These questions are general in nature. You should get professional advice about your individual situation. Contact us if you would like specific advice on a matter.
If you happen to see very similar FAQs on other accountants websites don't be surprised, we are flattered that they have copied ours verbatium - typos included. Just check they have the most recent version if you do find them on another site.
General accounting questions
Anyone can call themselves an Accountant so you should check the relevance of their qualifications and experience suits your needs.
A Chartered Accountant (CA) is a member of Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand. To become a member you need to have a University qualification in accounting and three years practical experience working under the supervision of a CA. CA's are required to undergo minimum levels of continuing education each year and may work in industry, government or in public practice. If you are looking for an accountant to advise you on business or tax you should consult a CA who has a certificate in public practice (CPP). This means they are qualified to advise members of the public and are subject to regular reviews by the institute.
A tax agent is someone who is registered with IRD to prepare tax returns for their clients. Tax agents do not need to be (but can be) Chartered Accountants.
You can find out if someone is a Chartered Accountant by using the find an accountant search at Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand website.
It is simplest and easiest is to operate in your own name as a sole trader. However there are tax benefits from operating as a company and a company and can appear more commercially professional. A company structure also provides opportunities to sell your business by selling the shares in the company and to expand or obtain further investment in the company by selling shares to new investors. Trading trusts are sometimes used but IRD has been known to look carefully at these. More details on structures are available here.
You can set up a company online for $160 at the Companies Office website at www.companies.govt.nz. All you need is an email account, a credit card and access to a fax machine.
There are step by step instructions on the Companies Office website and if you do it during normal working hours it should only take them a few hours to process. You need to decide first on the name for the company, and who will be the directors and shareholders (you can have a sole shareholder and director). The Companies Office will email you with forms for all directors and shareholders to sign agreeing to be shareholders and directors of the company and these need to be faxed back to the Companies Office. You can also obtain an IRD number while setting up the company.
For detailed informat have a look at our notes on setting up a company.
You need to have a special resolution of the shareholders agreeing to close down the company usually because it has ceased to trade and you need to organise to distribute the assets of the company. You have to advise the Registrar of Companies that there are no outstanding creditors and provide written confirmation from IRD that all taxes have been paid. Annual returns need to be up to date.
It will cost around $2,000 to set up a simple trust and transfer your home to the trust but you should shop around and make sure that you are aware of the actual cost before the trust is set up. While it doesn’t cost anything to file the annual gift statement with IRD if you use a solicitor to prepare the ongoing Deeds of Partial Forgiveness of Debt and then complete and file the gift duty statement with IRD the solicitor will usually charge around $300. If the Trust is engaged in a taxable activity then an income tax return may also need to be filed with IRD.
You can claim any cost necessarily incurred in deriving taxable income. This means that if the cost was directly related to earning the income then it is deductible. The usual expenses that are tax deductible are interest on the mortgage (but not principal repayments), rates, insurance, property management fees, body corporate fees, repair and maintenance costs, any minor equipment costs less than $500. There may also be some travel costs. If you are managing the property yourself and particularly if you have several properties you can claim home office costs.
First you need to work out the proportion of your home that is available for your business activity. You may have a separate office set aside and you may work solely from home. In this case then your home office proportion will be the size of that room as a percentage of the whole house plus around 5% for the shared spaces such as kitchen and bathroom facilities. You need to claim reasonable costs so shouldn’t go over 20%. If you do not have a separate space set aside or if you just own one property then 10% of your home costs would probably be reasonable. Costs you usually can claim are:
- the interest costs on your mortgage (but not the principal)
- house insurance (not personal insurance)
- repairs and maintenance
- telephone and Internet
- security/alarm system monitoring
- rubbish (wheelie bins etc;)
Definitive answers on what you can and can't claim are contained in IRD's IR268 booklet on entertainment here.
Usually entertainment expenses (meals and drinks consumed off the office premises) are 50% deductible. If you bring food or drinks into your office (e.g. because people are working late) then it is usually fully deductible
If you are travelling for work any of your accommodation and associated costs (meals etc;) are fully deductible. However if while travelling you are paying for meals for work related guests then the cost of the meal is only 50% deductible.
You can do this either at year end when your tax return is filed or during the year. If waiting till year end then you will need to file a tax return and show the loss there. This loss will reduce your taxable income and you will be refunded any overpaid PAYE. This means that you will receive an annual lump sum refund.
If you would prefer to receive the refund as part of your fortnightly pay then you can complete an IR23BS available on IRD’s website www.ird.govt.nz. This form requires you to estimate the amount of loss for the next year. IRD will then calculate the effect on your PAYE and provide you with a special tax rate certificate. You should give this to your employer who will then deduct a lesser amount of PAYE. You will still need to complete a tax return at year end and if the actual loss was the same as the estimated amount you will not receive any further refund. If the actual loss was more than the estimate then you may receive a refund. If the actual loss was less than the estimate then you may have tax to pay. Remember to get the special tax rate adjusted back if you sell the property during the year. Otherwise you may have a large tax bill at year end.
