Claim tax free threshold only from 1 employer in a financial year
  • If you have HECS debt and you are working for 2 employers, you need to pay extra tax based on percentage of your total income from both employers. Check your HECS repayment rate on https://www.ato.gov.au/Rates/HELP,-TSL-and-SFSS-repayment-thresholds-and-rates/
  • Set up PAYG instalment payments with ATO if you are sole trader
  • Ask Centrelink to withhold tax on any benefits received from Centrelink
  • Seek financial advice if you are planning to contribute a big amount to your super fund.
  • If you are earning more than $90,000 or earning more than $180,000 as a family, seek advice to get private health insurance cover to avoid Medicare levy surcharge
  • Know in advance if you have any debts with ATO or Centrelink or another government agency.

 

Kim Sandhu – Senior Accountant

CPA – B.Com M.Acc

2020 Tax Returns + 3 Ways To Make The Most Out Of It!

It’s that time of year again, Tax Time!  For individuals who have a tax agent, like our team at Canny Group and their accounting team on hand, we will lodge your tax return for you on your behalf and you have until 15 May 2021 to do this.  However, if you lodge your own tax return you have until 31 October 2020 to have it lodged.

Either way, we have put together some tax tips that you should consider before 30 June 2020 to help; reduce your taxable income, maximise deductions, take advantage of tax offsets, accessing free money from the Government as well as COVID-19 in many different ways, and we have put together these tips to help you be as prepared as possible and hopefully empower you to maximise your refund when it comes to lodge your tax return.

TAX TIP #1 // WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR TAXABLE INCOME

  • SUPER CONTRIBUTION // make a personal deduction superannuation contribution. Check with payroll to determine how much has been contributed so far.  The concessional contribution cap is $25,000 for the 2019/20 income year.
  • UNUSED CONTRIBUTION // do you have any carry forward unused concessional contribution from the 2018/19 income year? If your total superannuation balance is under $500,000 at 30 June 2019, you may benefit from making a catch-up deductible super contribution.  This may be especially beneficial to those who have additional income due to sale of investments such as shares or property.
  • DEFER INCOME // are you nearing retirement? It may be worthwhile to defer you income until after 30 June if your income will be smaller in the subsequent year.

TAX TIP #2 // MAXIMISE DEDUCTIONS!

  • MOTOR VEHICLE EXPENSES // individuals who use their car for work related travel can claim 68 cents per kilometre up to 5,000km for business travel or claim under the logbook method of car expenses. Canny Group’s team of accountants will be able to determine which method yields the greatest deduction for you.
  • WORK-RELATED EXPENSES // consider if you need any work-related items such as tools for trade, computer, subscriptions or work clothing and whether you could purchase or pay for those expenses before 30 June to increase your deductions.
  • DONATIONS // or gifts of $2 or more to a deductible gift recipient are tax deductible. Where spouses are on different marginal rates, consider making donations by the spouse that is in the higher tax bracket to maximise the benefit of the deduction.
  • HOME OFFICE // if you have been working at home due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to claim a rate of 80 cents per hour for all of your running expenses from 1 March to 30 June. Multiple people living in their house could each individually claim the 80 cents per hour rate.
  • PROTECTIVE CLOTHING // did you buy protective items such as gloves, face masks, sanitiser to use at work due to COVID-19? If your specific employment duties require you to have physical contact or be in close proximity to customers or clients while carrying out your duties or you are involved in cleaning premises, you can claim a deduction for protective items.  The ATO considers those that work in the following industries or occupations are exposed to the risk of illness in the course of working:
    • Medical Industry
    • Cleaning Industry
    • Airline Industry
    • Hairdressing + Beautician Industry
    • Retail, Cafe + Restaurant Industry

TAX TIP #3 // TAX ADVANTAGE OF TAX OFFSETS!

  • SPOUSE OFFSET // receive a $540 tax offset by making a person contribution up to $3,000 to super on behalf of your spouse. Only available if your spouse’s taxable income is less than $37,000.  A lower offset may be available if you contribute less than $3,000 or your spouse earns between $37,000 and $40,000.
  • LOW + MIDDLE INCOME OFFSET // individuals on a taxable income of $37,000 or less will receive up to $255 tax offset and those on taxable incomes between $48,000 and $90,000 will receive the maximum of $1,080 offset. Incomes between $90,000 and $126,000 will receive partial offset.  This is not a tax refund but a tax offset.

TAX TIP #4 // ACCESS FREE MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT!

