• Understanding constructive dismissal

    Posted on July 26th, 2016 admin No comments

    Constructive dismissal, in effect forced resignation, occurs when the behaviour or conduct of an employer is so harmful, adverse or unfriendly to their employment relationship with an employee that the employee cannot be expected to deal with it.

    Examples include an employer:

    • expressly suggesting that an employee resign

    • actively making it difficult or impossible for an employee to fulfil their role

    • failing to provide a safe or healthy working environment

    • imposing unauthorised and detrimental changes to the employee’s contract, such as a demotion, change of working hours or relocation

    Employees must be able to prove that their employer’s actions were the primary contributing factor that resulted in their resignation and that the employee would have remained employed if the alleged conduct did not take place.

    The employee’s resignation must occur immediately after the conduct complained of. Otherwise, the employee could be said to have accepted the continued existence of the employment contract.

    Constructive dismissal often creates the basis of dismissal-related claims in Australia and New Zealand, such as unfair dismissal or a breach of the Fair Work Act.

  • Considerations for purchasing a property through an SMSF

    Posted on July 26th, 2016 admin No comments

    It is vital for those with a self-managed super fund (SMSF) to carry out all the necessary checks before purchasing a property in their SMSF, especially when borrowing is involved.

    Investment strategy
    The SMSF’s investment strategy must be considered. If the purchase of a property will cause the fund’s other investments to be out of alignment, trustees should consider amending the investment strategy before purchasing a property.

    Trustees need to consider whether the fund will have the resources to purchase the property. For example, will the SMSF purchase the property using its available resources or would it be wiser to purchase a property of greater value using borrowed funds.

    Once trustees have decided on the property to be purchased, the next step is to consider the structure in which the property will be owned. For example, SMSF trustees can own the property or organise to for their SMSF to own units in a unit trust that will own the property.

    After deciding on the structure in which the SMSF trustee will own the property, the next decision is often whether the fund will enter into an SMSF limited recourse borrowing arrangement (LRBA). Trustees should determine whether the borrowing will be from a bank, another financial institution or a related party. The amount available for purchase under the borrowing also needs to be determined.

    Once the SMSF has purchased an asset like property, trustees need to consider what would happen in the event of the death of a member. For example, the property may need to be sold or transferred to beneficiaries. Or, if a surviving spouse is to be the recipient of the death benefits, then the funds could remain in the SMSF to provide a pension to the surviving spouse.

    When determining what would happen in the event of the death of a member, trustees should also consider other events, such as the disability of a member. Planning for this should take place at the time of purchase, as SMSFs can incur significant financial difficulties if a member becomes disabled.

  • Transferring the seniors and pensioners tax offset

    Posted on July 26th, 2016 admin No comments

    The Seniors and Pensioners Tax Offset (SAPTO) is a tax offset for retirees who are at the Service Pension age or the Age Pension age or older.

    Those who have received SAPTO may be eligible to transfer unused portions of their offset to their spouse.

    When transferring unused SAPTO, both the receiving individual and their spouse must be eligible to claim the offset and be an eligible couple either:

    • living apart due to illness with a rebate amount of $2,040 each

    • living together with a rebate amount of $1,602 each

    If an individual receiving SAPTO has a spouse with a taxable income greater than $6,000, the ATO calculates their unused SAPTO amount with the formula:

    The spouse’s rebate amount for the year – ((The spouse’s taxable income for the year – $6,000) x 0.15).

    If an individual receiving SAPTO has a spouse who is a foreign resident and their taxable income is greater than zero, the ATO calculates the spouse’s unused SAPTO amount with the following formula:

    The spouse’s rebate amount for the year – (The spouse’s taxable income for the year x marginal tax rate).

    If a spouse is a foreign resident and has received an Australian government pension or allowance, the ATO calculates the spouse’s unused SAPTO amount as if they were a resident.

  • Speed up customer payments

    Posted on July 19th, 2016 admin No comments

    Managing debtors is often a cause of frustration for many small business owners.

    Unpaid invoices can seriously disrupt cash flow. Between chasing late payments and keeping track of invoices, debt collection can be a headache.