If you pay provisional tax then the loss will usually result in a refund at year end and this will reduce the amount of provisional tax you have to pay next year. If you want to have access to the tax benefits of the loss sooner then you can estimate your provisional tax and this will reduce the amount of the provisional tax payments you need to make. Remember though that if you estimate your provisional tax then you will have to pay interest if you end up owing more tax than you had estimated.
Provisional tax is a method of paying tax as you go during the year but without the formalised PAYE system. If you are earning income as a sole trader or as a shareholder employee then you are not required to deduct PAYE from your earnings. Instead you can pay provisional tax during the year with a “wash-up” at year end. The amount of provisional tax you need to pay is the same as the tax you paid on last year’s actual earnings plus 5% if your tax for the year is $50,000 or less. If your tax for the year is likely to be more than $50,000 then you are required to estimate your tax each year and pay it in equal instalments during the year. If at year end your tax was more than you had estimated then you will pay interest on any shortfall. If you paid more tax than was required then IRD will pay you interest as well as refund you any overpayment.
It depends upon your GST status. Assuming you have a 31st March balance date:
- If you are GST registered (6 monthly) you make two provisional tax payments - 28th October 2016 and 7th May 2017.
- Otherwise (GST registered 1 or 2 monthly or not GST registered) you make three provisional tax payments - 28th August 2016, 15th January 2017 and 7th May 2017.
The same rules apply for individuals and companies but one thing to watch out for is that if both you and your company pay provisional tax make sure you pay each according to the GST status - dates will be different for your company and your personal tax unless both you and your company have the same GST status.
IRD have an important dates calculator here.
You may have heard that you don't need to pay provisional tax in your first (financial) year of business. This only applies in some cases. If you are a sole trader or shareholder/employee and your tax bill for your first financial year will be less than $50,000 then you don't need to pay provisional tax during the year. You still need to pay the tax due at the end of the financial year (i.e. it's deferred tax rather than no tax). If your tax bill will be more than $50,000 OR you are trading as a company or a trust you should pay provisional tax as you go based on your expected income for the year.
In either case if your tax bill for the year ends up being more than $50,000 and you haven't been paying the provisional tax you will be charged penalties by IRD.
Depreciation recovery arises when you sell an asset (or have a change of use from rented to non-rented) for more than its book value. The effect of the recovery is that you have to pay back to IRD the tax benefit you have received from claiming depreciation. Generally if the asset has retained or increased its value over time, there will be a depreciation recovery when you sell it.
The depreciation recovery is calculated from the amount of accumulated depreciation (or depreciation claimed to date) on the asset sold. No depreciation is claimed in the year of sale.
For example if you sell a property at a profit the total depreciation claimed is added back onto your taxable income in the year it is sold. So if you have claimed $10,000 in depreciation over the years then assuming you are on a 33% tax rate the amount of tax will need to pay back as depreciation recovery is $3,300 ($10,000 x 0.33).
Only on buildings and then only until 31/03/2011 when the depreciation rate for most building becomes 0%. However claiming depreciation on buildings in the year of sale is usually pointless anyway as the depreciation claimed is added back as depreciation recovery. The only exception to this is if the market value of the building has genuinely reduced to the depreciated value or less.
You can rent out your own home and you will pay tax on any profit you make. If you want to buy a new home and rent out your existing home then if you only have a small mortgage on your existing home then you can deduct the interest cost of that mortgage from the rent you receive. However to reduce the amount of tax you will have to pay and maximise the interest deductibility you should sell your existing house at its market value to a company registered with IRD as a Look Through Company (LTC) and then borrow the full market price from the bank, repay that to yourself, pay off the existing loan and use the balance to buy your new home.
The tax implications depend on your intention when you bought the property.
If you bought the property to live in yourself then there are no tax implications from selling (or buying) the property. If you bought the property as a long term rental property then again you do not have to pay any tax on any capital gain when you sell the property. Similarly you can’t claim a loss if the property decreases in value between the date of purchase and sale. However you may have to pay tax on any depreciation recovery if the property has not diminished in value to the depreciated or book value.
If you bought the property to make a capital gain, for example, if you decided to do it up and then sell it or rent it out for only a short time before on selling it, then you would have to pay tax on the capital gain when you sold it. If you genuinely bought the property for long term rental but your circumstances changed significanty and you had to sell it soon after purchase then you may not have to pay tax on any capital gain. Any sale soon after purchase with a large capital gain is likely to be looked at closely by IRD.
Yes and you should.
