Accounting & Business
Taxation services
Financial Planning services

 

Minutedock - A Time Tracking Tool


  












Promoted as a "Loveable time tracking software" MinuteDock helps track how people use time. There are several ways to define time: client, billable, unbillable, projects and tasks. 
Compiled time recordings can generate a single detailed client invoice within MinuteDock. Or the solution can push invoices through to Xero, QBO, or MYOB.

Features and benefits

Included is the ability to define default client, task or project hourly rates. Plus, it has a default client currency, which is useful for overseas clients. Its goal setting features can help you track staying under budget, or achieving and exceeding a target. For refined tracking you can filter the goals to users, contacts, tasks, or projects and period.

Once created, goals sit on the time log dashboard.  The bar indicator reflects time logged against goals. Colours reflect what you're trying to achieve. For example, when it turns red, it's flagging concern. There are also extensive reporting options.

MinuteDock is a handy tool for tracking goals and deadlines. Set up as a task, then set up a monthly goal. You can run a report of tasks for a full year. Export a csv file and submit the details to your professional association.

Where it fits in the workflow

There's a desktop and mobile (android and iOS) version so you've got the flexibility to log time, wherever you are – and logging time only takes a few seconds. For businesses that bill hourly, logged time accumulates to create detailed client invoices. Some clients appreciate a comprehensive summary of work they are paying for. For businesses that bill on a retainer basis, it's important to track time to complete client work.

Along with normal activities, you can track lost time, late lunches and outside hour client calls. These capabilities mean you can address ineffective time and measure and analyse business time. This tracking means you're better placed to manage schedules and make informed decisions with accurate data.

Another year Another scam



While data driven crime is more sophisticated and difficult to address than ever, human error and judgement remains one of the major problems.

 

The latest data breach report from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is surprising for the simplicity of the problems - 37% of data beaches resulted from human error not malicious attack. In over 20% of reported cases, personal information was simply sent to the wrong recipient. Another 6% of complaints were attributed to system faults.

Since 22 February 2018, businesses covered by the Privacy Act need to report unauthorised access to or disclosure of personal information or loss of personal information that your business holds under the Data Breach Scheme. The rules impact organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more, businesses 'related to' another business covered by the Privacy Act, or if your business, regardless of size, deals with health records (including gyms, child care centres, natural health providers, etc.,), is a credit provider, or holds Tax File Number information (see the list). 

 

Organisations are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent a breach occurring, put in place the systems and procedures to identify and assess a breach, and issue a notification if a breach is likely to cause 'serious harm'.

 

What the statistics from the OAIC demonstrate is that procedural integrity in your business is paramount – train your team to not only be wary of scams but ingrain best practice for the day to day management of personal data. Privacy protection is not just an 'IT' issue.

While not the only factor, protecting your systems remains a priority as Marriot Hotels discovered when the Starwood guest reservation database was breached.

According to the latest announcement, up to 383 million records were potentially impacted. Of those, there were approximately 5.25 million unique unencrypted passport numbers. On 30 November 2018, the company announced that unauthorised access to the database may have been occurring since 2014. 

 

Similarly, Cathay Pacific released a statement notifying that up to 9.4 million members of their Marco Polo Club, Asia Miles or a Registered Account holder have potentially had their data breached including passenger name; nationality; date of birth; phone number; email; address; passport number; identity card number; frequent flyer programme membership number; customer service remarks and historical travel information.

 

Remember, hackers can gain access to your business's data simply by a staff member clicking on a link.

 

While not impacting personal data, according to the ScamWatch, a common scam is where hackers gain access to a business' email accounts, or 'spoof' a business' email so their emails appear to come from the company. The hacker then sends emails to customers claiming that the business's banking details have changed and that future invoices should be paid to a new account. These emails look legitimate as they come from one of the business's official email accounts. Payments then start to flow into the hacker's account. The average loss from these scams is around $30,000.

 

A variation is where the hacker sends an email internally to a business' accounts team, pretending to be the CEO, asking for funds to be urgently transferred to an off-shore account. Hackers can also request salary or rental payments be directed to a new account.

 

In 2018, these scams cost Australian business $30 million in 2018. 
 

Simple measures you can take:

·         Have strong and enforced processes in place for the management of personal client information.

·         Strong authorising procedures for payments – two-step authority.

