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.


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.

Start with the cure. The cure for affluenza. 

Clarke McEwan recently attended a number of sessions with presenter  at the 2018 Byron Bay Writers Festival.   Richard is the author of Econobabble and Curing Affluenza, and co-author of Affluenza.  He is chief economist at the Australia Institute.

Richard's book takes an honest look at the economy we support. It's home truths can help us recognise the symptoms in ourselves of this modern disease.  He maintains that we have been trained to love things not for their material function, but for the symbolic act of acquiring and possessing them. 

Below is an edited extract from Curing Affluenza: How to buy less stuff and save the world

"Affluenza has not just changed the world, it has also changed the way we see the world. Short of money? Borrow some. Caught in the rain? Buy an umbrella. Thirsty? Buy a bottle of water and throw the bottle away.

Our embrace of "convenience" and our acceptance of our inability to plan ahead is an entirely new way of thinking, and over the past seventy years we have built a new and different economic system to accommodate it. There is nothing inevitable about this current way of thinking, consuming and producing. On the contrary, the vast majority of humans who have ever lived (and the majority of humans alive today) would find the idea of using our scarce resources to produce things that are designed to be thrown away absolutely mad.

But the fact that our consumer culture is a recent innovation does not mean it will be easy to change. Indeed, the last few decades have shown how contagious affluenza can be. But we have not always lived this way, which proves that we don't have to persist with it. We can change – if we want to.

I define consumerism as the love of buying things. For some, that means the thrill of hunting for a bargain. For others, it is the quest for the new or the unique. And for others still it is that moment when the shop assistant hands them their new purchase, beautifully wrapped, with a bow, just as though it's a present.

But the love of buying things can, by definition, provide only a transient sense of satisfaction. The feeling can be lengthened by the "thrill of the chase", and may include an afterglow that includes walking down the street with a new purchase in a branded carry bag. It might even extend to the moment when you get to show your purchase to your friends and family.

But the benefits of consumerism are inevitably short-lived as they are linked to the process of the purchase, not the use of the product. So while consumerism is the love of buying things, materialism is the love of the things themselves – and that's an important distinction. " 

Salespeople and psychologists are well aware of this phenomenon. The term buyer's remorse refers to the come-down that follows the thrill of buying something new. For many, the cold hard light of day takes the gloss off their new gadget, their new shoes or their new car. For some, this can be so overwhelming that they return the item. For a minority, the thrill of buying new things is so great, and the disappointment of owning new things so strong, that they make a habit of buying things they know they will return.

For those interested in the impact of consumption on the natural environment, it is crucial to make a clear distinction between the love of buying things and the love of owning things. While consumerism and materialism are often used interchangeably, taken literally they are polar opposites. If you really loved your car, the thought of replacing it with a new one would be painful. Similarly, if you really loved your kitchen, your shoes, your belt or your couch, then your materialism would prevent you rushing out and buying a new one.

But we have been trained to love the thrill of buying new stuff. We love things not for their material function, but for the symbolic act of acquiring and possessing them – the thrill of anticipating a new thing, of being handed it by a smiling shop assistant, of pulling up at the golf club in an expensive new car. For many, if not most, consumers, it is the symbolism of a new handbag or new car, its expensive logo proudly displayed, that delivers happiness, rather than twenty years of using a material object.
It makes no sense to conflate materialism and consumerism. Indeed, our willingness to dispose of perfectly functional material goods and gadgets is the very antithesis of a love of things. The process of buying new things and displaying new symbols might provide status or other psychological benefits, but the pursuit of such symbolic objectives is largely unrelated to the material characteristics of the products being purchased and disposed of.

Symbols matter, and psychological benefits matter. The fact that people are willing to spend their own time and money to show they fit in or to make sure they stand out should be of little or no concern to others.
But for those who are concerned with the impact of 7.5 billion humans' consumption decisions on the natural environment, the choice of such symbols matters enormously. Whether people choose to signal their wealth by spending money on huge cars or antique paintings is arbitrary, but that does not mean the environmental consequences aren't highly significant.

Put simply, if we want to reduce the impact on the natural environment of all of the stuff we buy, then we have to hang on to our stuff for a lot longer. We have to maintain it, repair it when it breaks, and find a new home for it when we don't need it any longer. If we want to cure affluenza, we have to get more satisfaction from the things we already own, more satisfaction from services, more satisfaction from leisure time, and less satisfaction from the process of buying new things.

