Financial management

9 ways to make your 2018 tax return less painful

- June 19, 2018 3 MIN READ

There’s nothing more satisfying than getting your tax return prepared ahead of time. And this year there’s even more incentive with the ATO extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small business. Follow these nine steps to a stress-free tax return.

Tax time is on the horizon again, and this year I promise you won’t leave it until the last minute.

There’s nothing more satisfying than getting your tax return prepared ahead of schedule and this year there’s more than one reason to look forward to tax time.

The good news for small business it that the ATO has extended the $20,000 instant asset write-off for equipment expenses for the 2017/2018 financial year.

So, if you’re running a business with an annual turnover of less than $10 million, you can claim individual expenses of up to $20,000 worth of depreciating assets. You can instantly write-off 100 percent of any business-related purchase. 

This year it will pay to get your return prepared ahead of time. So what can you do now to get organised? Here’s a shortlist of what to bring to your accountant so he/she can prepare your tax return quickly, efficiently and with the maximum return:

1. Start with last year

A good starting point is last year’s tax return, particularly if you have a new accountant. It should have your personal details, tax file number, income streams, tax offsets, deductions and other relevant information on items previously claimed.

2. Do your research

It’s always worth understanding your tax obligations rather than leaving it all for your accountant. Have a look at the ATO website to get an overview of the tax process.

3. Get organised

If you haven’t started already, from today, right now, start a filing system for your receipts and records of expenses. Better still, use an app to scan and file them digitally, so all you have to do is send the file or a link to your accountant. Even better than that, create a spreadsheet of your expenses to send to your accountant and score maximum brownie points.

4. Cloud accounting

These days all business owners have the option of using a cloud accounting program, and it’s worth looking into using one of these tools to make your tax life more manageable.

Throughout the year, you can regularly plug in your finances so that all you have to do at tax time is pull the relevant reports. You also have the option to give your accountant access to your account, meaning you’ll have even less to do at tax time.

5. Check your accountant’s credentials

Before you go ahead and give your financial details to a new accountant, it’s a good idea to search the Tax Practitioners Board, to make sure they’re registered.

6. Prepare details of your income

Depending on the size and type of your business, according to this article from MYOB, you’ll need to prepare details of all or some of the following:

  • PAYG Summaries from employees
  • Lump sum termination payments
  • Bank interest
  • Distributions from trusts, partnerships, managed super funds
  • Superannuation lump sum payments
  • Allowances (car, travel, entertainment, meals etc.)
  • Pensions and allowances
  • Foreign income
  • Capital gains
  • Dividends
  • Personal services income
  • Net income/loss from business
  • Rental income

7. Prepare details of expenses

As mentioned above, if you’re a small business, you can purchase up to $20,000 of assets before tax is payable. Although this isn’t an excuse to go crazy, it’s a good time to think about what will benefit your business – for example a new vehicle, updated computers or a spruce up of your decor.

Other expenses include:

  • Motor vehicle expenses based on business use percentage (include your log book if applicable)
  • Travel and accommodation information – domestic and overseas
  • Work uniforms and other clothing expenses
  • Courses, education and seminars
  • Employee costs
  • Superannuation contributions
  • Rent/lease payments
  • Interest
  • Dividend deductions
  • Bank fees
  • Low-value pool deductions/depreciation
  • Telephone and internet costs
  • Freight and transport costs
  • Utilities – electricity, gas, water
  • Legal and accounting fees
  • Charitable donations
  • Income protection insurance

8. Extra documents

Finally, there are the usual tax documents to prepare which are the same every year.

  • Lease, hire purchase, chattel mortgage or other loan agreements with your business
  • Business Activity Statements and Instalment Activity Statements and working papers
  • Stock valuation figure after performing your 30 June stocktake.

9. Incentives and deductions

With all the above information, you and your accountant can figure out if you’re entitled to any tax incentives and deductions. For example, if you work from home, you may be eligible to claim back some of your rent or mortgage, and electricity. Check the ATO website to see your entitlements.

Follow the steps above you’ll be ahead of the game long before your return is due. Your accountant will be able to process your return quickly, getting any rebate back to you sooner. Congratulations! You’re done for another 12 months.