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Practice Update October 2017

No small business tax rate for passive investment companies

The Government has released draft tax legislation to clarify that passive investment companies cannot access the lower company tax rate for small businesses of 27.5%, but will still pay tax at 30%.

The amendment to the tax law will ensure that a company will not qualify for the lower company tax rate if 80% or more of its income is of a passive nature (such as dividends and interest).
The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services said the policy decision made by the Government to cut the tax rate for small companies was meant to lower taxes on business, and was not meant to apply to passive investment companies.


ATO to be provided with more super guarantee information

The Government has announced a package of reforms to give the ATO near real-time visibility over superannuation guarantee (SG) compliance by employers. 

The Government will also provide the ATO with additional funding for a SG Taskforce to crackdown on employer non-compliance.

The package includes measures to:

  • require superannuation funds to report contributions received more frequently (at least monthly) to the ATO, enabling the ATO to identify non-compliance and take prompt action;
  • require employers with 19 or fewer employees to transition to single touch payroll ('STP') reporting from 1 July 2019;
  • improve the effectiveness of the ATO's recovery powers, including strengthening director penalty notices and use of security bonds for high-risk employers, to ensure that unpaid superannuation is better collected by the ATO and paid to employees' super accounts; and
  • give the ATO the ability to seek court-ordered penalties in the most egregious cases of non-payment, including employers who are repeatedly caught but fail to pay SG liabilities.

Editor: Following extensive consultation when STP was originally announced, it was decided that employers with 19 or fewer employees would not be required to comply. Given the backflip here, the business community will be hoping the Government does not introduce compulsory real-time payments of SG and PAYG withholding, as well as real-time reporting.


ATO: Combatting the cash economy

The ATO has reminded taxpayers that it uses a range of tools to identify and take action against people and businesses that may not be correctly meeting their obligations. Through 'data matching', it can identify businesses that do not have electronic payment facilities.
These businesses often advertise as 'cash only' or mainly deal in cash transactions. When businesses do this, they are more likely to make mistakes or do not keep thorough records. 

The ATO's ability to match and use data is very sophisticated. It collects information from a number of sources (including banks, other government agencies and industry suppliers), and also obtains information about purchases of major items, such as cars and real property, and then compares this information against income and expenditure reported by businesses and individuals to the ATO.

Example: Unrealistic personal income leads to unreported millions

The income reported on their personal income tax returns indicated that a couple operating a property development company didn't seem to have sufficient income to cover their living expenses.

The ATO found their company had failed to report millions of dollars from the sale of properties over a number of years.

They had to pay the correct amount of tax (of more than $4.5 million) based on their income and all their related companies, and also incurred a variety of penalties.

Example: Failing to report online sales

A Nowra court convicted the owner of a computer sales and repair business on eight charges of understating the business's GST and income tax liabilities.

The ATO investigated discrepancies between income reported by the business and amounts deposited in the business owner's bank accounts, and found that the business had failed to report income from online sales.

The business owner was ordered to pay over $36,000 in unreported tax and more than $18,400 in penalties, and also fined $4,000 (and now has a criminal conviction).

Get it in writing and get a receipt

The ATO also notes that requesting a written contract or tax invoice and getting a receipt for payment may protect a consumer's rights and obligations relating to insurance, warranties, consumer rights and government regulations.

Consumers who support the cash economy, by paying cash and not getting a receipt, risk having no evidence to claim a refund if the goods or services purchased are faulty, or prove who was responsible in case of poor work quality


Higher risk trust arrangements targeted

The ATO's 'Tax Avoidance Taskforce – Trusts' continues the work of the Trusts Taskforce, by targeting higher risk trust arrangements in privately owned and wealthy groups.

