Aug 21

Day 1 at XeroCon

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Thursday, August 21, 2014

For those don't know Xero the Accounting Software holds an annual conference in a few locations globally. This is called XeroCon and at the moment they are holding it in Sydney at The Dome at Olympic Park (there are carnival rides how cool).

The first day started with our registrations and introduction to the event (1,300 people, 82 exhibitors) going through some of things Xero has in its sights. If you are using Xero you should be excited as Xero is working really hard on providing actionable information to you the business owner and to us the accountant so that we can help you run an even better business.

As well as taking time to listen to some really good speakers on how technology is changing business and how engaging the customer is completely changing we made a real effort to go and speak to the exhibitors. This to us is the most important part of the event as we see Xero as the base and the add-ons (the exhibitors) as the icing. The add-ons can provide so much functionality and improvement to business it is amazing.

We have seen from exhibitors the ability to cost the time of your employees by the second (that is right you can see your labour cost going up every second someone is working), automated sms reminders to pay bills on time and to help manage overdue accounts and so much more that I am not able to give them justice in one blog post. The things that these add-ons are doing is amazing and is going to help completely change and revolutionise aspects of business.

Thanks to Xero for holding an awesome event and looking forward to the second day.

Aug 11

Buying property through your Super

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, August 11, 2014

Property is the most trusted asset class for Australians, yet only around 3.5% of all SMSF investment is in residential property according to the latest ABS report (

Property investment can produce a range of tax benefits, for e.g. your tax can be significantly reduced or eliminated for rental income and capital gains, and the rental return can be used for loan repayments.

Do you need an SMSF to buy property through your super?

You do, that is if you want to choose which property you invest in anyway. Contact us today for a FREE 30-min SMSF consult and we can help you get started.

Are you in business?

Business owners can get some significant benefits when buying their commercial premises through their super. Along with all of the tax benefits mentioned above, you also avoid the tenant or landlord issues that are often associated with commercial property. This is great, as buying your own business property still satisfies the 'sole purpose' test which is discussed under 'what are the rules' that follows.

Can you borrow money when buying property through super?

You CAN. Often banks will lend up to 80% for a residential property and 70% for commercial property loans through your SMSF. This is an example of leveraging the bank's money to increase your investment.

What are the rules?

There are significant and strict rules around property investing through your super, according to the property must comply with these 4 key rules:

1. The property must pass the 'sole purpose test' - this means that the property must provide benefit solely to the SMSF fund member's retirement. It's the same as investing in art through your SMSF, you must keep that art in storage until you retire so that you don't get any pleasure from it before that time.
2. You cannot buy or acquire the property from a family member.
3. Neither you or your family members can live in the property.
4. Neither you or your family members rent the property. Basically, it's off limits to you and your family members. It is an investment property for your SMSF only.

Tips and Traps

If you're happy with (or can at least manage) the restrictions, you need to consider if you're ready for this. Like any major financial decision, jumping in means that you take on more responsibility. You should also consider if you're better off buying the property outside of your super fund. Although the tax benefits can be great and borrowing money for your super-fund can be an extremely well leveraged strategy, the negative gearing benefits could be negligible. Therefore positively geared properties are often a good option for your SMSF. In short - make sure you do your research and consult an expert.

The bottom line

There can be some MASSIVE benefits of buying investment property through your SMSF, by borrowing money you are increasing your investment which can yield great results over time. There are also options to secure your loan to protect your other assets in the fund. These investment and asset protection strategies are things you really should spend time researching and talking through with your advisor. We specialise in SMSFs and would LOVE to talk to you about your options.

Aug 04

There is NEVER enough time!

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, August 04, 2014

WRONG! Anyone who complains about not having enough time is just making excuses. Each of us has the same amount of time as everyone else. The question is, what are you doing with it?

I used to be a person who always felt there was NEVER enough time, but then I realised that what I was doing was procrastinating doing "busy" work, and doing other useless things that didn't add value to myself, my family, my business or my clients.

After some self-reflection, some study, and perseverance, I now get my work done in the time I allocate. I also spend better quality time with my family and significantly add more value to my clients, my business, and myself.

So with the realisation and the belief that I had the same amount of time as everyone else, I worked on managing my time more efficiently. Below are some of the things I have done:

- Work is for during work hours. So often I see people on the phone with a work 'thing' whilst at the park with their kids or some other activity. Come on guys, is it really that urgent to be missing out experience with your kids? Most of the time, it's not, and can wait until the next day. The same goes with working at home during your family time. It is NOT cool, generally unproductive, and leads to a worse home life. So STOP IT!

- Uninterrupted time. This is a big one that a lot of professionals don't do enough of. You should be blocking out interruptions to get things done. Uninterrupted time is best to be done 60-90 minute blocks. If you have 90 minutes to really get into your work and get things done, you'll need a short break afterwards (5-10 minutes). If you do this, you will find that you can get a lot done in that time. More than you would think. If clients and customers call you during this time you are 'with someone'. You are with yourself and it is a very important meeting.

