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Choosing the best loan

Getting a good loan can save you thousands of dollars in fees and interest, so it is important to shop around for the best deal.

There are many considerations when choosing a loan. After you have decided on the amount you need to borrow, the features you need and the time frame to pay it back you should consider the following:

Interest rates
The interest rate is most likely the first thing you will want to know when searching for a loan. You will need to decide on whether you prefer a variable or fixed rate. If you decide on a variable rate, account for potential interest rate rises. Some lenders offer ‘honeymoon’ rates for the first 1 or 2 years of your loan where the rates are low then rise after the ‘honeymoon’ period ends. If you take this option, make sure you will be able to make repayments at the higher rates.

The comparison rate
The comparison rate is the interest rate plus all the fees and charges you will pay on the loan. Comparison rates help you work out the true cost of a loan and can assist you in comparing the cost of different loans. In addition to the comparison rate, you should compare the features of each loan, i.e., the ability to make extra repayments and so forth.

Using a broker
It may be beneficial for you to use a broker to find the most suitable loan, especially for larger loans like a mortgage. A broker will negotiate with financial institutions on your behalf. They can offer a variety of options, help select a loan and manage the process until settlement. Compare brokers and find out about their fee structures before deciding.

Posted on 20 September '17 by , under money. No Comments.

Digital marketing flaws to avoid

One of the best ways to market your brand in today’s business climate is digitally. However, without understanding the online environment, you can lose business. Consider the following flaws to avoid:

Not setting goals
Failing to set goals can leave your marketing strategy without any real drive or direction. Setting goals are necessary, not only for appreciating the direction in which your marketing strategy is headed but also for understanding if you and your team are meeting the marketing goals that have been set out. Without clear goals in place, evaluating success in your marketing plan will be virtually impossible and it is difficult to allocate responsibility for how effective or ineffective the marketing strategy is.

Failing to review
Analysing how effective the marketing strategy is extremely important; without doing so, understanding what is working best to drive business becomes difficult. Reviewing analytics in particular for digital marketing is one of the most efficient ways to discover how strong the marketing strategy is. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram provide business pages with an analytics tool that gives valuable information about the content you are sharing. Google Analytics is another tool that can be used to analyse how many clicks and how web users are engaging with your website. There is a wide range of software that can be utilised to track how your digital marketing is faring, so do some research and choose the program that will best serve the needs of your business.

Focusing on quantity not quality
A big mistake many businesses make online in relation to marketing is posting too much content. While it is necessary to get your business seen and heard online, it is counterproductive and can be harmful to focus on posting often rather than posting great quality content. One of the quickest ways to lose followers and potential customers is to bombard them with your content, particularly if it is not of a high quality or giving them something they can’t find value in.

Not mobile-friendly
In 2016, internet usage on a mobile device was greater than internet usage on a desktop for the first time. This trend has continued to grow into 2017, indicating the importance of making your digital marketing strategy one that is mobile friendly. Statistics show that your digital marketing strategy is most likely to be viewed on a mobile phone and if they are not compatible you are losing potential business and in turn, losing profit.

Posted on 20 September '17 by , under business. No Comments.

How does the super guarantee charge work?

Employers who do not pay the minimum amount of super guarantee for their employee(s) by the due date may have to pay the super guarantee charge (SGC).

The charge is made up of super guarantee shortfall amounts including any choice liability calculated on your employee’s salary or wages, interest on those amounts (currently 10 per cent) and an administration fee ($20 per employee, per quarter).

Employers must report and rectify the missing payment by lodging an SGC statement by the due date and paying the SGC to the ATO. Employers may be able to use a late payment to reduce the amount of SGC, however, they must still lodge an SGC statement and pay the balance of the SGC to the ATO.

The ATO prioritises the collection of unpaid SGC debts. If an employee reports an employer for unpaid super, the ATO will investigate on their behalf.

Employers must lodge their SGC statement and pay the charge by the due date.

Quarter Period Due date
1 1 July – 30 September 28 November
2 1 October – 31 December 28 February
3 1 January – 31 March 28 May
4 1 April – 30 June 28 August

If a due date falls on a weekend or public holiday, the payment can be made the next working day.

Once the statement has been lodged and the SGC is paid, the ATO will transfer the super guarantee shortfall amount and any interest to the employee’s chosen super fund.

Posted on 20 September '17 by , under super. No Comments.

Ride sourcing – Claiming car expenses

Those who participate in ride-sourcing (i.e., Uber, GoCatch) as a driver can access a number of tax deductions come tax time.

You may be able to claim expenses such as:
– Parking fees
– Road tolls
– Mobile phone costs
– Fees or commissions charged the facilitator
– Other expenses – to the extent that they relate to work-related travel.