The Taskforce will focus on the lodgment of trust tax returns, accurate completion of return labels, present entitlement of exempt entities, distributions to superannuation funds, and inappropriate claiming of CGT concessions by trusts.
Arrangements that attract the attention of the Taskforce include those where:

  • trusts or their beneficiaries who have received substantial income are not registered, or have not lodged tax returns or activity statements;
  • there are offshore dealings involving secrecy or low tax jurisdictions;
  • there are agreements with no apparent commercial basis that direct income entitlements to a low-tax beneficiary while the benefits are enjoyed by others;
  • changes have been made to trust deeds or other constituent documents to achieve a tax planning benefit, with such changes not credibly explicable for other reasons;
  • there are artificial adjustments to trust income, so that tax outcomes do not reflect the economic substance (e.g., where someone receives substantial benefits from a trust but the tax liability on those benefits is attributed elsewhere, or where the full tax liability is passed to entities with no capacity/intention to pay);
  • transactions have excessively complex features or sham characteristics (e.g., round robin circulation of income among trusts); 
  • revenue activities are mischaracterised to achieve concessional CGT treatment (e.g., by using special purpose trusts in an attempt to re-characterise mining or property development income as discountable capital gains); and
  • new trust arrangements have materialised that involve taxpayers or promoters linked to previous non-compliance (e.g., people connected to liquidated entities that had unpaid tax debts).

Practice Update September 2017

ALP announces massive (potential) changes to trust taxation

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, has announced that a Labor Government (should they be elected) will introduce a standard minimum 30% tax rate for discretionary trust distributions to "mature beneficiaries" (i.e., people aged 18 and over). While this is an opposition tax policy, it is so fundamental, and the existing state of the Federal Parliament is so chaotic, that we believe it's worth bringing this to your attention.

Although the ALP acknowledges that individuals and businesses use trusts for a range of legitimate reasons, such as asset protection and business succession, "in some cases, trusts are used solely for tax minimisation.

Labor's policy will only apply to discretionary trusts, so other trusts – such as special disability trusts, deceased estates and fixed trusts – will not be affected by this change. It further will also not apply to farm trusts and charitable trusts, and other exemptions will apply, such as for people with disability (the Commissioner of Taxation will be given discretionary powers to manage this). 

Their announcement also reiterated their other policies regarding tax reform, including further changes to superannuation, changes to negative gearing and CGT, and limiting deductions for managing tax affairs.


 

Single Touch Payroll update

A limited release of 'Single Touch Payroll' began for a small number of digital service providers and their clients on 1 July 2017, with Single Touch Payroll operating with limited functionality for a select number of employers. Single Touch Payroll will effectively require some employers to report information regarding payments to employees (or to their super funds)in 'real time', via their payroll software.

The following timeline sets out what is happening in the lead-up to the mandatory commencement of Single Tough Payroll next year.

September 2017 – the ATO will write to all employers with 20 or more employees to inform them of their reporting obligations under Single Touch Payroll.

1 April 2018 – employers will need to do a headcount of the number of employees they have, to determine if they need to report through Single Touch Payroll.

From 1 July 2018 – Single Touch Payroll reporting will be mandatory for employers with 20 or more employees.


 

Keeping ABN details up to date

The ATO finds that businesses tend to forget to update their Australian business number (ABN) details in the Australian Business Register (ABR) when their circumstances or details change. To this end, the ATO have asked that we contact our clients to help keep your ABN details up to date and reduce unnecessary contact from the ATO.

In particular, the ATO says that many partnership and trust ABNs are not in operation, or their business structures have changed, so please let us know if:

  • your business is no longer in operation (so we can cancel the ABN); or
  • if your business structure has changed (so we can cancel the ABN for the old
    structure before applying for a new one).

The ATO also recommends that we add alternative contacts to clients' ABN records (so please provide us with alternative contact information, if possible), and to update the ABN records where any contact details have changed.

Register trading names with ASIC

By 31 October 2018, businesses will need to register any existing or old trading names as a business name with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in order to continue operating with it.

The ABN Lookup website will reflect these changes and will only display business names registered with ASIC from this date.


 

Limited opportunity to avoid 'transfer balance cap' problems

If the total value of a superannuation fund member's pensions exceeded $1.6 million on 1 July 2017, they may face adverse tax consequences.

However, there is a transitional provision that permits a minor excess over $1.6 million to be ignored, subject to certain conditions being met.

Basically, this will be satisfied if the value of their pension interests on 1 July 2017 exceeded $1.6 million by no more than $100,000 (i.e., their total value did not exceed $1.7 million), but the member is able to commute the pension(s) by an amount that is at least equal to that excess no later than 31 December 2017

This will mean that no 'transfer balance cap' consequences arise (e.g., no 'excess transfer balance earnings' will accrue on the excess and no 'excess transfer balance tax' will become payable). 