- Checking emails. This can be a huge waste of time. If you're like me, you might receive more than a hundred, or even 200 emails a day. Not uncommon, as it is an easy way for business to communicate and it works quite effectively. This contributes to time wasted, because people are constantly checking their emails all throughout the day and getting distracted by them. Turn off your notification and close your email program. You DO NOT need to read an email the instant it comes to your inbox. E-mail is mail, so treat it like mail. Check it only once or twice a day, there is no need to check it more often than that. So turn off those notifications and that email program, get some real work done, or if you're at home, enjoy your life with your family and friends.

- Meetings. The WRONG meetings can be a massive waste of productive time. What is worse about this is that they tend to waste multiple peoples' productive time simultaneously. Change your business so that you start having the RIGHT meetings and get more productive time back.

- Phone Calls. Just because your phone rings doesn't mean you need to answer it then and there. Answering or taking a call when it comes in can be highly disruptive. Most of the time, the phone call can wait. A key thing that I do is to get the person who receives the phone call (receptionist) find out when is the most appropriate time to call that person back - then an appointment is made. This stops phone tag and the disruption of productive time.

- DO THE RIGHT THINGS. This is the most important because there is no point saving and getting all this time back if you do the wrong things with it.

So what are you going to do to improve how you use your time?

Jul 21

Six Ways to Profit from your Winter Escape

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, July 21, 2014

Winter is here, and this may be the perfect time to increase the value of your company.

The most valuable businesses are the ones that can survive without their owner. A buyer will pay a premium for a company that runs on autopilot and levy a steep discount for a business that is dependent on its owner.

This winter, consider taking an extended vacation from your business to see how things will run when you're not in the building. It's likely that some things will go wrong, but use those errors as the raw material for making your business operate more independently of you - and therefore more valuable.

Here is a six-step plan for profiting from your winter escape:

Step 1: Schedule your vacation plus one day

Whatever day you plan to start working again after your holiday, tell your staff you'll be back one day later. That way, you'll have a full day of uninterrupted time to dedicate to understanding what went wrong in your absence.

Step 2: Bucket the mistakes

When you return, make a summary of the things that went wrong and categorize them into one of three buckets:

• Mistakes: errors where there is a right and wrong answer;
• Bottlenecks: projects that had difficulties because you weren't there to provide your feedback;
• Stalled projects: initiatives that went nowhere while you were gone because you're the person leading them.

Step 3: Correct the mistakes

The first and easiest place to start is to simply correct the mistakes that were made. Usually mistakes are due to a lack of training rather than outright negligence. The right answer may be crystal clear in your head but not immediately obvious to your staff. Write up some instructions for next time the employees face the same situation. Make sure your instructions are clear, and share them with your team so everyone has them (a file sharing service like Google Drive or DropBox can be a helpful repository for your instructions).

Step 4: Unblock your bottlenecks

If you're being asked for your personal input on projects, there's probably going to be a bottleneck if you're not around. Make sure your staff is clear on the projects where you need to have a say and the projects where you don't. Some employees may wrongly think that you need to approve all decisions. Make it clear when you want them to act alone and when you still need to have a say.

Step 5: Re-assign stalled projects

The hardest part of making your business less dependent on you is dealing with projects that get stalled when you're away. Start by asking yourself if you're the right person to lead the project in the first place. As the owner of your business, projects often fall in your lap by default, rather than because you're the best person to lead them. Categorize your stalled projects into two groups: a) strategic projects you need to lead; and b) non-strategic projects you are leading by default. Hang on to the strategic projects, but delegate the non-strategic projects to someone on your team who is better suited to drive them forward.

Step 6: Give every employee a blank check

At Ritz Carlton Hotels, they give every employee discretion to spend - without approval from their general manager - up to $2,000 on a guest. The $2,000 figure is a large enough number to make the message clear: front line employees should act first, make the customer happy, and ask questions later. Many employees know how to make a customer happy but lack the confidence to act. Giving employees some spending authority will speed up the resolution of customer issues and empower your team to do the right thing when you're not there.

So go ahead and take your vacation - if you follow the six steps here, you may end up with a relaxing holiday and a more valuable company.

Jul 07

PROTECT Yourself from Making Emotional Financial Decisions

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, July 07, 2014

Who will PROTECT you from your emotional decisions?

We all do it, we make irrational decisions based on emotion. So how can we protect ourselves from, well, ourselves?

It is SO important to have someone watching your financial back. To look at the big picture and give you sound advice on the market. This could protect you from irrational decisions (more like reactions) to random short term swings in the market. Or investment decisions made on pretty names.

Want to BOOST your net worth? Get an advisor

Long term studies show that there is a strong positive correlation between the use of a professional advisor and subsequent net worth. What's more interesting is that the significance is stronger for those who have used an advisor for 10 years or more.

