16 December 2014

"Fighting frauds and scams" Article by Steve Marsten

Recently we have again become aware of a number of our clients and their customers who have been targeted via ‘online fraud’. This is a pertinent reminder that scams attempting to deliberately deceive you or your customers are still operating and remain effective.

We know the financial services industry has been constantly targeted over the past twelve months.

The term 'online/telecommunications fraud' refers to any type of fraud scheme that uses email, websites, chat rooms, phone or message boards to present fraudulent solicitations to prospective victims to conduct fraudulent transactions or to transmit the proceeds of fraud to financial institutions.
You may be aware of some recent threats that include emails being sent to mobile phone devices that requested the download of a security certificate. This download installs a malicious application onto the mobile phone which can forward on personal details and SMS messages received.
Another common threat involves links within emails. Some links are not always what they seem. They can lead to websites that download unsafe software such as spyware, releasing a virus onto your system to find out your personal information.
How to protect yourself – please feel free to forward this information to your clients
1.     To check where a link will really take you, hover your mouse icon over the link. The real address should appear in the bottom left corner of your screen.
A secure website address will always:
             Begin with ‘https://’, not ‘http://’
             Display the image of a closed padlock. The location of the closed padlock is dependent on the browser, but generally is located near the URL bar. 
Please note extreme care must be taken before any personal details are provided.
2.     Always check that you’re on a secure website before making a payment
3.     Never click on any links or open any attached files in a spam email
4.     Always keep strict privacy settings on social networking sites
5.     Don’t respond to text messages or missed calls that come from numbers you don’t recognise
At Sothertons we treat personal information like diamonds. WE regularly update our system to ensure that we minimise the risk of coming under attack from outside influences. Contact us on 4972 1300 to discuss what measures you can take to minimise your risk.

10 December 2014

"What's your definition of Success?" Article by Tina Zawila

I spent this weekend at the Sunshine Coast at the Allstar Affiliate Series Finals.  The top 60 crossfit teams in the country were competing.  To qualify for this weekend's finals, every team here had to compete at an event earlier in the year, and perform better than another 40 or so teams in their state/region to qualify.  So every single one of the 360 athletes here are already winners and have tasted previous success.

However, every person at this event, now has a different definition of success.  For some, nothing short of a podium finish will meet their definition.  For others, it will be achieving a personal best, or getting their first muscle up even if their team finishes in 60th place.
So which definition is correct?   Their own!!
In business, we hear and read a lot about success, however, success is different for every business owner.  For some, it might be achieving a million dollar bottom line, for others it is simply making their very first sale.  We all want different things in life and business.  The key is to recognise and celebrate what success means to you.
Success isn't a destination.  As soon as we achieve a previous goal, we will naturally be inclined to work towards another one. 
Aim for continual improvement, celebrate your wins along the way, no matter how small, and pick yourself up after a setback. 
If you are in the game you are already a winner.
At Sothertons Gladstone, we work with business owners from all different industries of all different sizes.  Talk to us about your definition of success and let us help you set new goals.  Phone 07 4972 1300.

02 December 2014

"Sometimes our ideas don’t have to be new…… just done better!" Article by Steve Marsten

Following a short break to Florence, Italy, I had the pleasure of walking through one of the most beautiful ageless cities in the world. The preservation of the old city is amazing and the whole place should be heritage listed – if they have such a thing over there.

Following some research to identify a good restaurant, I was directed to a “small restaurant” called All’Antico Vinaio. Supposedly one of the best restaurants in Florence.
Finally I walked down a winding cobbled street and noted heaps of people eating sandwich’s (and drinking glasses of wine) in the street. A large crowd was gathered outside what seemed a “hole in the wall”. It did actually have an entrance and room for five or six people to enter and be served. The rest had to line up outside to deal with the elements. After ordering a sandwich – not really sure what I ordered as they speak Italian and I don’t! However I did understand “I maka for you a gooda food!”. That sounded good enough for me.
The sandwich was the best I have ever eaten. I went back several times because the business was extremely unique. The key things I took away were:
1.       The Staff were singing and enjoying their job. I mean really happy to be there. As a result customers were relaxed and smiling as well.