Therefore, it is important that this issue is identified and, if applicable, dealt with promptly.

Our friends at Centaur Financial Services are experienced in assisting our clients to manage their superannuation and retirement savings in the most effective way.  Please contact us if you would like us to schedule you an appointment with a financial planner to discuss how these changes may affect you. 


 

New Approved Occupational Clothing Guidelines 2017

The government has issued new guidelines to set out criteria for tax deductible non-compulsory uniforms. The taxation law only allows a deduction to employees for expenditure on uniforms or wardrobes where either:

  • the clothing is in the nature of occupation specific, or protective clothing; or
  • the wearing of the clothing is a compulsory condition of employment for employees
    and the clothing is not conventional in nature; or
  • where the wearing of the clothing is not compulsory, the design of the clothing is
    entered on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing.

The new guidelines outline (among other things):

  • the steps that need to be undertaken by employers to have designs of occupational
    clothing registered; and
  • the factors that will be considered in determining whether designs of occupational
    clothing may be registered.

The guidelines commence on 1 October 2017, and the previous Guidelines are revoked with effect from the same day.


 

Ability to lodge nil activity statements in advance

The ATO generally issues activity statements by the end of the relevant month under their normal processes, allowing the statement to be lodged by 21 days after the end of the month, or 28 days after the end of the relevant quarter (as appropriate).

However, the ATO recognises that there may be a specific reason for a taxpayer to access their activity statements early, so activity statements can be generated early in some cases, such as where the taxpayer is going to be absent from their place of business before the end of the reporting period (and the business will not be trading during that period), or if the taxpayer's entity is under some form of administration, or the business has ceased.

There are certain eligibility requirements to take advantage of this service, so please contact us if this is of interest to you.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information's applicability to their particular circumstances.

Practice Update August 2017

ATO warning regarding work-related expense claims for 2017

The ATO is increasing attention, scrutiny and education on work-related expenses (WREs) this tax time.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said: "We have seen claims for clothing and laundry expenses increase around 20% over the last five years. While this increase isn't a sign that all of these taxpayers are doing the wrong thing, it is giving us a reason to pay extra attention."

Ms Anderson said common mistakes the ATO has seen include people claiming ineligible clothing, claiming for something without having spent the money, and not being able to explain the basis for how the claim was calculated.

"I heard a story recently about a taxpayer purchasing everyday clothes who was told by the sales assistant that they could claim a deduction for the clothing if they also wore them to work," Ms Anderson said.

"This is not the case. You can't claim a deduction for everyday clothing you bought to wear to work, even if your employer tells you to wear a certain colour or you have a dress code."

Ms Anderson said it is a myth that taxpayers can claim a standard deduction of $150 without spending money on appropriate clothing or laundry. While record keeping requirements for laundry expenses are "relaxed" for claims up to this threshold, taxpayers do need to be able to show how they calculated their deduction.

The main message from the ATO was for taxpayers to remember to:

  • Declare all income;
  • Do not claim a deduction unless the money has actually been spent;
  • Do not claim a deduction for private expenses; and
  • Make sure that the appropriate records are kept to prove any claims.

GST applies to services or digital products bought from overseas

From 1 July 2017, GST applies to imported services and digital products from overseas, including:

  • digital products such as streaming or downloading of movies, music, apps, games and e-books; and
  • services such as architectural, educational and legal.

Australian GST registered businesses will not be charged GST on their purchases from a non-resident supplier if they:

  • provide their ABN to the non-resident supplier; and
  • state they are registered for GST.

However, if Australians purchase imported services and digital products only for personal use, they should not provide their ABN.

Imposition of GST on 'low-value' foreign supplies

Parliament has passed legislation which applies GST to goods costing $1,000 or less supplied from offshore to Australian consumers from 1 July 2018.

Using a 'vendor collection model', the law will require overseas suppliers and online marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay) with an Australian GST turnover of $75,000 or more to account for GST on sales of low value goods to consumers in Australia.