Going steady with your advisor

Choosing a professional financial advisor is a big decision and should be treated as such. You should view this as a long term business relationship for your personal wealth. No one will care more about the outcome than you, however, you need a professional to bring you the facts without the emotion.

I say this should be a long term relationship, as you may not see the real benefits in the first year. It may take several years for the true benefits to shine through. So it's important to pick an advisor and stick with them.

What if I back the wrong horse?

Although you should take your time in choosing your advisor and then stick with them, this doesn't mean that their performance shouldn't be reviewed regularly. Agree on a long term plan upfront and then review it regularly. Stipulate some KPI's that you need to achieve, and ask your advisor what they think they need to achieve for you. Write ALL of this down and use it as an agenda for your reviews.

Who's on YOUR side?

As your wealth grows it will pay to have a team that you can rely on, an advisor, accountants and in some cases, solicitors.

Preston Coe & Ring takes a team approach: we have a team of accountants, financial planners, loans and leasing experts as well as our support team all going in to bat for YOU. This gives you peace of mind in knowing that there is no 'single-point-of-failure,' you have a team of people working for you and we use the latest software to track and ensure all of your projects are progressing as expected. PLUS, with so many of us, we're always quick to respond whenever you need.

Jun 30

Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, June 30, 2014

Most business owners are quite skeptical about hiring a Virtual Assistant (abbreviated as "VA"), and that's reasonable. It is true that this is unfamiliar territory to many, but aren't virtual interactions increasing lately as well? These virtual interactions can be in the form of phone calls, Skype, emails, webinars, etc. Consider VA's just like your regular employees, except that they can only perform work that doesn't require their physical presence in Australia.

Virtual Assistants are independent contractors or freelancers who provide administrative, creative, and/or technical services directly from the comfort of their own homes. VA's will support you and thus will enable you to focus all your time and energy on what you do best – like meeting clients, consulting, selling houses, etc.

So, what can a VA do? VA's utilize today's technology so you can hire them for almost anything, you'll see that most of these tasks don't demand their physical presence. Here are some of the tasks you can hire a VA for (depends on their skills and specialty):

• General administrative tasks – Similar to an Executive Secretary's, these can include screening emails, calendar management, hotel and flight bookings, research, sending emails to clients (send thank you notes, holiday cards), receptionist duties, database management, etc.
• Graphic Design
• Web Development and Programming
• Article/Content Writing
• Web Marketing – monitors your social media accounts, handles marketing
• Bookkeeping
• Video and Audio Editing

And the list doesn't end there. Virtual Assistants can cover a multitude of roles and tasks. You can outsource almost every job you can think of, just as long as it can be done online. If you're looking to grow your business, then hiring a VA can definitely pay off. Not only do they save you time and reduce costs, VA's can also help you increase your productivity. Hiring a VA can be quite troublesome though, just like hiring regular office employees. So research, ask around, and find out what works for you. As soon as you become more and more familiar with VA's, you'll see how efficient a VA can be. Open your mind to all the tremendous possibilities of hiring a VA and you'll have access to world-class talent from anywhere all over the globe.

Jun 24

2014 Year End Reminders & Obligations

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Another financial year is about to finish!

As a business owner, there are many obligations that you need to consider and action over the next few weeks. Some of these will help to minimise your tax. We have outlined these action points below to assist you.


Action Required

30 June 2014

  • Ensure your employee superannuation payments are received and allocated by your employees' super fund prior to 30 June 2014 to ensure a tax deduction for this year. Any payments made between 1July 2014 and 28 July 2014 will count towards your Superannuation Guarantee requirement but will not be tax deductible until the 2015 financial year.

  • If you operate through a trading company review shareholder loan accounts and make minimum loan repayments.

  • If you operate through a discretionary family trust ensure that a Trust Distribution Resolution for each Trust is signed by 30 June 2014.

  • Review 2014 LAST MINUTE strategies on our blog to reduce your tax prior to 30 June 2014.

  • Carry out a stocktake by 30 June 2014.

1 July 2014

  • Superannuation guarantee rate increases from 9.25% to 9.5%

  • 2% Temporary Budget Repair Levy commences

  • Medicare levy increases from 1.5% to 2%

14 July 2014 or before

  • Provide 2014 PAYG Payment Summaries to all employees

21 July 2014

  • Taxable Payments Annual Report due for lodgement with the ATO (building and construction industry)

28 July 2014

  • Quarterly Superannuation contributions due for employees (for the period 1 April 2014 to 30 June 2014). THIS IS A KEY DEADLINE!

  • (Note: If you fail to meet your requirements by 28 July 2014, you must complete a Superannuation Guarantee Charge Statement and forward it to the ATO together with underpaid superannuation plus administration fees and interest by 14 August 2014. Superannuation Guarantee Charge payments are NOT tax deductible.)

