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How does the ATO treat Uber, Airbnb style services? What you need to know

 

Uber is calling for drivers, Airbnb is seeking more hosts but what are the implications of becoming part of the sharing economy? 

With the ATO increasingly relying on data matching and other online resources to target untaxed income and the cash economy, it is important to understand the tax implications of your arrangement.

 

The basics of tax apply regardless of how you earn money. That is, even though you may be earning income from different sources or using different platforms to generate income, the fundamental tax issues remain the same. You don't have to be carrying on a business to pay tax on income you earn.

 

And, given that so many of these services are through sharing platforms, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has the capacity to data match money flowing through to financial institutions specifically from these platforms.

 

'Sharing' a room or an entire house

Sharing a room or your house through services such as Airbnb can be a great way to earn income from an existing asset. The tax treatment of what you earn from these services is the same as any other residential rental property arrangement. This means you must include the rental income in your income tax return. For example, if a husband and wife jointly own a property that they rent out through a sharing service, whatever they earn needs to be declared on their income tax returns in the same proportion as the ownership of the house in the year they earned the income.

Hosts can also claim tax deductions for expenses associated to the rental, such as the interest on your home loan, professional cleaning, fees charged by the facilitator, council rates, insurance, etc. But, these deductions need to be in proportion to how much and how long you rent your home out. For example, if you rent your home for two months of the financial year, then you can only claim up to 1/6th of expenses such as interest on your home loan as a deduction. This would need to be further reduced if you only rented out a specific portion of the home.   GST does not generally apply to residential rental income.

Be aware that renting out your home may have a direct impact on your tax-free main residence exemption for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes. In general, your home is exempt from CGT when you sell it. However, if you use your home to earn assessable income, then you might only qualify for a partial exemption on the sale unless special concessions apply. If you are renting out part of your home while still living in the property, then it is unlikely that any gain you make on your home will be fully CGT-free. You might also need to obtain a valuation of your home at the time it was first used to generate rental income.

 

Hosting for investors

A number of investors are generating income from renting residential investment properties exclusively on sharing services rather than traditional longer-term rental arrangements – rental income can be higher for short-term accommodation and the host has the capacity to increase prices easily for peak periods. Just a quick look at properties available around the world on sharing sites shows how quickly this style of arrangement has attracted investors, particularly where the property is located in high demand tourist areas.

But what are the tax implications if you own one or multiple investment properties and rent them on a sharing service? Firstly, it's important to get good advice as this can be a complex area and being on the wrong side of the tax law can have significant implications. For example, if the ATO deems you to be providing commercial residential accommodation, they will treat your activities in the same way as hotels and motels meaning that the rent could trigger a GST liability for you (although you might be able to claim back some GST credits on expenses you pay). Broadly, accommodation falling into this category would have multiple occupancies such as a block of apartments, central management of the properties, and provide services to the guests beyond the accommodation such as breakfast or room servicing.

Finally, check if there are council restrictions, and ensure that you have the right insurance in place and if in doubt be sure to Contact us  before you start hosting or driving.  

Will your business be audited?

How the ATO identifies audit targets

The ATO is very upfront when it comes to their compliance activity. Every year they publish small business benchmarks that outline what a typical business 'looks like' in different industries. If your business falls outside of those benchmarks, the ATO is likely to take a closer look at why that is.

 

Falling outside of the benchmarks might not indicate a tax related problem. It might mean that your business has a different business model to the norm or is performing poorly relative to others in the industry. If your business does fall outside of the benchmark however, it is important to ensure that the reasons why can be clearly articulated (preferably documented) and the reason for those differences is not tax evasion. If there is no proof as to why the business is outside of the benchmarks, the ATO is likely to simply apply the benchmark ratio and issue a revised tax assessment.

 

The ATO look at:

·         cost of sales to turnover (excluding labour)

·         total expenses to turnover

·         rent to turnover

·         labour to turnover

·         motor vehicle expenses to turnover

·         non-capital purchases to total sales, and

·         GST-free sales to total sales.

 

For example, for a veterinary practice with a turnover between $300,001 and $800,00, the cost of sales to turnover ratio is expected to be between 25% and 29% (averaging at 27%), and average total expenses are 78%. The cost of labour to turnover ratio is between 21% and 29% and rent is between 5% and 8%.