The deferred start date gives industry participants additional time to make system changes to implement the measure.

It should be noted that this is a separate measure to that which applies GST to digital goods and services purchased from offshore websites, as outlined above.

New threshold for capital gains withholding

From 1 July 2017, where a foreign resident disposes of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above, the purchaser will be required to withhold 12.5% of the purchase price and pay it to the ATO unless the seller provides a variation (this is referred to as 'foreign resident capital gains withholding'). 

However, Australian resident vendors who dispose of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need to apply for a clearance certificate from the ATO to ensure amounts are not withheld from their sale proceeds.

Therefore, all transactions involving real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need the vendor and purchaser to consider if a clearance certificate is required.

Action to address super guarantee non-compliance

The Government will seek to legislate to close a loophole that could be used by unscrupulous employers to short-change employees who choose to make salary sacrificed contributions into their superannuation accounts.

The Government will introduce a Bill into Parliament this year that will ensure an individual's salary sacrificed contributions do not reduce their employer's superannuation guarantee obligation.

Change to travel expenses for truck drivers

The ATO has released its latest taxation determination on reasonable travel expenses, and it includes a big change for employee truck drivers.

For the 2017/18 income year, the reasonable amount for travel expenses (excluding accommodation expenses, which must be substantiated with written evidence) of employee truck drivers who have received a travel allowance and who are required to sleep away from home is $55.30 per day (formerly a total of $97.40 per day for the 2016/17 year).

If an employee truck driver wants to claim more than the reasonable amount, the whole claim must be substantiated with written evidence, not just the amount in excess of the reasonable amount.

The determination includes an example of a truck driver who receives a travel allowance of $40 per day in 2017/18 ($8,000 over the full year for 100 2-day trips), but who spent $14,000 on meals on these trips.

In terms of claiming deductions for these expenses, the driver can either claim $14,000 as a travel expense (if they have kept all of his receipts for the food and drink they purchased and consumed when travelling), or just rely on the reasonable amount and claim $11,060 ($55.30 x 200 days) as a travel expense (in which case they will need to be able to show (amongst other things) that they typically spent $55 or more a day on food and drink when making a trip (for example, by reference to diary entries, bank records and receipts that they kept for some of the trips)).

Car depreciation limit for 2017/18

The car limit for the 2017/18 income year is $57,581 (the same as the previous year). This amount limits depreciation deductions and GST input tax credits.

Example
In July 2017, Laura buys a car to which the car limit applies for $60,000 to use in carrying on her business. As Laura started to hold the car in the 2017/18 financial year, in working out the car's depreciation for the 2017/18 income year, the cost of the car is reduced to $57,581.

Div.7A benchmark interest rate

The benchmark interest rate for 2017/18, for the purposes of the deemed dividend provisions of Div.7A, is 5.30% (down from 5.40% for 2016/17).

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information's applicability to their particular circumstances.

Practice Update July 2017

Removal of the Temporary Budget Repair Levy from the 2017/18 income year

The 2% Temporary Budget Repair Levy (or 'TBRL'), which has applied to individuals with a taxable income exceeding $180,000 since 1 July 2014, is repealed with effect from 1 July 2017.

Up until 30 June 2017, including the TBRL and the Medicare Levy, individuals earning more than $180,000 faced a marginal tax rate of 49%.

With the benefit of the removal of the 2% TBRL, from 1 July 2017, individuals with a taxable income exceeding $180,000 face a marginal tax rate of 47% (including the Medicare Levy).
Don't forget to add another 1.5% for the Medicare Levy Surcharge for certain individuals that don't have Private Health Insurance.

Extension of the $20,000 SBE Immediate Deduction Threshold

In the 2017/18 Federal Budget handed down on 9 May 2017, the Federal Government announced that it intended to extend the ability of Small Business Entity (or 'SBE') taxpayers to claim an outright deduction for depreciating assets costing less than $20,000 until 30 June 2018. This Budget Night announcement has now been passed into law.

Prior to the relevant legislation being passed into law, the outright deduction threshold for SBEs in relation to depreciating assets was scheduled to revert back to $1,000 as of 1 July 2017. Now that this change has become law, the threshold is scheduled to revert back to $1,000 as of 1 July 2018.