·         Change passwords often and use two-step authentication where available.

·         If a client's bank details have changed, phone them and check the details.

·         If contacted by the ATO, contact us to verify the information if you are concerned.

·         Train your team on cyber security:

o    Check requests for payments that arrive electronically from other team members and management.

o    Check email addresses are legitimate – look for slight variations.

o    Be suspicious of poorly written emails.

o    Don't click on links from email – always use your account with the supplier or Government department to check details.

Editor's note: 
Clarke McEwan utilises strong security measures to protect data.  We encourage our clients and associates to use the 2StepAuthentication system when accessing organisations records. This step is part of our commitment to support tighter security requirements and recommendations from the Australian Tax Office.   2SA has been adopted by many of the software providers that we and our clients utilise. For instance, it is now compulsory to use two-step authentication (2SA) when logging into a Xero account.  Xero will be changing the passwords for all users from 12 February 2019, so in order not to be delayed the next time you want access software or banking details is it imperative that you set up 2SA when it is offered to you. If you need more information, contact us. #clarkemcewan #2SA #cybersecurity #authentication

 

 

 

 

Business-friendly AI innovations emerging en masse

While there is plenty of hype - and some fear - around artificial intelligence, an array of businesses are showcasing cutting-edge uses of the technology to resolve real-world business problems.

While a recent study suggested that half of Australians are not convinced that automation and AI are a good thing - for more on this, see previous article,  the other half of the population are eagerly embracing the technology and the efficiencies it is capable of delivering.

At a recent event in Sydney to launch its report Artificial intelligence: A starter guide to the future of business, ACS profiled three start-ups implementing AI to take data analytics to new heights, across areas as diverse as product sales data to file storage and image analytics.

The report sought to dispel fears that AI poses an existential threat to humanity - at least in its current capabilities - while outlining some of the real-world business benefits being explored or implemented by the technology.

"Artificial intelligence - as the phrase is often used today - is a bit of a misnomer," the report said.

"We tend to think of intelligence in human terms: self-awareness, the capacity for independent thought, the capability to reason and autonomous decision making, among other traits.

"These capabilities are far beyond the implementation of artificial intelligence that we have today."

What can AI really do?

According to the report, AI currently combines three key capabilities:

  • cheap and powerful networked computing power
  • computer science developments in machine learning algorithms
  • unprecedented volume of data

In essence, AI is capable of processing much larger volumes of data than humans can, and does so in much shorter periods of time.

It is also able to take this data to determine trends, make recommendations based on past outcomes or behaviours, and learn through repetition.

Examples are spam filtering, vehicle autopilots, recommendation engines and even fraud prevention.

Current applications and uses are being offered by start-ups through to large corporations, each aiming to solve different business constraints.

Accounting software provider MYOB recently announced a partnership with The ai Corporation to roll out a new payments gateway that incorporates fraud detection and prevention with payment compliance.

Job management company simPRO uses complex algorithms to draw information from a variety of sources - PDFs, Excel documents and so on – and translates the information into purchase orders, job requests and client updates.

Australian start-up Hyperanna, meanwhile, allows retailers to take data analytics to new levels, consolidating data across different product lines, store departments and locations to identify trends in product sales in real time.

And as My Business sister publication Nest Egg reported recently, students at the University of Queensland are investigating the application of AI to create smart homes - which could easily move into workplaces too.

These studies are looking into a range of applications, including front doors that incorporate facial recognition and height/size measures for enhanced security, as well as smart fridges that scan products being taken out and put back to monitor shortages and expiry dates.

Limitations of AI

Most developers agree that there is plenty of hype around the technology, significantly overstating the scope and powers of AI.

A great example highlighting the basic limitations of AI is the so-called "muffin puppies".

As the report highlights, a series of Twitter posts in 2017 went viral after comparing animals with similar-looking inanimate objects and putting them through various image recognition tools to test their accuracy.

The technology struggled to tell the difference between close-ups of chihuahuas and blueberry muffins, sheepdogs and mops, as well as kittens and ice cream.

Case study: Sortal

Speaking with My Business, Sortal co-founder Majella Edwards said that AI is about having machine learning do the heavy lifting of manual and time-intensive tasks for people. In her instance, that task is searching, storing and cataloguing photos.

"Digital photography is such a phenomenon that people don't even think about now, and it's because of the smartphone… it's part of our everyday life.

