Articles

The Smith Thornton team celebrated the end of the financial year in style at Garrison Restaurant on 3rd July. There were many reasons to smile, with the end of a hectic year, the celebration of Smith Thornton's 25 year anniversary and a chance to unwind with our comrades. Garrison certainly put on a show with delicious morsels to delight us and fabulous cocktails that looked as good as they tasted. There were a few speeches to be made, especially given the 25 year milestone and thanks, of course, to our hosts and the organisers of the event.


We couldn't be happier with the way the evening turned out, there were many laughs to be had and a chance to shake off the year that was. We recognised special staff members that had come and gone (and some who have stayed) as well as some very select clients who have been with us from the beginning. Mention was also made of some significant events over the years, it has certainly been a journey and we wouldn't have it any other way. We even had a photo display of what current staff looked like 25 years ago – given our youngest staff member, Sam Wilson, is only 22, this proved to be quite an interesting exercise! He is pictured here (centre) with Melinda Hudson (left) who has just seen out her 20 year anniversary and Nancy Lembo (right) who has been on board from day dot. Of the evening, Sam said "A great time shared with a great crew!", while Nancy, who has attended her fair share of these events to say the least, said "A lot of wonderful memories flooded back as we prepared for our special EOFY Party in celebrating the business's 25 year anniversary.  There was lots of fun and laughter on the night reminiscing the many years together and recalling many funny stories to those newer team members to Smith Thornton."

Bring on the next 25 years!!!


   

 

  


Succession planning for farmers

Historically farms and farming businesses have been passed down from one generation to the next, seemingly with little input from third parties or advisors. Still to this day many farming families choose to keep this process internal and see little need for assistance. So why are farm owners and their families increasingly choosing to get an external third party to help plan for succession and mediate the process? 
  • The value at stake is much higher than it was many years ago. According to the Australian Farmland Values 2021 edition prepared by Rural Bank, the median price per hectare of Australian farmland increased by 12.9% in 2020. This was the seventh consecutive year of growth and resulted in a 20 year compound annual growth rate of 7.6%. With more value at stake farming families are seeking professional advice to guide them through the succession process and reduce the risk of contested wills and estates.
  • Farmers are typically asset rich and cash poor. If farmers are looking to transfer farming land to family members upon retirement, there is a lot of planning involved in this process. The asset value can be large, there can be many children involved, and determining who gets what with little cash available can be difficult. The level of difficulty increases if one child has been involved in the farm over many years, often hasn't been compensated accordingly but is expecting adequate compensation when it comes to dividing up assets.
  • Family members are more educated than they were many years ago, with many educated children returning to the farm after seeking to increase their farming knowledge and skill set. With an increased level of education, and generational differences, comes an increased tendency for the younger generation to question ways of the past and query long term plans. This can make the succession process arduous at times and it can become difficult to work around the different thought processes for those involved. Having a third party involved in these discussions can help bridge the generational gaps.
  • An increased desire to grow and protect the family wealth. As the cost of living increases and the cost of housing skyrockets, it is more important than ever to make your assets earn you the highest return possible, including your family farm. An effective succession planning process will ensure that you are working towards goals over many years to help you achieve your growth targets  
Advisors and accountants often become involved in succession planning for their clients and the part that they play can be quite varied, depending on what level of help the farming family needs. Possible ways that your advisor or accountant can guide you through succession planning include:
  • Documented succession plans are essential, so that all parties are fully informed of planned ownership structures, legal considerations, succession timetable, roles and responsibilities, retirement values, details of any foreseen sales/buyouts, taxation consequences and importantly, the transition of farm management roles and decision making responsibilities. Some farmers may know these details and may just need help documenting them. Others may also need assistance in getting this information together and the associated decision process.
  • Family board meetings are gaining popularity and an outside party is typically involved in these, such as an advisor or accountant. They involve the next generation in the decision making process before control is transferred and allow the older generation (current owners) to stay involved as the property and business transition takes place. These meetings are agenda based, and typically involve setting goals and then actions, roles and responsibilities to achieve the end goals.
  • Asset structuring for tax purposes and the effective use of superannuation funds are critical when determining how to maximise returns from your business. An accountant should be well equipped to provide you with this advice.
  • Some farmers just want to know if they can afford to do what they have planned, whether that be asset transfers at some point in time, downsizing and selling off assets, or changing their operations to better suit their ageing bodies. They often also want to ensure they are making sound business decisions now so that come retirement age they have created as much wealth as possible. An advisor or accountant should be able to provide detailed financial forecasting and scenario analysis to provide farmers reassurance that they are making well informed financial decisions.
If you are looking for help in any aspect of your farm succession process please contact us at Smith Thornton on 9842 5510.

