Harris Black with Brentnalls – A BRW Top 100 Accounting Firm

Harris Black is an active participant in a network of nationally affiliated independent chartered accounting firms collectively called Brentnalls Chartered Accountants. An affiliation of seven accounting practices across Australia and New Zealand, the Brentnalls group, inclusive of Harris Black, has 24 partners and a team of nearly 140.

Harris Black and others in the Brentnalls Chartered Accountants group are proud to have recently secured a place in the BRW Top 100 Accounting Firms for the first time. Ranked 34th out of the top 100 firms.

This achievement bucks the trend highlighted by the BRW's 2013 survey, which found that "poor economic conditions" were the key reason for clients retreating from spending with firms in 2012-13.

Brentnalls' Group Chairman, Laurie Cogger, said it is clear that local expertise of those firms who are members of the affiliation is the reason behind their continued success.

"Firms are operating under enormous pressures, and that means the provision of value is essential," Mr Cogger said. "What continues to set Brentnalls apart is its very progressive affiliation structure. Local practices are able to combine real understanding of their own clients with all of the additional resources and knowledge an affiliation affords them when unusual or demanding projects arise."

Brentnalls now has seven affiliate firms, with the most recent joining the group in 2009, from New Zealand. Organic growth was healthy in 2012/13, and the firms within the affiliation are well proven, thriving on referrals from existing clients.

Brendan Power, Director of Harris Black and active board member of Brentnalls says that being part of Brentnalls means putting client relationships first. …

"Our experience from the very start has been that the Brentnalls Group, like Harris Black, focuses on innovation, progressive thinking, and on developing lasting client relationships."

"Affiliates work extremely well together in developing and providing a complete service package, and our own focus on personal wealth improvement and business improvement has proved to be a very successful part of the overall Brentnalls service provision."

Future plans for the affiliation include a move into South East Asia. Brentnalls is currently building productive relationships in China.

For more information contact harris black on 07 3032 0200 or email

Avoiding Disaster At Your Company Christmas Party

A message from Workforce Guardian – Australia's leading Human Resource and employment related services for employers.

Amazing as it may seem, it is now time to once again begin planning your end-of-year company Christmas party. But beware… things can go very wrong, very quickly! The team at Workforce Guardian is kept very busy every January dealing with the fall-out from Christmas party disasters. They see everything from minor mishaps to serious complaints of bullying and/or sexual harassment.

Straight from WorkForce Guardian, the following are some simple hints and tips on how to make sure your Christmas party goes off without a hitch:

Tip 1: Make Sure Someone Responsible Is Made Responsible

The most effective thing you can do to avoid Christmas-party disasters is actually very simple… Make someone accountable for what happens. Assign responsibility for the event to a responsible, senior member of your team who is happy either not to drink or to keep their drinking to a minimum. It's up to this person to oversee the event and keep things on track.

Keep in mind though that under Australia's new Workplace Health and Safety laws, most senior employees are considered 'Officers' who have a Duty of Due Diligence that cannot be delegated to another employee. This ultimately means that everyone shares some degree of responsibility for what happens at your company party.

Tip 2: Clearly Set Out Your Expectations

Your company Christmas Party is exactly that: a company event. This means all of your usual employer-related legal obligations such as your duty of care towards your employees, as well all your usual workplace policies and procedures, will apply for the duration of the event, regardless of where it takes place.

It is therefore essential that you take pro-active steps to ensure everyone knows how they are expected to behave, and what will happen if their conduct does not't measure up. A reminder of expectations should be in writing and distributed to all employees well in advance of the event. It is also a good idea to make an announcement at the beginning of the party gently reminding attendees of the company's expectations.

Tip 3: Choose Your Venue Carefully

Having your Christmas party at a co-worker's house or a family-friendly restaurant is a much safer option than having it at an adult-themed venue! You may think this goes without saying, but you'd be surprised just how many employers don't carefully consider the impact venues will have on setting the tone of their event.