"[But] we have a problem that has gone undiagnosed… what do people do with their photos?"

Ms Edwards said that people and businesses alike are being overwhelmed with an onslaught of photos, and how to sort, catalogue and access images on demand with ease.

"The big giants - you've got Google, you've got Microsoft, you've got Amazon - a lot of them have already invested heavily in computer vision. So we're standing on the shoulders of giants; we're taking what they've done any we're pushing it further," she said.

"A lot of the machine learning models we have already can recognise 'wedding', they can recognise 'christening', so they've already got the data and they've got billions of photos that they have been analysing for the last five years."

According to Ms Edwards, her business launched earlier this year as "a form of enhancement" to remove the burden on people of remembering where images are saved, under what name and what date, by having its application "do that thinking for you".

One of Sortal's next steps will be to explore word recognition within photos as an additional layer of searchability within a photo library or catalogue.

Ms Edwards said that one of the struggles for any new AI or data-driven business is conveying value of the technology in the early days, because the value enhances over time with the addition of more data rather than from the outset.

"In tech land, it's called a release candidate. We have to be really disciplined with what's in and what's out, so at the moment we've had to build in maybe five key features that are going to deliver the biggest bang for buck," she said.

"But later, we'd like to implement more features that deliver greater value."

It is very much a partnership, Ms Edwards admitted, between early customers and partners testing the technology to identify pain points and educate users on how the technology can be used to solve them.

"Sometimes people can't see past what they already know," she said.

"AI does get sloshed around a lot and people do think it is capable of doing all these amazing things and that it can be really scary.

"But I really believe we are solving a first-world problem, the likes of which we have never seen before."

 



Any small business's lifeblood is its cashflow.  If your business operations rely heavily on regular payments from clients and some won't pay on time, such delays can be frustrating, or in the worst case scenario, threaten the very livelihood of your business.

 

Many small businesses are still struggling to build reputations which means they need every client they have, whether they're faced with late payments or not.  And with the added publicity through social media that lies at every client's fingertips these days, you need to stay ahead of the game.

 

Business is about building relationships so cutting out every client who won't pay on time is not an option.   If you depend on regular payments from those who purchase goods or services from your small business, there are a few things you can do to ensure you maintain that great relationship and always get paid on time. 

 

1. Communicate Your Policy

 

Implement a policy that will work for you.  If you require full payment upfront, and don't wish to begin the work until the payment is received, take this step because it rarely deters clients.  Everyone knows where they stand, it minimizes headaches, reduces stress, eliminates money-chasing, and establishes an expectation of trust from the get-go. And it can work in your favour by weeding out the clients you don't want to deal with anyhow.

 

You could also introduce your payment policy at that start of any new contract with a client.  By clearly outlining your policies at the start of the business relationship you have something to refer to if the client fails to meet that agreement. If you're providing a service, it is standard practice to set milestones and deliverables from the beginning, especially on large projects which will require months of your hard work to complete. These milestones should outline what will be delivered by you the provider, along with the payment amount that will be expected and due at the time of that delivery. Your wording should also stress what the consequences will be if payment isn't received on time.

 

For short-term projects, you may require partial payment as a deposit before work begins. Many tradespeople and professional service providers ask for a deposit at the time contracts are signed as a good-faith payment. Even with this in place, however, the final half may be late in coming once work is complete, leaving a business to decide whether to continue with the next project the client is requesting or wait until payment on the last project has been submitted.

Your policy should outline how late payments will be handled, including service charges at set intervals. Each state has its own regulations, but in general this is charged as a percentage of the total due. Some businesses have found taking a more positive approach to this is more effective, though. Offer a 5-10% discount to any client who pays his invoice early or on time.  You may be surprised how many debtors take you up on it.  If you do opt to take a late-fee approach, be sure to look at it as more of a deterrent to late payments than a money-generating tool for your business.

2. Offer options

It helps to offer options to clients.  There are many invoicing apps available; some are even free. Automated invoicing ensures you never miss billing someone for the work you do, among a myriad of other benefits.

To make things easy, choose an invoicing solution that allows one-click payment. If your clients receive an invoice with a link they can click to pay using a stored credit card or PayPal account, you'll be much more likely to receive payment without delay.