2.       They acknowledged everyone all of the time. It never stopped.

3.       They never seemed to miss an opportunity to interact no matter how busy everyone in the business was. Quickly noticing anyone serving their own wine and NOT filling the glass to the top. (Yes the wine was self serve! Very impressive.)

4.       All the food was fresh. The tapenades were fresh. For every sandwich – the salads were cut from scratch.

5.       Amazing what can be produced from a very small space;

6.       And finally the bread was baked fresh on the premises and deliver hot to the front counters every hour.
I have read they won the 2013 “best street food venue in Italy” and were attempting to win the 2014 award as well. They have my vote.  At Sothertons, we use our experience to support start up businesses especially if there is a unique angle they wish to explore. Phone us to find out more on 07 4972 1300.

25 November 2014

"Young Entrepreneurs - Giving it a Go!" Article by Tina Zawila

Recently, I have been inspired and impressed with the younger generation of Gladstone’s Entrepreneurs chasing their dreams and passions and entering the world of business.

It seems that Gladstone’s recent years of growth and prosperity have offered our youth an opportunity to be bold, take an educated risk, find a niche and give it a red hot go!
It was recently reported by Bankwest that last year there were 15,300 new companies registered in Australia and the majority were owned by entrepreneurs aged 25 to 34.  It seems that “Gen Y entrepreneurs are reshaping the Australian economy and showing the older business generations how to do it”.
So what can we learn from this generation of business owners?
1.       Passion – they know what they are passionate about, why they do what they do, and how they can help others and make a living for themselves along the way.

2.       Confidence – they believe in their own abilities, are prepared to “back themselves” and take a risk.  They tend to act more quickly and make decisions faster.

3.       Hard work – contrary to the perception that Gen Y’s want it “easy”, in my experience, these young entrepreneurs are not afraid of hard work and are willing to invest their time and energy into their businesses even though it might not be “paying it’s way” yet.

4.       They take advice – they understand that they don’t know it all, and are willing to ask for and take advice from those that can help them, have been there before, or are professionals in their field.
5.       Fun – they bring fun and enthusiasm into their businesses, which is contagious.
Keep an eye out for these young business owners – they are the future of our great city and are bringing new ideas and passion to our business landscape.

At Sothertons we are passionate about business and we are dedicated to ensuring your success in business and in life.   Call us today on 4972 1300 to discuss your new business venture.

18 November 2014

"Innovation and leadership go hand in hand" Article by Steve Marsten

I was recently exposed to some intellectual property that will probably revolutionise the plumbing world. Unfortunately the client is in need of capital to take it to the next stage. It reminded me of a mechanic I saw in a YouTube clip, showing you how to extract a cork from inside a wine bottle by inserting a plastic bag into the bottle and inflating it so it pushes the cork out.  Simple but effective. The guy woke up the next morning with a brilliant idea. He theorised the same could be applied to delivering difficult babies! And voila - the Odon Device was born! Thanks to an Argentinian mechanic – it hits home the importance of innovation. If a mechanic with no medical background can transform obstetrics, then each of us is quite capable of changing the world in some way.

In doing this, we as business leaders, need to encourage our teams to find their inner “Odons” by establishing an environment that values and rewards innovation.
If we are going to create a culture of innovation we need to take time out to consider how.
We need to Model it. Steve Jobs once said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” That’s correct. Leaders must act on opportunities quickly and decisively. Decisions reflect where the business is going, not where they are today.
Encourage positive failure. Failure is a critical part of success. The best ideas are rarely new ones. And instead of waiting for the perfect timing you should get on with your first attempt of a new service or product and then commence the refinement process. Praise creative problem-solving even when the end result isn’t quite right.
Finally, insist on solution-thinking. Nothing is more frustrating then a person who complains without thinking of a solution. Train people to bring solutions to your door. This not only minimises the issues but gives team members ownership over the challenges.

We encourage both staff and clients to develop “thinking teams”. You might want to implement this in your business right now. Call the team at Sothertons on 4972 1300 and ask for Steve or Tina to show you how innovation and leadership go hand in hand.

11 November 2014

"Is your business ready for Christmas?" By Tina Zawila

I know it still feels a bit early to talk about Christmas, but it’s only about 40 sleeps before the big man comes down the chimney! 