To qualify for an immediate deduction for depreciating assets purchased by an SBE taxpayer costing less than $20,000, the asset needs to be first used or installed ready for use on or before 30 June 2018.

The 'aggregated turnover' threshold to satisfy the requirements to be an SBE taxpayer has increased from $2 million to $10 million, as of 1 July 2016. As a result, more business taxpayers than ever before will be eligible for the $20,000 immediate deduction for depreciating assets.

Please contact our office if you need any assistance in determining if your business is an SBE, whether an asset purchase you are considering will qualify as a "depreciating asset" and/or what constitutes being "used or installed ready for use".

Simpler BAS is coming soon

The ATO is reducing the amount of information needed to be included in the business activity statement (or 'BAS') to simplify GST reporting.

From 1 July 2017, Simpler BAS will be the default GST reporting method for small businesses with a GST turnover of less than $10 million.

In relation to GST, small businesses will only need to report:

  • G1 - Total sales
  • 1A - GST on sales
  • 1B - GST on purchases.

Change to deductions for personal super contributions

Up until 30 June 2017, an individual (mainly those who are self-employed) could claim a deduction for personal super contributions where they meet certain conditions.

One of these conditions is that less than 10% of their income is from salary and wages. This was known as the "10% test".

From 1 July 2017, the 10% test has been removed. This means most people under 75 years old will be able to claim a tax deduction for personal super contributions (including those aged 65 to 74 who meet the work test).

Call our office if you need assistance in relation to the application of the work test for a client that is aged 65 to 74.

Eligibility rules

An individual can claim a deduction for personal super contributions made on or after 1 July 2017 if:

  • A contribution is made to a complying super fund or a retirement savings account that is not a Commonwealth public sector superannuation scheme in which an individual has a defined benefit interest or a Constitutionally Protected Fund;
  • The age restrictions are met;
  • The fund member notifies their fund in writing of the amount they intend to claim as a deduction; and
  • The fund acknowledges the notice of intent to claim a deduction in writing.


Concessional contributions cap

Broadly speaking, contributions to super that are deductible to an employer or an individual, count towards an individual's 'concessional contributions cap'.

The contributions claimed by an individual as a deduction will count towards their concessional contributions cap, which for the year commencing 1 July 2017 is $25,000, regardless of age. If an individual's cap is exceeded, they will have to pay extra tax.

Call our office to discuss the eligibility criteria and tax consequences of claiming a tax deduction for a personal contribution to super for the year commencing 1 July 2017.


Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information's applicability to their particular circumstances.

Businesses - Year end checklist 2016/2017

Link to the Individuals checklist

Many of our business clients like to review their tax position at the end of the income year and evaluate any year-end strategies that may be available to legitimately reduce their tax. Traditionally, year-end tax planning for small businesses is based around two simple concepts – i.e., accelerating business deductions and deferring income.

However, Small Business Entities ('SBEs') have greater access to year-end tax planning due to particular concessions that only apply to them (the SBE system replaced the previous Simplified Tax System ('STS') on 1 July 2007). Taxpayers that qualify as an SBE can generally pick and choose which of the concessions they wish to use each year (although see below regarding the simplified depreciation rules). The basic requirement to be eligible for most of the SBE concessions for the year ending 30 June 2017 is that the business taxpayer's annual turnover (including that of some related entities) is less than $10 million.

The following are a number of areas that may be considered for all business taxpayers.

Maximising deductions for non-SBE taxpayers

Non-SBE business taxpayers should endeavour to maximise deductions by adopting one or more of the following strategies:

  • Prepayment strategies;
  • Accelerating expenditure; and
  • Accrued expenditure.

Prepayment strategies – non-SBE

Any part of an expense prepayment relating to the period up to 30 June is generally deductible. 

In addition, non-SBE taxpayers may generally claim the following prepayments in full:

  • expenditure under $1,000;
  • expenditure made under a 'contract of service' (e.g., salary and wages); or
  • expenditure required to be incurred under law.

Note: Prepayments can be a little confusing, so before you commit to making a payment please feel free to call us with any queries or assistance if required.