For recurring payments another option is PayPal, which is known and trusted by just about everyone. Clients agree to automatic recurring billing, and PayPal takes care of the rest. Each month, it charges their credit card and deposits the funds to your PayPal account, with a simple e-mail notification that the charge was successful.

3. Offer payment arrangements

Life can be unpredictable.  Your client may have had every intention of paying until something happens.   This is where you need to communicate to get your payment.  Pick up the phone and get in touch.  A client may have been busy, circumstances have changed, or something unexpected has left them unable to address payment.  Without becoming your clients "bank" you can still offer a payment arrangement, with or without interest charged, to meet both parties' needs.  You are paid and the relationship is maintained. For this time.  Naturally, you need to determine how many times you are willing to bend your own policies.   It is best to say at the outset that this arrangement will only apply once, to this payment only, and that you expect all future payments to be made on time.  Once again you maintain control by communicating an expectation in line with your policy.

4. End the Relationship

Unfortunately in some cases a non-paying client can become the source of the vast majority of your financial stress.   Non-payment is often the primary reason a small business will decide to terminate a client relationship.  As valuable as a client's money may be to your business, if months have passed with no payment, the lack of that money is obviously not helping your business at all. Even if payment eventually comes in, the time and mental costs you spend each month tracking payments, sending notices, and worrying that the client won't pay aren't worth it. In this case, the best thing you can do is put the late-paying client on notice that you'll be ending your working relationship at the end of its current term.

You can graciously bow out while still being firm, especially if you've mentioned the problem with late payments to the client previously.

If you can end things professionally and amicably with the client, that's ideal. Unfortunately, there will be cases where your client won't take it well despite your best efforts. As long as you've conducted yourself as professionally as possible, you shouldn't have any regrets and as time goes on, you'll likely have very few relationships with clients that don't work out.

Adapted from an article by Jason Demers 2014

 

 



Clear communication is vital to the success of any business. 
This is especially true in the case of family businesses, which account for more than two-thirds of international companies.

 Ninety per cent of family firms conduct business meetings on a regular basis. If yours is not yet among them, here are four reasons why you should consider making family meetings a top priority in 2017.

 

Meetings Build Unity

Humans have always yearned for a sense of belonging. An old Navajo interpretation of sadness is to "sleep outside the net." It's no wonder that the vast majority of members within successful family businesses report a sense of pride in being part of the family unit.

 

In fact, more than eight out of ten owners of the largest family businesses say that they care deeply for fellow family members, devoting a huge amount of time and effort towards cultivating a deep sense of unity among them.

 

One of the best ways to do this is by holding regular business meetings, which strengthen the relationships between members of the family and help to build cohesion, a key ingredient for success.

 

When families are in a state of agreement, rather than progress being stunted by short-term thinking, they have the freedom to take a long-term view of their business aspirations. They may, for example, pursue investments that promise growth at some distant point in the future, even if they don't generate quick returns.

 

Meetings Encourage Innovation 

Successful family businesses adapt as their management changes hands from generation to generation, but it's also vital that they take care to maintain relationships as they vary over time.

 

A family meeting can help prevent stagnation, as newer generations are encouraged to offer fresh perspectives and ideas. Rather than allowing older members of the family to become too set in their ways, injecting exciting and novel ideas can be a lifeline – after all, in companies of all stripes, change is essential for survival.

 

Brown Brothers, a family-run wine company based in Milawa, Victoria, serves as a case in point. Founded in 1889 by John Francis Brown, the company spans four generations, with the first son, John Charles Brown, initiating ongoing experiments in trialing uncommon varieties.

 

Now considered "one of Australia's foremost winemaking innovators", his experimental approach continued down the bloodline, with more than 40 varieties now grown in diverse microclimates of the company's vineyards.

 

Katherine Brown, Assistant Winemaker for the 2015 Vintage, says that "always trying something different" remains a cornerstone of the Brown Brothers' philosophy.

 

Meetings Create Trust 

Many family businesses delegate management responsibility to a few select family leaders. Although it's impossible and impractical to include every family member in every decision, these leaders should do their best to make their actions transparent. Failure to do so can result in anxiety rising within the family ranks.

 

There is often an unspoken but underlying assumption that certain issues, such as salaries or executive distributions, should remain closed to discussion. Since most family members count on the business for their livelihood, however, adopting this attitude results in a lack of knowledge. This can breed conflict.