So are you and your business ready for the silly season?
We all know that Christmas is a significant period of consumer spending, and for that, every business needs to be well prepared. Over the coming weeks, planning is essential.
Maybe the first step is to revisit what you learnt from last Christmas:
·         What did your customers like?
·         What ideas worked for you or your competitors?
·         What’s special about this Christmas?
·         Which team members will you have available?
With your customers’ needs firmly in mind, allocate responsibilities for three key areas – your products, your promotions and your resourcing.
Your products – engage the festive spirit.  Just about any product or service can be packaged to suit – whether you are in retail or otherwise.  Consider various price points to suit different Christmas budgets.  Maybe even consider a different market segment such as corporate gifts or holiday makers.

Your promotions - social media is a great option to get the word out there to your customers. Adding a Christmas theme to your website or Facebook page and online promotions is a good place to start, as is tweeting deals and letting people know how quickly your stock is going out the door. No one likes to miss out!
Your resourcing - manage your team to ensure great service to customers, and ensure there is cover for the extra work and planning in the lead-up period. This means sorting holiday leave and holiday cover early. You may also be able to benefit from an enthusiastic student who can help you with those social media strategies and is looking for extra work over the holidays!

At Sothertons Gladstone, we mentor business owners to prosper throughout all of the seasons in business.  Talk to our professional team today on 4972 1300, to maximise your own Christmas ‘gift’ this year.

04 November 2014

"How’s the happiness factor in your business?" Article by Steve Marsten

I was asked recently by a client who was having some staffing issues, what was most important to me about my job? It was a very good question. Before I could ponder an answer, my client was telling me that it was probably the quality of the work I do, or the money, or the success of the organisation, or the travel to seminars etc. But alas none of these were correct! When I thought about it for a moment, it was very clear to me – it’s the people I work with. The people that I spend over 40% of my every waking hour with – they are what’s important to me in my job.

That said - it highlights the fact that as an employer, you need to be happy by nature to attract happy workers. You need to love what you do, to attract those who love what you do, and want to do what you do!
Employers need to stay in touch with employees and observe the feelings of optimism and happiness amongst the workforce and hence look for opportunities to enhance employees’ current roles. This has a huge impact on retention rates, improved work ethic, loyalty and support.
You should spend a little time trying to identify those who are not-so-happy at work as well. They may need some TLC or perhaps just a friend to listen and reach out to.  Or if they are not-so-happy by nature, and you are a customer service business – then time should be spent identifying a job they love. Even if you don’t have that job, it may help them see that they are wasting their time (and yours).  Moving these staff on often lifts the workplace happiness dial a few pointers as well.
So it’s very important that you take the time to employ the right people, who are right for the business, and the business owner. Know what culture you want your business to create; to be known for, and to be seen to be implementing. Then as the head of the business – make sure you model the culture. The minute you drop your standards you are saying to your staff that “that’s ok!” To get your office culture on track and increase the happiness in your business ring Steve or Tina at Sothertons on 4972 1300.

28 October 2014

"The Superannuation and Retirement Minefield" Article by Tina Zawila

This week, as part of our ongoing professional development, Steve and I travelled to Brisbane to hear from Australia’s leading experts in Superannuation, Retirement and Taxation.  It was an intense day of training and it was very clear that no-one should try to navigate the superannuation and retirement ‘minefield’ alone.  

Australia is confronting significant social and economic issues associated with a large and rapidly growing aged population. 
It has been estimated that people need to save at least 15% of their annual salary for their entire working life to provide an acceptable standard of living during their retirement.  Now think about your retirement savings (for most people it is held in the form of superannuation), how much are you saving?  If it’s always just been the compulsory superannuation contributions made by your employer (currently at 9.5% since 1/7/14), then you are likely to have a substantial gap between your desired lifestyle in retirement and the lifestyle that can be funded by your retirement savings!
If you think you will be able to rely on the Aged Pension provided by government to cover the shortfall you may want to think again. 
Interestingly, when the Age Pension was introduced in December 2010, the Age Pension age was set at 65 years, which was the life expectancy of a 16-year-old male at the time.  It may sound harsh, but you weren’t expected to live long enough to get the pension!
Another interesting fact, in 2010, there were 5 people of working age to support every person aged 65 and over.  Alarmingly, it is projected that by 2050 there will be 2.7 people of working age for each person aged 65 or over. (Reference: Intergenerational Report 2010). 
So the pool of funds available for the Age Pension will be considerably smaller and more people will be looking for a share.
At Sothertons Gladstone we encourage everyone to get actively involved in planning for their retirement, even if you are 18 and just entering the workforce.  Failing to plan, is planning to fail, and your lifestyle in retirement is simply too important to ignore.  Call our professional team on 4972 1300 to discuss your retirement dreams.

