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Conquer Email Before It Conquers You

At a recent Harris Black Staff Strategy day, we enjoyed a valuable session on productivity by Priority Management and the impact email is having on our daily work life's.

While email has the potential to be a huge productivity booster, too often it is more of a productivity pirate.

The problem is many people haven't acquired the skills to manage email effectively. These skills need to be developed early in your career (when you are receiving "only" 20 emails a day, not when you are out of control and receiving 150+ emails).

 

The following tips will enhance your personal productivity when dealing with emails:

 

Start Your Day With A Plan, Not An Email

Identify your priorities before starting the day and stick to that plan.

 

Look At The Big Picture

Spend 15 minutes looking at how you deal with your inbox and set rules to move "cc" emails and information emails to separate inbox folders.

 

Create Short Answers

Short answers can reduce the length and frequency of messages you receive.

 

Treat E-Mail Like Regular Mail

Check your email first thing in the morning, midday and late afternoon.

 

Turn Emails Into Tasks

Your inbox should not double as your "to do" list. Learn to be ruthless with emails that you don't need and delete them straight away.

 

Use Techniques That Work For You

A system that works for you it is a good choice.

 

Change Expectations

Reply promptly, but not necessarily immediately. You may need to "train" people.

 

Remember Email Is Tone Deaf

Sometimes your best email is no email at all. Call or visit them instead.


Difficult Conversations At Work


Avoiding difficult conversations in the workplace can increase the potential for legal claims, and reduce the employer's ability to successfully defend these claims.


It is understandable why employers often avoid having difficult conversations with their employees as it can be an awkward and time consuming process.

An employer may need to have a difficult conversation with an employee in a variety of situations, such as:

  • giving ongoing performance feedback and performance reviews;
  • disciplining for poor performance;
  • inappropriate behaviour; or
  • giving notice of termination of employment.

To ensure that difficult conversations are not avoided employers should take steps to make sure that their supervisors and managers are educated about the importance of honest and timely communication with their staff.

It is also important that supervisors and managers have the necessary skills to carry out difficult conversations in an appropriate manner.

Employers should also ensure that they keep detailed written records on conversations that take place with employees so that there is evidence of the communication.

The following are some potential legal risks that can arise from avoiding difficult conversations in the workplace:

Anti-Bullying Claims

New anti-bullying laws came into power on 1 January 2014 which have given workers experiencing bullying a new sphere of protection.

Raising underperformance or misconduct issues with employees at an early stage can help to reduce the chances of accusations of workplace bullying.

Unfair Dismissal Claims

A key element of procedural fairness is warning an employee about their unsatisfactory workplace performance and giving them a genuine opportunity to respond. Skipping this step may be found to be unfair by the Fair Work Commission.

Also, in the case of a genuine redundancy, an employer must be able to show that they have met any obligations they had under a modern award or enterprise agreement.

Adverse Action Claims

Having a conversation with an employee about their underperformance or misconduct can help the employee understand the reasons for decisions that may adversely affect them.

This will reduce the risk that employees are likely to suspect and argue that the decision was made for a prohibited reason, such as on a discriminatory ground.


Reducing Your Electricity Costs


Energy costs can be an enormous drain on your resources, and it is more than likely that the cost of electricity will continue to rise.

Reducing your energy consumption will save you money on your electricity bill. It can also be an exciting opportunity for you to promote your green credentials as part of a marketing initiative.

An easy place to start is by progressively investing in energy efficient appliances. While the initial cost of this might seem steep, it can quickly pay for itself as your electricity bills are significantly reduced.

If you want to monitor changes to your energy consumption, you should benchmark your current electricity use. You should always consider your bills seasonally, using the corresponding quarterly bill from the previous year. This can also give you a clear indication of any cooling or heating devices that are energy inefficient.