 

Clear, open communication through regular meetings helps to foster a sense of trust and security. When family members feel able to ask any question without limitation, suspicion diminishes and a sense of security grows.

 

Meetings Resolve Conflict 

Unfortunately, even with a focus on pride and unity, conflict is sometimes unavoidable. Nonetheless, a small amount of conflict can be healthy if families resolve the issues surrounding the disagreement in a positive manner.

 

The most successful families excel at resolving conflict, rapidly creating solutions and making adjustments to their ongoing practices. Working through differences can bring people closer together and enhance family cohesion.

 

Pretending that a conflict doesn't exist in the first place can cause serious problems. Families that feel unable to resolve conflict may delay making important decisions that both damage the overall health of the business and result in missed opportunities.

 

While family meetings can often be difficult, it's worth it in the end. Meetings can be used to facilitate business decisions, resolve differences, build trust and encourage innovation, allowing for families to work together in deciding on the best future for their enterprise.

 

David Harland CPA is managing director of FINH, an organisation that specialises in the provision of advice to family groups in business across the Asia-Pacific region.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. 

Small business is still a vote winner



Small business is still a vote winner with the Government and Opposition teaming up to accelerate tax cuts for the sector by 5 years impacting on an estimated 3.3 million businesses.

Parliament recently passed legislation to accelerate the corporate tax rate reduction for corporate tax entities that are base rate entities (BREs). Under the new rules:

             - A 26% rate will apply to BREs for the year ending 30 June 2021, and

             - A 25% rate will apply to BREs from 1 July 2021
  

The amending legislation also increased the small business income tax offset rate to 13% of an eligible individual's basic income tax liability that relates to their total net small business income for the 2020-21 income year and 16% for the 2021-22 income year onwards.

The small business income tax offset continues to be capped at $1,000 per individual per year. 
    

Year

Aggregated annual turnover threshold

Eligible companies*

Entities under the threshold

Other corporate tax entities

2015-16

$2m

SBE ($2m threshold)

28.5%

30%

2016-17

$10m

SBE ($10m threshold)

27.5%

30%

2017-18

$25m

BRE

27.5%

30%

2018-19 to 2019-20

$50m

BRE

27.5%

30%

2020-21

$50m

BRE

26%

30%

2021-22

$50m

BRE

25%

30%

* Small business entity (SBE), Base rate entity (BRE)

This means that if your business operates as a sole trader for example, the amount of tax you are likely to pay will be reduced from 2020-21 but only up to the $1,000 cap. 

 What is a base rate entity?

Between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2017, we used the concept of a small business entity (SBE) to work out what tax rate applied to a company. The concept of an SBE has now been replaced with a base rate entity (BRE) for company tax rate purposes. However, the concept of what a BRE actually is has changed over time to extend the lower tax rate to more companies and to restrict what entities can access the lower tax rate.

For the 2017-18 income year, a BRE was a company that had an aggregated turnover at the end of the income year of less than $25 million and no more than 80% of its income was passive in nature. Passive income includes some dividends, franking credits, non-share dividends, interest income (there are some exclusions), royalties, rent, net capital gains and gains on securities, and some trust and partnership distributions. If the company receiving the dividend holds a voting interest of at least 10% in the company paying the dividend then the dividend is not treated as passive income for the purpose of these rules.

For 2018-19, the threshold to be a BRE increased to companies with an aggregated turnover up to $50 million.

Where income is derived through a chain of trusts or partnerships, things get slightly more complicated as the law requires the tests to be applied at each level of the chain.  Special rules also exist to prevent partnerships and trusts from reducing their net income by increasing expenses. Indirect expenses such as overheads are excluded from the calculation of net income.

The problem for franking credits

The company tax rate changes have also impacted on the maximum franking credit rules.  In 2015-16, the first year small business entities could access a reduced company tax rate of 28.5%, the maximum franking credit rate for franked dividends remained at 30%. However, from the 2016-17 income year onwards the maximum franking credit rate needs to be determined on a year-by-year basis. In many cases this means that if the company's tax rate is 27.5% then the maximum franking rate will also be 27.5%. However, this will not always be the case and you can have situations where the corporate tax rate and maximum franking rate are different in a particular year.