21 October 2014

"Is your idea worth protecting...? Article by Steve Marsten

Recently we have had several new business people talk to us about their new idea or the new concept for commencing a business. People are genuinely very passionate about these ideas and some are being tested in the market while others are still in the concept stage. It’s refreshing to hear new concepts and ideas being taken to market or at least being planned.

Once upon a time it was about the physical property. Who owns the land and what capital gains will they make? How much money could you borrow from the bank using the equity? Now it’s about securing the intellectual property (IP) rights and creating digital products that will enhance our lives.
The most important thing to do is register your IP early or the opportunity may pass. If you can establish that you are the creator and maintain exclusive ownership and control; then you have the right to protect this design for up to 10 years or as a patent – for up to 20 Years. Trademarks are indefinite if you keep up the renewal fees.
The important thing is to be clear that the idea or product you are protecting is original, YOU are the creator and you have not disclosed it to the public domain before registration.
One of the biggest issues is protecting the idea while you develop it. You need to be able to state that the product you are developing or have developed belongs to you exclusively with full title to the ownership rights and cannot be reproduced or used by anyone else in any form. IP notification can then be posted on your website to let the world know. IP registration helps you build your business by protecting your assets and helps fend off unfair competition. It’s much easier to pitch to investors the value of your assets and business when you can show them a registered protection and ownership of your assets.
At Sothertons we walk clients through Effective Business Strategies and solutions to ensure they are aware of what needs to be undertaken to protect their most important assets. Ring us on 4972 1300 for your consultation.

14 October 2014

"Buying a Business isn’t always as easy as it seems" Article by Tina Zawila

At Sothertons Gladstone, I am astounded how often we meet new business owners who have already purchased a business without seeking any advice before signing the contract and sealing the deal.  To be fair, sometimes they do at least call the office to ask "how much is a one-hour appointment to look over the figures of a business I am buying next week?". 

Seriously, buying a business is one of the biggest financial and lifestyle decisions you will make in your lifetime, surely it's worth seeking professional advice before investing?

Misunderstood contracts, incorrect structuring, inflated valuations, inappropriate finance arrangements and under-funded start up capital are just some of the issues we have to attempt to overcome after the deal is done. All of these issues could have been avoided or improved, if proper due diligence and advice was sought prior to settlement.

So if you are considering buying a business here are the first steps to put on your to-do list:
  • Talk to an experienced business advisor
  • Talk to your bank manager
  • Talk to your solicitor
Remember, these professionals are here to help you appreciate the issues and help you make an informed judgement as to whether or not to proceed.  At Sothertons Gladstone, we have assisted many clients though this process previously and we would like you to benefit from our experience.

We will help you make a good business decision, not an emotional one.  As one of the original American oil tycoons, J D Rockefeller once said, "Some of the best business deals I ever did were the ones I walked away from."

If you have already done the deal, it’s not too late, but for some issues time is of the essence, so make sure you find a trusted advisor sooner rather than later.  Don’t wait for “tax time”!

Call us now on 07 4972 1300 if you are considering buying a business, or are a new business owner, we would be happy to help you achieve your business and lifestyle goals.

07 October 2014

"Footy is like Business!" Article by Steve Marsten

The NRL Grand final will be over by the time you read my article this week. Now let’s be clear – I’m not a fan of either team. The Bunnies after 43 years in the wilderness are finally back in a grand final and as a result tend to tug on the heartstrings given they are one of the true traditional teams left. Booted out and then picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and forcing themselves back into the competition shows a certain grit, focus and determination necessary to maintain their relevance and continuity. There is a lot we can learn from them in relation to the way we conduct business. 