If you want to invest in long-term energy reduction, you may want to consider renewable energy. For businesses considering a switch to solar power, there are a wide range of commercial solar rebates, grants, low interest loans and tax breaks that are worth investigating.


Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professionally focused social networking site and has a lot to offer business owners and leaders.

This professional focus does, however, mean that there are a couple of considerations, specific to LinkedIn, that you should be aware of.

LinkedIn requires a more professional tone than other social media platforms. Therefore, you need to consider your posts very carefully. Triple check your grammar and avoid colloquialisms.

Many companies align their social media platforms, which can be a great idea. However, you need to consider whether or not your Facebook and Twitter profiles should automatically update your LinkedIn profile. For some companies the tone may be inappropriate.

As LinkedIn does require such a professional tone, many profiles can end up being lost in the crowd as repetitive phrases and taglines emerge. There are numerous ways to make your business's LinkedIn profile stand out. Including quotes, anecdotes and links to external sources is a good way to create a point of interest.

It is also a great idea to include a call to action at some point in your profile. You can encourage people to visit your website, ask a question on LinkedIn or include a connection to a video source (this can be particularly effective).

Ensuring that your key words appear in every section of your profile will also significantly improve your search ranking.

Never forget that LinkedIn is, above all else, a networking platform. This means that in order to get the most out of your LinkedIn account you need to be active on the site.

Recommending and endorsing people is an effective way to do this, as it will make your company appear active and professionally engaged. Joining special interest groups and regularly commenting is another great way to ensure your LinkedIn profile remains active.

Follow us on LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/company/harris-black-pty-ltd

Harris Black Top 10 Pubs in South East Queensland

Some of the Harris Black team recently socialised after work at the local pub which got us thinking... what are the best pubs in South East Queensland.

Below we have gathered our Top 10 Pubs in South East Queensland. Cheers!

  1. Eatons Hill Tavern, Eatons Hill - http://www.eatonshillhotel.com.au/
  2. Newstead Brewery, Newstead - http://newsteadbrewing.com.au/
  3. The Junk Bar, Ashgrove - http://www.thejunkbar.com.au/
  4. Eagle Heights Hotel, Mount Tamborine - http://www.eagleheightshotel.com.au/
  5. Statler & Waldorf, Brisbane - http://statlerandwaldorf.co/
  6. Breakfast Creek Hotel, Breakfast Creek - http://www.breakfastcreekhotel.com/
  7. Merthyr Bowls Club, New Farm - http://www.merthyrbowlsclub.com.au/
  8. Regatta Hotel, Toowong - http://www.regattahotel.com.au/
  9. Scratch Bar, Milton - http://scratchbar.com/
  10. Waterloo Hotel, Fortitude Valley - http://www.waterloohotel.com.au/


Celebrating 15 Years


Brendan Power recently celebrated his 15th Year Anniversary with Harris Black. Brendan commenced as a Partner at Harris Black in 1999 and has provided great commitment, direction and growth to the firm during this time.

Congratulations Brendan!


Harris Black Is A Proud CA Firm

Firstly a big congratulations to one of our staff members, Rebecca Smith, for passing her final CA exam! Well Done Rebecca.

All Harris Black accounting staff are either fully qualified CA's or in the process of becoming a CA.

So What Is A CA?

CA stands for Chartered Accountant. Basically, it means that after finishing our university degree in accounting/business we have studied for and sat a gruelling set of exams across all areas of accounting. The total course (if you pass everything 1st go) takes 18 months to two years and is done whilst you are working full time it can only be applied for once you have done 3 years full time work in accounting.

Brendan, Paul and Renee have a further designation of FCA (Fellow Chartered Accountant). Advancing to Fellowship is a tangible acknowledgement of a member's ongoing professional standing as well as their significant contribution to the profession.

Why Does Harris Black Employee CA's?

Undertaking the CA program shows that a lot about a person's character such as commitment, tenacity, resilience, desire to better themselves and self-discipline (especially when all your friends are going out and you have to stay in and study). Importantly it means we are hiring a highly skilled professional that are amongst the best in business.