TFNs – handle with care or pay the price


Privacy (Tax File Number) Rule 2015 is in full force and requires TFN recipients to take special care on how we receive, store and disclose TFNs. I am a TFN recipient, and it's quite likely that you could be as well! Examples include:

The ATO
Tax Agents
Employers
Bookkeepers/payroll officers
Banks
Super Funds

Collection of TFN information

TFN recipients must only request or collect TFN information for a purpose authorised by taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law.  Remember that it is not an offence for an individual to not disclose their TFN.

Use or disclosure of TFN information

TFN information must only be used or disclosed by TFN recipients for a purpose authorised by taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law, or for the purpose of giving an individual any TFN information that the TFN recipient holds about that individual. It is imperative that TFNs are not disclosed via email due to the security risk (especially for free email addresses where emails can be scrutinised by the provider) unless the information is password protected or encrypted. This type of breach used to happen frequently with Employee PAYG Payment Summaries being emailed directly to staff, however the Single Touch Payroll system has helped to fix this. 

Storage, security and destruction of TFN information

TFN recipients must take reasonable steps to protect TFN information from misuse and loss, and unauthorised access or disclosure and ensure that access to records containing TFN information is restricted to individuals who need to handle that information for taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law purposes. 
 
A TFN recipient must take reasonable steps to securely destroy or permanently de-identify TFN information where it is no longer required by law to be retained, or necessary for a purpose under taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law (including the administration of such law). Banking systems do this well. Once your TFN is entered into their system, it is no longer accessible by staff. 

Staff training

TFN recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure that all staff are aware of the need to protect individuals' privacy when handling TFN information, and all staff who collect or access TFN information are aware of the Privacy (TFN) rule.
 

What are the penalties for breaching the TFN rule?

You could in some circumstances face criminal penalties, civil penalties and orders to pay damages and a large fine and/or up to 2 years' imprisonment can apply for this type of breach. As well as constituting a breach of the TFN Rule, unauthorised use or disclosure of TFNs can be an offence under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA) and attract penalties including imprisonment and monetary fines.



Federal Budget Summary 2021-22

Summary and Key announcements

Whilst the 2021-22 budget announced on 11 May didn't contain any groundbreaking initiatives, it did serve to extend certain personal and business tax initiatives and streamline other areas. 

Of all the budget measures that have been announced, the two that will be of interest to the vast majority of individuals and business owners will be the extension of the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) until the end of the 2022 financial year, and the extension of the Instant Asset Write-Off Provisions and Loss Carry Back Provisions until the 2023 financial year. 

Another notable change that will impact many businesses will be the removal of the $450 minimum threshold for Superannuation Guarantee contributions. For businesses that employ casual or part time employees this will be very relevant. This change still requires royal assent so doesn't yet have a definitive commencement date - however it is widely expected to be in place commencing 1 July 2022.

Whilst on Superannuation, it is worth mentioning that the superannuation guarantee increase from 9.5% to 10% is still in place from 1 July 2021 and has not been deferred, so employers will need to pay careful attention to the first pay runs in July to ensure that the payroll software is calculating this correctly – particularly those that aren't on cloud based systems.

The budget measures are further discussed below.

Individuals 

LMITO – the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset has been extended until the end of the 2022 financial year, which provides for an offset of up to $1,080 ($2,160 for a couple). The offset begins to phase out once taxable income hits $90,000 and is Nil once taxable income exceeds $126,000. 

