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Strengthening your business

In this current situation of 'unknowns', in our world and business environments, we must take specific measures where possible, to ensure a sustainable future beyond unexpected periods of crisis. We have developed some very specific actions you can take to protect and minimise negative impacts on your business:

ü  Ensure your employees are made aware of and kept up to date on the latest government advice and enforce the need for stringent personal hygiene practices in your workplace.   Re-iterate health and safety practices and provide adequate infection control items such as hand sanitiser for all to access.

ü  Revise staff travel plans and consider alternate methods of engagement for these events.  Also review seating arrangements in the workplace to ensure that a safe distance can be maintained between employees.

ü  Contact your insurer to understand your insurances.

ü  Talk to your banker and discuss the possibility for a suspension of loan re-payments in the short-term.

ü  Free up your working capital – access term deposits, increase overdrafts and credit card limits just in case.  Good business planning ensures measures are in place for a rainy day – so now is the time to make sure you can access these funds to continue your operation and delivery of your services where safe and possible to do so.

ü  Implement systems to allow employees to work from home whenever possible for continuity.  Full work-from-home scenarios allow your business to continue operating, your customers to receive a continuity of service, and your employees to feel a sense of security and a positive place to focus their energies.  Of course it's important to assess IT requirements for offsite access to files and records such as cloud based access.  You should also consider alternate means of doing business that allow for interactions that avoid the need for physical transactions, meeting and exchanges.

ü  Talk to your clients. Email them, write a letter, do a post on social media or better still, give your long-standing clients a call.  Let them know you are open for business and check in on them too.  Let them know of any changes that are happening with your business, and how these changes may affect them.   Give them options on how they can continue to use your services.

ü  Review internal communication systems to allow for regular contact with the team. Investigate the use of systems such as Skype, Zoom & Google Meet to ensure your team stay connected, focus and can operate in an autonomous environment.  Consider internet access and bandwidth of your employees at home to deliver these services.  Access security considerations for this way of doing business.  Consider your back-up system and that it is adequate for your alternate working circumstances.  Do employees have access to suitable devices that are approved for network access?

ü  Halt purchases of all non-essential stock.  Look at what you need to do business, ensure you have ample stocks of items that are in high demand and consider alternate arrangement such as home delivery and remote customer payment for purchases.  Consider alternate ways of delivering your services – video conferencing, user pays access to on-line instructional videos and classes or resource packs.

ü  Consider disruptions to your supply chain and adjust your procurement arrangements as necessary. Investigate alternative domestic or international suppliers.  Have them pre-qualified and outsourced in case primary suppliers can no longer provide support.

ü  Negotiate delayed invoice payments to large business customers.

ü  Pay bills to small, local businesses - they need money too! 

ü  Request early payment terms from your large business customers, especially government – you might be surprised at the result.

ü  Check the leave balances for each employee and advise them to take leave where possible, this will not only assist with reducing overheads, it will also allow you to stagger work force availability as needed.

ü  Avoid bill shock. Cut back on discretionary expenses and minimise waste and overhead costs – electricity, water etc.  Consider revised budgets and multiple budgets based on the variety of possible scenarios so you can adapt as needed. 

ü  Ensure premises, stock, vehicles and tools are protected from theft. 

ü  Fill up your essential plant and fleet if you can and secure bulk fuel storage tanks if applicable.

ü  Identify your essential staff, keep them across what is happening and give them a voice; help them to help you keep your business running.

ü  Have you conducted a thorough risk assessment and identified areas of impact across your business?   If not, now is the time to do it!  Consider;

  •       People
  •       Processes
  •       Financials.  

    Measures should be implemented where possible to minimise your exposure to these risks and mitigate them.

ü  Investigate and access available funding packages.  At times such as these, the government often makes available funding packages such as the stimulus package.  The intent is to ensure a certain level of continuity for business and our economy overall so make sure you are aware of these and utilise what you are entitled to.

ü  Talk to your accountant so your business can withstand disruption and find out if your business qualifies for the recently announced Stimulus package. 

The complexity of Australia's tax system

Australia's taxation system is excessively complex for a nation with a relatively small population base. This complicated system is most likely a product of our electoral system, and the reluctance of governments to make changes, which historically are not well accepted by their constituents.

Our income tax legislation was originally drafted in 1936 and you may be surprised to learn that a large part of this initial legislation is still in place today. Various governments have undertaken reviews of our tax system with the Tax Law Improvement Program introduced in 1997.

Instead of rewriting the legislation and starting with a blank canvas, the 1936 legislation was amended and adapted with clauses inserted to update the law. This process has continued over the years resulting in a bulky volume of information resembling an old piece of furniture covered in plaster and tape with bits of timber nailed onto the sides to hold it together.

I started my career in the mid 1980s and during that decade I saw major taxation changes that substantially affected how businesses handled their accounting processes. We had the introduction of Capital Gains Tax, new substantiation rules to support deductions, the introduction of Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT as we fondly refer to it), plus the implementation of the imputation system; just to name a few. The next big change was the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July 2000. Is your head hurting yet?

This process has created a complicated set of laws that can take years, and sometimes decades, to be tested. The Australian Taxation Office is aware of these issues and will often release public rulings, interpretive decisions and other documents which, in essence, outline their interpretation of the law. It doesn't mean they are correct, but if you follow their guidelines, they won't take action if ultimately the courts rule otherwise.

This brings me to the current problems with our tax system. My experience in dealing with the tax office over many years has highlighted that at times even they become confused in interpreting the law. As well as having a complicated taxation system, we also have a situation whereby governments are constantly under pressure with allocating resources.

So we end up with an overly complicated system being monitored by an under-resourced department in an ever-changing environment. To combat this problem, the Federal Government ensures the penalty regime is sufficiently scary to stop taxpayers pushing boundaries.

In my opinion, this can create an unfair marketplace where taxpayers, either purposely or naively, do not comply with the law as it is interpreted.  It can create a competitive advantage to those who push the boundaries, but only until they get caught.

If you're a punter and you want to test your luck by either doing the wrong thing or testing the law, then the odds of either getting caught or challenged are probably in your favour. But beware, the stick wielded by the Australian Taxation Office is a big one, and if you get caught or lose the argument, it will hurt!

Get in contact

  • Cairns Office

    First Floor, 280-286 Sheridan Street
    PO Box 993N
    Cairns North QLD 4870

    Phone: 07 4044 5100
    Fax: 07 4044 5199
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  • Brisbane Office

    Level 5, 320 Adelaide Street
    GPO Box 111
    Brisbane, QLD 4001

    Phone: 07 3010 9751
    Fax: 07 3010 9001
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