Updated: Jul 9
COVID-19 may have unquestionably ushered in widespread uncertainty in many aspects of our daily lives but, as the old adage is always keen to remind us, one of two constants still remains: taxes.
The very word ‘tax’ can install fear and apprehension into small business owners across the country. It is a topic that many tend to shy away from as opposed to confronting head-on.
And with good reason. Navigating the federal tax landscape in Australia can certainly be a precarious process, a paperwork laden, regulatory minefield littered with potential pitfalls. Many small businesses find themselves overwhelmed by the confusing and overly complicated conditions their tax obligations present and rarely does the taxman or woman find themselves at the top of people’s Christmas card lists.
Thankfully, there are accountants out there that are fully equipped and more than ready to help by offering invaluable expertise and guidance. In fact for some, it is a passion more than just a service.
One such accounting firm is Success Tax Professionals (STPTAX), a network of over 95 independently owned accounting practices servicing over 50,000 accounting and tax clients each year.
Established in Port Macquarie by John Clarke in June 2020, STPTAX is a unique franchise group where its members work together to provide local services to businesses, individuals, retirees and investors which are underpinned with national backup. It currently has a presence in six states across the country and members benefit from on-going branding, marketing, training, systems, services, and quality control support.
Maximising a client’s tax situation and actually striving to generate financial growth are the objectives that define John’s and STPTAX’s approach. His practice offers a holistic range of services to clients encompassing accounting, tax, tax planning and advice on asset protection and risk management.
John is passionate about financial sustainability and helping businesses increase profits and improve cash flow by finding the hidden cash within their organisation.
“I want your business to succeed,” John says. “I want it to generate the profits you need for your dreams - whether it’s a house, holidays, or time with your family.”
A People Person
With a 30-year career in accountancy and around 20 years involved in tax specific affairs, John and his family moved from Dubbo to Port Macquarie in 2008 when he took on the job of Business Manager at Heritage Christian School.
Prior to that he was the CEO of the Outback Division of General Practice in western NSW which was funded by the Commonwealth to help GPs work with other health professionals. John’s achievements in the role were long and varied, including taking over programs from the Far West Area Health Service, providing visiting podiatry services into far western towns, the establishment of community health forums, founding partnerships with Aboriginal Medical Services in Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett, and the construction of a medical centre in Cobar which houses not only GPs but other health services. Under John’s watch annual funding increased from about $200,000 to $2.5 million during that period.
John places a huge emphasis on the community and fostering solid, sustainable relationships and networks, something his affable personality lends itself to favourably.
“Having been now based in Port Macquarie for 13 years I know the district, I know the people, I know the kind of industries that are involved locally,” John said.
“I am passionate about building stronger sustainable communities and have been involved in service clubs and show societies. I’ve spent a lot of time in not for profit organisations managing their finances. In my private life I’m involved in my church.
“I really enjoy dealing with people, helping them and their businesses to get a better understanding of how they can improve their profits and their cash flow. And also, helping individuals get the most tax back that they can legally.”
It’s good to talk
It will come as no great surprise that the emphasis John places on the importance of good and clear communication is imperative.
“I genuinely regard it as one of my major differentiators,” he commented.
“Communicating effectively with people is so important. I have welcomed a number of new clients in the past 12 months whose previous accountant was technically providing a very sound service but they were not communicating and relaying key information to their client, keeping them abreast of key developments.”
One such major development unravelling in the past 15 months has, of course, been COVID-19.
“I found a number of clients who had not been given any form of advice in relation to what they may have been eligible to under the government stimulus package incentive scheme.
“It was purely a case of their accountant not being active, not communicating and sharing crucial information that would have benefited the client.
“During the last 12 months, since establishing the business, I have helped many employees and small businesses work out what possible deductions I could claim for them working from home during the timeframe, and not everyone is fully aware of what they may be entitled to.”
However, John is quick to stress that such cases were no doubt rare exceptions and that the majority of practicing accountants regionally do a fantastic job.
“I’ve got friends whose accountants in Port Macquarie have given them great service during COVID, something they are extremely grateful for. So if you’re happy with your existing accountant I’m not saying change but you may want a second opinion? But, if you’re unhappy or if you want to learn a bit more about what I can do then I welcome people to make an appointment and pop by for a coffee and a chat.”
With the end of the financial year fast approaching John is frequently helping clients ensure they maximise their position.
“People can look at whether they have money abandoned or whether they can make a top up contribution to superannuation, which would be tax deductible,” he says.
Do you have a tax or accounting question?
“For those using a vehicle for work, they should look at making sure they’ve got a vehicle logbook and ensuring they keep it updated. There are a couple of apps that help with this and make the whole process very straightforward.”
Technology has had a huge impact on many aspects of our everyday lives and the accounting industry is no exception. The days of keeping boxes of receipts and having to painfully trawl through them come tax return time are long gone.
“Technology has had a big positive impact,” says John. “Previously people would come in with their checkbooks and folders full of receipts and payments and the primary, often only, focus would be the actual tax return.
“Of course, that is important but it should not be the only service a good accountant provides. The old manual process was very time consuming and didn’t allow time to provide people additional advice unless they were specifically asking for it.
“Nowadays, with online accounting systems and software such as Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks, everything can be kept up to date in a timely and efficient manner throughout the year.
“My business clients can now just scan or email their receipts and invoices to a specific program I have which will download into their accounting system. It can all be monitored straight away and is very effective.
“Additionally, rules and regulations from the Taxation Office are constantly changing. We can now share updated information with clients promptly and effectively. If someone wants advice on what the financial consequences are of a new particular rule, on how they can improve their business, it is now much easier to provide that with real time information.”
In effect this has meant the role of an accountant has changed, moving from the more traditional perception of ‘number-cruncher’ to more of a holistic advisory service.
This is something John agrees with, emphasising it is just one of the key advantages of the STPTAX network.
“We are working as a collective to help people use their businesses to achieve their dreams for them and their families,” he concludes.
Ultimately, tax obligations may well be an inevitable and unavoidable fact of life but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a burden or unpleasant ordeal. With personable experts like John Clarke and the STPTAX network you’re in safe hands and may even come to enjoy the whole process!
Book a Free Consultation
a/ 6/114 William Street, Port Macquarie, NSW 2444, Australia
t/ 0481 039 851
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