Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Be Street Smart – Raise Funds while you Dine Out

December 5, 2011

So, volunteering by giving time is just not possible at the moment. How about supporting Street Smart. Here is a little bit more about the organisationfrom their website:

“We established StreetSmart Australia in 2003 to support and strengthen smaller, grassroots community organisations helping the homeless, frustrated by the lack of action and support from Government. These smaller organisations are critical in helping many people in crisis. StreetSmart helps out by raising funds and delivering financial grants, raising community awareness of the issues of homelessness and assisting these organisations to connect across their communities.

We see StreetSmart as a unique bridge between those that want to help people experiencing homelessness and the grassroots agencies that are changing lives. We believe in the support of emergency aid and critical services, and development of projects and programs that encourage social inclusion, empowerment and sustainable change for people experiencing homelessness.

When money is raised from the public 100 per cent of your donations are distributed in the form of grants. To date we have raised $1.67 million, supporting 400 grassroots projects.

We currently operate in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, SA, WA and ACT.”

From now until 24 December just add $2 or more to your bill at participating restaurants to help raise money for the homeless. More details are here!

Are you a business person who owns and runs a cafe or restaurant? You and your patrons can get involved, details here.


Money – Tom on Tuesday is taking requests

January 20, 2011

Since I started seriously blogging again in December, my posts have ranged across a diverse number of topics, some serious, some not so. I have noticed however that there is a spike of interest whenever the topics turn to money, whether business or personal. So, I have decided to take requests. I invite readers to send me their questions about managing money, personal budgeting or anything about financially setting up and running a business.

A little about my background. I am a CPA (Certified Practising Accountant). I have worked for many years as an accountant for various businesses running their day to day financial matters and preparing regular financial reports for business owners and managers. I have also has several stints working in public practice preparing financial statements and income tax returns for both businesses and individuals.

Here is what I am NOT. Although I have worked as an employee in accounting practices, I have never been a principal able to practise in my own name. I am also not a tax agent. This simply means that I have been qualified and experienced enough to be an accountant and tax return preparer for other business people but never for myself. Also, although I understand many things about investments in shares and property, I am not a financial planner.

That aside, I am prepared to answer financial questions as far as my experience allows. I intend to put the same qualification forward as you would hear for a radio talk back show or you would read in a newspaper column. My advice at all times is general in nature and not meant to be acted upon by any particular individual. Anyone reading my thoughts should get their own specific advice before making any financial decisions.

So what can I do. I can give the benefit of my experience in business and financial matters. I will also be making numerous links to relevant information on the internet. By doing this I hope to cut down on the time you take to wade through the mountains of information on the web.

So, fire away with your questions!

Why does my Accountant charge so much?

January 14, 2011

Many people in business, especially those new to business, express concern at how much their accountant charges them, especially as it was for “just a tax return”. I hope to throw some light on this issue. 

First, what expectations did you have of the amount of fees you were likely to be charged? Did your accountant prepare an engagement letter setting out the scope of services to be provided and an estimated range of charges for thos services? Even if there was an engagement letter, was it specific and detailed enough and did you, as the client, fully read and understand the engagement letter before you countersigned it? The answer unfortunately, is often too little was established by way of expectations when the professional relationship started. Even if an accountant has quoted hourly rates for partners, senior accountants, bookkeepers etc, there may have been scant attention to the amount of work (ie hours) required to undertake your work. Indeed the amount of work may change as time goes by.

Who are you? – in an accounting sense?

Is your business structure a sole trader, partnership, company or trust? Each type of structure has different requirements and different levels of complexity in preparing financial accounts and preparing income tax returns.

What work have you asked for?

While most business people believe they only need an income tax return, there are other tasks implied in producing a tax return and often other tasks are requested by the client.

Before an income tax return can be prepared, financial statements must be produced for the business entity. At a minimum, this should be an Income Statement and a Balance Sheet.

Trading entities such as Companies and Trusts have additional requirements over a Sole Trader or Partnership. The checklist in dealing with a company or trust is considerably longer than for a sole trader or partnership. Many of the extra requirements are because of the requirements of the tax laws. In addition, it must be remembered that a company or a trust is a separate entity from the owners of the structure. Therefore the flow of funds between the different entities must be properly tracked. Other considerations include preparation of meeting minutes, calculation of Trust distributions and Company dividends.  

There is no simple answer to what an accountant’s fees should be. For business accounting and tax work there is no “industry standard”.  There are a few things that affect the level of fees. Even if a client has done their own bookkeeping, say in accounting software like MYOB, the first question is “Is the work that has been done correct?” This means, as a minimum: bank reconciliations correctly done, BAS returns all correctly done, all coding correctly done. On this last point of coding, it is easy for a client to code something as repairs expense when it should be a capital item that should be depreciated. Loan repayments can be coded to an expense item, when they should in fact come off a loan in the Balance Sheet. If a cursory check of the bookkeeping throws up some elementary errors, then the accountant will want to do additional checking and make corrections. This takes time that you will be charged for.

Even if the client’s bookkeeping is reliable, there still may be some things left to do when the file gets to the accountant. The accountant usually updates the asset register for the business and calculates depreciation. In addition all loan accounts will be checked to ensure that interest and loan repayments have been correctly allocated. Most accountants will scan all the expense codes for reasonableness. Any large or unusual expenditure would be checked and: changed if it incorrectly allocated or if correct, notes made as reminders of what the circumstances were. In addition, all Balance Sheet account balances would be checked. All of this may take some time.

If all the above is okay, the accountant will prepare the financial accounts and tax return in the form they need to be. Even with accounting and tax software this will take a little while to ensure everything is done properly.

Finally, company tax returns involve more work than say a partnership tax return, even in your first year of business. There are particular laws surrounding owners’ loan accounts, where owners have taken money out of the business or have spent money privately. Also when companies pay tax, a “franking account” must be maintained. If you are unfamiliar with franking, I can explain another time. The point being, it is something particular to Pty Ltd companies.

The other thing that you need to take into account about your bill is what other work did the accountant do for you apart from tax returns? If he/she also prepared your individual tax returns and depending upon their complexity, that would add to the cost. As for other work, did your accountant spend any time with you or do any work on your behalf about advising you in setting up the company? Did the accountant do any work like preparing finance applications on your behalf or provide advice on the early stages of setting up and running your business?

The above questions are only ones that you can answer. If your accountant has provided other services or advice beyond preparing financial accounts and income tax returns, then normally those other things would be detailed on the account you received.

One final thing about the difference between competent accountants and really good accountants is that competent accountants will attend to the “score keeping” – preparing financial accounts and tax returns. Really good accountants will be prepared to offer you advice about how your business is going and will provide pro-active advice on where it is going – in conjunction with knowing what your goals and directions are for your business. Sometimes you have to ask in order to start accessing the extra advice. The extra advice will come at a cost but like anything, good advice will add to your business.

If your current accountant is simply providing “score keeping”, then I would first re-consider whether there was more work than usual in the current year and whether or not there had to be some extra work done in addition to your bookkeeping. The fee charged may or may not be reasonable. If you are contemplating comparison shopping for accountants based on the price of “score keeping” then lowest is not necessarily best. Think of cut price haircuts or buying Black & Gold chocolate!

Where you may want to compare accountants is the interest they take in your business and the advice they willingly and pro-actively provide based on their knowledge of your business. The main way to find these accountants is to talk to other people in similar sized businesses and find out who raves about how helpful their accountant has been.

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