Owners are more like the team coaches. They have had plenty of experience and in a good team – simply need to provide guidance, support and motivation. Maybe even a game plan each week that is part of an overall goal – The Annual Business Plan.
Often when the economy slides or things become tight and revenues are falling, some owners want to try and play all the team positions – the salesman; the Administration manager, the HR manager, the IT Manager; the operations manager or the rainmaker. They tend to panic and stress out and don’t actually play well in any position. It would be like Des Hasler strapping on his boots and running out. He would probably go ok for the first 10 minutes and then fatigue would set in and he would be good for no one!
Really what needs to happen when things get a little difficult is to call timeout – have a half time break. Talk to the team. Review the game plan. Highlight your strengths and see if there are better strategies that you can utilise. Maybe someone needs to be removed from the game or maybe you need an injection of enthusiasm and hence a personnel change may be called for. Either way it’s important the business owners adopt the Wayne Bennett approach – stay cool; stay calm no matter how disastrous things are looking. Replan and refocus will achieve the result! At Sothertons we can show you how to stop playing every position and focus being the coach in control. Phone us on 07 4972 1300.

30 September 2014

“Boost Your Productivity by Going on a Holiday” Article by Tina Zawila

By the time you read this article I will be relaxing on the beach with my family, enjoying a short Spring break.  I love taking a holiday at this time of the year, the weather is beautiful, and for us it was always after soccer season had finished for the year.  However, as an accountant, I am right in the thick of it at work – it’s our busiest time of the year, so it’s not always easy to take time off.

So how do I manage to take a week off at this time of the year?  In the weeks leading up to my holiday, and in particular, in the days before I leave, I turn into a laser-focussed, highly productive, super efficient, working machine! 
  • I plan my days better, and actually do what I say I will do.  My “to do” list each day is challenging, but not impossible, and it’s not a long list of what I’d like to get to, but instead a shorter list of what I will do.
  • I communicate with my team more clearly about what we need to do and what our priorities are.  This keeps us accountable to each other and on task. 
  • I make clear decisions about what I say yes to, and what I have to delegate or defer until I return.  I don’t try to do it all myself, and I become more realistic about what I can achieve.
  • Meetings run on time and within the allotted time period – no waffling or straying from the agenda. 
Imagine if we all worked like we were going on holidays next week every week!  Our productivity would sky-rocket, we would achieve more, our team would know exactly what is expected of them, we would meet deadlines and finish projects, and we would have happy clients!
Then we could relax and enjoy our time off (or our even just our weekend), knowing that we had achieved what we set out to do.

At Sothertons, we are here to help you in business and in life.  Call us on 4972 1300 if you would like to improve your productivity or that of your team.

23 September 2014

"Be your own customer..." Article by Steve Marsten

So Gladstone has slowed after a feast of business of the past 2 years. The feedback from many of our business clients in the hospitality industry is that things have really dried up and yet we have had at least 4 new eateries open in the past 4 months! That indicates that there are investors who still believe in the city’s future. It’s up to the more mature businesses to review the basics and to get themselves over the slump. That will show they have the right stuff and staying power. After all, this is not the only slowdown Gladstone has had.

I read with great interest the Chinese Restaurant “So” in San Francisco, closed its doors for a day or two after the Chef had 2 difficult tables in one night! One table refused to pay because they thought the food was too spicy! The other caused such a stir because the Chef could not do “Gluten Free” that they were asked to leave. The Chef in frustration walked out and placed a sign in his window telling people that “yes they do use MSG” (Not too many Chinese Restaurants don’t??); he is not a believer in Organic Food (his choice) and he doesn’t cater for Gluten Free (his choice). Why, as customers, would we not check that information before going to the restaurant rather than risking a confrontation and spoiling the night?
On the other hand the owners of any business should also always put themselves in the customer’s position. Think about them, their needs and how you can fulfil them with your products and services. Maybe the staff should have enquired about their needs when they make a booking or, if they are “walk ins”, before they sit down they should ask them if they have any culinary or dietary requirements? Most businesses don’t cater for everyone and everything! It should be carried out honestly and sincerely. People sense your sincerity and that breeds trust. Trust builds the best rapport and guarantees repeat business.
At Sothertons we assist business owners appreciate that their most important assets are not the plant and equipment or buildings that they have, but the loyal customers they develop. Call now and speak to Steve and Tina on 4972 1300.

16 September 2014

"What's Your Biggest Asset? Article by Tina Zawila

As part of our “Tax Worx” package here at Sothertons Gladstone, in addition to having your annual tax return prepared, you are given the opportunity to meet with a financial planner to discuss your financial position, review your insurance needs and develop a strategy for your financial future.

