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Taking Cash Payments For Services Rendered? Everything Needs To Be Reported…

If your business earns a part of its income in cold, hard cash, be prepared to have the Australian Taxation Office’s eyes on you this tax time.

To protect honest, compliant Australian businesses, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has placed a strong emphasis on targeting the cash and hidden economy (known to be a part of the shadow economy).

For example, they may be keeping a close eye on a sole trader electrician, whose reported earnings over the financial year versus their actual spending isn’t adding up. Or perhaps you have a side hustle (such as freelancing or selling plants at the market), and earn some cash-in-hand alongside your full-time job’s income.

The ATO will be watching these businesses and individual traders that deal predominantly in cash, with a focus on those that:

  • Fail to meet super or employer obligations, and fail to register for GST or lodge activity statements.
  • Operate outside regular small business benchmarks specific to their industry.
  • Show discrepancies between what they have reported and ATO collected data relating to electronic payments.
  • Operate and advertise as cash-only.
  • Income does not correlate with the lifestyle of the business owner, i.e., assets and spending habits exceed what is expected of someone with their reported income.
  • Pay their employees cash-in-hand.
  • Estimate their sales and income.
  • Use the ‘no sale’ and ‘void’ buttons on cash registers when taking cash payments.
  • Do not reconcile at the end of the day and do not keep cash register tapes.
  • Are reported to the ATO by members of the community or any third party regarding potential tax evasion.
  • Are part of an industry that is known for dealing primarily in cash-only.

When out visiting cash-only businesses, the ATO will be working in unison with local authorities and industry associations to ask questions and discuss:

  • Why the business operates primarily or only in cash.
  • The need to lodge tax returns and activity statements.
  • How to be compliant in relation to tax and super obligations.
  • Different claims and tax deductions businesses can make.
  • The general community’s preference for having EFTPOS or electronic payment options available to them.
  • Benefits of electronic payment and record-keeping facilities.
  • Relaying tools and services businesses can use if they are struggling to ensure they are compliant with Australian tax laws.

If the ATO comes across a business that is doing the wrong thing or failing to meet its obligations, they have a duty to take action. This may result in the business facing an audit and possible prosecution.

Its imperative that you are fulfilling your obligations and know where you stand, particularly with;

  • Bookkeeping and record-keeping requirements
  • Reconciliations between till takings (z-totals) and banking
  • Consequences of failure to report all income (penalties, fines, interest, additional tax, additional GST)
  • Consistency of business income between prior and current years, and with reference to lifestyle

If you do make a mistake upon completing your tax return but make a voluntary disclosure detailing your errors, the ATO will work with you to rectify this and create a solution.

If you’re someone who often finds it difficult to make large lump sum payments for goods or services, you may want to consider looking into “Buy Now Pay Later” services.

Buy now pay later essentially means that, rather than paying in a full lump sum payment for a product or services rendered, there may be an option to pay through instalments of a certain amount over a set period to make the sum of the full amount in total. This method should allow you to pay in full for the product or service without overly straining your finances – you pay back what you can, as agreed upon when you begin the buy now pay later service.

Some popular buy now pay later services include Afterpay, Zip Pay, Brightepay, and some credit card networks such as  Mastercard and Visa, can offer buy now pay later arrangements.

Though it can be a convenient, immediate solution, it may be challenging to juggle the necessary repayments with other financial commitments. It’s not always the most appropriate method for people, and you should bear in mind your situation and ability in paying back the amounts. 

Before you sign up, keep in mind: 

  • It becomes easier to overspend with buy now pay later services, so know your limits on what you can and can’t afford.
  • You will be charged fees and costs to use the service, which can add up to a princely sum in and of itself.
  • Keeping track of your payments can be tricky if you’ve signed up for multiple services.
  • It could affect your loan applications for a car or mortgage as lenders consider buy now pay later spending just as much as your credit score.
  • Late repayments can appear on your credit report, which affects your ability to borrow money in the future.
  • Layby can be a cheaper alternative to buy now pay later, with no account-keeping or late fees to consider

If you are someone who could make use of BNPL services, you may wish to:

  • Ensure that when using the BNPL service, you stick to a set limit on what you spend so that you can comfortably pay it back later. 
  • Aim only to have one BNPL account at a time to manage payments through, rather than confuse yourself with multiple payments across different providers.
  • Always budget for bills, loan payments and BNPL payments, and 
  • Rather than use your credit card for payments to your BNPL account, consider linking to your debit account instead.

If you would like assistance in planning your financial future, help in managing your budget or some friendly advice, see us for a chat about what we can do for you.

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John Briggs

Jane Noller has been my accountant for the last 15 plus years. I can testify to Jane’s professionalism and expeditious manner in dealing with the day to day issues that surrounds our business accounting.

John Briggs

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David and Alison Parker

I have been consulting J L Noller and Co. (more specifically Jane) for six years and during this time I have found her to be professional, efficient and easy to discuss all accounting and taxation matters with. Her office team are all polite and friendly also.

David and Alison Parker

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Carl Gillmore

I have used Jane & the team for the last 6 years for all of my business & personal accounting needs. They have always been professional, easy to talk to & available when we have needed assistance.

Carl Gillmore

Carl Gillmore Landscape

John Briggs

Jane Noller has been my accountant for the last 15 plus years. I can testify to Jane’s professionalism and expeditious manner in dealing with the day to day issues that surrounds our business accounting.

John Briggs

Registered Building Certifier