CO-CONTRIBUTIONS // receive a Government co-contribution of up to $500 paid into your superannuation by making an after-tax superannuation contribution of $1,000 or more.  Full amount is available to those with taxable income less than $38,564 and a reduced amount is available to those with taxable income less than $53,564.

TAX TIP #6 // RETIREES!

  • REDUCE PENSION // the minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions has been halved for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 income year. This will benefit retirees with account-based pension by reducing the need to sell investment assets to fund minimum drawdown requirements.
  • SOCIAL SECURITY // in light of the low interest rates on savings, the Government has reduced social security deeming rates from 1 May 2020. You could be eligible for Centrelink entitlements such as the age pension or Commonwealth Seniors health care card with the lowering of deeming rates.

Now that we have your sorted for maximising your tax return outcome, let’s talk about what you’re going to be doing with the hard-earned money you’re hopefully on the way to receiving back!

Did you know that the average Australian received a tax refund of $2,381?  That’s enough to splurge on some new furniture or an LED Smart TV, right?  Well, before you head down to your local shopping centre with your tax refund in hand, take a look at three ways we’ve come up with to spend your tax return.  We’re confident that the following strategies will help you make the most out of your tax return and create positive change in your life.

STRATEGY #1 // SET UP AN EMERGENCY FUND

Research conducted in the last year’s Financial Consciousness Index found that a concerning 13.4 million Australian’s do not have emergency savings to fall back on if they were unable to earn an income for more than three months.  The study also found that 7.5 million Australian’s struggle to pay their bills and are not saving money regularly.

So, with this in mind, why not use this year’s tax return to set up an emergency fund and make this the start of your savings plan?

STRATEGY #2 // MEET WITH AN ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER

As the saying goes, there are only two certainties in life; death and taxes.  Unfortunately, more than half of Australian adults do not have a Will.

So, with this years tax return, why not protect your loved ones and sit down with an estate planning layers to draw up a Will or Testamentary Trust?

STRATEGY #3 // STARTING YOUR SIDE HUSTLE

If you have an idea of starting a side business, use this year’s tax return to kick-start this one and for all.  It doesn’t take much more than $2,381 to get started these days: a basic website and some Facebook and Instagram paid advertising campaigns to attract your first paying customers.

So, why not make this the start of your side hustle and see if you can generate a return on investment and get your business off the ground?

The question is, how will you spend your tax return this year after you’ve put into place our tax tips on maximising your refund?

HAPPY EOFY – Tax Tips for Small Business + Sole Traders

What a time we have had over the last six months, first with the devastating bush fires and now with the Covid-19 pandemic, it certainly has been a different time, the likes that many of us have not seen before.

Many small businesses and sole traders would have been entitled to receive Government assistance during this period including grants and concessional loans for those affected by the bush fires and JobKeeper reimbursements, cash flow boost for employers and State Government grants for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of these assistance packages some will be tax-free, while others will be considered taxable income.  Here are some of the packages and their tax treatment:

  • DISASTER RELIEF PAYMENTS [BUSH FIRES] // these are non-taxable payments + do not need to be included in your tax return
  • JOBKEEPER REIMBURSEMENT [COVID-19] // as the name implies, these are reimbursements + are therefore considered taxable income
  • CASH FLOW BOOST [COVID-19] // these payments are tax free.  They are not required to be paid back once the business’ cash flow improves
  • STATE GOVERNMENT BUSINESS SUPPORT FUND GRANT [COVID-19] // this one-off payment to eligible businesses is considered taxable income

Due to Covid-19, your business income may have been affected to such a degree that you will not have any issues with the 2020 Financial Year tax, but if you will here are some tips to help reduce your taxable income:

  • SUPPLIER INVOICES // pay any supplier invoices prior to 30 June, even if they are not due until July or later.
  • SUPERANNUATION // pay the June quarter superannuation obligations prior to 30 June.  Generally, it takes 5-7 business days for payment to be received by the employees superannuation fund, so payment will need to be processed earlier to allow for this.
  • BUSINESS OWNERS // if you are a business owner, you could pay an additional superannuation contribution to maximise the $25,000 concessional contributions cap.
  • SOLE TRADER // if you are a sole trader, you may take a concessional contribution to your superannuation fund and claim a tax deduction for it.
  • INSTANT ASSET WRITE-OFF // the threshold currently stands at $150,000, so any piece of equipment or business vehicle, below this threshold, will be able to be deducted in full in the 2020 financial year, if purchased and in use by 30 June 2020.

 

Danny Grigg – Senior Accountant

BComm CA

 

Business Pivot OR Business Adaptation?

