Melissa Browne EOFY Tax Preparation Interview

Melissa Browne EOFY Tax Preparation Interview

Melissa Browne EOFY Tax Preparation Interview

Officeworks has partnered with H&R Block this end of financial year to help both SMEs and individuals make the most out of their tax time opportunity.

A key insight which may particularly interest you is that whilst tax time is seen as an exciting opportunity for SMEs only 31% have started investing more thought into what they purchase as part of the $20k tax break, meaning that SME's could be losing out on simple tax benefits.

Additionally, 35% of Australians say that they begrudge tax time and leave their preparations until the last minute, which could result in losing them money.

Interview with Melissa Browne, Tax Expert from Accounting and Taxation Advantage (A&TA) and author

Question: Why have you partnered with Officeworks for the new financial year period?

Melissa Browne: Making the decision to partner with Officeworks on an ongoing basis was a no brainer for me – we both share the same commitment to supporting small business owners and as the research shows, end of financial year can be a particularly overwhelming time for them. Further to that, I actually use Officeworks as a supplier for all my businesses, so it's an authentic pairing.

Question: What should we be aware of when lodging our tax return?

Melissa Browne: There are a few things I think you need to be aware of:
Keep receipts: while not all claims require documentation when submitting, you have to be able to prove and justify claims if you are ever audited by the tax department. At tax time, people are often mislead into thinking some things are tax deductable and others are not, claiming items without receipts or that do not directly benefit your business. You need to be able to justify any claims you've made if ever you receive an audit from the tax department.

Know your stuff: using excuses such as -but I didn't realise' isn't a reasonable justification for claiming items you are not entitled to. Before you complete your tax return, read up on what is tax deductible and what is not to avoid penalties in the future.

Question: Should we always have a professional lodge our tax return?

Melissa Browne: If your tax return is simple and you haven't earned above the tax threshold then Etax is perfect for you (as you are guaranteed to receive all of your tax back). I've often found when taxpayers have a seemingly simple return; they're often surprised at what accountants can dig up to claim. Of course, if you're a small business, or you have a rental property with a more complex tax situation then it's advised to use a professional so that you maximise your claim and minimise your tax.

Question: If we do choose to lodge our own tax return, what should we be aware of?

Melissa Browne: The most important thing to do is your own research and not rely on office lunchtime chat to work out what you should and shouldn't claim. The ATO releases occupation guides each year that outline what you might be able to claim so use these as your starting point when you're completing your return.

Question: What can we all claim but most don't?

Melissa Browne: Most of us are working from home nowadays – whether that's an hour a week or a few hours a night. This means we can claim lighting and heating and potentially a percentage of our internet. Other claims people often forget is that their phones are more than phones and if you're using them for emails, notetaking or time tracking, then you may be able to claim a percentage of your bills, phone accessories and apps. What I'd also suggest is doing an audit of your home office in the lead up to June 30 – this includes stationery supplies, technology and furniture. If you're running low or in need of an upgrade, I'd suggest making a trip in-store or jumping online because nearly everything at Officeworks could be deductible.

Question: Can you explain the SMEs?

Melissa Browne: SME's are Small Medium Enterprises and simply means small to medium sized businesses.

Question: What are the simple tax benefits most small business doesn't use?

Melissa Browne: In my experience, most businesses are unaware of the majority of what they can claim. In fact, Officeworks and H&R Block research conducted this year uncovered the fact that a large percentage of small business owners are not aware of what they can claim as part of the $20,000 immediate asset write off, or aren't taking advantage of it. SME's are able to claim everything from work tools and computer equipment, to food and accommodation when travelling overnight for work. Again, it's really important to conduct an audit in the lead up to June 30 – everything from workspace essentials to travel goods at Officeworks could be tax-deductible in your line of work.

Question: How can we prepare ourselves for EOFY 2017?

Melissa Browne: The short answer is to ensure you prepare and commit to recording all expenses as you go. The start of a new financial year is a great chance to do a health check on your business. Take the time to get your books in order and make sure you're in the right structure (sole trader, partnership, company or trust). Also, take advantage of great, low cost, cloud based solutions such a Xero to save you time and money when tracking your income and expenses. Finally, study upon what you're entitled to claim by talking to an accountant now rather than the end of the year. It's all about being proactive rather than being reactive.

Interview by Brooke Hunter


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