Plan now, for future financial years

There's still time to find deductions, for this financial year

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TAX TIME: Awareness of the farm businesses financial position is vital, at tax time, says leading south-west Victorian dairy farmer Lisa Dwyer.

TAX TIME: Awareness of the farm businesses financial position is vital, at tax time, says leading south-west Victorian dairy farmer Lisa Dwyer.

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Instant asset write-off a big boost for farms.

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While there is still time to capture further tax breaks, before the end of this financial year, primary producers have been advised to start looking further ahead.

Financial advisors and farmers said the most important thing primary producers could do, before June 30, was to make sure their accounts were up to date.

Finley, NSW, accountant Kip Barlow said farmers needed to know their full financial position, before making any further decisions.

"Often farmers can think they have a tax problem, but in reality, they don't," Mr Barlow said.

"If your books are up to date, you have a clear indication of your tax position - once you know what your tax position is, you can move onto the next step of working out what to do about it."

There was still time to put money into Farm Management Deposits, superannuation and use the instant asset write-off.

The federal government's popular $150,000 instant asset investment write-off offer has been extended until December, after many businesses highlighted the previous deadline was too short to make practical use of the incentive.

Mr Barlow said farmers could also look at fodder storage, sheds and fencing, as well as Landcare programs, such as gully erosion and soil conservation to boost tax deductions.

"I've also been saying to my clients that money is about as cheap as it has ever been," he said.

"If you can borrow money at the rate of 2.5-3 per cent, and get a 100pc tax deduction and increase your farm efficiency, at the same time, it's a triple win.

"You can't go wrong."

He said farmers using irrigation could also take advantage of deductions on equipment used to move water more efficiently, such as automated outlets and field sensors.

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences provisional estimates show an average of $173,000 in farm cash income for all Victorian broadacre primary producers, this financial year.

That's up from $134,600, in 2017-18.

The sharpest jump is for wheat and other crops, from $333,400, to $567,000, on the back of increased production in the Mallee, Wimmera and central north.

Sheep producers are expected to see an average farm cash income of $135,000, while the average income for beef producers is $41,000.

For beef and sheep producers that climbs to $279,000.

Dairy farms in Victoria are projected to return to profitability in 2019-20 as a result of increased milk prices.

In 2018-19, average farm cash income fell by 26 per cent and average farm business profit was negative

Estimated income for dairy farmers for 2019-20 is $159,000

Sinclair Wilson senior accountant Steven Van Ginneken works with farmers across the Green Triangle, in south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia.

"Most primary producers in the region appear to have had a strong year given the strong beef, sheep and milk prices for the 2019 / 2020 year," Mr Van Ginneken said.

"In the current financial year, we are seeing many primary producers looking at a higher than average taxable income."

The most significant benefit, this year, was the extension of the instant asset write off.

"Having a large write off available to farmers allows them to bring forward some expenditure that might have been in the pipeline."

"At the $150,000 level, many primary producers will be able to write off assets such as tractors and harvesting and feed-out equipment, and they can do so while subsidising the cost of these assets with some immediate tax savings.

He agreed with Mr Barlow farmers should prepare some income estimates to see where their taxable income might land at June 30.

As many primary producers are taxed under the primary production averaging scheme, there was always a balance between minimising the current year tax and looking forward to future years.

Small Business Entities could also pre-pay expenditure to obtain a tax deduction in the year they made the payment, for up to 13 months.

"This can be used for regular expenditure such as fodder, fertiliser, interest, lease or rents," Mr Van Ginneken said."

Making prepayments may mean a small business entity could defer some tax, without disrupting cash flow too much.

"Some agricultural suppliers have also been willing to pay interest on prepayment balances, which further helps offset some of the cost to those who might have to dip into their overdraft," Mr Van Ginneken said.

"Some banks will allow their customers to pre-pay interest, but this will need to be arranged with their bank manager quickly given the proximity to June 30."

The instant asset write off extension would also apply to the next financial year, if items covered by it were not ready to use, before June 30.

"It's always a good idea to continually review your business structure, as there are opportunities that can be lost if a restructure is left too late," he said.

"We've seen circumstances where clients have missed out on eligibility for small business capital gains tax concessions, all because of missed timing.

"The potential impact of this will always differ from one client to another, but it's worth making sure you have the advice of a professional to best position the business and its stakeholders."

Leading western Victorian lamb producer Georgina Gubbins advised farmers to look at their business structures and use strategies such as prepayment systems.

"If farmers think they are going to have a tax problem, buy anything they think they will need, this financial year," Ms Gubbins said.

The Gubbins' run 4000 ewes, Angus cattle and bring in steers to background. on properties west of Heywood and at Hamilton.

"It's always about planning and what you need for your business to go forward," Ms Gubbins said.

"People should be looking one year out, five years out and ten years out."

The extension of the instant asset write-off was extremely beneficial for farmers.

"I think it will help for next year, for people to be thinking about where they are positioned and what they can spend.

Landcare programs could also provide a positive tax outcome.

"You have to look at what you are going to need, in the future, for your farm to be sustainable,' Ms Gubbins said.

"If your land is not sustainable, you are in trouble."

Kangerton Farming, Purnim, co-owner dairy farmer Lisa Dwyer said looking at how the business was set up, and regular reviews, were critical for the 400-herd operation.

"We also subscribe to Australian Tax Office updates to make sure we're aware of changes," Ms Dwyer said.

"Our accountant prepares a tax cashflow 12 months in advance so we can plan and meet expected tax liabilities.

"Given the vagaries of agriculture, we have always tried to give ourselves some financial space by focusing on reducing debt through principal reduction rather than an over-zealous approach to minimising tax."

That approach enabled Kangerton to take advantage of growth opportunities, as they arose, but also meant the business had to carefully plan to ensure it took advantage of tax minimisation strategies, as well as budgeting to meet tax obligations.

She agreed tax breaks that encouraged investment in on-farm sustainability, such as native revegetation and the instant asset write-off, were particularly useful in fostering business growth.

"We always look to incorporate those in our annual plans where they suit our operation."

Preliminary discussions with financial advisors on the coming year might be more costly, in terms of advice, time and effort, but they enabled the business to more accurately vary tax obligations in a low profitability year or better plan for liabilities, when times were good.

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