As we look forward to relaxation of lockdown in our lives and businesses, it can be difficult to find or maintain motivation.  But let’s take a look at a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”.So, the question is, what opportunities are there for you, or for your business?

Business Pivot or Business Adaptation – What is your “great opportunity”?

You might think in these JobKeeper days that you or your business has to undertake a significant “Pivot”, and radically change the way you do things to ensure not just survival but success.

But equally, that may not be what you want, or more importantly what your customers want. You may need to make smaller changes, refine processes, update your systems or even just modify the language you use to talk to your customers.

Be it Pivot or Adaption, considering your customer needs and wants should be a significant part of your plan.

Now, this article is about motivation, so the words above are about WHY you may want to change. The most difficult part can be making the first step.


STEP ONE // DO NOT LET THE OPPORTUNITY PASS

STEP TWO // WHEN IN DOUBT, REFER TO STEP ONE

 

Every one of you who has got this far does need to find your own motivation.  Is the crisis enough, or is there something about your situation that you really want to change?  Sometimes the biggest obstacle is not knowing how you can possible achieve your goals.  This is where the team at Canny Group can really help. We spend time with our clients understanding goals.

But it is the next part that can be the “secret to motivation”.  Rather than stopping at identifying goals, we can work with you to identify the action steps, what you actually have to do, to move toward your goals. Not only that, we can keep you accountable to those actions.

This could be to do with your business goals, where our Accounting team will work with you.

It could be to do with your financial or retirement goals, where our Advisory team will work with you.  And if you have goals with succession planning, litigation or asset protection the Legal team will work with you.  Best of all, if you have goals the encompass a mixture or all of these, you can rest easy knowing we will work together to help you achieve them all.

A FINAL WORD ON MOTIVATION FOR CHANGE:

“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is best able to best adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”

This quote could almost have been tailored to the times we find ourselves in today, but is also one that is often mis-represented as being a quote from Charles Darwin tied to his work “On the Origin of Species”.  It was actually written by the significantly less famous Leon C. Migginson in “Civilisation Past and Present” in 1963.  Fast forward 57 years and the quote holds true.

 

Adam Ramage – Senior Business Adviser + Accountant

B.Bus CA

Keeping Vigilant During Troubling Times

The COVID-19 crisis has shocked and astounded us all, and we are a long way from knowing where it will end.  Both the local and global economies are under tremendous pressure and we are all being heavily tested on multiple fronts.

It is pleasing to hear some early good news, with signs that here in Australia, and in other parts of the world the tough measures that we are taking seem to be having an impact and slowing the number of cases.

Sadly, though, while our minds are all so focused on this important situation, cybercriminals are using this crisis as an opportunity to exploit people and to fill their own pockets.  We are intercepting an increasing number of COVID-19 related email threats, as well as other malicious email scams, so this is not a time that we allow ourselves to complacent in keeping our computers, and personal information safe from threats, and even more so now that many are working from home, on personal computers, laptops and mobile devices, and perhaps have lower security configurations that those of workplaces and manages office systems.

Last week AustCyber [The Australian Cyber Security Growth Network], a federal government initiative, also shared similar sentiments encouraging Australians to:

  • TRAIN THEIR TEAMS, WITH CYBER SECURITY TRAINING
  • STAY ACROSS THE LATEST SCAMS, INCLUDING THOSE EXPLOITING COVID-19 CRISIS IN PARTICULAR
  • REPORT IT IF YOU’VE RECEIVED AN SMS OR EMAIL YOU THINK IS A SCAM TO SCAMWATCH [OR YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES] TO VERIFY IF WHAT YOU’RE SEEING IS REAL OR MALICIOUS
  • USE LOCAL IT SUPPORT SPECIALISTS TO PROTECT YOU AGAINST THREATS + PROVIDE INFORMED ADVICE ON HOW TO ADVICE BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF

So, in light of the above, here are just a few ways that scammers and cybercriminals are using to take advantage of the unsuspecting.  Knowledge is power, so simply being aware of these mechanisms with thwart cybercriminals and give you back some much-needed control and prevent you, your workmates and loved ones from being exploited.

1. PHISHING EMAILS // the word “phishing” [aka “fishing”] was coined around 1996 by hackers stealing America Online accounts and passwords.  By analogy with the sport of angling, these internet scammers were using e-mail lures, setting out hooks to “fish” for passwords and financial data from the “sea” of internet users.