14 August 2014 or before

  • Lodge your 2014 Annual PAYG Payment Summary Statement (for employees) with the ATO. Penalties apply for late lodgement.

1 April 2015

  • FBT rate increases by 2% to 49%

Key Changes from 1 July 2014

Employers need to take note of a number of key tax changes that apply from 1 July 2014. These include:

• 2% Debt Tax for high income earners
• Medicare Levy increase
• Superannuation guarantee increase
• Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) increase

Please urgently check these key things:

1. Has your payroll software automatically updated for these changes? Or do you need to load these changes into your payroll software?

2. Check your first pay run from 1 July 2014 to ensure the changes are correct.

3. Review any salary packaging and calculations and make any adjustments to employee FBT contributions or other items where needed.

2% Debt Tax for High Income Earners

From 1 July 2014 until 30 June 2017, a 2% Temporary Budget Repair Levy, or debt tax, will apply to individuals on their taxable income in excess of $180,000 per annum. This means that the tax rate will increase by 2% for every dollar of taxable income you earn above $180,000 in a financial year.

Be aware that if you have a one-off spike in income after 1 July 2014, for example from the proceeds of a sale of business or a capital gain from the sale of an investment property, the debt tax is likely to impact on this increase in personal income.

If you have employees or directors affected by the debt tax, talk to us about strategies to lessen the impact.

While the legislation dealing with the debt tax has not yet passed through Parliament, this is likely to occur soon.

Medicare Levy Increase

In May 2013, the former Government announced an increase in the Medicare Levy by half a percentage point effective from 1 July 2014. This increase will take the Medicare Levy from 1.5% of taxable income to 2%. Employers will need to factor this change in for PAYG withholding purposes.

The increase in the Medicare levy rate has also impacted on the FBT rate from 1 April 2014. This will be particularly important for businesses that have FBT liabilities each year as the cost of providing non-cash benefits and living away from home allowances to employees will rise.

2% Fringe Benefits Tax Rate Increase

The Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) rate will increase by 2% from 47% to 49% from 1 April 2015 until 31 March 2017. The increase is to prevent individuals attempting to use the FBT system to avoid the 2% Temporary Budget Repair Levy.

The cash value of benefits received by employees of public benevolent institutions and health promotion charities, public and not-for-profit hospitals, public ambulance services and certain other tax-exempt entities will not change as the annual FBT caps are also increasing. For public benevolent institutions and health promotion charities, the exemption threshold from FBT will increase to a grossed-up annual cap of $31,177 per employee (currently $30,000). For public and not-for-profit hospitals and public ambulance services the exemption threshold will increase to a grossed-up annual cap of $17,667 per employee (currently $17,000).

In addition, the fringe benefits rebate rate will be aligned with the FBT rate from 1 April 2015.

Superannuation Guarantee Increase

From 1 July 2014, employers need to increase the minimum rate for superannuation guarantee (SG) contributions from 9.25% to 9.5%. Please double check your payroll processes to ensure that the change in SG is applied properly from 1 July 2014.

Note: If you use the XERO online accounting and payroll system, you do not need to update the superannuation rates, since XERO will automatically do this for you on 1 July 2014. Another great reason for using XERO!

As announced in the 2014/2015 Federal Budget, the intention is for the SG rate to remain at 9.5% until 30 June 2018 and then increase by 0.5% each year until it reaches 12%.

Trust Distributions - Timing of Resolutions

Trustees (or directors of a trustee company) need to consider and decide on the distributions they plan to make by 30 June 2014 at the latest (the trust deed may actually require this to be done earlier). Decisions made by the trustees should be documented in writing by 30 June 2014.

If valid resolutions are not in place by 30 June 2014, the risk is that the taxable income of the trust will be assessed in the hands of a default beneficiary (if the trust deed provides for this) or the trustee (in which case the highest marginal rate of tax would normally apply).

You might not need to do a Stocktake

Small Business Entities (operational businesses with an aggregated turnover below $2 million) have access to a range of tax concessions. One of these concessions is the simplified trading stock rules. Under these rules, you can choose not to conduct a stocktake for tax purposes if there is a difference of less than $5,000 between the opening value of your trading stock and a reasonable estimate of the closing value of trading stock at the end of the income year. You will need to record how you determined the value of trading stock on hand.

If you would like to take advantage of the simplified trading stock rules, call us today to make sure you are eligible to use the simplified rules and to discuss how to use them properly.

Fuel Excise Increase

The cost of fuel will increase with the reintroduction of bi-annual indexing. As announced in the 2014/2015 Federal Budget, the Government intends to resume bi-annual indexation by the CPI of excise and excise-equivalent customs duty from 1 August 2014. Aviation fuels are excluded from indexing.

The reintroduction of fuel excise indexing is not yet law.