If you are a sole trader and you are using a vehicle that may be used for carrying passengers then you must keep a log book for 3 months to record the percentage of usage that is work related. You can then claim that percentage of the associated vehicle costs e.g. depreciation, petrol, registration, insurance, warrants of fitness, repairs, tyres etc. Your three month log book will last for 3 years but needs to be redone if your usage changes by more than 20%. Therefore you should not do your log book over the Christmas break when your business travel is likely to be low! If you are only doing a small amount of travel you may prefer to keep track of the actual trips completed and the kms travelled and claim these back at IRD rates (72 cents per km for FY 2016).
If you are using a company then it depends who owns the vehicle. If you personally own the vehicle you can be reimbursed for the actual costs based on a logbook of private vs business use or you can be reimbursed for the business km's travelled using IRD mileage rates.
If the company owns the vehicle you can claim 100% of vehicle costs and have unlimited private use if you pay FBT on the value of the fringe benefits provided from the vehicle use - there is more detail about this in the FAQ item here. If the vehicle is not available for private use (100% used for work) then there is no FBT but this is hard to prove and usually only applies to vehicles that are obviously only used for work such as vans and trucks.
FBT (or fringe benefit tax) is tax paid by a company or employer on non-cash benefits paid to employees. This includes shareholder employees. The usual fringe benefits are cars, low interest loans and the personal use of business assets. It is payable quarterly or annually for some employers.
When you first start giving employees fringe benefits, you need to register for FBT. You can register by calling Inland Revenue.
The Inland Revenue will ask whether you are providing fringe benefits to shareholder employees or ordinary employees, as well as whether you want to file quarterly returns, income year returns or annual returns.
Income year returns are only available if fringe benefits are being provided to shareholder employees only. Income year returns are also useful if you have a non standard (ie non 31 March) balance date. If you are providing fringe benefits to ordinary employees, you need to elect to file quarterly or annually.
However, there are some complicated due dates for registering for FBT for income year or annual filing. As a basic guide, you need to register by the last day of the first quarter in the income year, so if your balance date is 31 March 2017 you need to have registered by 30 June 2016. If you register after this date, you will be required to file quarterly returns but may be able to switch to income year or annual filing the following year.
We tried to answer this question with a simple calculation but it ran to many pages so rather than burden you with that perhaps a rule of thumb will do. For motor vehicles that are used 100% privately you have two choices, pay FBT of approximately $125 per $1,000 of the original purchase price of the vehicle (including GST) each year, OR pay approximately $225 per $1,000 of the book value of the vehicle (as calculated at the start of each financial year) with a minimum annual FBT payment of $1,869 (because there is a minimum book value you can use of $8,333 including GST). Read the next few FAQs too...
You can find the IRD online FBT calculator here.
Sometimes. With a company car you can claim the GST, depreciation and all running costs. If its available for personal use then you will have to pay FBT. We have found that if the car costs less than about $10,000 then this usually works out to your advantage but for cars over $10,000 the cost of the FBT will probably outweight any savings you get claiming expenses, depreciation etc;
Yes if you can prove to IRD that it is not available for private use. This is easier to prove if your vehicle is clearly a work vehicle that would not be used privately - e.g. a van or truck or a vehicle that has had the back seats removed, and with work signage. In other cases its harder to prove - you should write a letter to the shareholder employee (yourself) advising them the vehicle isn't available for private use, the shareholder employee needs to agree to this in writing, have another vehicle available for private use and keep a logbook of the company's vehicles actual use to show it is only used for business.
Note: Under NZ’s self assessment tax system you can claim what you like but if IRD looks at it and isn’t happy then you may be charged penalties.
Yes you can pay employees (including shareholder employees) benefits of up to $300 per quarter (inc GST) without needing to file an FBT return and pay FBT on the benefit. For example your company could pay for your gym membership or pilates classes.
However, if the value of the benefits for an employee goes over $300 for a quarter, the full value of the benefits is subject to FBT—the exemption isn’t deducted first.
You can file tax returns and GST returns online at IRD by logging on with your myIR username. You will need a separate username for each IRD number you are filing tax returns for, e.g. if you have a company then you will have a username for your personal taxes and different one for the company taxes.
You can register for a myIR username from the main page at www.ird.govt.nz. At the end of the process you will be asked to phone IRD to activate your username. Over the phone they will check the usual things like date of birth and address to confirm you are who you say you are.
Why didn't IRD just make your IRD number the username? Good question - ask them.
For a more detailed look at the options check out our blog on payroll.
If you have earned or will earn more than $60,000 in a 12 month period then you need to register for GST.
The exception to this is if you are only exceeding this threshold because you are selling capital items to replace existing assets, or selling capital items because you are winding down or ceasing business activity.
More information on the IRD website here.
Have a look at the next couple of FAQs too.
If you earn less than $60,000 you can still register for GST if you want to.
In some cases it may be beneficial to register for GST as this allows you to claim back the GST on your inputs (expenses). If you mainly sell your products/services to people/organisations that are GST registered then they can claim back any GST they pay you, so it makes no difference to them if you charge them $x no GST (not registered) or $x plus GST (registered).