In layman’s terms, scammers sent out [literally] millions of emails to unsuspecting users by pretending to be from a legitimate source.  For example, from a social media or email account [Facebook, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Gmail, Microsoft Office, Telstra Bigpond], or from a web page you use for internet banking or financial services [Westpac, NAB, Commonwealth Bank, PayPal, Western Union], or from a whole myriad of other businesses.  Because we do so many things online, it’s really easy to grab a business that has a login page online, and pretend to be that businesses.

Here is an example which we recently received which was actually really professionally done:

  • A Scammer sent an e-mail pretending to be from “Westpac” to indicate that the person’s bank account had fraudulent activity and had been “locked” to prevent any possible exploitation.
  • The e-mail asks the user to click on the link contained in the email and to enter their username and password for the person’s internet banking in order to confirm that the activity was from them and to prevent the account being locked.
  • If the customer was to click on that link it would take them to a “bogus” web site which the scammer has copied to look like the normal login page for Westpac Internet Banking, but is really just a front.  When the person types their real username and password t o log into their bank account, they are simply giving up their details directly to the scammer.
  • The website then [automatically] diverts the customer back to the “real” Westpac site where the message will pop up that they entered their details incorrectly, and to retry.  The customer enters them again, and then they login to their normal internet banking, none the wiser that they have just given cybercriminals the keys to the financial bank accounts.
  • A short time later the cybercriminals will login to Westpac using the customers *actual* login details and proceed to transfer funds to their own accounts [usually via a series of other stolen or illegal money laundering accounts or other bank accounts etc.]
  • By the time the customer realises that their account has no money left, the criminals have withdrawn the funds or transferred them to offshore bank accounts which are no longer accessible, leaving the end user high and dry, leaving them to try and sort out with their bank to try and recover their money.

There are a whole host of variations on the above scam.

In another variation of the scam, a hacker tries to “phish” out a business username and password to an e-mail account, and then [once has access] will sift through the sent items folder looking for invoices or statements that the business has sent to their clients, and will then form them, changing the bank account payable details on the invoice and re-sending them to the original recipients, asking them to take note that the business has changes their bank account details and to make payment into the [criminal’s] bank accounting instead of the legitimate one.  The list of variations on such scams is endless, but the fact of the matter is that the cybercriminal does not actually “hack” into anyone’s systems, they just fool the legitimate owner into simply “telling” the criminal what their login details are, and then it’s easy street for them to take advantage of that to exploit wherever and however possible.

The lessons to be learned from the above:

  • NEVER click on links directly in e-mails to get to websites
  • NEVER call back numbers sent to you as an SMS
  • ALWAYS treat e-mails or SMS text messages asking you for login detail or personal information as suspicious, and never give anyone your personal details, logins or passwords either via email, or over the phone.
  • REMEMBER that your bank, or ISP, or service provider will already have your details, and they can reset your password if you have lost it.
  • IF YOU DO NEED to verify a suspicious transaction, call your bank, ISP, service provider on their known, registered phone number, and ask them to verify and suspicious activities.
  • CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD REGULARLY, and especially if you feel something suspicious has happened – change it anyway, just to be safe.
  • IF POSSIBLE, use 2-factor authentication on any/all of your online services wherever possible to thwart illegal transactions occurring without you knowing.

2. VIRUSES + WORMS // as our PCs, laptops and phones become more and more sophisticated, viruses, trojans and worms [all different types of programs used to infect your technology] are becoming scarcer, however, there are still viruses out there which are still seen from time to time.  Once again, the aim is to exploit the end used by any means possible.

Cryptolocker is a really nasty virus, for example, that will infect a PC or Mac and systematically “scramble” all documents, files, photos, videos, emails and other critical data on your computer, and then demand a ransom payment in order for you to get your information back.

Others are less obvious – for example another type of virus called a “keylogger” will sit quietly on your computer just “looking” at you typing all your personal information, and then sends it to a listening criminal.  It’s the more sophisticated variation of the “phishing” scam, but you are unaware it’s even happening.

To protect yourself from viruses and hackers:

  • NEVER click on links directly in e-mails to get to websites
  • NEVER click on random links on websites which are dubious and resist the temptation of clicking into illicit websites [many criminals will deliberately host porn sites and other questionable web pages purely to lure unsuspecting users, and then use it as a springboard to infect computers].
  • ANTI-VIRUS, make sure you use a reliable anti-virus package and keep your anti-virus up to date [and yes, Mac Users, that means you too – Macs CAN and DO also fall prey to most scams and also have viruses, there are just fewer Mac users than PCs, so they are less publicised].
  • IF YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED, [particularly with a cryptolock virus] DO NOT pay any ransom demands – you will NOT get your data back, even if you do pay, you’re just going to lose money to top losing your data.
  • BACKUP, make ABSOLUTELY sure that you BACKUP your data.  Syncing your data to the OneDrive, DropBox or other Cloud service is NOT good enough – that can also be scrambled.  Use a verified, secure, offline backup mechanisms to that if something does happen to your data, you have something to recover from.