Why Is It Important That Harris Black Is A CA Firm?

Chartered Accountants are bound by a code of ethics and must adhere to professional standards that are rigorously reviewed by the CA professional body to uphold their highly respected designation. As CA's we are required to undertake continuous training and development which is monitored by the CA professional body to ensure high standards are maintained.

The Chartered Accountant designation has long been synonymous with innovative thinking, with many of our best and brightest recognised as thought-leaders in the field.


AEIOU Take A Hike

On Sunday 19th October 2014 Team Harris Black (being Brendan Power, Katie Hirst, Alan Mills, Bjorn Kirberg, William Randall and Kimberley Schluter) will be supporting the AEIOU Foundation by participating in the Take A Hike 2014. Take a Hike involves walking a 40km loop of Brisbane to raise funds and awareness for AEIOU Foundation and the work they do providing early intervention services for children with autism.

Many of you know that Brendan's daughter Mary-Claire was lucky enough to be one of the first to attend AEIOU when it first opened in an old church in Moorooka in 2005. She is now in Grade 7 at All Hallows and is no longer showing autism symptoms. Brendan has been on the AEIOU Board since mid 2005, and it has been wonderful to see the organisation grow to support over 270 children in 9 centres throughout Queensland with plans underway to expand into Victoria, SA and the ACT.

Take a Hike involves walking a 40km loop of the Brisbane River over 9 hours to raise funds and awareness for the AEIOU Foundation and the work they do providing early intervention servicers for children with autism. The aim is to carry a 15kg pack which is equivalent to a 3 year old child. Team Harris Black's aim is to help eliminate 2 x $10,000 funding shortfalls that exists for each child placement. Your support will change the future of the children in the AEIOU program.

Our challenge along with the rest of the Hikers is to raise $250,000 and make a real difference to children at AEIOU. Your support will change the future of the children in the AEIOU Foundations program.

Our fundraising website is http://aeiou.org.au/view-event/take-a-hike-brisbane-1/team-info/team-harris-black-555

Please give as generously as possible, but nothing is too little.


Property Developers And Use Of Trusts Under Scrutiny

The ATO is examining arrangements where property developers use trusts to return the proceeds from property development as capital gains instead of income on revenue account. ATO Deputy Commissioner Tim Dyce said the ATO has "begun auditing property developers who are carrying out activities which conflict with their stated purpose of capital investment". He said a "growing number of property developers are using trusts to suggest a development is a capital asset to generate rental income and claim the 50% capital gains discount".

Mr Dyce warned that penalties of up to 75% of the tax avoided can apply to those found to be deliberately using special purpose trusts to mischaracterise the proceeds of property developments. The ATO said it has made adjustments to increase the net income of a number of trusts. It said penalties will be significantly reduced if taxpayers make a voluntary disclosure.


Residency Depends On Facts And Circumstances Of Each Case

The ATO has issued a Decision Impact Statement following an individual's legal win in arguing that he was not a tax resident of Australia during the 2009 to 2010 income years. The taxpayer had moved to Saudi Arabia to work on a project for a number of years before moving back to Australia. Key factors that were taken into account by the AAT in deciding in favour of the taxpayer were the man's intentions at the relevant time to live and work indefinitely in Saudi Arabia. The ATO said the decision was reasonably open to the AAT. However, it said the decision does not change its approach to residency cases. It said these matters involve questions of fact and degree and different facts may result in different conclusions as to residency. The ATO said it will continue to approach residency cases by weighing all the relevant facts and circumstances and applying the relevant tax law and authorities to those facts.