Make sure you select a venue that is safe, work-appropriate and easy to access for all your employees. If you decide to use a relatively public space – such as a bar or even a BBQ area at a park – make sure you reserve a dedicated area that will remain within your control throughout the event. This will stop unwanted people joining in and will help ensure your people don't wander off!

Tip 4: Set A Clear Start And Finish Time

Make sure everyone knows when your party officially starts and ends. In other words, make the distinction between the end of your company-sanctioned Christmas party and the start of unrelated shenanigans as clear as possible. Make it clear to everyone that, at a certain point, the event is no longer regarded as being run by your company.

One of the clearest signals you can give to your staff that the event is over is to physically close down the venue at the scheduled end time. Booking a private function room and making sure everyone leaves that space at the designated end-time can be very effective in making everyone aware that the work party is over.

Tip 5: Communicate Options Early And Clearly

Be sure to let your staff know your Christmas party plans as soon as possible. In a small business this can easily be done informally during a staff meeting, or even on a one-to-one basis with each of your employees.

Letting your team members know about the event early ensures they have more than enough time to investigate transport options, ­­check dietary requirements/options and raise any questions or concerns they may have with you well in advance.

By following all of the above hints and tips we believe you can quickly, easily and effectively minimise the risk of your company Christmas party turning into a not-so-merry mess.

If you would like to know more about Workforce Guardian (protecting employers), please contact your harris black team member.

The Tax Implications Of Christmas

It is the season to be jolly and many businesses find themselves paying for staff Christmas gifts and parties at this time of the year. The tax implication of providing these benefits to staff may result in these costs being non deductible or subject to Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT). The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has written the following factsheet to help employers determine the tax impact of their Christmas festivities. ATO - FBT Factsheet

This is a confusing area so if you would like assistance please do not hesitate to contact your harris black team member.

Are Meetings Productive?

A lot of business meetings are not productive. Planning a meeting should improve the meeting's productivity for all attendees. The key items for an effective meeting are:

  • appoint a chairperson;
  • the chairperson should distribute an agenda prior to the meeting;
  • appoint a meeting secretary to prepare minutes and coordinate the meeting;
  • distribute minutes of the previous meeting prior to the meeting;
  • prepare an action plan for each meeting and review the implementation of the action plan early in the following meeting;
  • start the meeting on time, irrespective of who is not present;
  • keep the number of attendees to the lowest possible number of people (only invite people to attend who have a direct involvement in the agenda items);
  • everyone present should have a clear reason for being there;
  • everyone present should have a role to play in the meeting;
  • people attending should make a brief report on the matters relating to the meeting, for which they are responsible;
  • for submissions to a meeting, someone should be allocated the responsibility of ensuring the reports are distributed to participants prior to the meeting (preferably 48 hours prior if possible); and
    the meeting should finish on time. 

Reminder – Have You Reviewed Your Insurance Lately

It's a good idea to review the following risk items, at least on an annual basis:

  1. General Insurance includes
    • Public Liability
    • Professional Indemnity
  2. Life insurance cover – is it sufficient? If the cover is part of a buy-sell agreement, is the amount of cover appropriate for what the business is now worth?
  3. Key person insurance – does the business have a policy on obtaining key person insurance policies? Have all key persons been insured?
  4. Private Health Insurance
  5. Wills – are they still appropriate? Should any changes be made?

If you would like to discuss these aspects of your risk management strategy, please do not hesitate to contact your harris black team member.

Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) - Act Now Before 31 January 2014

Important Australian Government information about the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) – an online register introduced on 30 January 2012 that protects your business when buying, selling or leasing out property including valuable goods, stock, vehicles, machinery, office equipment, crops and livestock – almost anything except real estate.

What Is The PPSR?
The PPSR is an online register introduced on 30 January 2012 that protects your business when buying, selling or leasing out property including valuable goods, stock, vehicles, machinery, office equipment, crops and livestock - almost anything except real estate.