3. SCAM PHONE CALLS OR SCAM E-MAILS // this is also becoming extremely prevalent these days.  Scammers [usually from overseas] will just systematically call numbers listed in the phone book and spin up a story to fool you: “Sir/Madam, this is John Doe from Microsoft and I’m calling you because we have detected a virus which has been sent from your computer“, then try and get you to allow them to connect to your computer remotely so that they can [again] perpetrate some kind of scam to either exploit you, siphon funds from your bank account, or perhaps convince you that your computer is infected, and charge you a “bogus” amount of money to “clean” it for you.

A variation of this is being perpetrated about the current COVID-19 virus asking for donations to support fundraising efforts for a cure or asking for some kind of payment.

And then you have the classic scam where someone tells you that you have a “long lost relative” who has died, and you have some fortune to inherit, but you just need to pay for some legal/admin fees in order to access it.  The mind boggles on the sheer number of variations criminals use to exploit people.

Some simple guidelines to follow:

  • NEVER trusts a total stranger cold calling you.  If you have any doubts, call back businesses or organisations using their *published* known phone numbers.
  • NEVER divulge personal information over the phone.
  • NEVER make payment or provide credit card details or banking information to anyone on the phone, and never allow anyone access to your computer remotely unless you know they are a reputable IT support provider [preferably ones that you know personally].
  • AND if something sounds too good to be true – it probably is.  [If you really had a long-lost uncle John who was the sole heir to a fortune, they you will soon know about it via official channels when the executor of their will sends you the details].

I hope the above examples give you reason to pause when dealing with e-mails, text messages and phone calls, and disarming criminals from doing you any harm.

Despite the increased risk to you or any of your staff members – whether they’re on the front line in high-pressured healthcare or emergency services roles or working remotely to keep the economy on its feet, our IT managed services and my team are committed to stopping any threats intent on doing your business harm.  That’s the last thing that you need right now.

If you find yourself doubting an e-mail, text or phone call, then pause and seek help and clarification.  Please reach out to our support team should you require assistance, at support@universal.com.au or on our dedicated support lines for customers and partners on +03 5277 9797.

To our customers and partners here in Australia, and to those throughout the world, my thoughts are with you and your teams for continued good health and safety.  In times like these, it is important that we stick together and survive personally and on the business front, and I sincerely appreciate you sticking with us.

 

Nenad Saflin – Managing Director

Universal Computer Solutions

COVID-19 // Economic Stimulus + Survival Guide

The Federal Government and State Government have together announced multiple stimulus packages to help support everyone affected by Covid-19 [Corona Virus].  With that in mind, we want to try to provide you with a brief and up-to-date rundown of the benefits for individuals and Small to Medium Sized Businesses [SME’s].  Please note that this is not exhaustive, and we have provided links to original Government releases, so you can double check all information and keep abreast of developments.

April 2020

April Announcements
If you are an EMPLOYER – click here.  

Also important for employers to register with the ATO here AND here.  If you are an employer and have a State Revenue Office payroll tax registration click here.

If you are an EMPLOYEE – click here

If you are a SOLE TRADER – click here.  

Also important to for sole traders to register with the ATO here AND here.

If you need information on ACCESS TO CREDIT for small business – click here

If you employ APPRENTICES – click here

If your income falls BENEATH $1,075 p/fortnight you may be entitled to the Coronavirus Supplement – click here

If you are a VICTORIAN small business with a turnover of +$75,000 – click here

If you are a TENANT – click here

 

March 2020

March Announcements
Small – Medium Businesses – https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/businesses