Medicare Levy increases - The income thresholds have received minor increases to assist singles, families, seniors and pensioners. 

Self education expenses - The Government is removing the exclusion of the first $250 of deductions for prescribed courses of education. This change alleviates some time and effort in calculating non-deductible expenses in order to offset the $250 exclusion – with a view to reducing the compliance costs. This won't be in effect for the 2021 income year, as it will commence from the first income year after the date of Royal Assent.

Tax Residency simplification - In what will be welcome news to many, the current individual tax residency rules will be replaced with more simplified residency tests, in order to provide a framework that will reduce compliance costs and provide more certainty to taxpayers. The new test will be referred to as a 'Bright line test', meaning where a person is physically present in Australia for 183 days or more in any income year they will be deemed an Australia tax resident. An additional test will be provided with other measurable criteria if required. These changes will apply from 1 July following Royal Assent.

Business

Temporary full expensing - Instant asset write off. The Government is extending the temporary full expensing measure for 12 months and it will now be available until 30 June 2023. The measure allows eligible businesses to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value acquired on 6 October 2020 and first used or installed ready for use by 20 June 2023. Note, for anyone looking at accessing this for the 2021 income year, the assets acquired need to be delivered and ready for use prior to 30 June 2021 in order to be claimed in the 2021 income tax return.

Temporary loss carry backs - Temporary loss carry-back will also be extended by one year until 30 June 2023. This will allow eligible companies to carry back tax losses from the 2022-23 income year as far back as the 2018-19 income year. This will help increase cash flow for businesses in future years and support companies that were profitable and paying tax but find themselves in a loss position as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tax relief for brewers and distillers - The Government has increased the Excise Refund Scheme cap from $100,000 to $350,000. Commencing 1 July 2021, small (eligible) brewers and distillers will receive a full remission (increased from 60%) of any excise they pay on alcohol produced up to the cap of $350,000. This is designed to align with the benefits available to wine producers (Wine Equalisation Tax Producer Rebate).
Corporate tax residency rules – The Government has announced amendments with regards to the corporate residency test, for companies that were incorporated offshore. The Government is also consulting on tests for trusts and corporate limited partnerships.

Digital economy strategy - In order to further align the tax treatment of intangible assets to tangible assets, the Government will allow taxpayers to self-assess the effective life of certain depreciating intangible assets for tax purposes. This will apply to patents, registered designs, copyrights, in-house software, licenses and telecommunications site access rights. This will take effect from 1 July 2023.

Superannuation 

Superannuation guarantee - The rate will increase to 10% as is currently legislation from 1 July 2021 – so no change here and won't be deferred.

Minimum threshold - The Government will remove the $450 per month minimum threshold – where currently employees do not have to be paid superannuation guarantee by their employer if they earn under this amount. This will take effect from the first income year after Royal Assent of enabling legislation.

Work test - The Government has announced that the work test will be abolished for those aged 67-74 who wish to make non-concessional and salary sacrifice contributions. Personal deductible (concessional) contributions still require the work test. These changes will apply from 1 July following Royal Assent, and it is expected this will be 1 July 2022.

Downsizer contribution- the age requirement has been reduced from 65 to 60. The downsizer contribution allows eligible individuals to make a one off, post-tax contribution to their superannuation of up to $300,000 per person from the proceeds of selling their home. These changes will apply from 1 July following Royal Assent.

Residency - The Government has announced more relaxed residency requirements for self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF's) and small APRA-regulated funds (SAF's). Importantly these changes will allow members to contribute to their SMSF whilst temporarily overseas for work or education – as the central management and control test has been extended from 2 years to 5, and the active membership test has been removed. These changes will apply from 1 July following Royal Assent.

This article provided a brief overview of each of these measures, if you wish to discuss these or your personal circumstances in more detail please get in touch. 

Too good to be true?