If people loved their things, cared for them, maintained and repaired them and then handed them on to others who did likewise, the global economy would be transformed, as would the impact of human activity on the natural environment.
But if people continue to embrace the benefits of "convenience" and pursue the symbolic appeal of novelty then, as billions more people emulate the consumption patterns of today's middle-class culture, the impact on the natural environment will be devastating. "  

We hope you enjoyed this extract from Curing Affluenza: How to buy less stuff and save the worldIf you would like assistance with setting up a budget or a financial plan, contact us now.    

Understanding the equity sweet spot

Keep that new car smell

So, you've taken the wheel of your new car. You love how it hugs the road, all the new tech and, of course, that new car smell. If only you could make this feeling last. Well, you can.

The equity sweet spot

As every car owner knows, new cars instantly lose value when they're driven out of the dealership. A car's value then continues to decline over time, but usually at a slower, more stable rate.

If you have a car loan, each repayment you make builds equity in your car. As most car loans have a five year term, by the time you're three or four years post-purchase, you'll reach a 'sweet spot' where the resale value of your car may be greater than the balance left on your loan. In financial terms, this is called being in 'equity'. If you chose to sell at this point, you may be able to pay out the rest of your loan and if there's any equity left over, you could put it towards the deposit on a new car.

But, won't my repayments increase?

That's up to you. Do you want to upgrade, or update?

If you choose to update your car with an equivalent model, your repayments could remain similar. If you upgrade to a more expensive model, however, your repayments will likely increase.

Each repayment you make builds equity in your car.

That said, you should always consider your personal financial situation and the total cost of car ownership when deciding to keep, update or upgrade your car. Slightly higher loan repayments for an updated or upgraded model may be offset by lower maintenance costs, free servicing and better fuel efficiency, for example.

Remember that older cars usually cost more to maintain than new ones. And, as new car warranties expire anytime from three to seven years after purchase, you may be left to cover the full maintenance costs of your aging car.

Do your homework

Of course, it's important to know your budget and financing options before buying a new car. With a little homework, you can enjoy that new car smell every few years – at little or no extra cost.


On average, small business owners spend at least 10 hours each week recording, organizing, and processing financial transactions – everything from accounts receivable and payable, to employee payments, expense receipts and supplier invoices.
While the process may be time-consuming and seem tedious, effective bookkeeping is the foundation of sound financial management – which in turn, is the lifeblood of your business.

If you are frequently overwhelmed by mountains of paperwork and complex calculations, take note of these three bookkeeping basics which will help ensure a healthy financial future for your small business.

Accurate and consistent expense tracking is crucial for claiming tax deductions and lowering your overall tax bill. Plus, analyzing expenses can offer crucial insights into spending patterns and the overall profitability of your small business.
Small business owners should consider using a mobile app for simple, consistent expense tracking. Mobile phone apps like Xero help do away with manual data entry with automated functions, including:
• Receipt data capture via your smartphone's camera (no need to hold onto paper receipts, which can get lost or misfiled);
• Synchronization with your phone's GPS to track mileage of business travel; and
• Importing bank and credit card data, plus integration with accounting software.

Efficient invoicing is about more than ensuring you get paid in a timely fashion. An invoice is an official record of the terms of each transaction and must be completed accurately to avoid errors in your bookkeeping process.
Here are a few tips for professional invoicing:
• Ensure each invoice includes all the important details: contact information, a tracking number, a detailed list of products or services rendered, and a breakdown of the total amount due;
• Provide an electronic receipt to reduce waste and create a "paper trail" if there's ever a dispute; and
• Maintain an invoice-filing system that records when you sent the invoice, to whom, when payment was made, and any reminders sent out.
An online invoicing tool can streamline this aspect of your bookkeeping process and provide an efficient backup filing system.

By law, every business is required to keep organized and timely financial records. However, manually posting income and expenses to ledgers and journals is time consuming – not to mention stressful for the math-averse.
Shave some time (and stress) off your weekly bookkeeping with an all-in-one accounting software solution like SageOne, Xero, QuickBooks, MYOB or CashFlow.

Online bookkeeping offers numerous advantages, such as:
• Instant reports and real time insights on profits and loss, customer accounts, payroll – and your overall financial "big picture";
• Simplified data entry so you can collate and print invoices, purchase orders, and payroll much faster than with manual methods; and
• Improved accuracy through automation (once data is entered, the software handles all subsequent calculations and processes – including invoicing).
When it comes to accounting, vigilance is the key to mitigating risk and ensuring the long term profitability of your small business. Be sure to set aside time each day, week, and month to update and review your books to catch any red flags and ensure your finances are on track.

