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  • Tax time tips for small business

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is lending a helping hand to nearly four million small businesses to get their tax right this tax time.

    Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said the ATO understands that small businesses have a lot on their plate with the day-to-day running of their business. “That’s why we’re focusing on addressing common issues we see when small businesses lodge their returns so that we can support them to get it right,” he said.

    ATO focus areas

    The top 3 issues that we see when small businesses lodge their tax returns are:

    1. Failing to report all of their income
    2. Not having the necessary records to prove small business expenses claims.
    3. Claiming private expenses as business expenses

    “For example, you’re a sole trader landscape gardener who usually works in Perth but took on a job in Broome. While you’re up in Broome, you do some sightseeing. That’s a private expense and you can’t claim the cost of that in your tax return,” Mr Holt said.

    He said there are three golden rules to remember about claiming deductions.

    “One, the expense must have been for your business not yourself. Two if you use something for business and private purposes, you can only claim the portion that is related to your business, and three, you need a record to prove it.”

    New factsheets to address common claims

    This year the ATO has developed fact sheets to help small businesses claiming three of the most common expenses:

    Mr Holt encouraged small businesses and tax practitioners with small business clients to use the fact sheets to find out more about what can be claimed. “They have practical examples of how these rules apply to everyday small businesses – from home-based photography studios to someone who needs to travel quite a bit for their business. Our priority is to make it as easy as possible for small businesses to get it right,” he said.

    Keep accurate records

    The top tip for small business operators is to ensure that your records are kept up-to-date. Good record keeping will help you complete and lodge your tax returns, manage cash flow, meet your tax obligations and understand how your business is doing.

    Mr Holt said when we see businesses operating well, we see that they get the basics right. “They keep good records, they run their business with the help of technology (such as point of sale software and accounting systems), and they seek advice from a tax professional when they need it.”

    “Our tools also help small businesses keep accurate records. For example, sole traders can use the myDeductions tool in the ATO app to keep records of their income and expenses. Then, at tax time, they can send a copy to their registered tax agent or upload their data into their tax return.” Mr Holt said.

    “In addition to making it easier to meet tax, super and salary obligations, good records mean that businesses can measure their performance against the ATO’s small business benchmarks,” Mr Holt said.

    Benchmark data for more than 100 industries is available by using the business performance check tool in the ATO app.

    For more information on what records are needed for tax returns visit ato.gov.au/taxreturnrecords or use our record keeping evaluation tool to evaluate how well a small business is keeping business records.

    The instant asset write-off has been increased and extended

    Small businesses are also entitled to a range of tax concessions at tax time. One of these is the instant asset write-off, which allows eligible small businesses to claim an immediate deduction for the business portion of assets that cost under a certain threshold. More information about the instant asset write-off and other small business concessions is available at ato.gov.au/concessionsataglance

    Know where to get help and support

    Most small businesses use a registered tax agent for tax advice and to lodge their tax return. We also offer a range of learning resources for small business operators to understand their tax and super obligations and get it right, including small business webinars and workshopsExternal Link.

    Small businesses can chat with us one on one through our Live chatExternal Link and After-hours call back serviceExternal Link. We can also answer general questions via social media or you can join the discussion in our peer-to-peer forum, ATO CommunityExternal Link.

    Visit ato.gov.au/sbsupport for an overview of our tools, services and assistance.

    Last modified: 14 Jun 2019QC 59314