2020 has been a very challenging time for businesses, with COVID-19, bushfires and drought taking an unprecedented toll on many. While tax and super may not be on the top of your mind during these times, we want to make it as easy as possible for you and are here to help and support you. We know that most of you use a tax agent to prepare and lodge your returns – reach out to them if you need help.
You may be able to reduce your tax bill if you are eligible for concessions such as instant asset write-off or immediate deductions for prepaid expenses. You may also be able to save time by estimating the value of your trading stock instead of doing a stocktake. Find out more about the different types of concessions at ato.gov.au/concessionsataglance
You can claim a deduction for most of the costs of running your business. But it’s also important to remember the three golden rules so you only claim what you’re entitled to:
The method you use to calculate your motor vehicle expenses depends on your business structure and the type of vehicle. For example, if you operate your franchise as a sole trader or partnership and the vehicle is a car, you can use the cents per kilometre method or the logbook method. However, if you operate your franchise as a company or a trust, you can’t use either of these methods and can only claim the actual costs based on receipts. Read more at ato.gov.au/motorvehicleexpenses
If your home has been your main place of business (for example, if you have used your home as your main place of business because of COVID-19), you can claim deductions for the portion of expenses that relate to running your business. Your business structure also affects how and what you can claim. Find out more at ato.gov.au/homebasedbusiness
Include all your income in your income tax return, including cash, coupons, EFTPOS, online, credit or debit card transactions, and income from other platforms such as PayPal, WeChat or Alipay. You may also have income from business assets, other business activities or capital gains. Getting your income and expenses right, and keeping good records of them, will also help you keep track of your turnover and cash flow.
It has been an extra challenging year and many businesses may find themselves making a loss for the first time. If your business makes a loss, you can generally carry forward that loss and claim a deduction for your business in a future year. How you can claim a tax loss depends on your business structure. Visit ato.gov.au/businesslosses for more information.
If you take money out of, or use your company assets for private purposes, you need to report these transactions appropriately and keep proper records. There are different reporting and record-keeping requirements depending on how you have done it (for example, through your salary, a fringe benefit or a loan from the company). Find out more at ato.gov.au/Division7A
JobKeeper payments are taxable and need to be included in tax returns. If you’re a sole trader who has received JobKeeper payments, you need to include the payments as business income in your individual tax return. If your business is a partnership, trust or company, and you received JobKeeper payments, you don’t need to include it as assessable income in your individual tax return – but you need to report it as part of your business income.
Your workers who have received JobKeeper payments won’t need to do anything different as the payments will be included in their regular income statement that you provide as an employer.
You don’t pay tax on the Cash Flow Boost credits as they are non-assessable non-exempt income, but you may need to report the amount for the purpose of other income tests. This is different depending on your business structure so talk with your tax agent for more detail.
It’s important that you understand what records you need to keep, and they are complete and accurate. You need to keep most records for five years, store them in a safe place, and they must be in English (or easily converted to English). Check out ato.gov.au/recordkeeping. You can also use our record keeping evaluation tool at ato.gov.au/ recordkeepingevaluation to help you check how well you’re keeping your business records so you can make improvements in the future.
Good cash flow means having enough cash at the right time to pay bills and meet your tax, super and employer obligations. You can prepare a cash flow projection (find out how at ato.gov.au/managecashflow) to help you see your likely cash position at any time. You can also talk to a registered tax professional about managing your cash flow and they can help you work through our cash flow coaching kit.
In tough times like these, it’s more important than ever to look after yourself and the ones you love. We have information available at ato.gov.au/smallbizmentalhealth. You can also check out the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s My Business Health web portal at www.asbfeo.gov.au/my-business-health for practical tips.
If you are having difficulty meeting your tax and super obligations, we can work with you to develop tailored payment plans and defer lodgments and payments.
We want to work with you to solve problems before they escalate; it’s never too late to speak with us. If you’ve been affected by COVID-19, or a disaster such as bushfire or drought, and need some help with reconstructing records, we have information available at ato.gov.au/reconstructing-your-tax-records.
If you need some extra help with your tax and super affairs, you can contact us or your registered tax professional. We’re here to help.
Visit ato.gov.au/SBsupport our one-stop shop for tools and services to help make it easier for you to get your tax and super right.
Andrew Watson is an Assistant Commissioner in the Small Business area of the ATO. His role involves engaging and supporting small businesses so it’s easier for them to meet their tax and super obligations, and they get the help and support they need. He is also focused on driving the ATO’s digital services and helping small businesses manage their cash flow.