Often we hear from the under-30 year olds, “I really don’t need this meeting, I don’t own anything and I don’t need insurance”.
However, those that make the time for the meeting are often surprised to discover what they do own, how insurance can be tailored to suit them and how a few small changes can make a big difference to their financial future.
In particular, when we ask this age group “what assets do you own” question, we get the usual responses such as a car, some cash in the bank (to save for a house deposit) and “that’s about it”.  Sometimes they will already have a home, which has a large mortgage attached to it. 
Rarely does anyone mention their superannuation fund balance in this conversation, and yet for some, this represents one of their biggest assets!  Yes, even bigger than the interest they own in their own home (after you consider the amount owing to the bank).
So few people know just how much they actually have in super, and even where all of their superannuation is – often holding multiple accounts.   Fewer still, know how their superannuation is currently being invested – for example whether it is in a defensive, growth or balanced portfolio.   Yet, this is currently their biggest asset!
Superannuation is a complex topic; however, your financial advisor can assist you in making the right decisions to suit you.  The decisions you make today in your 20’s and 30’s can have a significant impact on your retirement plans in the future. 
So don’t delay, seek advice on how to invest and protect your biggest asset.  Call the professional team at Sothertons on 4972 1300.

09 September 2014

"The truth about travel allowance claims…." Article by Steve Marsten

It’s been an interesting week at Sothertons this week. We have been asked several times about travel allowances and associated claims against the allowance as well as being asked to double check returns that some taxpayers have already had lodged.

Generally travel expenses that have been incurred (i.e. an allowance that has actually been spent on a legitimate expense) or that are incidental and relevant to gaining or producing assessable income (like your wage or salary) are deductible provided they are not considered private expenses. Now to make that clear – travel between home and work is considered private in nature unless home is considered a place of work or you have equipment that’s necessary to be transported between home and work.
If an employee receives a travel allowance and they are away from their “ordinary residence” for 6 nights or more then they must maintain a travel diary to record their expenses for breakfast, lunch, dinner and incidentals. If they receive an allowance and claim no more then the allowance then no other records are necessary. Note they must be away from a home and can prove that they have a home AND they must have incurred the travel costs.
Many workers in Gladstone receive a Travel Allowance. The Tax Office has set out clear guidelines for claiming these allowances and in Gladstone the claim allowable under Tax Office guidelines for 2014 is variable depending on your salary level. They vary depending on whether you own or rent a house here or whether you are FIFO. They vary from $118.85 per day to $356.70 per day. BUT here is the kicker – the ruling or Tax Determination as the ATO calls them, states you must have incurred the cost or spent the money. Yes it’s true that you don’t need to keep receipts, but it’s the taxpayer who signs the declaration saying that their return is fully compliant with the tax law – not the tax agent.
In summary – if your tax agent or accountant asks you “did you incur any costs for your travel (which as we know, is essentially to and from work) give careful consideration to your answer. Also ask for a full copy of your tax return so you have proof of what you actually declared and claimed. At Sothertons we ensure that Taxpayers claim as much as they are legally entitled to so they have peace of mind. Feel free to phone us for an appointment on 4972 1300.

02 September 2014

"Why Big Tax Refunds could be 1 of the 7 Deadly Sins" Article by Tina Zawila

By now, you must have heard about the huge tax refunds being received.  And you may know who you should get to do your tax return, because they will get you the biggest refund.

Some of what we have heard and even seen lately, has been nothing short of astonishing. What is really alarming is that most taxpayers have never even considered, that by signing their income tax return to claim a tax refund, rebate or offset that they were not legally entitled to, they are committing Refund Fraud.  And yes, that is a Tax Crime and it is illegal.
Now don’t get us wrong, at Sothertons Gladstone, we are all for minimising tax and maximising refunds legitimately, within the parameters of the tax legislation, however, we will not be party to fraudulent claims.
We were asked to review an individual income tax return this week because the taxpayer received a $70 tax refund in 2013, but he’s due to receive a tax refund of over $5,000 for the 2014 year.  He thought this seemed strange and so sought a second opinion.  What we found was that over $14,000 in deductions had been claimed and the taxpayer really couldn’t explain what these deductions were, let alone able to substantiate them.  He didn’t even receive a full copy of his return.  He had put his complete faith in the registered agent preparing his return to determine what deductions he should claim.
The problem with having “complete faith” in someone else to do your return, is that it is YOU who will be required to repay any over-claimed tax, along with substantial penalties and interest, not the preparer of your return.
So our recommendation to all taxpayers is to be sure they are using a reputable, registered tax agent, and that they fully understand their income tax return and the deductions, rebates and offsets claimed.   Do not be afraid to ask questions or ask for an explanation.
At Sothertons Gladstone, we are experienced Chartered Accountants and Registered Tax Agents, call us on 07 4972 1300.