Act Now
The two-year grace period to register any interests not yet registered is about to end! You need to register any outstanding pre-PPSR interest on the PPSR before the 31 January 2014.

Registered your interest in goods which you haven't been paid for can help you claim those goods, or the value of those goods, if your customer doesn't pay or become insolvency.

Is Your Business Buying Valuable Second-Hand Items?
You can also check the Personal Property Securities Register to see if that second-hand machinery, equipment, vehicles, stock or other valuable used item you want to purchase is debt-free and safe from repossession. Doing a search to check before you buy is low cost, easy and immediate.

Anyone Can Use The PPSR
For more information about the PPSR, the grace period, or to search or register an interest, visit

Tax Changes Following Carbon Tax And Mining Tax Repeal

The Abbott government has introduced into Parliament proposed legislation to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax.

Importantly, the Bill to remove the mining tax also proposes to repeal or revise a number of tax and superannuation measures. Key changes include:

  • capital allowances for small business entities – the instant asset write-off threshold will be reduced to $1,000 and the accelerated depreciation arrangements for motor vehicles will be discontinued;
  • company loss carry-back – the repeal of the loss carry-back measure will apply from the start of the 2013–2014 income year;
  • superannuation guarantee (SG) charge – the SG charge percentage will be paused at 9.25% for the years starting on 1 July 2014 and 1 July 2015, increase to 9.5% for the year starting on 1 July 2016, and then gradually increase by half a percentage point each year until it reaches 12% for years starting on or after 1 July 2021; and
  • low income superannuation contribution (LISC) – the LISC will not be payable in respect of concessional contributions made from 1 July 2013.

No GST Following Purchase Of Leased Apartments

A taxpayer has been successful before the Full Federal Court in a matter concerning a GST assessment following the purchase of three residential apartments. The taxpayer (a company) had purchased the apartments in a hotel complex from the vendor on a GST-free basis as supply of a going concern. The apartments were subject to leases that the vendor had previously granted to a hotel management company, which was obliged to let the apartments as part of its serviced apartment business. The taxpayer had also elected to participate in a "management rights scheme", which provided the taxpayer a right to income in exchange for allowing its apartments to be used in the serviced apartment business.

The Commissioner assessed the taxpayer as having a GST liability of $215,000 (ie an increasing adjustment), which represented 10% of the total purchase price paid by the taxpayer for the apartments. On appeal, the Full Court found that the primary judge had made an error in concluding that, following the sale of the reversion from the vendor to the taxpayer, there was a continuing supply, being the supply of residential premises by lease, by the vendor to the hotel management company. The Full Court said there was no continuing supply in relation to the lease; rather, the supply was the grant of the lease, which did not continue for the term of the lease. As a result, the taxpayer's objection to the GST assessment was allowed.

TIP: At the time of writing it remained unclear whether the Commissioner would apply to the High Court for special leave to appeal against the decision. Assuming that the Full Court's decision will not be appealed or overturned, purchasers who have previously acquired residential premises as a going concern and then included an increasing adjustment in a subsequent GST return may want to consider whether there is potential for a refund.

Note that there are time limits that can restrict entitlement to refunds. Purchasers who are contemplating acquiring residential premises as a going concern should exercise caution until it is clear whether the decision will be appealed, or whether the government may look into introducing amending legislation.

Individual Not A Tax Resident Of Australia

An individual taxpayer has been successful before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in arguing that he was not an Australian resident for tax purposes for the relevant years.

In June 2006, after his release from jail for drug offences, the man decided he had no future in Australia and moved to Thailand. In 2008, he moved to Bali and obtained the right to live in Indonesia as a retired person. During 2008 and 2010, the man made regular trips back to Australia, but during his last visit he was arrested and charged with possession of a precursor to a dangerous drug. The man was convicted and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.

While in prison, the Commissioner commenced an audit of the taxpayer's affairs and decided that he was an Australian resident with unexplained income, and issued assessments for the 2009 to 2011 income years. The Commissioner also assessed penalties in excess of $350,000. The Commissioner based his decision on documents showing bank interest payments to the taxpayer as well as payments he had made towards the cost of building a boat.