However if you are selling products or services to the general public who can't claim the GST back then it is usually best not to register for GST. If you do register you either have to add GST to your current prices (so it costs them more), or you keep your current prices so you receive less after you have paid over the GST component to IRD.
When you register for GST you get some choices - first up you need to decide if you want to be on a Payments, Invoice or Hybrid basis and then you need to decide if you want to file monthly, two monthly or six monthly GST returns.
What does it all mean?
- Payments basis means you only include GST in your GST return when you receive the money/spend the money.
- Invoice basis means you include the GST in your returns when you issue an invoice - you may end up paying GST to IRD before the customer pays you!
- Hybrid basis means you claim GST when you spend the money (like payments basis) but pay the GST to IRD when you issue an invoice (like invoice basis) - the worst of both worlds.
The choices you have depend on your turnover (revenue/what you sell/taxable supplies). Regardless of what you choose or have to choose you will need an accounting system that makes it easy to calculate your GST returns - we suggest Xero. It really does take the admin overhead out of GST, it almost makes it fun.
GST basis rules
- If your turnover is under two million you can choose between payments, invoice or hybrid basis.
- If your turnover over two million you must choose either invoice or hybrid basis.
- There is a an exception, if your taxable supplies are over $2 million but the payments basis would suit you because of the nature, value, and volume of your taxable supplies and your type of accounting system (typically businesses which make most sales for cash) - if you meet this condition and want to use this option you need to apply to IRD in writing.
Filing frequency rules
- If your turnover is less than $500,000 you can file six monthly, two monthly or monthly returns.
- If your turnover is between $500,000 and 24 million you can file on two monthly or monthly returns.
- If your turnover is more than 24 million you must file monthly returns.
So given these rules what is best for you?
If you normally expect to pay GST rather than receive refunds (unless you are an exporter this should be the case if you are in business to make a profit!) then if you can payments basis with six monthly filing will probably be best as :
- You don't have to pay over GST until you have been paid yourself.
- By filing six monthly returns you get to hang onto the cash for as long as possible (park it in your floating mortage) and minimise admin, only two returns a year.
However if you will generally receive GST refunds then one monthly or two montly returns will mean you get your refunds faster - but it does mean more admin effort filing more returns so two monthly is a good compromise.
Also even if you will normally pay GST you may want file two monthly returns to keep on top of the book work and not be tempted to spend GST money on something else.
- Increase your screen real estate by maximising your browser and switching off the green getting started guides.
- Use lots of tabs - for example in the GST audit report if you want to recode a few transactions you can right click and open each in a new tab. When you have finished recoding delete those tabs and just refresh the browser on the GST audit report.
- When reconciling, rather than selecting the account code from the dropdown list just start typing the name or number - Xero will find it faster than you can select it from the list.
- When entering dates in date fields, tab to get today's date. If you want a different date just type it in, any date format will do, Xero will work it out. It is faster than using the drop down calendar.
- A lot of the Xero screens have the option to select the number of items to be displayed on a page. Rather than scrolling through pages, increase the items to be displayed to the maximum eg from the standard 25 items per page to 200.
- When you change to a different Xero organisation in one browser tab or window, any other Xero tabs/windows will be switched to that organisation the next time you do anything. You can log on to two organisations at the same time by either using two different browsers (e.g. Chrome and IE at the same time) or the same browser twice if one is in an Incognito window.
- If you need to recode a transaction either edit it or use the Remove and Redo button and reconcile it again - more information in this FAQ here. If you need to change multiple transactions have a look at Find and Recode on the Advisor menu.
- Entertainment - you can split it as you go between deductible and non-deductible entertainment codes using Add Details on the reconciliation screen. However this can be a bit time consuming so if you want just code it all to Entertainment and we will make half non-deductible when we do the year end accounts. Also see our Entertainment FAQs here and here.
- Property managers statements - you can split these as you go to account for the expenses deducted by your property manager. This can also be quite time consuming so if you want just code all the income to rental income and we will gross up the rent and account for the deducted expenses when we do the year end accounts (we will need copies of your property managers statements to do this).
- Bond - code bond received and bond paid to rent. If you withhold bond from a tenant to cover cleaning, repairs etc; code it to Repairs and Maintenance. If you keep it to cover rent, code it to Rental Income.
- Xero will only let you change the account code of a paid invoice. If you need to change anything else delete the payment from the invoice by going into the invoice, drilling down on the payment and clicking the Options button and clicking Remove and Redo. Then edit the invoice to make your changes and when you are finished reconcile the payment to the invoice again. You can also use Find and Recode.
- Set up the Xero account with an appropriate chart of accounts. If you currently use MYOB we can import the MYOB chart but often it makes sense to use the Xero chart of account and just add a few you may need.
- Set up bank accounts in Xero with bank feeds and import historical bank data from 1 April.