    Fortunately, there are ways to speed up your payments with a few simple adjustments to your invoicing system you can increase your chances of getting paid promptly. Here are five ways to speed up your customer payments:

    Check contact details
    Ensure the location and contact details are accurate and up-to-date so your invoices reach the right person. Be sure to quote any relevant customer reference number they have provided to you, or you have provided to them. Asking your customers what they require on their invoice will save time and prevent you from re-invoicing due to amendments.

    Set payment terms
    Set standard payment terms for when you expect to be paid after the invoice is sent out, for example, payment within 30 days. When setting your payment terms consider types of payments, credit limits and early payment incentives to encourage customers to pay early or on time.

    Respond to invoice queries immediately
    Great communication with your customers can make all the difference when it comes to getting paid on time. Address invoice queries immediately and keep your customers informed of any changes in billing or status on their work etc.

    Provide multiple payment options
    Providing customers with a range of payment options, such as online and phone payments, will increase your chances of getting paid quickly. Be sure to include step-by-step instructions on the invoice to make it simple for your customers to pay you.

    Charge late fees
    Late payments should be discouraged by charging a late fee to increase your customer’s urgency to pay on time. The invoice should clearly state your right to set a late fee for overdue invoices and state exactly what the fee percentage is and when it applies.

  • Dealing with unhappy customers

    Posted on July 19th, 2016 admin No comments

    Dealing with unhappy customers can be challenging but with the right approach you may be able to resolve the situation and improve your overall relationship with them.

    Here are five tips for dealing with dissatisfied customers:

    Don’t take it personally
    When dealing with an unhappy customer, set aside your own feelings and do not take their criticism personally. Remember the customer is displeased with the performance or quality of your product or service, not you.

    Listen actively
    Listening to your customers’ grievances is crucial. Instead of jumping to conclusions or trying to solve the situation straight away, give the customer a chance to tell their story and vent. Pay close attention to their problem and summarise their compliant when they are finished talking to show you were listening and acknowledge their concerns.

    Expressing empathy for their problem will go a long way in demonstrating your understanding and care for their issues. Body language is especially important here; maintain eye contact, good posture and keep your arms uncrossed. It is important to apologise for the problem regardless of whether the complaint is legitimate or irrelevant.

    Offer a solution
    Present your customer with a solution; if they resist your proposed solution ask them what would make them happy instead. In most cases, customers will be happy you have tried to correct the problem.

    Follow up
    Once the problem has been resolved, follow up over the next few days to ensure they are still happy with the resolution.

  • Preparing for proposed super changes

    Posted on July 19th, 2016 admin No comments

    The Coalition resuming power in the 2016 Federal election has created a number of challenges for SMSF trustees, who now have to deal with the super reforms unveiled in the 2016 Federal Budget.

    While the changes do not come into effect until 1 July 2017, and some may be modified before this date, preparing for them is the challenge confronting trustees.

    The first changes are those to the concessional and non-concessional contribution rules. For concessional contributions, the annual contribution limit for this year is $30,000 for those under the age 49, or $35,000 for those aged 49 or more. From 1 July 2017, the limit becomes $25,000 for everyone.

    Therefore, those who can afford it should ensure that they utilise the concessional contribution entitlement this year, as the lower contribution limit will reduce a person’s ability to salary sacrifice or make personal tax-deductible contributions to super.

    The Coalition also introduced a $500,000 lifetime cap on non-concessional contributions. This limit is set to replace the previous annual limit of $180,000, or $540,000 every three years, and will be indexed in increments of $50,000. If this after-tax contribution change is introduced as proposed, it will apply from 1 July 2007.

    Therefore, if a person has contributed more than $500,000 to super between July 2007 and to May 3, they are not required to withdraw that amount. However, those who have contributed more than $500,000 after May 3 must remove any excess above this amount to avoid facing a tax penalty. An ATO release authority is needed to allow excess funds to be withdrawn from the fund.

  • Work-related items that are exempt from FBT

    Posted on July 19th, 2016 admin No comments

    There are a number of employee benefits that are exempt from fringe benefits tax (FBT). They include the following work-related items:
    – portable electronic devices (mobile phones, laptops, tablets, portable printers and GPS navigation receivers)
    – computer software
    – protective clothing
    – briefcases
    – tools of trade

    The FBT exemption is limited to items that are primarily for use in the employee’s employment or one item per FBT year for items that have an identical function (unless the item is a replacement item).

