The case for small business tax reform

Jake Phillpot

23 June 2016    |   

“Can I pay you earlier?” It’s pretty unusual for someone to ask to pay for something sooner than they have to. Yet, this is what’s happening at an astonishing volume all around the country in June. This is the only time of year when people care about timing more than pricing. Everywhere in Australia, offices are upgrading their computers, restaurants are ordering extra stock and tradies are buying new tools. And they need it done this week. This flurry of economic activity looks like a strange and wonderful occurrence at first glance. Just what the economy needs! At least until you think about the maddening cause of this last minute rush to spend spend spend. It’s tax time. The whole purpose of this mad rush is to rack up as many tax-deductible expenses as possible before tax time on June 30. I’m all for tax planning, but this madness isn’t good for anyone, nor is it necessary. The mechanics of the tax system that causes this otherwise irrational behaviour is infuriating. Company tax is often misunderstood in Australia. We have what’s called a dividend imputation system. Under this system, private individuals get credits for income generated by companies which have already paid tax. In simple terms, if Company X makes $100 profit and pays $30 tax, company shareholders can get a $30 credit on their tax bill. In Australia, the ultimate calculation for who pays tax lies with the individual, not with the company. Under the imputation system, a cut to company taxes by 20% would result in a corresponding increase in personal income tax. For small business owners, the choice is usually whether to pay tax inside the company, or as an individual. If company taxes were lower, what would the consequences be? There would simply be more money left over after tax time to reinvest in the business. Wouldn’t it be better if at the end of the year a tradie who made $100,000 had the option of either paying $30,000 tax for their personal income or using that windfall to employ an apprentice? This way increased profits would grow the size of the taxable pie. That’s what would happen if company tax rates were 0%. Contrary to popular political discourse, a cut in company tax rates in Australia won’t line the pockets of wealthy business owners. It will stimulate a new wave of investment across the economy. People start small businesses because they’re optimistic about the future and willing to invest in our economy. Small business owners must make smart investment decisions to survive. Every time a tradie re-tools, they are investing in their own productivity. These incremental gains are what makes an economy grow. We’re talking a lot about innovation at the moment at all levels of Government. What is it that will drive Australia’s economy forward? Surely the fastest route to driving a new wave of investment in innovation across our nation is to distribute the responsibility of investing to those closest to the problems – small business owners. It seems obvious, yet we purposely stifle investment in productivity every day with company tax. Tax cuts for small business are the fastest and clearest route to innovation without monumental government waste. It’s time for a serious talk about small business tax reform.

“Can I pay you earlier?”

It’s pretty unusual for someone to ask to pay for something sooner than they have to. Yet, this is what’s happening at an astonishing volume all around the country in June. This is the only time of year when people care about timing more than pricing.

Everywhere in Australia, offices are upgrading their computers, restaurants are ordering extra stock and tradies are buying new tools. And they need it done this week.

This flurry of economic activity looks like a strange and wonderful occurrence at first glance. Just what the economy needs! At least until you think about the maddening cause of this last minute rush to spend spend spend.

It’s tax time.

The whole purpose of this mad rush is to rack up as many tax-deductible expenses as possible before tax time on June 30. I’m all for tax planning, but this madness isn’t good for anyone, nor is it necessary. The mechanics of the tax system that causes this otherwise irrational behaviour is infuriating.

Company tax is often misunderstood in Australia. We have what’s called a dividend imputation system. Under this system, private individuals get credits for income generated by companies which have already paid tax. In simple terms, if Company X makes $100 profit and pays $30 tax, company shareholders can get a $30 credit on their tax bill.

In Australia, the ultimate calculation for who pays tax lies with the individual, not with the company. Under the imputation system, a cut to company taxes by 20% would result in a corresponding increase in personal income tax.

For small business owners, the choice is usually whether to pay tax inside the company, or as an individual. If company taxes were lower, what would the consequences be? There would simply be more money left over after tax time to reinvest in the business.

Wouldn’t it be better if at the end of the year a tradie who made $100,000 had the option of either paying $30,000 tax for their personal income or using that windfall to employ an apprentice? This way increased profits would grow the size of the taxable pie. That’s what would happen if company tax rates were 0%.

Contrary to popular political discourse, a cut in company tax rates in Australia won’t line the pockets of wealthy business owners. It will stimulate a new wave of investment across the economy.