 

The benchmarks are also a useful tool for anyone wanting to understand what is typical in their industry and how they perform against the average. It might also indicate opportunities for improvement and where the business is falling behind its competitors.

 

If you have any concerns about your record keeping, please contact us for advice or consult our website under the Client Resources section and Compliance.

 

Given the state of the property market in Australia these days, a not-uncommon situation can arise where a residential property owner seeks to demolish and subdivide the block containing the family home and build residential units.T implications of subdividing and building on the family property.

If a taxpayer has the available land of course, this can be a solid strategy. However it can cause headaches from a tax perspective - and in some cases the ability to access the main residence exemption and even the CGT discount can be lost.

Divvying up the backyard
A question that arises every now and then concerns the effects on the CGT main residence exemption where the owner decides to subdivide the land containing their principal place of residence, in some cases demolishing the existing home, and build residential units.

The scenarios that are typically raised involve one of the following choices:

  • demolish the main residence, subdivide the land, build two home units, sell one and live in the other
  • subdivide the land, build a home unit on the newly created previously vacant portion, and sell the new unit (with the original residence staying intact)
  • subdivide the land and sell the non-main residence block (with original dwelling staying intact on the remaining block).
  • When dealing with these situations, the following pertinent tax questions may need consideration:

    1. Whether demolition of the original main residence would trigger a capital gain or loss (if any)?
    2. What are the CGT implications of subdividing the property?
    3. Is the sale of the home unit or vacant land a "mere realisation" or is there is a profit-making activity conducted?
    4. How would the original dwelling/unit, retained and lived in by the taxpayer, be treated for CGT purposes?

    Note that there may be some GST implications that are not dealt with in detail here. Suffice to say that any venture undertaken by home owners in building units for the purposes of sale would, from the ATO's viewpoint, most likely constitute an "enterprise" and in some cases, depending on the circumstances, may necessitate an ABN and registration for GST.

    For a consultation about building on the family property and the possible tax implications contact us or  Book an Appointment.

     

    Self Preparers Deadline 31 October

    With the Self Preparers deadline of 31 October fast approaching many of us will spend the coming weekend sorting out our taxes.  And it is not just getting the figures right that we have to worry about.

    Every year the Tax Office warns the community to be aware of fraudsters as they target people lodging their income tax returns by the 31 October deadline.

    Statistics reveal that in past years, the number of scams reported to the ATO more than doubled in just one month from 2,465 in September to 6,593 in October, which means that now is the time to beware.

    The ATO's Chief Technology Officer stated that: "Scammers are out to get taxpayers hurrying to lodge their return by the deadline." People should be on the look-out for tax scams and report them to us directly."

    The  Tax Office is also seeing more targeted scams sent to taxpayers where the perpetrators make the email more convincing by using the latest ATO website imagery and the names and signatures of real ATO staff.

    "People should also be aware of a nasty phone scam where taxpayers are threatened with arrest if they do not pay a fake tax debt over the phone."

    If people believe they have received a telephone, email or SMS scam they should contact the ATO on 1800 060 062 (8.00am–6.00pm, Monday to Friday).

    "When the public reports a scam to the ATO we work with our local and international partner agencies to shut down the scam website and pursue the scammers directly," said Mr Heather.

    From time-to-time the ATO will send emails, SMS messages or official social media updates advising of new services. The ATO's messages will never request personal or financial information by SMS or email.

    To increase community awareness of scams the ATO launched a video campaign on www.ato.gov.au/identitycrime with helpful tips for taxpayer to protect their personal information.

    If you think you may have been the target of a scam get in touch with the Tax Office as soon as possible. And, if you would like to free your time up this year you can always contact us by next Tuesday for a lodgement extension past October 31.

    #clarkemcewan #selfpreparers #lodgement deadline #taxreturns

     

    Tax Advice for Doctors

     

    As a medical professional in Australia you generally are classified as a high-income earner and as such, the rate of tax applied is also high with almost half of earned income going to tax.

    For doctors who are also in business this can be extremely frustrating because you are not eligible for the 30% tax rate on 'personal services', which leaves you with a marginal tax rate of  up to 46.5%.

    Our specialist accountants and tax advisors at Clarke McEwan can outline for you some of the many options  from which to choose to make sure your income is protected through legal and easy to manage methods.  