Under the logbook method (the business-use percentage of car expenses) include:
– Petrol
– Depreciation of your car
– General vehicle running costs such as insurance, car rego and repairs
– Maintenance.

Expenses you cannot claim include:
– Fines, such as parking and speeding fines
– Fuel tax credits
– The cost of getting and maintaining a standard driving licence
– Costs of a capital nature, such as car purchase price
– Personal or private expenses, such as the private use of a car used for ride-sourcing activities.

If you use your car for both personal and work-related use, you will need to apportion your car expenses appropriately. If the owner of the car is a spouse or de-facto partner, you can still claim deductions for the car as it is considered a joint asset.

You may be eligible for a range of concessions, i.e., simpler depreciation – instant asset write-off if you are a small business entity in an income year. Be sure to review your eligibility each year.

Posted on 20 September '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

Turning negative customer feedback around

In a perfect world, every customer your business works with will be pleased with how the transaction went and will want to return to you for future business.

In reality, this isn’t always the case. It is human nature that people make mistakes and there will always be circumstances outside of your control that can lead to a customer not feeling they received what they paid for. Consider the following tips for handling negative customer feedback.

Be responsive
When people feel they have received poor or inadequate service, they can be quick to complain, which they are entitled to do. One thing that can be extremely damaging and can make that person feel even more negatively towards your business is to ignore them. Being unresponsive can come across as arrogant, which can seriously tarnish the reputation of your business. Once a customer has complained, the best thing you can do is to work to rectify and resolve their issue. Doing nothing and failing to respond casts a negative light on the business, particularly with the nature of negative feedback being received on social media platforms where there is an audience.

Apologise and offer a solution
One of the worst actions you can take is to respond aggressively and to take no responsibility for the way in which you have made the customer feel. The best step you can take is to acknowledge they are unhappy with the service they received, apologise for this and assure them that you will contact them, through calling or emailing, or encourage them to come back into the business so that you can resolve the issue for them.

Implement changes
Once you have spoken to the customer who has had negative feedback and worked out how you can resolve the issue for them, it is important that you implement the appropriate changes to resolve it. Saying you are going to and then not doing anything will only make the issue bigger. One common way this occurs is when one employee says they will follow up and take the appropriate action to resolve the issue, but then the next day the issue still hasn’t been resolved, so when the client calls back, they deal with a different employee who has no knowledge of what needs to occur.

Learn from it
To prevent the same issue occurring again in the future, analysing how the negative feedback was dealt with and if it was dealt with efficiently. Evaluate what could be done better or what could be approved upon. Maybe you dealt with and resolved the issue in the end but the procedure in place for following up with and responding to negative feedback could be approved upon. Every negative aspect of business should be analysed and improved upon; that is how your business model will continue to develop and strengthen.

Posted on 14 September '17 by , under business. No Comments.

New measures to crack down on super non-compliance

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will receive additional funding for a Superannuation Guarantee Taskforce to crack down on non-compliance by employers.

The Government has announced a package of reforms to close a legal loophole used by dishonest employers that short-change employees who make salary-sacrifice contributions to super.

Funding for the Taskforce coincides with new data released by the ATO reporting a significant estimated Super Guarantee gap. This gap is the difference between the theoretical amount payable by employers to be fully compliant and actual contributions received by funds.

The ATO estimates the net SG gap as 5.2 per cent or $2.85 billion of the total estimated $54.78 billion in SG payments that employers were required to pay in 2014-15.

The gap exists because some employers are not meeting their super guarantee obligations either by not paying enough or not paying at all.

Employers who deliberately are not paying their workers’ super entitlements are robbing their workers of their wages. The new package aims to take action on this so employers cannot hide from their legal obligation.

Some of the measures included in the package involve:

  • A requirement for superannuation funds to report contributions received more frequently (at least monthly) to the ATO. This is aimed to better identify patterns of non-payment and allow for immediate action;
  • The rollout of Single Touch Payroll to further improve visibility on reporting, simplify tax and super for employers while allowing the Tax Office to better detect patterns of non-compliance;
  • Improvements to the effectiveness of the ATO’s recovery powers, including strengthening director penalty notices and the use of security bonds for high-risk employers, to ensure unpaid super is better collected by the ATO and paid to employees’ super accounts; and
  • Allowing the ATO to seek court-ordered penalties in the most shocking cases of non-payment, including employers who are repeat offenders.

The crackdown serves as a strong reminder for businesses to do the right thing. The ATO deals with roughly 20,000 complaints annually regarding unpaid super from both former and current employees.

Superannuation is a legal entitlement for employees; failure to pay employee super guarantee is illegal and can result in harsh penalties.

Posted on 14 September '17 by , under super. No Comments.

Sharing economy and tax

The ATO is reminding those who work in the sharing economy to be aware of their tax obligations.