Ponzi is a term you would have heard bandied about again recently. It paints a picture of investor fraud where investors capital is repaid to them under the false guise of earnings. The recent death of fraudster Bernie Madoff in a US prison – 12 years into his 150 year sentence – for a $25 billion Ponzi scheme, should remind us of the timely catchphrase "if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is…".

Perhaps I live a sheltered existence, but lots of my client's investment portfolios that cross my desk every day are from those who seemingly apply conservative balanced risk, seeing investment returns around 5%. I regularly test my observations with Tammy, our in house financial planner, and she says "…yep, that's about right…".

Whether it's your gut or your head, I'm sure you can tell if something sounds too good to be true. The spruikers wanting to get their hands on your hard earned cash will forever prey on the human emotions greed, fear, and even the combination of both – FOMO – the fear of missing out.

Back yourself - that deep down feeling says it all.

If you would like to talk to one of our financial advisors, contact us to discuss your specific requirements.


The Outsourced CFO

Over the past few years the rapid development of cloud based software systems has seen the rise of outsourced roles within many businesses. COVID has accelerated this even further, highlighting the need for businesses to create efficiencies, remain agile and to scale up or scale down in a short time span. 

As businesses continue to seek additional ways to create these efficiencies and push further towards cloud based software systems, this has opened the path for the role of Chief Financial Officer to be outsourced. 

Many businesses, especially those in the start up or growth phase don't necessarily have the financial resources to employ a full time CFO. The average salary for an experienced CFO across Australia is upwards of $200,000, which is quite prohibitive for many businesses. 

With the resources that are available it is likely that the full time employees would be operational / sales staff or internal accountants/bookkeepers to ensure that the day to day operations of the business are running smoothly and the statutory requirements are met.

Whilst this may be the case, many businesses would benefit from the services a CFO would provide. 

The list of services an outsourced CFO can provide, along with the benefits include;

Substantial cost savings: CFO's can be engaged for the specific services that the business requires, with the flexibility of additional services to be added or removed as required;
  1. Forecasting: Cash Flow forecasting/Budgets gives the business owners/management a great insight as to the expected performance of the business, and the ability to make critical, informed decisions on upcoming expenditure and strategy. Key Performance Indicators can be developed as part of this process, including Industry Benchmarking and KPI analysis; 
  2. Management Reporting: To make timely decisions for the business, it is important to have up to date, accurate and relevant financial reports available. Reviewing the monthly or quarterly reports for the business, in conjunction with the Cash Flow forecast should form part of the management/board meeting agenda to give the business the best chance of thriving;
  3. Risk Review & Mitigation: With the uncertainty of the current economic climate, it is imperative that businesses are safeguarded as best as possible against the various risks posed to both the business and the business owners. Conducting a risk review, whether it be financial, banking, employment, insurance, IT or contractual risks can be vital in strengthening the business. Having robust systems in place allows business owners to focus their energies on running and growing the business;
  4. Strategy / Planning: CFO's can provide advice or commentary on a range of topics, and quite often a fresh perspective can be beneficial. Whether it be ad hoc, or at management/board meetings CFO's can assist in formulating a business strategy or growth plan, assessing opportunities as well as updating the Cash Flows/Budgets to accommodate the 'what if' scenarios;
  5. Business Acquisitions: The process of buying a new business can be daunting, however an experienced CFO can provide tremendous support through this process via conducting Due Diligence, preparing Financial Forecasts, reviewing draft Agreements and Term Sheets, communicating with various stakeholders including the vendor, the vendor's Accountants and Legal advisors, business valuers, bankers and settlement agents. 
  6. Internal Procedures, Processes: Businesses that have gone through a growth phase typically find that the procedures required to run smoothly increase exponentially. Having an external consultant review these processes can provide the direction and support to ensure the business is adequately covered with appropriate internal controls;
  7. Business Structure review: Quite often as businesses develop, the internal structure remains the same for a period of time and business owners and employees take on more wide ranging tasks and responsibilities, all the while getting further away from their core role. Although the employees can develop new skills, quite often inefficiencies can occur as there may not be clear delineation between roles, reporting lines and responsibilities. Conducting a review can identify where improvement is required and realign the business. 
Ryan McLaren is a Chartered Accountant who has worked as a CFO for the past 4+ years and also has over 15 years' experience in public practice. 