- Set up credit cards in Xero and import historical data from 1 April.
- Set up invoicing in Xero.
- Enter sales and purchases (receivables and payables) invoices outstanding as at 31 March.
- Enter conversion balances from your old system.
- Enter fixed assets fromyour old system.
- Training in Xero.
The Cashbook version is a simplified version of Xero that is available only through Xero partners for their clients. It's formal name is the Partner Edition and it is also sometimes called the Accountants Edition. The main differences between it and the full Xero versions (Small, Medium and Large) are that in the Partner Edition:
- You can’t create invoices for sales and purchases (accounts receivable or accounts payable).
- There is an “Ask your Accountant” option on the help menu – this sends questions to us via email.
- There are some extra reports available to your accountant.
If you transfer money into the organisation (e.g. to help pay for mortgage interest for a rental property) code to 970 Funds Introduced.
If you are paying yourself a salary and paying PAYE to IRD code to 477 Salaries. The PAYE component can be coded to 477 Salaries or 477/PAYE IRD PAYE Tax (your personal preference).
Otherwise code all money you take out of the organisation as 980 Drawings and at the end of the financial year your accountant will sort it out.
Also have a look at What do I code tax payments and refunds to?
The easiest way by far is to set it up as a bank account with an automatic bank feed and then reconcile the transactions as you do for an ordinary bank account. Most New Zealand credit cards now have bank feeds.
If you don’t have a credit card that supports bank feeds you can still set up another card in Xero but you will need to manually import statements on a regular basis so you can reconcile them. If you do this we have found that the best way to avoid missing or duplicated transactions is to:
- Set the import start date as the day after the last transaction imported.
- Set the end date at least two business days before the day you do the import (some banks like to change the transaction dates a day after the transaction has turned up in internet banking).
- Import once a month or so - don't leave it too long as some banks only hold three months of transactions online.
- When importing if you get prompted to enter a date format select DD/MM.
Remember if you have the card setup as a bank account when the payment goes out of your transaction account to pay the bill code this as a Transfer not a payment (see transfers below).
If you don’t set the card up in Xero then when you pay for the credit card bill from one of your business bank accounts the payment will come up as a transaction to be reconciled. When you reconcile the payment in Xero use the Add Details link on the Create tab to add line items for each of the purchases the payment is paying off, coding each to the correct account code. This will only work if you always pay off the full amount rather than the minimum payment and it is time consuming if you have lots of credit card transactions.
There is a good explanation of how to manage credit cards at the Xero help centre here.
If you use it mostly for business then set it up as a business credit card as above and code any personal transactions to Drawings.
If you find you have a lot of personal transactions then you can still use it in Xero. You may want to set up a bank rule that codes everything on that credit card account to drawings by default, and then when it isn't drawings just click the don't apply rule link on the reconcile screen.
Or if you use it mainly for personal use and occasionally make a business purchase then it may be easier to keep it out of Xero and claim the expenses back as detailed in the next FAQ.
For individuals and small businesses we recommend keeping a breakdown of expenses in a spreadsheet and periodically making a payment from the business account to yourself for the amount of the expenses. When you reconcile the payment in Xero create a transaction and use Add Details to add a line for each of your expenses selecting the appropriate expense code.
If you have a version of Xero with invoicing (i.e you have the option to Add a Sales invoice or Bill on the dashboard) then a fast and easy way to reimburse yourself is to use an Accounts Payable Invoice (now called a Bill) in Xero.
On the dashboard click New Bill
When the bill is complete Approve it and then either transfer the money to pay you the total of the invoice or pay it out of funds introduced. Coding it to Fund Introduced adds it to the amount the business owes you and it will be offset against drawings at year end.
If you don't have invoicing you can use an Expense claim - it is a
bit lot more convoluted but it gets there. The steps involved are:
- Create - On the dashboard under expense claims add receipt(s) to create an expense claim.
- Submit for Approval - When you have finished adding receipts and want to pay the claim tick them all and click Submit for Approval (in Accounts/Expense Claims/Current Claim).
- Approve and Authorise - In Accounts/Expense Claims/Awaiting Authorisation click into the claim then click the Approve button. Enter the payment date and reporting date and click Authorise (use the same date for everything - this is the date it will go into the accounts and GST return).
- Pay the Claim - It is easiest to pay from Funds Introduced. In Accounts/Expense Claims/Awaiting Payment click into the claim, enter the amount paid as the total of the claim, enter date paid same as the date in 3 above, in paid from select Funds Introduced and click the Paid button.
Regardless of which way you do it make sure you put plenty of detail in the description field so you don’t have to go hunting later to find out what the payment was for.
Have a look at the next FAQ item for more details on Bills (Accounts Payable invoices) and Expense Claims, and check out this blog on how to use your phones camera to quickly save a receipt into Xero.
First off you need to know what home office costs you can claim and the the percentage of your home you will be claiming for (see the FAQ item here for details).