Should you require any additional information or want to arrange to have our bookkeeper take care of your business please do not hesitate to contact us. #bookkeepers #recordkeeping #clarkemcewan #financialmanagement


 A focus on work-related clothing and laundry expenses this Tax Time will see the ATO "more closely examine taxpayers whose clothing claims don't suit them".


Do you need to wear a uniform to work? Or perhaps you need to wear industry specific clothing? 

You may be eligible to claim a deduction for work clothing or a uniform, but in order for your claim to be eligible it must fall into one of the following categories for which there are specific tax rulings.  These are: 

  1. a compulsory work uniform (for instance, clothing that identifies you as an employee of an organisation with a strictly enforced policy such as a flight attendant),
  2. a non-compulsory work uniform (a uniform that has an AusIndustry registered logo on the top, skirt or slacks and one that may not be worn as everyday clothing - which excludes black slacks or skirts),
  3. clothing specific to your occupation (such as a chef's checked pants), or
  4. protective clothing (like non-slip shoes for a nurse or steel capped boots for a labourer).   Items such as shoes, socks and stockings can never form part of a non-compulsory work uniform, and neither can a single item such as a jumper.

 According to Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson, around 6 million people claimed work-related clothing and laundry expenses last year, with total claims adding up to nearly $1.8 billion.

 Commissioner Anderson went on to say:  "While many of these claims will be legitimate, we don't think that half of all taxpayers would have been required to wear uniforms, protective clothing, or occupation-specific clothing."  With clothing claims up nearly 20% over the last five years, the ATO believes a lot of taxpayers are either making mistakes or deliberately over-claiming.  Common mistakes include people claiming ineligible clothing, claiming for something without having spent the money, and not being able to explain the basis for how the claim was calculated.

"Around a quarter of all clothing and laundry claims were exactly $150, which is the threshold that requires taxpayers to keep detailed records.  We are concerned that some taxpayers think they are entitled to claim $150 as a 'standard deduction' or a 'safe amount', even if they don't meet the clothing and laundry requirements," Ms Anderson said. 

 "Just to be clear, the $150 limit is there to reduce the record-keeping burden, but it is not an automatic entitlement for everyone.  While you don't need written evidence for claims under $150, you must have spent the money, it must have been for uniform, protective or occupation-specific clothing that you were required to wear to earn your income, and you must be able to show us how you calculated your claim."


Ms Anderson said the ATO also has conventional clothing in its sights this year. "Many taxpayers do wear uniforms, occupation-specific or protective clothing and have legitimate claims.  However, far too many are claiming for normal clothing, such as a suit or black pants.  Some people think they can claim normal clothes because their boss told them to wear a certain colour, or items from the latest fashion clothing line.  Others think they can claim normal clothes because they bought them just to wear to work.  Unfortunately they are all wrong – you can't claim a deduction for normal clothing, even if your employer requires you to wear it, or you only wear it to work". 

New restrictions have been imposed by the ATO on travel expenses and depreciation as part of the 2017-18 Budget relating to claims made by taxpayers owing residential rental property.



Travel undertaken in relation to a rental property is a legitimate expense and has been claimed by many property owners, however the Government is concerned that some taxpayers have not been correctly apportioning their travel expenses when the travel was combined with another activity, such as a holiday. As a result of this exploitation of the rules, new legislation will now disallow any travel related to visiting rental properties. 

Deductions such as the cost of repairs conducted while onsite may still be claimed, or a visit to the tax agent.  The Government also makes the point that inspection costs undertaken by third parties will be permissible, meaning that inspection costs are seen as legitimate, but only if genuinely incurred for pure inspection purposes.   


Depreciating assets in a residential rental property, such as carpets, blinds, a hot water system, a cook top, an oven, furniture, were previously eligible for depreciation under Division 40 of the ITAA 1997.  These claims will no longer be deductible under new criteria.  Any deduction claim is essentially dependent upon the acquisition date of the relevant asset, and whether the asset is new or "previously used" i.e. second hand.

From 1 July 2017, the Government will limit plant and equipment depreciation deductions to outlays actually incurred by investors in residential real estate properties. Plant and equipment items are usually mechanical fixtures or those which can be 'easily' removed from a property such as dishwashers and ceiling fans. Investors who purchase plant and equipment for their residential investment property after 9 May 2017 will be able to claim a deduction over the effective life of the asset. However, subsequent owners of a property will be unable to claim deductions for plant and equipment purchased by a previous owner of that property.