    There are some easy and effective ways to reduce tax if you are a Medical Practitioner or a Medical Practice business owner. A consultation with us can help you determine which method is the right one for your lifestyle, needs, employment or business.

    To give an idea of some of these are methods, we've compiled a list of the more common yet often overlooked allowable tax minimization strategies geared specifically to medical practitioners.

    Specialised tax deductions

    Most practitioners will know that allowable deductions are the expenses incurred in producing income. In Australia once these allowable deductions have been applied to assessable income, what remains is your 'taxable income'.  Basically, if the cost was paid in the medical practice of your profession, you can make a tax deduction claim by maximising your "allowable deductions". Some of these deductions may include:

    • Medical supplies, equipment, medicines and materials
    • Education – as long as it is relevant and/or related to your current employment or income
    • Professional subscriptions, accreditations, memberships and literature
    • Computer and office equipment
    • Professional Indemnity Insurance.

    At Clarke McEwan we have tax bookkeepers who can assist you to maintain an orderly record keeping system either electronically or manually that clearly indicates your expenses for the year. This will make reviewing your expenses easier, reducing accounting fees and eliminating those ambiguous claims which could lead to an audit by the ATO.   For further information, refer to our post about outsourcing your bookkeeping.

    Transitioning to retirement | Early retirement

    Doctors over the age of 60 can  consider beginning the process of transitioning into retirement in the form of a pension that uses money from your super fund.

    Specialised business structures

    A legitimate business structures in the medical field is legal as long as you thoroughly follow the rules, regulations and guidelines.  Advice from your accountant or business adviser is critical to pass an audit from the ATO. 

     If you are thinking of undertaking one of these business structures contact Clarke McEwan.  We specialise in the medical sector and understand its unique landscape.

    Use of a Service trust

    This arrangement allows doctors to distribute some of their income to family members who work within the practice. For example, a partner who maintains the books or manages administration within the business. As they have a lower marginal tax rate, they can be paid a moderate salary.

    Use of an Investment trust

    This business structure is set up so that medical professionals don't have to buy their assets in their own name. They can also distribute income and capital to beneficiaries such as a partner on a low or income. Beneficiaries can also be companies, of which operate to store the income generated from the medical practitioner's. However this income excludes personal services income earned specifically by the doctor.

    To make sure that you have the best structure in place to legally minimise tax and grow your wealth, we highly recommend you get appropriate advice before putting them in place.  Again, proper consultation and prudent counsel will ensure your structure is completely legal.  Without advice, these set ups can leave your business vulnerable, or to appear out of line with the Australian Tax Office's legalities. 

     

    Family trusts could be eligible for 'mind-boggling' tax cut

    The Australian Tax Office has tweaked its view about whether companies linked to family trusts are eligible for tax relief, but industry veterans say the situation remains "utterly confused" and "mind-boggling".

    A new statement on the ATO website says companies will be eligible for the lower 27.5 per cent rate afforded under the Enterprise Tax Plan even if their activities are "relatively passive".

    The word "relatively" has been added since similar advice was provided in a footnote to a draft ruling earlier this year.

    The footnote caused a stir among tax practitioners because it seemed to expand the range of businesses eligible for cuts to include companies holding passive investments, such as so-called bucket companies that receive income from discretionary trusts.

    Revenue Minister Kelly O'Dwyer has been eager to quash the idea that wealthy families might be beneficiaries of the government's small business tax cuts, which were "not meant to apply to passive investment companies".

    Tax Institute senior tax counsel Bob Deutsch said the ATO's latest statement did nothing to clear up confusion about eligibility.

    "The position with all this is, in my view, utterly confused and will lead to countless errors being made by tax practitioners," he said.

    "The bar appears to have been set relatively low in satisfying the requirement for carrying on a business in this context. Concrete examples would be required to give the community a better understanding of what is meant by 'relatively passive'."

    Arnold Bloch Leibler tax practice chief Mark Leibler said it was obvious the tax cuts were only ever meant to apply to active trading businesses.

    "I have never seen a standoff like this before between the Tax Office and Treasury and the responsible ministers," he said.

    "I find this mind-boggling. What the government contemplated was people who are actually engaged in real, active business activities...not bucket companies sitting around and deriving passive income."