26 August 2014

"Join the Party!" Article by Tina Zawila

Steve and I spent a couple of days in Sydney late last week at the annual Xero Conference “XeroCon”.  If you don’t know who/what Xero is, you soon will.  Forbes magazine earlier this year heralded Xero as the “World’s most innovative growth company”, and the company is growing at a blistering pace. 

So what does Xero do?  Quite simply, Xero provides “Beautiful Accounting Software”. 
At Sothertons Gladstone we have been using Xero with some of our clients for almost 2 years and it seems that all who use the online software love it, and so do we.
It seems that many other businesses in Australia are loving it too. 147,000 Australian businesses are now using the software, almost double the number from this time last year.
Managing Director Chris Ridd also informed the conference, “Xero is reaching significant scale, accounting for $54 billion in transactions in Australia alone. We processed over 10 million invoices in the last 12 months valued at $23.5 billion and 40% of those invoices were sent online. Xero also processed over $20 billion in payments, making the company a force in the financial services arena. ” Ridd also said Xero had transacted over one billion Australian dollars of monthly payroll for over 370,000 employees in the last financial year.
XeroCon was an opportunity for Steve and I to interact with the Xero team including the software developers, to learn what is due for release in the next 90 days and what we can expect in the next 12 months. There are certainly some exciting enhancements coming, that will continue to boost Xero’s reputation for building beautiful, easy to use accounting software.
If you want to join the party, call the professional team at Sothertons Gladstone on 07 4972 1300 and we will discuss how Xero can help you run your business with ease and efficiency

"The best advice we ever received..." Article by Steve Marsten

In the last few months we at Sothertons, have been encouraged by those business men and women who are looking to invest and establish new businesses to hopefully enrich their lives and provide a sustainable income and a reasonable return on their investment. While working with one such couple I was asked what was the best business advice I ever received.

I started to give the question some consideration before answering. Clearly when you have been around business owners all your life you hear a considerable amount of advice yourself even when you are the business adviser. Now I often keep a “Black Book” for things I hear or read and I write them down so I can read back over them when ever I get a chance. I have used many black books over the years.  So I sat down and noted that I had written many gems of advice down in several books. Here are my top 7 gems of Business advice that I think all business owners should remember.
1.      My father once said “People may not always like the decisions you make, but if you strive to be fair, they will respect you.”

2.      If you don’t own a business, then atleast care enough about your job to work like it is YOUR business.

3.      Don’t do what others on your team are capable of – ever! Get the right people in place and RUN the business.

4.      Never take “no” from someone who doesn’t have the authority to say yes. If you want it, go get it.

5.      If you are not fit then get good health insurance, because if you can’t take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of a healthy business!

6.      Confidence is half the battle. Believe in yourself, and others will too.

7.      Measure twice, cut once!
Advice is great however it’s pointless unless it’s followed by action. At Sothertons we work with Business Owners to use action sheets, commitment dates and deliverables and strive to achieve these where ever possible. Communicate when it’s not possible to your customers and your suppliers if need be. Call Steve and Tina to discuss your business ventures now on 07 4972 1300.

