$1,000 bonus to take on older workers
Employers who take on an over-50 job seeker for at least three months will receive a $1,000 bonus as part of the federal government's efforts to combat age discrimination and encourage businesses to employ older Australians. The Job Bonus initiative, set to begin on July 1, 2012, is part of the government's final response to a report entitled The Economic Potential of Senior Australians.
R&D guidelines now available
Small businesses floundering with the new Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive have received assistance in the form of AusIndustry's guidelines – including advice on how to complete applications. The R&D Incentive replaced the R&D Tax Concession and applies to expenditure incurred in a financial year commencing on or after July 1, 2011. Despite reports the application form will be available in May, a spokesperson confirms it will be available in June instead.
Tougher liabilities for delinquent tax bills
Directors of companies that are more than three months in arrears on certain tax bills may become personally liable for the outstanding payment if planned legislation is tabled in Parliament later this year. This means directors risk losing personal property and face possible bankruptcy in more extreme cases. For misdemeanours such as missing a deadline to file annual reports, company directors may face increased jail terms up to one year in custody.
SMEs over-burdened by tax compliances
Small businesses spend on average $28,000 and nearly 500 hours – equivalent to 20 days – a year complying with tax obligations according to a study conducted by two professors from University of NSW and University of Tasmania. The research surmised that small businesses spend too much of their time and money on tax compliance and paperwork while concessions designed to cut their tax headaches are actually adding to the burden.
EFTPOS fee switcharound hits SMEs
Smaller retailers are calling on the Reserve Bank to review changes to the EFTPOS payments system which will see small retailers pay more per transaction. The relevant changes mean businesses are charged an interchange fee for every EFTPOS transaction valued at more than $15. Previously, the consumer's bank paid a fee to the retailer's bank. Now, the retailer's bank must pay the consumer's bank – with fees ranging from 5c to 18c per transaction. Major banks at the time assured retailers that the new changes would not be passed on in full but have backtracked on this claim and are intending to do just that.
Business limits on credit card surcharging
The Reserve Bank is set to rein in on businesses that penalise consumers with excessive fees when they use credit cards to pay for goods and services as a study revealed that many businesses were using surcharges to generate income rather than simply recover the cost of transactions. Under the Reserve Bank's proposal, credit card companies such as Visa and Mastercard will be able to place a cap on the credit card surcharge that businesses impose on customers. The proposal is in its final stages of consultation.
SMEs in the dark on registration and licences
As the Small Business Support Line commemorated its 50,000th call in early April 2012, analysis of past calls revealed that registration and licences are the top concerns of businesses and constituted 37% of all calls received by the service since its inception in 2009. Other topics discussed in the calls are government initiatives, grants and assistance, starting a business, legal, accounting and taxation services followed by business planning and diagnostic services.
Construction activity shrinks
Australian construction has been in contraction for almost two years, says a report by the Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association. According to the report, residential and commercial construction have showed significant weakness, with house building registering its lowest level in six months. House building showed a reading of 30.3, while apartments were 30.5 and commercial construction was 35.5. Any reading of less than 50 indicates contraction.
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