    At present, companies with turnover of up to $25 million are eligible for the 27.5 per cent rate. The Coalition plan is for companies of all sizes to progressively qualify for the lower rate, which will then be dropped to 25 per cent.

    Australian Council of Social Services senior adviser Peter Davidson said most people had the impression the tax cuts were going to businesses whose owners struggle on low incomes.

    "The reality is that most of those businesses don't use companies or trusts," he said.

    "Those that do are more likely to be professional such as doctors and lawyers than shopkeepers or personal trainers. And now the tax office has raised the prospect that wealthy people using bucket companies to warehouse their investment income could also benefit."

    The ATO footnote said: "Generally where a company is established or maintained to make profit or gain for the shareholders it is likely to be carrying on business...this is so even if the company holds passive investments and its activities consist of receiving rents or returns on its investments and distributing them to shareholders."

    Mr Davidson said the government would probably need to amend its legislation to prevent passive investors from taking advantage of the lower rate.

    But the policy presented even bigger opportunities for tax planning by the wealthy and the only way to close the loopholes was to tax trusts at top marginal rates, he added.

    "A common tax avoidance structure combines a trust with a private company beneficiary," he said.

    "In 2015, small private companies received $17 billion in distributions from trusts."

    The tax cuts also have consequences for franking credits.

    Once a company moves on to the 27.5 per cent rate, dividends will be franked at the lower rate even if tax was paid at 30 per cent.

    According to tax advisers BDO, this means dividends paid to shareholders on the top marginal rate will end up being taxed at 51 per cent, with the government to pocket the other 2 per cent.

    Mr Leibler said the government had overlooked another element that would ultimately prove detrimental to shareholders.

    "Unfortunately, what the government has done through its legislation is to provide that while a company is categorised as carrying on a small business and is being taxed at 27.5 per cent, that company can only frank to 27.5 per cent," he said.

    "And that applies not only to reserves previously taxed in the hands of the company at 27.5 per cent but also distributions of all or any of the company's reserves that have previously been taxed at 30 per cent."

     
     

    Simpler BAS is coming your way

    Good news for small business owners is that from 1 July 2017 the ATO is reducing the amount of information needed for the business activity statement (BAS) to simplify your GST reporting.

    From 1 July 2017, Simpler BAS will be the default GST reporting method for small businesses with a GST turnover of less than $10 million. Simpler BAS is a partnership between the ATO, software developers, tax professionals and small business associations.

    Eligible businesses will only need to report their (1) Total sales (2) GST on sales and (3) GST on purchases.

    This will not change the reporting cycle, record keeping requirements, or how you report other taxes on the BAS.

    Simpler BAS will make it easier to classify transactions and lodge activity statements and reduce the time small business owners need to spend on paperwork and form-filling without  making changes that would impact the final GST amount. 

    Simpler BAS will not affect how other taxes are reported such as your PAYG income tax instalments or PAYG tax withheld, or how often you submit your BAS.

    You still need to keep records, such as invoices, as proof of any claims you make in your BAS and income tax return lodgements.

    What's next?

    The ATO will be automatically transitioning eligible small business' GST reporting methods to Simpler BAS from 1 July 2017. To help the transition, the ATO will email Clarke McEwan to advise whether clients are affected and how they can benefit from Simpler BAS.

    Small business owners can choose whether to change their GST bookkeeping software settings to reduce the number of GST tax classification codes.

    Before making any adjustments please talk to us at Clarke McEwan about whether reduced or detailed GST tax code settings are best for your business.

    Tax planning strategies for 2017

    End of year planning is not just about minimising your tax bill.  These last months of the financial year are a great time to forecast how your 2016/17 financial year will wrap up and implement some strategies to support your objectives and minimise your tax liability by taking advantage of opportunities that will disappear from 1 July 2017.

    The fact that many legislative changes will come into effect post 30 June 2017 means now it is time for early planning.  Here are some of the reasons to sit down now with Clarke McEwan and have that year-end planning discussion.

    Clarke McEwan will look at your "whole of business", the way it operates, and its likely future needs. 