Cut Backs to R&D Incentives

From 1 July 2014, the refundable and non-refundable offsets for the Research & Development Tax Incentive will be reduced by 1.5%. This means the refundable offset will be reduced to 43.5% while the non-refundable offset will be reduced to 38.5%.

If your business is undertaking R&D activities this year, you may want to consider bringing forward expenditure to ensure you maximise your claims for the year ending 30 June 2014 to take advantage of the higher tax offset rates.

The reduction in R&D incentives was announced in the 2014/2015 Federal Budget and is not yet law.

Loss Carry Back Rules Removed?

In the 2012/2013 income year, the loss carry back rules allowed companies to use current year tax losses to recoup tax paid in prior years. The rules meant that companies were able to 'carry back' up to $1m of tax losses incurred in the 2013 income year to recoup tax paid for the 2012 income year. The refundable tax offset that could be claimed was limited to the company's franking account balance for that year.

The loss carry back rules were intended to extend to future years so that companies could carry back losses from the current or prior year to recoup tax paid in either the previous year or the year before that.

The loss carry back rules were originally funded by the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, or mining tax, as most of us know it. The current Government is seeking to repeal the mining tax and along with it the raft of concessions for business, including the loss carry back rules from 1 July 2013. However, the current Senate rejected the repeal of the mining tax leaving the status of the loss carry back rules in limbo. Either the new Senate will pass the repeal of the mining tax after 1 July 2014 and the legislation will apply retrospectively, or the loss carry back rules will continue for another year. We will keep you updated about this.

Depreciation for Small Business

From 1 January 2014, small business entities (SBEs) will only be able to claim an immediate deduction for depreciating assets costing less than $1,000. The amendments, if passed by Parliament, reverse the changes made by the previous Government that enabled SBEs to deduct assets costing less than $6,500 from 1 July 2012 onwards.

Depreciating assets costing $1,000 or more will be allocated to the SBE's general small business pool and will depreciate at a rate of 15% in the income year in which the assets are first used or installed ready for use. The assets will then be depreciated as part of that pool at 30% in subsequent income years.

The changes to depreciation for small business entities are part of the repeal of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and are not yet law.

Living Away From Home Allowance transition period ends

As at 1 July 2014, all living away from home allowances (LAFHAs) paid to employees need to comply with the new rules introduced on 1 October 2012. When the new rules for LAFHAs came in, transitional rules were in place allowing existing contracts and arrangements to continue until 30 June 2014 unless they were materially varied. If you have any employees who are paid a LAFHA, you need to check that there are no contracts utilising the old rules.

The main condition to be satisfied is that the employee must have a normal place of residence in Australia that is maintained for their "personal use and enjoyment" while they are living and working in another location. This means that the employee cannot rent out their usual residence while they are away.

In most cases, LAFHAs will also be time limited to 12 months. The 12 month time limit can be reset if the employee moves to another location. If the employee is working on a fly-in fly-out or drive-in drive-out basis (there are strict conditions to fall within this category), the LAFHA is not subject to the 12 month limit.

Deadline for 2014 PAYG Payment Summaries

You need to provide your 2014 PAYG Payment Summaries to your employees and other workers by 14 July 2014.

O Action Step: If you have any doubt about how to correctly complete your 2014 PAYG Payment Summaries, please contact us for assistance BEFORE you prepare them.

Building and Construction Industry Reporting

From 1 July 2012, new tax reporting rules apply for businesses in the building and construction industry. Businesses will have to lodge an annual report with the ATO setting out details of payments made to contractors. This will assist the ATO to reduce the "cash economy" by ensuring tax is paid on all income including "cash" payments.

From 1 July 2012, you will need to record the following details of all payments made to contractors from 1 July 2012 for building and construction services:

• The ABN of the contractor

• The name and address of the contractor

• The gross amount paid for the financial year, including GST

• The total GST included in the gross amount paid

If you use computerised accounting software, your system should be able to track this information for you and prepare the required Taxable Payments Annual Report.

O Action Step: Ensure that you lodge your Taxable Payments Annual Report with the ATO no later than 21 July 2014.

Payroll Tax

Payroll tax applies to all entities that have an Australian payroll that exceeds state-based limits.

You should note that in addition to normal salaries and wages, the following items are generally also included in payroll expenses if payroll tax applies:

• fringe benefits based on the grossed-up taxable value of fringe benefits;

• all employer contributions to superannuation on behalf of employees; and

• some contractor or sub-contractor fees.

For more detailed information about whether payroll tax applies to your business, please contact our office.

O Action Step: The Annual Return/Reconciliation for payroll tax must be lodged by 21 July 2014 with your State Revenue Office.


Your WorkCover/WorkSafe insurer sends an annual reconciliation to all registered employers at the end of the financial year.

In completing your annual reconciliation, you will need to include the following items in addition to normal salaries and wages:

• fringe benefits based on the taxable value of fringe benefits (do not gross-up);

• all employer contributions to superannuation on behalf of employees; and

• some contractor or sub-contractor fees.

