BeLLCORP BLOG

Q: I have work-related deductions in my personal tax return, what should I watch out for?

A: The ATO suggests there are 3 Golden Rules of work-related deductions: 1) You must have spent the money yourself and not been reimbursed 2) The expense must be directly related to earning income 3) You must have a record to prove it. The ATO is cracking down on substantiation – if you don’t have a physical document to support the claim, you must be able to demonstrate how you calculated the deduction and how it relates to your work. The message is simple – claim what you are entitled to claim, nothing more.
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Q: Have I priced my product “right”?

A: This is always the trickiest of conundrums! Recently we had a client with a business in the hospitality sector who was concerned about their pricing of their catered platters. The key recommendation we provided is never skimp on the “winning products” that is, the important stuff that people value most. Look to make savings where you can source the less important products, for less. Also look for competitive wholesale pricing – it pays to shop around. Furthermore, there’s no harm in trialling a 5% price increase and testing the reaction of the market.  If you don’t hear any complaints, or notice any drop in inquiries or sales, then you know you are on the right path. There’s much value to be leveraged in your customer service and brand presence too. Competition isn’t solely about price. Consider sourcing client testimonials in order to instill confidence in your product, regardless of the price.  The customers you want to attract are the ones who are happy to pay for quality, so make sure they know you have a quality product available to them.  Aim to build a presence around your quality of product and outstanding customer service, and no one will even care if you are $20-$30 dearer than a competitor. 
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The Great Productivity Challenge

Productivity gains in knowledge and service work have long been harder to achieve than productivity gains for the production of goods. The term work smarter, not harder is particularly relevant in addressing productivity in knowledge and service work. But how do we work smarter? Back in 1881 Frederick W. Taylor kicked off a productivity revolution, the underlying principles of which, are still relevant today. They are as follows: – Define the task – What is the task? What are we trying to accomplish? Must we do it at all? There is great productive value in eliminating that which does not need to be done at all. – Concentrate on the task – An important question to ask when trying to focus the allocation of effort is “what value is this job supposed to add?” – Define performance in qualitative and/or quantitative terms. – Engage the people who do the work and ask how they think productivity could be improved. This creates a sense of ownership in achieving productivity outcomes. – Commit to continuous learning and improvement by training staff and then encouraging good performers to teach other staff. By following these principles, productivity gains are accessible to all businesses.
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How to use your tax to grow your property portfolio

There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to “negative gearing” and the effect it has on your tax situation. How is it that people can quickly go from one investment property, to four or more in such a short time?! Negative gearing refers to the strategy whereby the costs of owning & maintaining an investment property are greater than the income it generates (often due to interest on the mortgage). This is great for people on middle-incomes who want to try and bring themselves down a tax bracket, usually below the $90,000 bracket. The investor is also banking on growth in the price of the investment property over the medium-long term, to offset the income losses. The biggest drawback of this strategy is that it reduces your borrowing power, as your income is reduced. As a result, lending institutions won’t lend you as much. So if negative gearing makes it harder to borrow, how do you structure your investment to borrow more? The answer seems simple in theory, but sometimes more difficult in practice; and that is to positively gear your property. If negative gearing is when expenses are greater than income, then positive gearing is the opposite. When it comes to your tax, making a positive return on your property means your income is higher, and you are less likely to get a refund when lodging your tax return, however, it enhances your borrowing power. How can you use this to grow your portfolio quickly? Once you have one positively geared investment property, using this to grow your portfolio is far easier than getting that first investment. After 12-24 months of holding your first investment, discuss with your broker about getting the loan refinanced, particularly if there has been significant property price growth in that suburb. This means the lender will re-value the property, and potentially lend you more based on the value of that property, which, when combined with your higher income as a result of being positively geared, can help you get that second property. From here you simply repeat this process. Beware of the traps! Don’t over-extend yourself. A decrease in house prices can blow your strategy wide-open and leave you struggling to pick up the pieces. If you can’t do the research yourself, or don’t know enough about property, talk to a buyers agent who can do all the hard work for you. Don’t sell more than one investment property in a single financial year without talking to your accountant first, or you could find yourself with a very large and unpleasant tax bill. Your accountant can assist you in putting together a strategy to sell down your investment properties while also minimising your tax; but they can’t do this retrospectively! Only the interest portion of your mortgage repayments is tax deductible. Always consider the cash flow implications of any mortgage against an investment property. Your tax return may suggest you have a high income, but the reality is you’re struggling to make ends meet as a result of having less cash in your pocket. Your accountant or financial advisor can help you structure appropriately and minimise known risks.
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Q: Is HECS debt tax deductible if the study relates to your job?

