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.