For more detailed information about what items to include in the reconciliation statement, please contact our office.

Once the reconciliation is received and processed by your WorkCover/WorkSafe insurer, you will be issued with a final assessment or a refund depending on the instalments you have paid during the year.

O Action Step: Complete and lodge the Annual Reconciliation with your WorkCover/WorkSafe insurer by the due date.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

A reconciliation of GST should be performed as at 30 June 2014 to determine if there has been an under or over-payment of GST in the 2014 tax year. If a discrepancy has arisen, then it is possible to amend a subsequent Business Activity Statement (BAS) to rectify the error, however there are limits imposed on adjustments that can be made in this way.

Income declared on your BAS should be reconciled to income declared on your income tax returns.

Also, please note that you are required by law to substantiate all Input Tax Credit claims with a complying Tax Invoice, and you need to retain these documents for a minimum of 5 years.

O Action Step: Complete the annual GST reconciliations, and check that you have all required tax invoices and other supporting documents.

ATO Audit Activity

Please note that the ATO and State Revenue Office are constantly increasing their audit activities. In particular, there has been an increase in audit activity for PAYG Withholding, Payroll Tax, WorkCover, GST, Division 7A loan accounts from companies, and Trust distributions from Discretionary Trusts.

We are able to offer a review of your records and record-keeping procedures if you are concerned about your ability to satisfy an audit.

O Action Step: Please contact our office if you would like to request this service.

Last Minute Tax Minimisation Tips

Here's a few final reminders about ways to reduce your tax for 2014

1. Write-off Bad Debts

2. Write-off any trading stock that is damaged or obsolete

3. Review your asset register and scrap any obsolete plant and equipment

4. Pay for repairs, consumables, office stationery, and donations before 30 June 2014

5. Realise any capital losses you have before 30 June 2014 to offset against any capital gains you may have made

Feel free to call our office any time on 03 5134 1778 or email us at We can't wait to provide you with better advice now for a beautiful future.

Jun 16

Double your Five-A-Day Fruit and Veg to Live Longer, Study Finds

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, June 16, 2014

A healthy diet should include 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, doubling the five-a-day official advice, say British health experts.

The research, which involved a 12-year study, also found that vegetables were four times healthier than fruit.

The study, by University College London, found that eating large quantities of fruit and vegetables significantly lowered the risk of premature death. People who ate at least seven portions of fruit and vegetables each day were 42 per cent less likely to die from any cause over the course of the study.

The researchers also discovered that canned and frozen fruit increased the risk of dying by 17 per cent, and fruit juice was found to have no significant benefit.

The findings suggest that the five-a-day recommendation, suggested by the World Health Organisation and backed by the Government and NHS, is not adequate - although only 30 per cent of people manage to eat that amount.

Experts said that even seven-a-day was not enough and that 10 would be the optimum number, as the protective effect continued to increase with higher consumption.

The study's lead author, Dr Oyinlola Oyebode of UCL's department of epidemiology and public health, said: ''The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. My advice would be, however much you are eating now, eat more.''

Health experts called on the Government to subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables, which they suggested could be paid for by taxing sugary foods.

The five-a-day guidelines were based on World Health Organisation recommendations issued in 1990, which advised consuming 400g of fruit and vegetables each day to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type-two diabetes and obesity.

Prof Simon Capewell, of the department of public health at the University of Liverpool, said the advice should be 10 portions a day. ''Humans are designed to be omnivorous: a handful of nuts, seeds, fruit and the occasional antelope. We're not meant to be eating junk food.''

Researchers examined the eating habits of 65,000 people in England between 2001 and 2013.

They found that seven helpings a day of fruit or vegetables could reduce a person's overall risk of premature death by 42 per cent when compared with people who ate just one whole portion.

People who ate between five and seven portions a day had a 36 per cent reduced risk of death, those who ate three to five portions had a 29 per cent decreased risk and those who ate one to three helpings had a 14 per cent reduced risk.

Those with the highest intakes were also 25 per cent less likely to die from cancer and 31 per cent less likely to die from heart disease.

"This is exciting research in cancer prevention," said Australian Cancer Council Nutrition Program Manager, Clare Hughes.

"We know that eating the right amount of fruit and vegetables has a protective effect, but this large scale research shows the more fruit and veg that are consumed, the better chance you have of preventing cancer,"

Current Health Statistics show 51% of adults in NSW consume the right amount of fruit, while just 9% eat five serves of vegetables.

''We need to urgently examine seriously the proposal to increase recommended intake to seven a day,'' said Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow.

''To implement a seven-a-day message would be really challenging for many in society and would require governmental support such as subsidising the cost of fruit and vegetables, perhaps by taxing sugar-rich foods.''

The study also found that vegetables were far more beneficial than fruit. Each portion of vegetables lowered the risk of death by 16 per cent. However, each piece of fruit only lowered the chance of death by 4 per cent.