"myGov.com – let the user beware" Article by Steve Marsten

Recently clients have been asking about myGov.com. This is an Australian Government initiative to provide a fast and simple way to access various government services and more importantly, provide access to your personal history for such services as Medicare; Centrelink; Australian Tax Office; Child Support; The National Disability Insurance Scheme; eHealth Record and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

It has some pro’s and con’s. Firstly, I like the idea that it is the easiest way to find out how many old superfund accounts you have open. An account that I thought I had closed had over $3,000 still sitting in it. Also it gives me fairly up to date information about my taxes including PAYG payment summaries - assuming of course the employer has lodged them on time. It’s handy to confirm your HELP, HECS and SFSS debts as well as get your Tax File number.
It allows the taxpayer to set up their own payment plan with the ATO should they find themselves in difficulty paying off the debt. Of course there are limitations – namely only debts below $25,000.
The other appealing point is it gives the taxpayer the ability to roll their superfunds into one fund. Again this is fast and expedient. Now there are some downsides to the expediency – that is, some people will change their super without consideration to the information that is not showing such as the fees within each fund and are there any fees for the switches?
Even more of a surprise is it allows you to cease a Life Insurance policy (when consolidating your super) without considering the implications of such an action. It is so difficult to acquire quality Life Insurance these days thus nobody should cancel a life policy until they have an alternative arrangement in place. The decision could be devastating to the taxpayer and his or her family.
Our advice is to seek professional guidance so that you are fully informed of the ramifications before you push the button. At Sothertons we aim to educate our clients to make better quality financial decisions. Phone 4972 1300 to talk to Steve or Tina.

"SuperStream – Another nail in the coffin of the cheque book" Article by Tina Zawila

Employers, you may have missed it, (with all the other changes that occurred on 1 July 2014 such as an increase in tax rates due to the Medicare Levy increase, and increased Superannuation Guarantee Contributions), but “SuperStream” also came into effect on 1 July 2014.

What’s SuperStream I hear you ask?
It is yet another government reform aimed at improving the efficiency of the superannuation system.  Under SuperStream employers must make super contributions on behalf of their employees by submitting data and payments electronically in accordance with the SuperStream standard.   All superannuation funds, including Self Managed Superannuation Funds, must receive contributions electronically in accordance with this standard. 
This means no more cheques and paper remittance advices to super funds!
Although the ATO is being flexible with the implementation of this initiative, employers with 20 or more employees are obliged to start using the SuperStream standard from 1 July 2014.  For employers with 19 or fewer employees, you have until 1 July 2015 to adopt SuperStream.
Employers have two options for meeting SuperStream; either:
a)      Use software the conforms to SuperStream, or

b)      Use a service provider who can meet SuperStream on their behalf.
If you do employ more than 20 employees, you should investigate your options as soon as possible.  Transitional rules recently introduced will allow you (between 1 July 2014 and 2 November 2014) to send super contribution messages to a fund without strictly conforming to the SuperStream standard provided the super fund will accept the format. 

Time is ticking…at Sothertons Gladstone we can assist employers in understanding their obligations regarding SuperStream and other taxation and employment matters.  We can also help you with software options to make things easier for you.  Call us today on 07 4972 1300 if you need more information or assistance to ensure your meet the SuperStream requirements.

29 July 2014

"Make Tax Time Easy" Article by Tina Zawila

Well July has almost been and gone – how is your tax preparation going?  For most of us (even us accountants!) gathering our paperwork and information for the preparation of our annual income tax return is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Add a few complexities such as investments or a rental property or two, and you will need to set aside a few hours for this task, and that’s before you even show up for your appointment with your accountant or tax agent.

However, these days there are tools out there to make our lives easier. 

Over the last year or two at Sothertons Gladstone we have been promoting Xero – cloud based accounting software to help businesses manage their record-keeping.  What we have found is that this tool can be very useful for investors and rental property owners too!

Xero captures transactions directly from your bank accounts, so it makes it easy to record and categorise income and expenditure, ensuring you don’t miss a thing.  It will also act as your electronic filing cabinet allowing your to save scanned or photographed copies of your receipts/documents - no more faded/illegible or lost receipts!  And yes, once the documents are saved into Xero you can throw them away!  The ATO will accept an electronic copy (provided it can be reproduced legibly).

The added bonus of using Xero for your taxation and investment record-keeping is that you can also use it to monitor and manage your own personal budget.  Helping you stay on track and achieve your financial goals.

At Sothertons Gladstone, our goal is to help make tax time easy for you - call us now on 4972 1300 to make an appointment for your 2014 Income Tax Return and to discuss how Xero can make your 2015 tax preparation a breeze.  We offer a discount for the early birds who have their returns prepared in July or August.  So get in early!