If you have a version of Xero with invoicing (i.e you have the option to Add a Sales invoice or Bill on the dashboard) then a fast and easy way to enter you home office costs into Xero is to use an Accounts Payable Invoice (now called a bill in Xero). If you don't have invoicing you can use an Expense claim - it is a bit more convoluted but it gets there.
Alternatively you can just give us the information at the end of the year and we will add it into the final accounts for you!
Using a bill
Create a new bill dated the last day of the financial year (e.g. 31 March) and add a line for each cost you are claiming.
- Set the reference to Home Office and the amounts to be Tax Inclusive (if you are GST registered).
- Enter the percentage you are claiming in the quantity field (e.g enter 10% as 0.10) and the full amount of the expense in the unit price field.
- Code all home office costs to Office Expenses.
- If you are entering interest on your mortgage make sure that you set the tax rate to No GST for that line.
If you need to change the bill after you have paid it just click into the paid bill, click into the payment and delete the payment. Then you can edit the invoice and add the payment again.
Using an Expense Claim
Create a new expense claim as detailed in the FAQ above and enter the home office costs.
- Set the line amounts to be tax inclusive.
- Add a line for each cost you are claiming, enter the percentage you are claiming in the quantity field (e.g enter 10% as 0.10) and the full amount of the expense in the unit price field.
- Code all home office costs to Office Expenses.
- If you are entering interest on your mortgage make sure that you set the tax rate to No GST for that line.
Once you have your claim completed then you can submit it, approve it and pay it from Funds Introduced.
Important: When you approve the claim you are asked to enter the payment and reporting dates and authorise it - use the date you want it recorded in the accounts (usually the last day of a GST period or the last day of the financial year). Once the claim has been Authorised you can only change it using the Advisor/Find and Recode feature.
From a tax and GST point of view it doesn't matter as long as the GST is correct and is treated the same way when you code the expense and also the corresponding payment from the client.
However if you have a lot of these expenses it is best to separate them out so a) you can find them easily and b) they don't get included in your normal business expenses and overheads. To do this create a Reimbursible Expense expense code and code all the expenses you are going to invoice client for to this code when they are incurred. When you invoice the client also code the income to this expense code. The balance of this account then always shows what you haven't yet invoiced clients for.
In other accounting systems you would usually set up separate ledger codes for each rental property then code the transactions to these. This gets unwieldy as you end up with a lot of account codes that are effectively the same thing. Xero has a better way of doing it called "Tracking". You set up a tracking category (e.g. Rental Properties) and then add each rental property as an item (e.g. 53 Marine Parade, 17 Hill St) and whenever you reconcile a transaction you can select the category and property that the transaction relates to from a drop down list. The Xero reports have options that allow you to report by tracking category.
There is more detail on this at the Xero help centre here.
For purchases of equipment less than $500 (excluding GST) per item code to the appropriate expense code (e.g. for a printer code to 410 Computer Expenses if you have our chart of accounts).
Equipment costing $500 or greater (excluding GST) is treated as a fixed asset and should be coded to an asset account in the 700 series (e.g. 710 Office Equipment). At the end of the financial year we will calculate the depreciation for the assets and code it to the assets depreciation account.
Definitive answers on what you can and can't claim are contained in IRD's IR268 booklet on entertainment here.
Usually entertainment expenses (meals and drinks consumed off the office premises) are 50% deductible so you code half of the payment to “420 Entertainment” and half to “424 Entertainment – Non deductible”. You can do this in Bank Reconciliation by clicking the Add Details link on a transaction and adding a second line. If you put 0.50 in the quantity field Xero will do the maths for you. Alternatively as this can be a bit time consuming you can code it all to Entertainment and we will make half non-deductible when we do the year end accounts.
If you bring food or drinks into your office (e.g because people are working late) then it is usually fully deductible - code to 453 Office Expenses.
If you are travelling for work any of your accommodation and associated costs (meals etc;) are fully deductible - code to one of the travel expenses codes. However if while travelling you are paying for meals for work related guests then the cost of the meal is only 50% deductible - code 50% to travel and 50% to 424 Entertainment - Non deductible.
You can only claim back New Zealand GST that you have been charged.
If you are travelling overseas then there will not be any GST to claim on your overseas purchases and travel. When you reconcile the payment make sure you click Add Details and select No GST or create a ledger code specifically for the overseas expenses that defaults to No GST. Don't be fooled by the Australian GST - its not the real thing and you can't claim it in New Zealand, it is just a part of the purchase price.
If you are importing goods into New Zeland then there may be GST you can claim. Some of the invoices you get from the freight forwarders can be quite confusing so you may have to look carefully to find these costs:
- Those costs without any GST – e.g. overseas freight, insurance and admin fees, duty. Code to the appropriate code in Xero with Tax Rate No GST.