    From 1 April 2016, the exemption extends to all small businesses that give employees more than one work-related portable device in an FBT year, even if the devices have substantially identical functions.

    To be eligible for the exemption, small businesses must be in operation for at least one income year that starts or ends in the relevant FBT year.

  • Hiring the right person

    Posted on July 13th, 2016 admin No comments

    Finding the right workers can be a challenge. Since much of a small business’s success depends on the quality of the people they hire, this is a crucial task.

    Here are five things to consider when hiring that should increase your chances of success:

    Write a clear job description
    It is difficult to recruit the right person if you are not sure what job you want them to do. Start by writing down all the tasks you need done. Next, think about the attributes, skills and experience needed. Be realistic. It is unlikely that you will find a great salesperson and bookkeeper in a single person.

    Allow adequate time
    Start the candidate-hunting process as early as possible. The more time you have, the less you will feel pressured to hire an unqualified candidate just to fill a position. Generally, it is better to leave a job open than to hire the wrong person.

    During interviews, don’t do all the talking

    It is appropriate to explain the job, and in many cases, to try and sell the job to the candidate, but most of the time the candidate should be talking. Most candidates will be a little nervous so have a few questions prepared in advance that ease the candidate. Consider asking what about the job appealed to them, what particular skills they have, and what they did not like about their last job.

    Understand the person
    Ask questions that help you get a feel for the applicant’s personality and attitude. Be careful not to ask questions that are or may be illegal, for instance, asking whether a candidate is planning on having a child or asking their age. It is acceptable to ask about hobbies, interests, where they grew up and what their long-term goals are. Diverse interests usually mean a candidate brings more life experiences to a job.

    Check references
    Even if you have no reason to doubt the honesty of an applicant, you can learn a lot by checking references. Use the reference check as a way to learn how to work more effectively with your new employee. Do not just ask about how hard they worked. Try questions like: What kind of training would you suggest to make the applicant an even better employee? What type of tasks required greater supervision? What duties did the candidate particularly enjoy or do well?

  • Reducing the risk of refund fraud

    Posted on July 13th, 2016 admin No comments

    Refund fraud occurs where tax returns, activity statements and other documents are deliberately falsified in order to claim a tax refund a taxpayer is not entitled to.

    Fraudulent claims can be lodged by individuals on their own account or third parties on behalf of others. Often, this can involve identity crime, where taxpayer identities are used by third parties to make fraudulent claims for personal gain.

    Some examples of refund fraud are deliberately over-claiming deductions, offsets, or expenses by providing false or misleading information, understating income and/or providing fictitious payment summary details, providing false information in a business activity statement and making claims through fraudulent registrations or using false or stolen identities.

    The ATO have a range of controls and systems in place to detect potential refund fraud, these include:

    • analytical models that use behaviour and statistical algorithms to analyse information on income tax returns, business activity statements and other tax forms lodged

    • sharing data and intelligence with their partner agencies

    • obtaining information about suspected fraud from the community and other government agencies

  • Simple ways to make meetings more effective

    Posted on July 6th, 2016 admin No comments

    Business meetings can often be a drag. Some go longer than they are supposed to and others involve people talking so much that the meeting ends up completely off topic.

    But not all meetings have to be boring or time-wasting. When conducted properly, meetings can make everyone’s job much easier. Including breaks, having a short ‘walk and talk outside’ and following a tight starting schedule are all ways that can make meetings more efficient, productive and even a little bit of fun for those in attendance.

    Here are five simple ways to regain control to have more productive meetings in your workplace:

    Set a clear schedule ahead of time: Since it is always helpful when people are fully prepared for a meeting, those in charge of organising a meeting should send out a clear outline of the meeting well in advance to those attending to give them time to prepare.

    Assign who will be in charge: It is important to pick someone to lead the meeting who is comfortable and will be able to keep the meeting on track. Those who are trusted and respected by employees often make the best candidates.

    Have a device-free meeting: Make it a rule to have a ‘device-free’ meeting to put distractions like emails, phone calls and notifications to one side.

    Keep the meeting small: Having too many people at a meeting can render it ineffective. Only invite those who will make an important contribution to the meeting.

    Take your meeting outside: If there is no paperwork involved, try having a ‘walk and talk’ meeting outside. Alternatively, you could organise the meeting to take place at a local cafe for a relaxed, comfortable setting to talk.

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