    • Use your end of year planning as a means of understanding your financial results to determine what improvements you can influence over the next 12 months and what profit result is achievable.  We can help quantify the benefits of future opportunities by using "what-if" scenarios such as investing in more staff, equipment or marketing.
    • The small business $20,000 immediate asset write-off currently available to businesses with <$2 million turnover will cease on 30 June 2017. With Company Tax Reform legislation to pass in May which will expand the definition of a Small Business to a <$10 mil turnover this is a window of opportunity for those businesses to bring forward asset purchases to pre 30 June.
    • With the Tax Reform looming and changes to the Small Business definition, companies with <$10 million dollars turnover will benefit from a lower 27.5% company tax rate in 2016/17.  It is anticipated that companies with <$25 million turnover will be entitled to a tax rate of 27.5% in the 2017/18 financial year. With this in mind it is worth exploring strategies to defer profit until the lower tax rate year.
    • Super Reforms come into effect 1 July 2017, including options available for a limited time. Consider this window of opportunity to increase your retirement savings and save tax by taking advantage of higher tax deductible concessional contribution limits of $30,000 for fund member under 50 years of age, and $35,000 for fund member in the 50 years plus age category.
    • Income streaming to lower income family members, already important in this financial year will be increasingly important in 2017/18 when new double contributions tax legislation applies to income from $250,000.  This division 293 tax result in super contributions being taxed at 30% rather than the 15% once "income" exceeds the limit.

    As a guideline, your discussion with us should give you :-

    1) an estimate of tax payable for the year ended 2017, the amounts of any tax instalments and the timing of due dates;

    (2) a summary of options for the mix of salary, dividends if appropriate, and superannuation contributions to be paid this year;

    (3) tax planning initiatives that might be undertaken prior to 30 June 2017; and

    (4) determining how family trust income may be distributed so resolutions of trustees may be prepared before the end of June 2017.

    This information is intended as a guideline only. Professional advice related to your personal situation is crucial. Request an appointment now 



     

    Property investors to lose out from proposed budget changes

     

     The 2017 Federal Budget, handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday night, 9th May at 7:30pm AEST includes proposed changes which will affect residential property investors Australia-wide.

    The Australian Tax Office (ATO) allows owners of income producing property to claim depreciation deductions for the wear and tear that occurs to a building's structure and the plant and equipment assets within.

    The proposed changes relate to the depreciation of plant and equipment assets and the eligibility to claim this deduction. Currently, investors are eligible to claim qualifying plant and equipment depreciation on assets found in an investment property they purchase, even if they were installed by a previous owner.

    "Under the new rules which are yet to be legislated by Parliament, investors will be able to depreciate new plant and equipment assets and items they add to their property, however subsequent owners will not be able to claim depreciation on existing plant and equipment assets," said the Chief Executive Officer of BMT Tax Depreciation, Bradley Beer.

    "This change will have a major impact on investors, essentially reducing the annual deductions they can claim therefore reducing their cash return each year. This could lead to investors being in a tighter financial position and may discourage future investors from purchasing a second hand residential property," said Mr Beer.

    "It is our understanding at this stage that if the property is new, they will be able to continue to depreciate plant and equipment as they were previously. We are seeking further clarification on this," said Mr Beer.

    Investors will still be able to claim capital works deductions also known as building write off, including any additional capital works carried out by a previous owner.

    The budget notes were clear that existing investments will be grandfathered. This means that anyone who has purchased a property up until the 9th of May 2017 will be able to claim depreciation as per normal.

    If a property investor exchanges contracts to purchase a second hand property after 7:30pm on the 9th May, there could be different depreciation rules applicable to their scenario.

    "We are currently speaking with government to further understand the intricacies relating to the budget notes and the proposed changes to depreciation of plant and equipment assets," said Mr Beer.

    This article was originally published as a media release at www.bmtqs.com.au/news-media/media-releases/property-investors-lose-out-budget-changes

    Why 90000 more businessss can now access the $20000 instant asset write off

     

     

     

     

    The popular $20,000 instant asset write-off for small business ends on 30 June 2017.  This concession enables small businesses to immediately write-off depreciable assets which cost less than $20,000.

    Until recently, this instant write-off was only accessible to businesses with an aggregated turnover of less that $2 million.  But, a last minute deal struck between the government and Senator Nick Xenophon to pass the enterprise tax Bill - containing amongst other things the tax cuts for business and a change in the small business threshold – will see up to 90,000 more businesses access the instant write-off.