- Those costs that do have GST on them – e.g. NZ freight, insurance and admin fees. Code to the appropriate code in Xero with Tax Rate 15% GST on Expenses.
- The GST on imports that customs charge you. Code to 820 GST with Tax Rate GST on Imports. This makes sure it shows up in the Xero GST return as GST you have paid.
We have found there is some confusion over where to code various tax payments to IRD to – it’s not surprising as there are a lot of them! To simplify things for our clients we have removed some extra codes that are not needed and renamed the remaining tax codes. You should code the multitude of IRD tax payments/refunds as follows:
|FBT payments||427 IRD Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT)|
|PAYE payments||477/PAYE IRD PAYE Tax|
|Residents withholding tax payments||635 IRD Residents Withholding Tax (RWT)|
|Income tax and provisional tax payments/refunds, and any penalty payments||830 IRD Income and Provisional Tax|
|GST Payments/refunds||820 GST|
A couple of things to note:
- Don’t code anything to 505 Income Tax Expense at Year End – it’s for us to use when finalising the tax position at year end.
- If you type IRD in the account code box on the reconciliation screen it will bring up all the relevant codes for all taxes except GST.
- If in doubt code to 830 IRD Income and Provisional Tax.
As of mid 2016 Xero you can file your GST return directly with the IRD from within Xero. To do this you need to have a myIR login with IRD (if you haven't got one yet this FAQ tells you how register).
First of all make sure you have reconciled all your transactions in Xero to at least the end of the GST period, run the Xero GST report and checked the Xero GST audit report - more details here.
When you are ready to file your GST return you need to let Xero know you are doing this by saving the report as a final version using the green Save button at the bottom of the GST report. Xero uses this information so that it can work out if any adjustments are needed in future reports due to transactions in previous periods being edited.
Once you have finalised your GST return in Xero you get a "File now with IRD" button at the top of the return.
When you press the "File now with IRD" button you will be prompted to enter your myIR username and password and then the GST return will be filed and you will be returned to Xero. You know the return has been filed correctly as instead of the File now button you will see a successfuly filed message.
If you get an error message when you file your GST return with IRD that says "Could not file due to invalid return type" then it probably means that your GST settings in Xero don't match IRD. To fix it in Xero go to Reports/GST Return and click the Edit GST Details link.
Change the Tax form. There are only two options GST 101 and GST 103 so change it from whatever you have to the other one, save the settings and then try filing the GST return again. If it still doesn't work log a call with Xero or contact us.
If for some reason you don't want to file your GST return from Xero to IRD you can still do it the old way - that is you go to the IRD website and follow the "Get it done online" link on the main page to get to the GST return here. Once logged on to myIR click on the GST return link in your Things to Do list on the right of the screen and follow these steps:
- Select "I know the GST components and need to work out the total sales and purchases".
- Select No for the "Is this the last GST return for this GST number?" question.
- Complete the Sales and income and Purchases and expenses sections using the numbers from the Xero GST return.
- If you have adjustment either a credit or debit adjustment in your return the IRD likes to know what it was for. If in doubt then select "Other" from the list of choices.
- Check the totals match the Xero GST return.
- Review the return and submit it.
You can edit a reconciled transaction to change any details (including GST) using the Manage menu (see FAQ here if you can't find the manage menu) then clicking Account Transactions:
- Click the transaction you want to change - this will take you into it
- Click the Options button and select Edit Transaction
- Change the details then click the Save button.
Depending on what you need to change it can be faster just to remove and redo the transaction and re-reconcile it. To do this use Manage/Account Transactions and delete the transaction by ticking the tick box on the left and clicking the Remove and Redo button:
Then go back into the reconciliation screen – the transaction should appear there and you can reconcile it with the correct code.
If you have a lot of transactions that need to be changed have a look at Find and Recode on the Advisor menu.
If you want to see all transactions coded to a particular code then Settings/Chart of Accounts, find the account code and click on the number to drill down and see all transactions coded to that code (oldest to newest). Alternatively you can use Reports/All Reports/Account Transactions, select the account code and date range and click Update. Note these are all GST exclusive amounts.
In Xero you can code transfers between bank accounts directly in the reconciliation screen. On the right hand side of the reconciliation screen there are Match, Create, Transfer and Comments tabs.
- Source account: When reconciling a transfer select the Transfer tab and then select the bank account the transfer is going to. Click Ok.
- Destination account: When you reconcile the transfer transaction Xero should match it up with the transfer you created in the source account and show it on the Match tab. Click OK to reconcile.
Xero shows you two balances for each account, the Statement Balance and the Balance in Xero.
For accounts with automatic bank feeds when all transactions for an account are reconciled both these balances should be the same and they should match the actual balance of the account at the bank.
The Statement Balance
The Statement Balance is worked out from the opening balance set in conversion balances plus the transactions reconciled to date plus any unreconciled transactions.