Top 6 things you need to know about how the 2017 plant and equipment depreciation changes will affect you (Source: )

  1. If you've purchased a brand new residential construction, you're not affected by the changes to depreciation deductions on plant and equipment items.
  2. If you've purchased a commercial property, you are not affected by these changes.
  3. If you've bought a residential property after 9 May 2017, from a previous owner, you are affected by these changes. You can now only claim capital works related depreciation deductions.
  4. If you've bought a residential property after 9 May 2017, from a previous owner, and you've had to buy new fixtures and fittings, you'll be able to claim depreciation deductions on any fixtures and fittings you've bought yourself.
  5. If you've bought a residential property before 9 May 2017, from a previous owner, you are not affected by these changes.
  6. If you've bought a pre-1987 residential investment property after 9 May 2017, you can only claim capital works deductions on renovation work, not on the original structures.


The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of how recent tax changes may affect residential property investors. It is not intended to be relied on instead of professional advice.  Contact us so that we can determine how these changes may affect your specific situation.

To Tick or Not To Tick

....that is the Question !

Simplified BAS makes lodging easier however there are still a few pitfalls to be aware of.  One of the more common errors we see relates to the selection required after Label G1 Total Sales.

The question prompt after label G1 is: Does this amount include GST?  at which point you either tick Yes or No.  We find that up to 50% of self-lodgers get this wrong.


To report this correctly, you need to consider your invoices. If your gross receipts are GST Free, the amount shown at G1 (Total Sales) does not include GST.  You select NO .  This will be consistent with the amount at 1A (GST owed to ATO) being zero.  That being the case correctly reported that the amount shown below:

 The converse is then true.  If your gross receipts are GST Inclusive, the amount shown at G1 (Total Sales) includes GST.  You select YES.  This will be consistent with there being an amount shown at 1A (GST owed to ATO)

Contact us if you need help with your activity statement.


SMSFs get inactive low-balance account concession

The bill enacting the 2018 federal budget proposal to have all inactive low-balance (under $6000) superannuation accounts transferred to the ATO has taken into account the concerns of SMSFs running deliberate multiple-fund strategies.

The measure had the potential to jeopardise SMSF trustees who strategically retain a small asset balance in a public offer fund to maintain the risk insurance cover they received via the larger fund.

Speaking at the 2018 SMSF Professionals Day, co-hosted by SuperConcepts and selfmanagedsuper, in Adelaide yesterday, SuperConcepts technical services and education general manager Peter Burgess told delegates: "The [Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018] that has now been introduced into Parliament had a new section inserted which said if the account is being used to maintain insurance cover, then that will not be considered to be an inactive low-balance account.

"That seems to have been inserted to get around the situation where we've got self-managed super fund members who have these low balances that they maintain in these APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) [regulated] funds to keep insurance."

Burgess did, however, point out SMSF trustees using this strategy still needed to perform one task to ensure their inactive low-balance account would be left alone.

"The one thing to note though is that in order to trigger this clause, SMSF members, if they've got these low-balance accounts in APRA funds, still need to opt in for insurance in that APRA fund," he said.

The onus for this procedure, though, was not entirely upon SMSF trustees, he noted.

"The way we understand it's going to work is in the lead-up to 1 July 2019, APRA funds will be writing to their members who have low-balance inactive accounts alerting them to the fact that they're going to need to opt in if they want insurance," he said.

#compliance #superannuation #insurancecover

Fee indexation - New fees now apply to ASIC documents


The statutory fees for some commonly lodged documents changed on 4 July 2018.

Annual Review fees from 4 Jul 2018 are now  $263 for a proprietary limited company and $53 for a Special purpose proprietary company.

Late penalties are now $79 for lodgement or payment up to one month late, and $329 for lodgement or payment over one month late.

From 14 July,  ASIC Registered Agents will be able to get company invoices for their registered clients online.

The fees ASIC charges for various regulatory services will change to reflect the actual cost to ASIC associated with the work. New industry funding laws that changed the way ASIC is funded took effect on 1 July 2017. Under the new arrangements, regulated entities will receive an invoice for ASIC's regulatory services delivered in the prior year.

While around 90% of ASIC's regulatory activities will be now be recovered in the form of industry funding levies, approximately 10% will be recovered via fees for service.