The authors said the findings lent support to the Australian government's advice of ''two plus five'' a day, which encourages people to eat two helpings of fruit and five of vegetables. Dr Alison Tedstone, the group's director of diet and obesity, said: ''Our focus remains on increasing overall consumption of fruit and vegetables to meet current recommendations.''

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Source: The Telegraph, London

Jun 09

Manage your Energy, Not your Time

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, June 09, 2014

In today's workforce, the level of performance expected from employees is growing at an exponential rate, increasing the pressure of everyday life. However, there comes a point when demanding people to work more efficiently for longer hours actually causes their performance to start declining. Too often people work late, go home exhausted and have a restless sleep. Only to return to work the next day even more tired, stressed and unhappy.

As much as we'd all love regular relaxing holidays and time off to sustain a healthy mind and body, the reality is most people spend a substantial amount of their time at work. However, there are some simple actions that can be applied in order to make your work environment just that little bit healthier.

The key is distinguishing the different between the time you have, versus the energy you have. Time is a limited resource. You either have the time or you don't. As much as we would sometimes like a few extra hours in the day to complete our tasks, it is not possible to extend time. Energy, on the other hand is a different matter. There are simple ways that you can enhance or replenish your energy, as well as things you can practice to build up a resilience to losing energy.

Physics defines energy as the capacity of a physical system to perform work and outlines the four sources of energy in humans to be the body, emotion, mind and spirit. Here are a few practices you can undertake to manage each source of energy.

Physical Energy:

- Get a better night's sleep. Try setting an earlier bedtime and reducing your alcohol and coffee intake.

- Exercise. Cardiovascular activity at least three times a week, along with strength training at least once a week can greatly reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing.

- Eat well. Rather than eating a big meal for lunch or dinner, try eating small meals and light snacks every three hours.

- Take breaks. They don't have to be long, but preferably away from your desk. You should take a break ever 90 – 120 minutes or when you start to notice your energy is flagging.

Emotional Energy:

- Calm negative emotions. If you start feeling irritable, anxious, insecure or impatient, try taking deep breaths through your abdominal.

- Think happy. You can boost optimistic thoughts by consciously noticing positive things in yourself and in others, and regularly expressing this appreciation.

- See through new lenses. If a situation is upsetting you, consider looking at it from the other person's perspective, reflect on how it will seem in six months or even try to see it as a learning experience. Distancing yourself from an issue can allow you to realise it may not be as difficult as it first appeared.

Mental Energy:

- Avoid distractions. If you need to complete a high-concentration task, ensure you are away from interruptions such as other people, phones and email.

- Be organised. Designate specific time to respond to your voice mails and emails. That way it won't seem too overwhelming throughout the day.

- Prioritise. Every night before bed, consider what the most important task to complete the next day is. The next morning, do this first, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.

Spiritual Energy:

- Do what you love. Think about the things that make you happy – and find the time to do them more.

- Down time. Spend the last 20 minutes of your trip home relaxing and closing your mind off from work. Then when you arrive home you can be completely there with the ones you love.

- Be the person you admire. Think about the qualities you appreciate in other people. Do you portray these qualities? If not, think of ways you can incorporate them into your life.

Rather than complain that there is just not enough time in the day, why not try focusing on increasing your energy instead. You may discover that with just a few new techniques, you can greatly increase productivity and find a greater fulfilment in your work.

Jun 02

Federal Budget Update 2014

Posted by Peter Marmara-Stewart at Monday, June 02, 2014

2014 Federal Budget Analysis

In one of the more highly anticipated Federal Budgets, the Government announced major changes that could warrant a review of your financial plans.

Note: The changes announced are proposals only and may or may not be made law.


- A Temporary Budget Repair Levy of 2% will be payable on taxable incomes over $180,000 pa for the next three financial years.

- Changes to HELP debts will increase the amount payable, and payments may need to be made at lower income levels.

- The Dependent Spouse and Mature Age Worker Tax Offsets will be abolished from 1 July 2014.

- People who make non-concessional (after-tax) Super contributions from 1 July 2013 that exceed the cap will have the option to withdraw the excess amount plus earnings on the excess.

- The timeframe for increasing the Superannuation Guarantee contribution rate to 12% will be amended.

- The Age Pension age will gradually increase to 70.

- A range of changes to Family Tax Benefit " Part A and B will reduce the number of people who are eligible and, for some, lower the entitlements.

- The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card thresholds will be indexed from 20 September 2014 and the definition of income will be expanded.


Temporary levy for higher earners

Date of effect: 1 July 2014

A Temporary Budget Repair Levy of 2% will be payable on taxable incomes over $180,000 pa for the next three financial years. This levy will effectively increase the top marginal tax rate to 49%, including the Medicare levy. From 1 July 2017, the top marginal rate will be 47%, including the Medicare levy.

