Top 5 avoidable tax mistakes small business owners keep making

The biggest lie ever told to aspiring small business owners and entrepreneurs is that hard work guarantees success.

Hard work is vital to success, but it’s not the only quotient. Don’t listen when starry-eyed blog writers and charismatic airbrushed suits tell you that you can’t lose if you try hard enough. There are over 2.1 million small businesses in Australia, and a third of those will fail regardless of how hard they try. It’s a morbid truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless.

In our experience, a lot of businesses fail because they don’t plan the tax side of things well enough. From payroll tax to super guarantee contributions to GST, we’ve seen businesses blindsided by hefty penalties and tax debts because they put their obligations out of sight and mind. Here are the five most common tax mistakes killing small businesses – avoid these mistakes, and you’ve more than doubled your chances of making it.

1. Not keeping track of changes to tax laws

Did you know payroll tax rates changed this year? Rufus Rich didn’t. “I’ve got three employees working for my electrical estimation business, and I didn’t withhold enough to cover the rate increase. Now it’s tax time, and I’ve a tax penalty because my books weren’t right. My tax agent couldn’t warn me until it was too late.”
If you’re not following tax law closely, it’s understandable you’ll miss things. Luckily, our Monthly Tax Review keeps you up to date with the latest rulings and determinations that actually apply to you.

2. Not using a tax agent

Mary started a jewellery business from home. “For the first year, my revenue was relatively small. I didn’t think I needed an accountant or tax agent to do my return. I thought I could just leave it. The only problem is, I missed out on claiming a deduction for my pendant-pressing machine. If only I’d used a tax agent!”
If-onlys are crippling for small businesses, and they’re avoidable. Our helpline service gives you access to our tax specialists – they’ll help you avoid regrettable scenarios, every time.

3. Not keeping good records

Good records means good business – there’s no way around it. Gillian Charles had a truck delivery business, but because she didn’t keep track of her fleet’s fuel usage, she missed out on valuable fuel tax credit claims. Luckily, we have all the resources small business owners need to keep track of their finer details.

4. Not getting the status of your workers right

Not getting the engagement status of workers right can land employers in unforeseen hot water. Chris Crooks hired a group of contracted cleaners every week to tidy up his party hall after functions, but ended up in trouble with the law. “I thought because they were contractors I didn’t have to pay super. I was wrong.” Chapter 19 of our 2015 & 2016 Tax Summary could’ve saved Chris from losing his business.

5. Making sure you pay your employees superannuation – and on time

When cash flow becomes an issue, too many businesses leave superannuation guarantee payments until last. If you want to avoid penalties from the Tax Office, you need to make sure your employees are paid superannuation when they need to be paid. You can’t risk late lodgements. It’s a good thing small business members have yearly lodgement updates delivered to their email inbox every month.