However, the AAT was satisfied that the man was not a resident of Australia in the years in question. It said the man had not been residing in Australia since mid-2006 and that he had established a home in Bali from early 2008.

Legal Expense Deductions To Fight ASIC Charges Refused

A stockbroker has been unsuccessful before the AAT in arguing that legal expenses he had incurred in the 2011 income year were deductible.

The taxpayer had incurred legal expenses challenging an ASIC banning order in proceedings before the Federal Court and the Full Federal Court. Both courts dismissed his appeals. The banning order, which became operative from 7 May 2010, prohibited the man from providing financial services for five years. The taxpayer had also incurred legal expenses in defending 20 criminal charges for alleged insider trading; he was eventually acquitted on 17 of the charges, with the remaining three withdrawn by ASIC.

The AAT was of the view that the legal expenses were not incurred by the taxpayer "in the course" of gaining or producing assessable income. The AAT found that when the taxpayer had incurred the expenses, his position as an authorised representative at the company he worked for had ceased. Accordingly, the AAT held that the expenses incurred in the 2011 income year were not deductible.

Tax Debt Release Based On Serious Hardship Refused

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has affirmed the Commissioner's decision to refuse to release an individual from his tax liability based on serious hardship grounds. Under the Taxation Administration Act, the Commissioner has a discretion to release an individual from paying a tax liability (in whole or in part) if satisfying the liability would cause that person serious hardship.

The man argued that due to his wife's illness, he had been increasingly required to care for her and their children and that this has reduced his capacity to earn income. The AAT was satisfied that the individual was facing serious hardship in the immediate future in the sense of lacking the means to purchase food, clothing and medical supplies for his family, and other basic requirements such as accommodation. However, it said the serious hardship was not caused by him being required to meet the tax liability. Rather, the serious hardship was due to the taxpayer's liabilities, of which tax debt was just one, exceeding his assets, and the outgoings required to service those liabilities exceeding his income. As he had not met the relevant criterion, the AAT said it did not have the power to release him from his tax debts.

TIP: Even if the Commissioner is satisfied that serious hardship will result from payment of a tax liability, the Commissioner is not obliged to exercise his discretion in favour of the individual taxpayer. Nevertheless, it is clear that the ATO is obliged to act reasonably and responsibly, and should not act arbitrarily or capriciously. An application for release from an eligible tax liability must be in the approved form.

GST Refund Request Made Too Late

An individual taxpayer has been unsuccessful before the AAT in seeking a review of the Commissioner's decision to refuse a GST refund in relation to the June 2004 quarter. The Commissioner had refused the refund on the basis that the taxpayer's application was made after the four-year cut-off date for the June 2004 quarter (that is, 28 July 2008).

The taxpayer explained that due to his ill health and troubles with his then business, he did not get around to lodging tax returns until 2011. The Commissioner acknowledged that the man was owed a refund and had recommended that he approach the Department of Finance and Deregulation to obtain an act of grace payment, but said that because more than four years had elapsed since the time the taxpayer could have claimed the money, there was no discretion that could be exercised in the taxpayer's favour. The AAT agreed with the Commissioner. It also refused the taxpayer's request for an extension of time to apply to the AAT for review of the Commissioner's objection decision (dated 31 October 2011) refusing the GST refund for the June 2004 quarter.

Harris Black Christmas Closing Period

Harris Black advises we will close at 11am, Friday, 20 December 2013 and re open at 8:30am, Monday, 6 January 2013. We thank you for your continued business and support and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

About Us






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.


National Affiliation

Harris Black is a key participant in a network of nationally affiliated independent chartered accounting firms called the Brentnalls Group.


Our Partners



Our Location

Level 16, 333 Ann Street
Brisbane, QLD 4000 
View location map
Enquiry Form

P: (07) 3032 0200
F: (07) 3032 0201