A: Unfortunately not is the short answer. Per the Australian Tax Office (ATO) website, specific expenses that you cannot claim include “tuition fees paid to an education provider by you or the Australian Government under HECS-HELP” and “repayments you make (whether compulsory or voluntary) on debts you may have under HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS-HELP, SA-HELP and VET Student Loan” to name but a few. The ATO website has specific examples of what you can and cannot claim under Education and Study and can be accessed here: www.ato.gov.au/individuals/income-and-deductions/in-detail/education-and-study
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Q: Are there any particular items the ATO are targeting for tax year 2019?

A: The ATO has advised they are devoting more attention to the following: – personal use proportion of expenses like phones, Internet, iPads and home office costs like electricity. – rental income from accommodation sharing and holiday rentals. The ATO are able to extract data from sites like AirBnB so be sure to include such rental income as assessable income. – interest claimed for loans on rental properties. If you redraw on an investment loan and use the redrawn funds for a personal purpose, this interest is not an allowable deduction against the rental income. – standard deductions such as $150 for clothing & laundry and 5000kms for work related travel. The ATO’s data analytics are getting stronger each year and they are developing occupation-specific benchmarks for allowable deductions. Our advice: claim what you are entitled to claim, nothing more and nothing less, and ensure you can validate all your deductions.
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Q: Should I run a year end clearance sale to run down my stock?

A: Only if you need to, or had this as part of your business plan. Beware of the EOFY hype and don’t get sucked into a particular course of action just because it’s EOFY. Do what is right for you and your business. If you have old stock that isn’t moving, perhaps you will consider having an EOFY sale. If you don’t have an issue with turnover of stock, then there’s like no need for a sale.
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The wisdom of age

Recently I lead the formalities at the CPA Australia Newcastle Certificate Ceremony. As always it was a joyous occasion welcoming new CPA graduates and acknowledging those with 30, 40 and 50 years of service. This year we brought in 3 well-respected business leaders who are CPAs – Philip Clulow, Fiona Cushing, and Sue Murray – to share some insights into their career journey. There were some brilliant words of wisdom shared and my most valuable are listed below: get yourself comfortable with being uncomfortable find a challenge and launch yourself at it back yourself; don’t be afraid to speak up as a woman have the right support systems to help you succeed find a mentor take ownership of your CPA membership As has become tradition now, I put out 50 years of service members on the spot and asked them each a question to garner some invaluable insights that only come with experience. Here are some of the gems I took away: technology has been a huge change in the way accountants function over the past 50 years, however, we should be wary of becoming highly dependent on technology. It is important to retain our traditional problem solving skills. being a CPA is a great grounding for business and life in general as a CPA there are many career options available to you and the best thing you can do is keep an open mind to new opportunities I am a proud CPA and I love being part of this community of incredible people.
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Future Focus

The traditional role of the accountant was that of a “bean counter” which typically meant accounting for what had been. Accounts for the previous financial year. A tax return for the last financial year. A BAS for the last quarter. It is widely acknowledged that the traditional role of the accountant is dead and buried. Increasing automation and advances in technology have made the completion of tax returns, annual accounts and other regulatory reporting statements much easier to complete. There is little value for the accountant to add to these tasks. The accountant of 2019 and beyond, is a business partner. They walk the journey with their client, drawing on past data to inform future decisions. The utilise systems to analyse data efficiently and then run scenario analysis to help their client understand the future risks and opportunities. In essence, they add VALUE. Despite all the talk of AI and the impending “bots” the role of the value-add accountant who is positioned as a business partner will never be replaced. Accountants who can draw on multiple data sources and in-depth knowledge of their client’s business can provide invaluable insights into how to harness opportunities, mitigate risk and drive business growth. RIP bean counter.
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