In some instances, a company will pay tax at 30% but when it pays out the profits as a franked dividend the maximum franking rate will be 27.5%. The company may end up with surplus franking credits being trapped in its franking account. This can lead to double taxation as shareholders won't necessarily receive full credit for the tax already paid on those profits by the company.

This problem will potentially become worse as the company tax rate becomes lower as some companies will have paid tax on profits at 30%, but will only be able to apply a 25% franking rate to dividends paid out in future years.

 It will be important to look closely at this issue each financial year as there are some strategies that can potentially be applied to prevent franking credits being trapped in the company and minimise the incidence of double taxation.

 For more information on this tax topic see https://www.ato.gov.au/General/New-legislation/In-detail/Direct-taxes/Income-tax-for-businesses/Reducing-the-corporate-tax-rate/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Wi-Fi costing users millions

Doing business down at the local café or shopping centre may not be the wisest move, with Australians losing $48 million to scammers targeting free Wi-Fi hotspots.

In 2018 alone, Aussies lost about $48 million to financial scammers who targeted popular online shopping destinations and exploited weaknesses in free Wi-Fi to grab sensitive personal data.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has launched "Stay Smart Online" week in a bid to educate Australian consumers about sophisticated scams that aim to hack into online banking and capture credit card details.

The ACSC estimates that about six million Australian adults have been impacted by a scam.

An increasingly common and sophisticated method for fraudsters is to pose as a popular online retailer - often with a "shopfront" that appears reputable and well known.

Free Wi-Fi, which often has lax security, is also a method scammers use to gain access to data of those who are using the network.

Australians often believe a scam will be obvious, but fraudsters are often using sophisticated graphics, technology and platforms. This is having a material impact on Australian consumers personally, and businesses in Australia more broadly.

Cyber crime is a big problem in Australia and all over the world. The human and financial cost to businesses and society is rising every year," the ACSC said in a statement today.

"It impacts our business[es], our families and friends, costing huge amounts of money, time and pain."

Editor comment: Anti-viral software such as Avast may assist in protecting your confidential data when using public Wi-Fi sites.

 

Whether hiring bookkeeping resources into your business or partnering with a practice, finding the right talent to work with can provide significant value to your business's finances.

Your working relationship with your bookkeeper is as important as your accountant, and it's critical that they work well together to ensure the company's books are always healthy and up to date.

From providing useful insights into cash flow and perhaps dipping into the occasional data forensics, a good bookkeeper will act as your financial Swiss army knife.

So what questions should you ask a bookkeeper before hiring them?   CPA Tracey Sharah has a comprehensive list of questions that  to ask, and her responses are laid out in detail below.

1. What qualifications do they hold?

The Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 that took effect from 1 March 2010 means that anyone providing BAS services for a fee will need to be a registered BAS agent.

At a minimum, your bookkeeper should have qualifications such as Certificate IV Financial Services. Look for someone who is a member of one of the various professional bookkeeping associations in Australia, such as The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) or the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

Finally, ensure the candidate has had vast experience in all accounting software platforms and has used payroll and inventory options.

2. What insurances do they have?

At a minimum, professional indemnity insurance is desirable.

3. Who will undertake data entry and BAS preparation work?

Establish whether the work will be consistently undertaken by the same bookkeeper or by any member of the team and whether the work will be reviewed.

4. What experience and references do they have?

References may not always be reliable, but it is worth taking the effort to do a little research before hiring a bookkeeper.

5. If the work is done in an accounting package, who retains the ownership of the data file?

Many bookkeeping organisations will process the work on their own data file, which will save you the expense of purchasing the software upfront. If in the future you wish to bring the bookkeeping in-house, the transfer of ownership will cost a nominal fee.

6. Would they maintain reliable, off-site data backups?

Make sure that no matter where your bookkeeper works, they keep accurate backups of your files in case of an emergency.

7. Who will be responsible for rectification work?

Mistakes may date back years, and corrections can be costly exercises, involving re-keying data, reworking BAS, and reviewing end-of-year financial statements. Will the bookkeeping work be redone free of charge, or will the charges be reimbursed?

8. What is required to process the work?

Before hiring a bookkeeper, establish what they will need from you on a regular basis. Do they want the receipts sorted? Are you required to write account codes or explanations on the receipts? Unless you're paying extra for mind-reading services, expect this to be the case.