Would you like to find out more about outsourcing CFO services? Don't hesitate to call Smith Thornton to discuss your needs. 


Agtech helping farmers solve problems

Did you see the 'Remote Access' article in November 2020's AgJournal (with Roger Fletcher on the cover) by Sue Neales?

It is a fascinating read for those looking to increase profits through utilisation of agtech and automation. Did you know that in 2019, more than $90 million of capital flowed into new agtech ventures? In the article, Sue Neales predicts the 10 biggest ag changes in the next decade as:
  1. Smart interactive livestock eartags
  2. Virtual fencing and eShepherd
  3. BioGenetics
  4. FutureFeed
  5. The Yield and Internet of Things
  6. Circular Farming
  7. Complementary cropping and regenerative agriculture
  8. Urban, vertical and soil-free farming
  9. Fewer Livestock
  10. Carbon and soil farming
From SwarmFarm robots, to automated headers, water analytics and drones to satellite spatial images, agtech success lies in helping farmers solve their problems.

The big question is, does the investment justify the outcome? We can help you to look at the financial outcome of different scenarios so that you can make an informed decision about which direction to head in when it comes to improving your farm operations.

Subscribe to AgJournal at www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/agribusiness

Our team is very experienced in working with rural businesses, please contact our team on 08 9842 5155 if you would like to find out more.

If you have inherited or are likely to inherit an asset in your lifetime, keep reading...

It is important to understand the tax implications of selling inherited assets like property and shares so that you can make informed financial decisions.

Capital Gains Tax is calculated on the difference between the sale proceeds of an asset and its cost base. This is where things get complicated. The sale proceeds will be easily calculated, but what about the cost base?

Calculating the cost base can be quite challenging depending upon the deceased level of record keeping. 

So what exactly do you need to know?

The first thing you need to ascertain is the date that the asset was acquired by the deceased person.

If the date of acquisition was before 20th September 1985, your cost base becomes the market value of the asset at the date of death.

If the date of acquisition was after 20th September 1985, your cost base becomes the original cost of the asset plus or minus any applicable adjustments to the cost base.

And what if the asset was originally inherited by the deceased person?

In that case, you need to firstly work out the acquisition date (date of death of the previous benefactor). If the acquisition date was before 20th September 1985, your cost base becomes the market value at date of death as in the earlier example.

If the date of inheritance was after 20th September 1985 and the original date of purchase was also after 20th September 1985, you need to ascertain the original cost of the asset by the previous benefactor plus or minus any applicable adjustments to the cost base.

If the date of inheritance was after 20th September 1985 but the asset was purchased by the previous benefactor before that date, cost base will be market value at the previous benefactor's date of death.

And what if you inherited half an asset from your deceased spouse (having already owned the other half)? Once again, we go back to acquisition date. If you and your spouse originally acquired the asset before 20th September 1985, the cost base of the inherited half will be market value at date of death and your original half will be exempt from Capital Gains tax when you sell. If you originally acquired the asset after 20th September 1985, the cost base for both halves will be original cost price plus or minus adjustments but each half will have a different acquisition date.

Confusing right?!

Add into the mix CGT exemptions including the main residence exemption and small business concessions, and it becomes clear that you should be seeking professional advice sooner rather than later if you have inherited or will be inheriting assets from loved ones.

Important records and evidence can often be accidentally destroyed, leaving you with little hope of correctly calculating the cost base of an inherited asset so the sooner you get advice, the sooner you can start searching for appropriate records.

Do you still own assets that you inherited years ago? It still pays to collate the cost base information now so that you either have it ready for when you sell the asset or alternatively have it ready for your beneficiaries to use upon your death.

So the moral of the story is to make sure you have kept or found records associated with assets you own or will inherit. This information is important in avoiding adverse tax consequences when assets are sold or passed to the next generation. 