People start small businesses because they’re optimistic about the future and willing to invest in our economy. Small business owners must make smart investment decisions to survive. Every time a tradie re-tools, they are investing in their own productivity. These incremental gains are what makes an economy grow.

We’re talking a lot about innovation at the moment at all levels of Government. What is it that will drive Australia’s economy forward?

Surely the fastest route to driving a new wave of investment in innovation across our nation is to distribute the responsibility of investing to those closest to the problems – small business owners.

It seems obvious, yet we purposely stifle investment in productivity every day with company tax. Tax cuts for small business are the fastest and clearest route to innovation without monumental government waste. It’s time for a serious talk about small business tax reform.

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What the hell is happening at 7 Eleven’s head office?

The Australian Senate enquiry into franchise business 7 Eleven’s alleged underpayment of staff has heard that two thirds of stores have been underpaying staff – that’s up to 10,000 people. In a scramble to resolve the issue, 7 Eleven’s management recently wrote to 15,000 former and current staff, encouraging underpaid workers to come forward. Early results have shown the underpayment has been endemic across the group. Where did 7 Eleven go wrong? As the enquiry rolls on, 7 Eleven will likely claim the data was unavailable to have enough oversight into the practices of franchisees. The other side of the argument will claim the 7 Eleven was simply hiding from a tough business conditions, and was happy to underpay staff to get ahead. What’s going to happen to 7 Eleven? The total liability of the losses is still unknown, but 7 Eleven has set up a third-party company “Independent Claims” which will hide the balance sheet liabilities, handle the underpayments and manage the claims. Head office is going to back pay staff directly, and then attempt to recover underpaid amounts from franchise owners. The big questions is how widespread this is across other groups. The fundamental economics of the competitive pricing models in franchise groups will likely come into question as the enquiry rolls on. It wasn’t too long ago that Dominos and Pizza Hut franchisees were up-in-arms about $5 pizzas, claiming it would force them to find cost cuts in other parts of the business. What should 7 Eleven and other franchise groups do? Head offices should review IT systems and get with the times. Franchise models are successful because of the combination of hard-working and well incentivised owners and best-practice scalable business systems. The best franchises are the ones with the best systems. It was this formula which saw the franchising model take the world by storm in the 20th century. Everyone is talking about big-data and the potential to be unlocked in customer data. A better place to start is to get all of the financial and payroll data in once place. Not only does this give full oversight into wages, but also allows head office to focus on optimising labour costs. The most successful franchisees we work with do one thing very well – they correlate their wage cost with their revenue extremely tightly. Only time will be able to tell the outcome of the enquiry. Our guess is this just the start and the recent Fair Work amendment bill will throw some serious fuel on the fire.

Awards & Rostering    |   

Why is it so hard to pay people correctly?

Most people never have to worry about the payroll compliance process required to get someone paid. It’s not a hugely riveting subject; I mean, staff go to work, they work, they get paid. However, as Fair Work’s list of big companies failing to pay legal wages continues to grow, society is starting to wonder why is it so hard to pay people correctly? For the past three years we have made it our business to know the intricacies of payroll, and how to build software which automates the complexities of getting people paid. Currently calculating over $500 million in casual and part-time wages each year, we’re an advocate for those who have the best intention and efforts to pay their staff correctly. With each new wage rate transgression I’m reminded of an old industry saying, “a good payroll officer is somebody nobody knows.” An understanding that attention is only paid to your payroll when there are errors, under-payments or the pay is late. What most don’t realise is that behind a simple payslip are legal questions covered with grey and varying shadows of complexity. Australia is routinely identified as one of the most complex countries to run payroll in, with workforce administration, payroll compliance requirements and regulations identified as the major complicating factors. Far from magic, the time and expertise required to calculate some pay could convince any seasoned mathematician to hang up their wand. In total, Australia has 122 Modern Awards with an average Award having between 180-200 individual rules. These rules specify pay rates for overtime hours during the week and weekend, overtime for RDO, public holidays, late night shifts and employee classification, just to name a few. For big brands and large groups, these calculations are often decentralised, leaving the responsibility to those at ground level without the necessary incentive or knowledge for strict adherence. Broadly, for those who had identified systemic issues, they simply didn’t know how to begin to resolve them. Read a Modern Award document cover to cover, and you’ll empathise with small business owners and executives who might simply not understand the problem, let alone how to guarantee organisational wide compliance. So yes, payroll compliance is hard, complex and costly, but does this excuse paying below minimum entitled wages? Unfortunately not. Complexity is no excuse for non-compliance. It’s the responsibility of businesses, of all sizes, to properly comply with the law. Rather than being loose with interpretations, the answer is to invest in solutions that incentivise and reward compliance management whilst reducing the regulatory burden. Fair Work are unlikely to slow in their mission to bring uncompliant businesses to light, so it’s time for businesses to get smarter about how they manage their workforce and compliance responsibilities. Being smarter and more innovative is the only way to control labour spend in the productive, high-wage workplaces of the future. It’s time to use wage compliance management as a competitive edge. Our company is passionate about building solutions to help good businesses be more efficient while lifting those struggling under the weight of Australian workplace laws. The solution to this problem, if it wants to be solved, is technology. Sign up for a trial of Tanda Enterprise Edition to significantly improve your wage compliance oversight and labour profitability. Tasmin Trezise is a founder of workforce management software, Tanda, which helps businesses get the most from their workforce.