9. How will they communicate with your accountant?

You need to establish how the bookkeeper will communicate with the accountant and how the accountant will charge you. Introduce your bookkeeper to your accountant, and to encourage a professional relationship between them.

10. How much will it cost?

Today, bookkeepers' work is often vastly undervalued. Remember, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Once you have found your bookkeeper, don't simply outsource and ignore. You need to look at your management reports on a regular basis and incorporate them into your decision-making processes.

If you're looking for a bookkeeper contact us for a referral.  Clarke McEwan also offers training to your staff and outsourced bookkeeping solutions if you prefer for us to manage the entire process.

 

Measures small businesses can take to prevent debt

As a small business, bad debt can be a financially painful and even disastrous experience, especially if cash flow is tight. When it comes to bad debts, prevention is always better than the cure, particularly when it comes to the impact on customer relations. As a small business owner, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent late and unpaid client invoices from happening in the first place.

Check their credentials:

For larger transactions, conducting a credit check on a potential customer can give you some idea of their ability to pay on time. We can provide varying levels of credit and financial reports for businesses you are considering taking on as a client or customer. It may also be a good idea to speak with industry contacts such as other suppliers or business owners. In some cases, you may be able find out about customers who have a frequent habit of making late or non-payments.

Upfront payments:

For large sales or long-term projects, it may be advisable to ask for partial upfront payments before delivering the product or service, according to Small Business NSW. For example, a business may ask for a 25 per cent upfront payment before beginning a project, with the remainder to be paid on completion.

In the event the client fails to pay in full, your business will still have recouped some of the losses. Alternatively, it may be possible to ask for staggered payments, with customers invoiced for each stage of a work project. This can be especially useful for freelancers and contractors who may need a regular source of income while working on the project.

Agree on payment terms:

Where possible, ensure you have an agreement in writing regarding payment policy. This not only provides clarification to your customers, but can also assist in the event of legal action. Invoices need to be professional and detailed, listing each specific charge and how it relates to the products or services your business provides. It is also extremely important to detail payment terms and payment options on invoices – otherwise, your customers may decide to pay by their own terms!

Offering incentives to pay on time can also be effective, such as discounts for early repayments. Alternatively, attaching late penalty fees or interest can motivate customers to pay on time or reap you financial compensation for late payments, but it may also damage the relationship with your clients.

Communication:

In many cases, customers who fail to pay on time may have simply forgotten the matter. If you don't hear back from a customer shortly after sending an invoice, follow the matter up. Send regular but polite reminders by mail or email. If the customer fails to respond, try calling. However, avoid any form of harassment or even publicly "naming and shaming" late payers – this is not only unprofessional, it can expose you to legal action.

Record keeping:

With so many other duties to tend to, small business owners can often fall behind on collecting payments. Ensure you have an efficient, up-to-date database of customers and outstanding payments. Accounting products such as MYOB usually include invoice records software, or you can use a generic spreadsheet product.

Of course, if all else fails, you can take the next step outsourcing your debt to an experienced debt collection agency. This allows you to receive more cash sooner, focus on core functions and reduce your operating costs.

IP Australia have developed a new tool, Trade Mark Assist, to help guide business owners when applying for a trade mark and protect their brand.

Trade Mark Assist is an educational tool designed to identify some of the trade mark basics, explore a proposed trade mark and identify common mistakes that may lead to a refusal to an application or a delay.

There are many things to consider when applying for a trade mark. Trade Mark Assist can help:

  • Explore a proposed trade mark
  • Discover if the proposed trade mark contains a word or phrase that may be difficult to register
  • Identify the goods and services the business owner wishes to protect
  • Searches for existing trade marks that may be a problem

Trade Mark Assist lets users search their proposed trade mark, identify what classes of goods or services they wish to protect, and identify any issues before they file an application.

A trade mark is a way of identifying a unique product or service. It's not limited to just 'a logo'; it can be a word, phrase, shape or distinctive design. A trade mark gives you the exclusive rights to use, license, and sell the mark.

For more information about applying for trademarks, visit IP Australia's website.

Disclaimer:  Trade Mark Assist is an educational tool for proposed marks comprising solely of word(s). Information provided should not be interpreted as legal advice.  At Clarke McEwan we work with a network of legal consultants to help clients with a range of legal issues.  Contact us for a referral.


Contact Clarke McEwan