Accelerating expenditure – non-SBE

This is where a business taxpayer brings forward expenditure on regular, on-going deductible items. Business taxpayers are generally entitled to deductions on an 'incurred basis'. Therefore, there is generally no requirement for the expense to be paid by 30 June 2017 (as long as the expense has genuinely been 'incurred', it will generally be deductible).

Checklist

The following may act as a checklist of possible accelerated expenditure:

  • Depreciating assets costing $100 or less can be written off in the year of purchase.
    Depreciating assets costing less than $1,000 can be allocated to a low value pool and depreciated at 18.75% (which is half of the full rate of 37.5%) in their first year regardless of the date of purchase.
  • Repairs – repairs to office premises, equipment, cars or other business items.
  • Consumables/spare parts
  • Client gifts
  • Donations
  • Advertising
  • Fringe benefits – any benefits to be provided, such as property benefits, could be purchased and provided prior to 1 July 2017.
  • Superannuation – contributions to a complying superannuation fund, to the extent contributions are actually made (i.e., they cannot be accrued but must be paid by 30 June).

Accrued expenditure – non-SBE

Non-SBE taxpayers (and some SBE taxpayers) are entitled to a deduction for expenses incurred as at 30 June 2017, even if they have not yet been paid.

The following expenses may be accrued:

  • Salary or wages and bonuses – the accrued expense for the days that employees have worked but have not been paid as at 30 June 2017.
  • Interest – any accrued interest outstanding on a business loan that has not been paid as at 30 June 2017.
  • Commercial bills – the discount applicable to the period up to 30 June 2017, where the term of the bill extends past 30 June.
  • Commissions – where employees or other external parties are owed commission payments.
  • Fringe benefits tax (FBT) – if an FBT instalment is due for the June 2017 quarter, for example, but not payable until July, it can be accrued and claimed as a tax deduction in the 2017 income year.
  • Directors' fees – where a company is definitively committed to the payment of a director's fee as at 30 June 2017, it can be claimed as a tax deduction.

Maximising deductions for SBE taxpayers

Deductions can be maximised for SBE business taxpayers by accelerating expenditure and prepaying deductible business expenses. Former STS taxpayers who have continued to use the STS cash method since before 1 July 2005 cannot accrue expenses, but other SBE taxpayers on an accruals basis can accrue expenses (see above regarding accruing expenditure). 

Accelerating expenditure – SBE

All SBE taxpayers can choose to write-off depreciable assets costing less than $20,000 in the year of purchase*. Also, assets costing $20,000 or more are allocated to an SBE general pool and depreciated at 15% (which is half the full rate of 30%) in their first year. 

Therefore, where appropriate, SBE business taxpayers should consider purchasing/installing these items by 30 June 2017.

It should be noted that SBE taxpayers choosing to use the SBE depreciation rules are effectively 'locked in' to using those rules for all of their depreciable assets.

Further note, former STS taxpayers who have continued to use the STS cash method since before 1 July 2005 and who qualify as an SBE are generally only entitled to deductions if they have paid the amount by 30 June.

(*) The small instant asset write-off threshold has been temporarily increased to 'less than $20,000', for assets acquired and installed ready for use between 7.30 pm (AEST) 12 May 2015 and 30 June 2017. On 9 May 2017 the Government announced it intends to extend this date to 30 June 2018.

Prepayment strategies – SBE

SBE taxpayers making prepayments before 1 July 2017 can choose to claim a full deduction in the year of payment where they cover a period of no more than 12 months (ending before 1 July 2018). Otherwise, the prepayment rules are the same as for non-SBE taxpayers.

The kinds of expenses that may be prepaid include:

  • Rent on business premises or equipment.
  • Lease payments on business items such as cars and office equipment.
  • Interest – check with your financier to determine if it's possible to prepay up to 12 months interest in advance.
  • Business trips 
  • Training courses that run on or after 1 July 2017.
  • Business subscriptions
  • Cleaning

Information Required

This is some of the information we will need you to bring to help us prepare your income tax return:

  • Stocktake details as at 30 June.
  • Debtors listing (including a list of bad debts written off) as at 30 June. Note: In order to claim a deduction, the debt must be written off on or before 30 June.
  • Creditors listing as at 30 June.
Download business checklist

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