Industry Insights    |   

Are your staff qualified to work?

Knowing when staff are working is one thing, but knowing that staff are qualified and competent can add a huge reassurance for employers. Industries such as hospitality, childcare and medical services are required to track staff qualifications to meet legal compliance regulations. In addition to recording staff qualifications, childcare centres are required to display staff qualifications on the roster. Why it’s important to keep a record of staff qualifications Qualification compliance arises as an issue for businesses, as some jobs legally require the specific qualification and knowledge to perform a certain task or responsibility. For example: Bartenders must obtain a Responsible Service of Alcohol certification (RSA) before being able to legally work behind a bar and serve alcohol to patrons. If they also work in food production, then they may be required to hold a food safety certification as well as First Aid/ CPR certificate. A childcare worker must hold a valid Working With Children certification to be able to work in an environment where children are present. In addition to this, they may be required to hold a certificate in education, as well as various health safety certifications such as First Aid/ CPR, Anaphylaxis and Asthma certificates. Tracking and implementing qualification compliance measures can present numerous problems for businesses who may not have the resources, time or technical capability to keep track of all staff qualifications, including when the qualifications expire. Tanda simplifies qualification compliance Tanda’s qualification feature assists employers to effectively record, track and roster their staff while meeting their qualification compliance requirements. Qualification documentation can be uploaded to individual employee profiles to indicate the competency of the individual. Teams within Tanda can then also be restricted based on employee qualification type, ensuring that every individual working within the specific team is adequately qualified for the job. For example, an RSA could be the prerequisite qualification for the Bar team, meaning that anyone working within the Bar, from bartenders to glassys, would need to be fully qualified with an RSA. Employers can use the qualification feature to enhance rostering for smarter and more compliant workforce management. Staff are able to easily and quickly view qualifications on the roster, in addition to details such as team and location. Managers will also be alerted to expiring qualifications on the roster; receiving alerts before the qualification expires, and subsequently once it has. Tanda makes it easy for Employers to keep track of staff qualifications, as it’s all stored electronically in one secure location in Tanda. By displaying staff qualifications on the roster, alerting managers to encroaching expiry dates and enabling qualification specific teams Tanda makes it easy for employers to be compliant. Visit the Tanda Help Site for more information on setting up employee qualifications in Tanda.

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About the author

Jake Phillpot

Director: Jake manages Tanda's end-to-end customer journey and market growth.

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Industry Insights

What the hell is happening at 7 Eleven’s head office?

The Australian Senate enquiry into franchise business 7 Eleven’s alleged underpayment of staff has heard that two thirds of stores have been underpaying staff – that’s up to 10,000 people. In a scramble to resolve the issue, 7 Eleven’s management recently wrote to 15,000 former and current staff, encouraging underpaid workers to come forward. Early […]

Awards & Rostering

Why is it so hard to pay people correctly?

Most people never have to worry about the payroll compliance process required to get someone paid. It’s not a hugely riveting subject; I mean, staff go to work, they work, they get paid. However, as Fair Work’s list of big companies failing to pay legal wages continues to grow, society is starting to wonder why […]

Industry Insights

Are your staff qualified to work?

Knowing when staff are working is one thing, but knowing that staff are qualified and competent can add a huge reassurance for employers. Industries such as hospitality, childcare and medical services are required to track staff qualifications to meet legal compliance regulations. In addition to recording staff qualifications, childcare centres are required to display staff […]

More Resources

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