  1. Businesses with turnover of less than $50M who employ workers will be eligible for the “Boosting Cash Flow for Employers Package”.  All employers will receive a minimum payment of $10,000 [increased from the initial $2,000 announced in mid-March] and the maximum is calculated as 100% of the PAYG withholding withheld from employee wages up to a maximum of $50,000.  The amount is calculated on PAYG withheld between January and June 2020 and calculation varies depending on how often you lodge your activity statements.
  2. An additional payment is being introduced from the July – October 2020 period.  This amount will be exactly the same as the original amount received by the business.  This effectively doubles the amount received to a minimum of $20,000 and a maximum of $100,000 https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Cash_flow_assistance_for_businesses_0.pdf.
  3. The Victorian Government has announced that SME’s with a yearly payroll of less than $3M, will be provided with 12 months Payroll Tax relief.  Businesses that currently pay payroll tax [ie. business with payroll, including superannuation, of greater than $54,166 per month] will receive a refund to their bank account of any payroll tax paid for the period 1 July 2019 to 29 February 2020.  In addition, there will be no further payroll tax payable up to 30 June 2020.  The Victorian Government advises that refunds will be accessed by 27 March 2020 https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/economic-survival-package-to-support-businesses-and-jobs/.
  4. There are also measures to temporarily assist businesses in financial distress, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Providing_temporary_relief_for_financially_distressed_businesses.pdf.
  5. Instant asset write-off is increased from $30,000 to $150,000 for those of you who are not concerned about cash-flow and view this as a good time to invest in assets for your business, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_Sheet-Delivering_support_for_business_investment.pdf.  There are also measures around depreciating fixed assets faster, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_Sheet-Delivering_support_for_business_investment.pdf.
  6. Wage subsidies are available for up to 50% of an apprentice or trainee’s wage for the nine months from 1 January to 30 September 2020.  Employers will be reimbursed to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter per apprentice/trainee, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Cash_flow_assistance_for_businesses_0.pdf.

March Announcements
Support for Cash Flow Needs for Small – Medium Businesses – https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/business-investment

  1. The Federal Government will provide a guarantee of up to 50% of loans made to SME’s https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Supporting_the_flow_of_credit_1.pdf.
  2. Lenders will be provided with a temporary exemption from the responsible lending obligations to provide loans to existing small business clients to enable faster approval and provision of loans to SME’s, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Supporting_the_flow_of_credit_1.pdf.

March Announcements
Individuals + Households – https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/households

  1. Income support payments and coronavirus supplements to existing and new recipients of some Centrelink payments, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Income_Support_for_Individuals.pdf.  There will also be streamlined application for Centrelink benefits and reduced waiting times for payments.
  2. Two separate payments to recipients of social security, veteran and other support payments from Centrelink.  These are due to be paid as $750 on 31 March 2020 and $750 on 13 July 2020, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Payments_to_support_households.pdf.
  3. Temporary early release of superannuation amounts up to $10,000 for the financial year 2019-20 and again for the financial year 2020-21.  There will be no tax payable on the amounts withdrawn and they will also not effect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Early_Access_to_Super_1.pdf.
  4. Temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown amounts for those receiving a pension from their super fund, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Providing_support_for_retirees_to_manage_market_volatility.pdf.
  5. Reduced Centrelink deeming rates to support retirees, https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Providing_support_for_retirees_to_manage_market_volatility.pdf.

Self-Education

It’s February and so in keeping with the ‘Back to School’ theme I thought I would revisit the opportunities that are available for self-education and professional development.

Whether you are supported by your employer or not you may be able to claim a tax deduction for self-education expenses if they relate to your current work activities.  You cannot claim the costs however if it is for the purpose of new employment or to open up a new income earning occupation. Some of the costs that you can claim are:

  • COMPUTER + STATIONARY CONSUMABLES EG. PAPER, PRINTER CARTRIDGES
  • COURSE FEES [IF PAID BY YOU]
  • PURCHASE OF EQUIPMENT, OR IF THE COST IS OVER $300, DEPRECIATION OF EQUIPMENT
  • INTERNET USAGE
  • STUDENT UNION FEES
  • TEXTBOOKS
  • TRAVEL; BETWEEN HOME + THE PLACE OF EDUCATION + BETWEEN WORK + THE PLACE OF EDUCATION

Likewise, there are also opportunities to claim the cost of professional development.  If you are in an occupation that requires a certain number of certified professional development hours, the costs of attending relevant seminars and conferences can be quite high, however if they are relevant to your employment they can be claimed as a tax deduction.  If you are a business paying this cost for your employees this is a claimable business expense.

Aside from the bonus of a tax deduction, it is a great idea to keep up to date with ideas, techniques and changes in the law no matter what industry you are in.  Maintaining your knowledge is both good for your self esteem and enhances your chances of maintaining your employability.

If you are thinking of taking on additional study and are unsure about how this will affect your tax or your business, just call our office and one of our qualified team will be happy to help you.

 

Amanda Wilkens – Director

CPA