Billions In Lost Super Waiting To Be Claimed

According to the ATO, more than $14 billion in lost super is waiting to be claimed. The ATO said $8 billion in super was sitting in accounts that have not received a contribution in five years. A further $6 billion in super was sitting in accounts where funds have not been kept up-to-date with changes to personal details. ATO Assistant Commissioner John Shepherd said it was "easy for this to happen because when people get married or move house, the last thing on their mind is updating their name and address details with a super fund". However, he said it was important to provide funds with tax file numbers (TFNs) which can help individuals be reunited with their super.

TIP: The ATO's Superseeker service enables individuals to enter their name, TFN and date of birth to conduct an online search of the Tax Office's Lost Members' Register available at www.ato.gov.au/Calculators-and-tools/SuperSeeker


ASIC Eye On SMSF Property Investment Advice

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has raised concerns about advice being given to self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) to invest in property. ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said the regulatory body was aware there had been a sharp rise in promoters recommending that investors either set up or use an existing SMSF to invest in property. ASIC is concerned these promoters may not be complying with the law.

Mr Tanzer said ASIC was concerned that, with the increased popularity of SMSFs and property investment, real estate agents and property advisers may not realise they may be carrying on a business of providing financial product advice and may need an Australian financial services (AFS) licence, or authorisation under an AFS licence, when making recommendations or statements of opinion to a person to use an SMSF to invest in property. Mr Tanzer said ASIC is now working with individual businesses suspected of engaging in unlicensed conduct to help them understand their obligations.


Family Fails To Prove Assessments Excessive

Six members of a family have been unsuccessful before the AAT in arguing that various amended and default tax assessments were excessive. The AAT heard details of unexplained moneys flowing through family bank accounts, sums paid from an overseas business arrangement, as well as the acquisition of various residential properties in the names of family members, despite the taxpayers' claim they earned very little income. The Tax Commissioner used the "asset betterment" analysis to raise the assessments. Despite acknowledging inherent flaws in the method used by the Commissioner to derive the tax assessments, the AAT found the family members had failed to establish that the assessments were incorrect and that the amount of money for which tax was levied by the assessment exceeded the actual substantive liability of the taxpayers.

TIP: In making a default assessment, the Commissioner is not required to follow the ordinary processes of ascertaining assessable income and allowable deductions and need not make inquiries of the taxpayer (or the taxpayer's agent). However, the assessment may be invalid if the Commissioner estimates the taxpayer's assessable income upon no intelligible basis or simply plucks a figure out of the air.


Tax Consequences Following Marriage Break-Up

The ATO has recently released a taxation ruling on the tax effects of matrimonial money or property transfers. According to some commentators, the game-changing ruling may affect the manner in which property settlements are able to be arranged for family groups under s 79 of the Family Law Act 1975.

In Taxation Ruling TR 2014/15, the ATO confirmed that payments or transfers of property under Family Court orders to a husband or wife from a private company will be considered a distribution of profits from the company. Such transactions will therefore be assessed as dividends either pursuant to the ordinary dividend assessing provisions (s 44 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936) or Div 7A in almost every matrimonial property or cash settlement, regardless of whether the parties are shareholders (or associates of the shareholders) in the private company or whether the private company is a party to the Family Court order.


Bad Debt Deduction For "Unpaid Trust Entitlements" Refused

A taxpayer has been unsuccessful before the AAT in a matter concerning bad debt deduction claims for the 2012 income year in relation to certain trust distributions. The taxpayer, a beneficiary of a trust, had claimed bad debt deductions under the tax law for debts he argued were unpaid trust entitlements. He argued the debt written off had the same character as the trust distributions included in his assessable income in the 2005 and 2007 income years.

Following analysis of the distribution transaction and the trust deed, the AAT was of the view the taxpayer's entitlement was paid in the manner prescribed by the deed, and once paid, lost its character as unpaid entitlement. The AAT concluded the debt written off was different in character to the income included in the taxpayer's assessable income in the 2005 and 2007 income years.

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Since 1994, Harris Black has been providing accounting and advisory services to our valued clients to help them achieve their business and personal wealth goals.

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