And if you are thinking of selling an inherited asset, be aware of the tax implications of the sale before you go and buy that big yacht!!

If you would like find out how to best manage selling or receiving an inherited asset, please contact our team on 08 9842 5155.

This is a case where two tax agents were habitually making incorrect tax deductions on behalf of their clients, and the consequences saw them put out of business.

Using comparisons of statistical data, the ATO had decided to monitor and then audit some of the agent's clients because of concerns that some of their clients had claimed work related expense deductions which were unusually high. Due to the incorrect claims, the clients were required to amend their income tax returns, resulting in a tax shortfall of over $135,000 and penalties totalling $52,694.55.

Disciplinary action was first taken by the Tax Practitioners Board, and upon appeal, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal concluded that the agents were not fit and proper persons, and also stated: "Tax agents have a duty to take reasonable care in the provision of their services. Clients trust that their tax agent has the requisite level of training and knowledge to advise them appropriately." Their licences to operate as tax agents were cancelled.

Ref: Yvonne Anderson and Associates Pty Ltd and Tax Practitioners Board [2020] AATA 4022

Succession Planning – Getting Started

In basic terms, succession planning is the process a business or family goes through to determine what each participants' role will be when the existing business owners, farm owners, or key employees enter into retirement or decide to exit the business. Many business owners or farming families take the approach "I'll deal with that when it comes to that point" – however good planning years in advance can improve the end result significantly, in terms of business value, having a saleable business, appropriate knowledge transfer, family relations and importantly, having everyone work towards the same end game. Every family and business situation is unique but undertaking the basic steps towards succession planning will start to give all family and business participants a clearer picture of the future.

Some basic steps that you can take now for succession planning include:

  1. Understand what your goals are in terms of retirement age, how much money you will need to retire, where you want to live, what you want to do and importantly – what do you want to do with your business? This relates to any business owner (e.g. retail, trades, construction, farming etc.). You might need to consult a financial planner at this point to determine what your financial goals should be.
  2. Once you understand what you want, ask your family members to consider what their goals are. For farming families this is critical as often the younger generation have been involved in the farm for many years without any open communication of goals and finances. Business owners might find that a family member wants to take over the family run business, or perhaps that an existing employee is interested. Make no promises when having these discussions, this is purely a fact finding expedition.
  3. Organise a meeting with your accountant and lawyer to determine the accounting, tax and legal implications of ideas that you might have for succession and assets. The financial and legal outcomes won't necessarily stop any of your plans, however if these conversations are held years in advance you will have more time to plan for them.
  4. At this point for farming families in particular, discussions can at times get heated and complicated. You will be possibly discussing who gets certain assets, be it houses, land, stock, non-farm investments, who will run the farm, financial arrangements, who has worked on the farm previously and were they paid appropriately, and even possible leasing arrangements. Remember that succession planning for farming families will often work towards an equitable outcome that won't necessarily be equal and this can cause some distress. You might find it easier and more productive to get a neutral mediator involved to run discussions, along with your lawyer and accountant.
  5. Sometimes a second or even third meeting is required to reach a final plan or arrangement. Once you have decided on the outcomes write a succession plan that outlines each step required and a timeframe. Ensure that this plan is made available to all participants, or if some information is personal and not appropriate to share, prepare plans for each participant so everyone knows their roles, tasks, goals and timeframes. It is important to include in these plans all steps you need to take to get your business ready for sale or transfer. For some businesses this process can take five years when all knowledge, processes and relationships sit with the business owner.
Check in on your succession plan every year – situations changes so it is important to update your plan when necessary.

If you need help getting started on succession planning and would like help from a facilitation, accounting or tax perspective, please contact our Business Advisory team on 9842 5155.

Contact Us

Office Location

234 Stirling Tce
Albany, WA 6330
Australia

Postal Address

PO Box 5445
Albany, WA 6332
Australia

Contact Numbers

Phone 08 9842 5155
Fax 08 9842 5510
Email mail@smiththornton.com.au

Secure Client Login