HELP debt changes

Date of effect: 1 June 2016 and 1 July 2016

HELP debts will accrue interest at the 10 year Government bond rate from 1 June 2016, subject to a maximum rate of 6%. Currently, HELP debts are indexed to the Consumer Price Index. In addition, from 1 July 2016, HELP debts will start to be repayable from a lower income level.

Tax offsets to be abolished

Date of effect: 1 July 2014

The Dependent Spouse and Mature Age Worker Tax Offsets are currently being phased out. The phase out will cease and the 2013/14 tax year will be the last year in which these offsets will be available.


Excess non-concessional contribution withdrawals

Date of effect: 1 July 2013

Individuals who make contributions exceeding their non-concessional contribution cap from 1 July 2013 will have the option to withdraw the excess amount, plus earnings on the excess.

No tax will be payable on the excess amount withdrawn. However, withdrawn earnings will be taxed at the individual's marginal tax rate.

If no election is made to withdraw the excess contributions, the excess will be taxed under the existing regime at the top marginal tax rate.

Revised SG rate increase

Date of effect: 1 July 2014

While the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) rate will still increase to 12%, the schedule for this increase will be amended.

The Government confirmed that the legislated increase to 9.5% will take effect on 1 July 2014. It is proposed that the rate will remain at 9.5% for four years and from 1 July 2018, it will increase by 0.5% pa, before reaching 12% on 1 July 2022.


Increase in Age Pension age to 70

Date of effect: 1 July 2025

The Age Pension age will increase to 67.5 from 1 July 2025. It will then continue to rise by six months every two years, until the Pension age reaches 70 by 1 July 2035.

People born before 1 July 1958 will not be affected by this change. Currently, the Age Pension age is due to increase from 65 starting on 1 July 2017, and gradually reach 67 by 1 July 2023.

Age Pension eligibility age by birth date

People born between

Eligible for Age Pension at age

1 July 1952 and 31 December 1953


1 January 1954 and 30 June 1955


1 July 1955 and 31 December 1956


1 January 1957 and 30 June 1958


1 July 1958 and 31 December 1959


1 January 1960 and 30 June 1961


1 July 1961 and 31 December 1962


1 January 1963 and 30 June 1964


1 July 1964 and 31 December 1965


1 January 1966 and later


Increasing cost of medical care

Date of effect: 1 July 2015

A patient contribution of $7 may be charged from 1 July 2015, for:

- general practitioner consultations, and

- out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services.

Holders of concessions cards and children under 16 years of age can only be charged for the first 10 visits in a year. Visits beyond the first 10 will require no patient contribution.

Family Tax Benefit changes

Date of effect: Various

A number of amendments have been announced in relation to eligibility and payment rates for the Family Tax Benefit (FTB), and associated supplements and allowances.

Payment Rates

From 1 July 2014, the maximum and base rates of the FTB Part A and B will be frozen until 1 July 2016.

The FTB Part A and B end of year supplements will be reduced from 1 July 2015. The supplements will reduce from:

- $726.35 to $600 for FTB Part A, and
- $354.05 to $300 for FTB Part B.

Eligibility Thresholds

The FTB Part A per child add-on, which currently increases the higher income free threshold for each additional child, will be removed from 1 July 2015.

Under existing arrangements, a family may qualify for FTB Part B if the primary income earner has income up to $150,000 pa. This will be reduced to $100,000 pa from 1 July 2015.

Eligibility FTB Part B

From 1 July 2015, payment of FTB Part B will be limited to families whose youngest child is under the age of six. Families already in receipt of FTB Part B, whose youngest child is aged six or over on 30 June 2015 will remain eligible for FTB Part B under the transitional measures for two years.

Other Changes

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card indexation

Date of effect: 20 September 2014

The income thresholds for eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) will be indexed from 20 September 2014 to the Consumer Price Index. Indexation may allow additional people to become eligible for this card.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card income definition

Date of effect: 1 January 2015

The definition of income for the CSHC will be expanded. From 1 January 2015, the income from Superannuation pensions will be assessed using pre-determined rates not the actual income earned. Income from these pensions is currently not included in the definition of income. Grandfathering rules will apply to those already holding the CSHC.

Cessation of the Seniors Supplement

Date of effect: 20 September 2014

From 20 September 2014, the Seniors Supplement will no longer be payable to holders of the CSHC. However, holders of the card will still receive the Clean Energy Supplement.

The current annual rates of Seniors and Clean Energy supplements are:

From 1 July 2015, a new Family Tax Benefit Allowance will be made available to single parents receiving the maximum rate of FTB Part A, whose youngest child is aged 6 to 12. This will apply from the time they become ineligible for FTB Part B. An additional payment of $750 will be paid for each child aged 6 to 12.



Couple (each)

Seniors Supplement



Clean Energy Supplement



If you have any queries relating to the Budget Announcements, please contact Peter Marmara-Stewart.

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