    While the Bill containing these changes is not yet law, we expect that it will be passed when Parliament next sits.

    For those businesses that have not accessed this concession previously, it's important to understand how you can take advantage of it before 30 June 2017.

    What is the $20,000 instant asset write-off?

    A deduction is generally available for purchases your business makes.  The instant asset write-off however changes the speed at which you can claim a deduction.  Since 7.30pm, 12 May 2015, small businesses have been able to immediately deduct business assets costing less than $20,000. On 30 June 2017, this $20,000 deduction limit reduces back to $1,000.   When we say "immediately deductible" we mean that your business can claim a tax deduction for the asset in the same income year that the asset was purchased and used (or installed ready for use).  The deduction is claimed on the business's tax return. 

    If your business is registered for GST, the cost of the asset needs to be less than $20,000 exclusive of GST.  If your business is not registered for GST, it is $20,000 including GST.

    Assets costing $20,000 or more can be allocated to a pool and depreciated at a rate of 15% in the first year and 30% for each year thereafter.

    The instant asset write-off only applies to certain depreciable assets.  There are some assets, like horticultural plants, capital works (building construction costs etc.), assets leased to another party on a depreciating asset lease, etc., that don't qualify - check with us first if you are uncertain.

    Also, you need to be sure that there is a relationship between the asset purchased by the business and how the business generates income. You can't for example just go and purchase multiple television sets if they have no relevance to your business.

    How can you access the $20,000 instant asset write-off

    There are a few issues to be aware of if you want to utilise the instant asset write-off:

    Does your business qualify?

    To access the instant asset write-off, your business needs to be a trading business (the entity buying the assets needs to carry on a business in its own right).  It also needs to have an aggregated turnover under $10 million.  Aggregated turnover is the annual turnover of the business plus the annual turnover of any "affiliates" or "connected entities". The aggregation rules are there to prevent businesses splitting their activities to access the concessions.  Another entity is connected with you if:

    ·         You control or are controlled by that entity; or

    ·         Both you and that entity are controlled by the same third entity. 

    Should you spend the money now?

    If there are purchases and equipment that your business needs, that equipment has an immediate benefit to the business, and your cashflow supports the purchase, then in many cases it will make sense to go ahead and spend the money – you have until 30 June 2017 before the deduction threshold drops back to $1,000.

    The $20,000 immediate deduction applies as many times as you like so you can use it for multiple individual purchases. But, your business still needs to fund the purchase for a period of time until you can claim the tax deduction and then, the deduction is only a portion of the purchase price.

    Assets must be ready to use

    If you want to access the $20,000 immediate deduction, you have to start using the asset in the financial year you purchased it (or have it installed ready for use).  This prevents business operators from stockpiling purchases and claiming tax deductions for goods they have no intention of using in the short term.  So, if your business purchases an asset on 20 May 2017, it needs to be used or installed and ready to use by 30 June 2017 to qualify for the immediate deduction.

    Second hand goods qualify

    The instant asset write-off does not distinguish between new or second hand goods.  For example, second hand machinery may qualify if it meets the other requirements.

    The immediate deduction can be used more than once

    Assuming all the other conditions are met, an immediate deduction should be available for each individual item costing less than $20,000.  Just be careful of cashflow. 

    Be careful of contracts

    You need to ensure that any contract you sign makes your business the owner of the asset and that the asset can be used or installed and ready to use by the business on or before 30 June.  The rules require you to "acquire" the asset before 30 June so the wording of the contract will be important.

    Assets for business and pleasure

    Where you use an asset for mixed business and personal use, the tax deduction can only be claimed on the business percentage.  If you buy an $18,000 second hand car and use it 80% for business and 20% for personal use, only $14,400 of the $18,000 is deductible.

    You don't get $20,000 back on tax as a refund

    The instant asset write off is a tax deduction that reduces the amount of tax your business has to pay. It enables your business to claim a deduction for depreciating assets in the year the asset was purchased and used (or installed ready to use).  For example, if your business is in a company structure the most you will 'get back' is 27.5% (in 2016-17). If your business is likely to make a tax loss for the year then the bigger deduction might not provide any short-term benefit to you.

    The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only.  It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone.  If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.


    Contact Clarke McEwan