The sharing economy connects buyers (users) and sellers (providers) through a facilitator who usually operates an app or a website. Some popular examples include Airbnb, Stayz, Uber, Deliveroo, Airtasker and so on.

Different rules apply, depending on what type of sharing economy activities are undertaken by an individual.

Those who rent out part or all of their home are reminded to:
– declare what they earn in their tax return;
– apportion related expenses as appropriate before claiming deductions and
– understand it may affect their capital gains tax if they sell their home in the future.

Individuals who participate in ride-sourcing activities need an ABN, to register for GST from the day they start, to pay GST on the full amount of every fare and to keep records of income and expenses for both GST and income tax purposes. GST credits associated with your ride-sourcing enterprise are deductible.

Those providing other goods and services through the sharing economy need to remember to declare what they earn and apportion related expenses.

Posted on 14 September '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

Strategies to bulk up your super before retirement

To retire comfortably, you should be doing everything you can while still in the workforce to make sure your superannuation is as fruitful as possible.

Consider the following:

Consolidate super into one account
Super account fees can eat away at your super balance, especially if you have numerous accounts. If you find yourself in this position, take the time to organise your super contributions into the one account to reduce unnecessary and excessive fees.

Outstanding super payments
Check you have been paid all the super you are entitled to, as well as interest, as this can uncover large amounts of unpaid super. Employers have a legal obligation to pay all employees who have earned more than $450 in the space of a month, and these payments are required to be paid at least quarterly. If you have not been paid what you are owed, you are also missing out on accumulated interest. It is now compulsory for employers to report the super contributions they make, but this was not always the case, meaning you may need to contact previous employers or the ATO to access unpaid super you are entitled to.

Salary sacrifice
This is an efficient way to grow your superannuation while also incurring worthwhile tax benefits. To practice salary sacrificing, you will have to come to an agreement with your employer. You can contribute money from your pre-tax salary into your superannuation account, on top of the 9.5 per cent SG contribution that your employer must make. You will only be taxed 15 per cent on this additional contribution amount, but it does mean taking home a smaller figure each paycheck.

Spousal contributions
If your spouse is a low-income earner who is receiving less than $13,800 annually, you can contribute up to $3,000 into their super each year while getting an 18 per cent tax offset. This can save you up to $540 in tax.

Posted on 7 September '17 by , under super. No Comments.

Single Touch Payroll for streamlined reporting

From 1 July 2018, employers with 20 or more employees will report payments to the Australian Taxation Office at the same time as they pay their employees, using the Single Touch Payroll reporting system.

This reporting system will keep track of payments such as:

  • Salary and wages
  • Super contributions
  • Deductions, e.g. workplace giving
  • Pay as you go (PAYG)
  • Allowances

The introduction of this new reporting measure does not incite changes to an employer’s payroll cycle; you can still make payments as you were, i.e., weekly, fortnightly, monthly, etc. When you do make these payments, the super and tax details of employees will be passed on, creating a more streamlined approach to make reporting and compliance more manageable.

For businesses with less than 20 employees, the single touch payroll reporting system will be in place by 1 July 2019.

Posted on 7 September '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

How to sharpen your focus for optimal performance

Focus requires control. Control of distractions, thoughts and, most importantly, your time.

Consider the following tips to improve your focus and concentration in your workday:

Tune out distractions
Identify your biggest distractions and plan to minimise or eliminate them while you are working on a task. This may include closing your emails, hiding your phone and putting it on silent or even telling your coworkers not to disturb you during certain times during the day unless it is urgent. If you work in a noisy environment, consider using noise-cancelling headphones and listening to relaxing music while you work away.

Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help improve your focus as it makes the wandering mind focus on the now rather than past or future events. Mindfulness is shown to be a powerful tool in improving attention, cognition, emotions and behaviour – all elements required for greater focus and concentration.

Time yourself
Give tasks your undivided attention by setting a timer for each individual task. Aim to work on the task for the duration of the time interval with no distractions. The key is to minimise interruptions to your “flow” state of productivity. Working on one task at a time is ideal for optimal efficiency as multitasking can see you lose time and concentration as you switch back and forth between tasks.

Work with your natural energy levels
An easy way to sharpen your focus is to schedule tasks around your natural energy levels. If you find you are more alert in the morning then schedule tasks that require higher levels of attention or creativity. You may choose to spend the afternoon working on low-attention tasks when your energy levels are dampened. It is much easier to concentrate when your body is naturally feeling alert rather than having to rely on multiple coffees or sugary foods to see you through the day.

Structure your time effectively
Effective time management is critical if you’re looking to improve your focus. If you don’t prioritise your work day and set clear goals, it can be hard to stay on track. Keep a to-do list, highlight the most important tasks and be sure to schedule in breaks (and take them).

Posted on 30 August '17 by , under business. No Comments.