The main causes of the Statement Balance Xero not matching the actual balance at the bank are:
- The conversion balance has not been set for the bank account
- The conversion balance set was wrong and did not match the bank statements
- Missing transactions - a gap before automatic bank feeds started
- Duplicated transactions - manual imports of bank statements with overlapped date ranges
- A bank transaction has been deleted
For accounts with automatic bank feeds you can usually click Bank Statements on the Manage menu (see FAQ here if you can't find the manage menu) and change the view from showing Statement lines to showing Statements.
You can then see the actual bank balance at the bank when the statement download occurred. You can also run the reconciliation report (also on the manage menu) and this should show you if the Xero bank balance is out. However it only seems to work on those dates that downloads occurred on so it's best to check the balance using Manage/Bank Statements.
The exceptions tab on the reconciliation report will show you any bank statement lines that have been manually deleted.
The Balance in Xero
The Balance in Xero is worked out from the opening balance set in conversion balances plus all transactions coded in Xero - it does not include unreconciled items and it may include orphan transactions (transactions that exist in Xero but don't have a matching bank transactions).
We get a lot of support calls about the Statement Balance and Balance in Xero not to matching and and it is nearly always to orphan transactions. Common causes for these are:
- Coding a receipt or payment as a transfer to another account in Xero when it wasn't a transfer to that account. This automatically puts a transaction in the other account ready to match a bank statement line.
- Editing a transaction in the Manage/Account Transactions screen and using the Unreconcile option.
In the reconciliation report anything in the Outstanding Payments or Outstanding Receipts sections are orphan transactions.
Orphan transactions can be safely deleted from the Manage/Account Transactions screen. They are the ones with the orange icon.
There is more information on the Xero help site here on how to work out why your balances don't match.
You can apply a part payment to an invoice from within the bank reconciliation screen. In the reconciliation screen click the Find and Match link.
On the Find and Match screen tick the invoice or expense claim that you want to apply the partial payment to.
Then click the blue "Split" link on the line you just ticked and enter the amount.
Click Split then Reconcile to save it.
There is more detail on this at the Xero help centre here.
You can apply a payment to more than one invoice from within the bank reconciliation screen. In the reconciliation screen click the Find and Match link.
On the Find and Match screen tick the invoices that you want to apply the partial payment to then click Reconcile.
If the total of the payment is less than the total of the invoices then use the Split option described in the previous FAQ.
To process an overpayment (e.g. a customer pays $450 on a $400 invoice, overpaying by $50):
- On the $450 payment on the reconcile screen click Find and Match
- Tick the invoice the payment is for - this leaves the total out by $50
- Click the Create new transaction +New button and select the Receive Money option
- On the Receive Money transaction click the Direct Payment button and select Overpayment
- Change the From to be the contact name (if not already set correctly)
- Check the amount is the correct amount of the overpayment and click Save Transaction
- Now on the Find and Match screen two items will be selected, the $400 invoice and the $50 overpayment adding up to the $450 paid - click the Reconcile button
The end result is that the payment is reconciled and there is a special type of credit note created in Account Receivable/Awaiting Payment for the overpayment. The next time you invoice the customer Xero will ask you if you want to apply the credit.
If you want to refund the overpayment to the customer then go into the credit note and at the bottom fill in the Make a cash refund section, entering the amount being refunded (usually the full amount of the overpayment), the date you are refunding them and the bank account the refund will be paid from and click Add Refund. Then when the refund has been paid and you go to reconcile the transaction it will match the overpayment credit note.
The screen shots below show the process in more detail.
On the $450 payment on the reconcile screen click Find and Match, tick the invoice the payment is for - this leaves the total out by $50, click the Create new transaction +New button and select the Receive Money option.
On the Receive Money transaction click the Direct Payment button and select Overpayment.
Change the From to be the contact name (if not already set correctly).
Check the amount is the correct amount of the overpayment and click Save Transaction.
Now on the Find and Match screen two items will be selected, the $400 invoice and the $50 overpayment adding up to the $450 paid - click the Reconcile button.
If you want to refund the overpayment to the customer then go into the credit note and at the bottom fill in the Make a cash refund section, entering the amount being refunded (usually the full amount of the overpayment), the date you are refunding them and the bank account the refund will be paid from and click Add Refund.
Before you start you will need to set up a chart of accounts code for the prepayments. It needs to be of type Current Liability and if you are GST registered should have a tax rate of GST on Income. Call it something like Income Received in Advance as the term prepayment is confusing - it is also used for expenses you pay in advanced (prepaid expenses).
From here on the process is similar to reconciling an overpayment (see the preceding FAQ).
Start the same way by using Find and Match, clicking the New / Receive Money button and then change the Received as from type Direct Payment to type Prepayment.
Fill in description and in the Account field select the Income in Advance account you created and click Save Transaction then Reconcile.
The prepayment then sits in the system a bit like an accounts receivable credit note. You have the option of refunding it by adding a refund to the prepayment "credit note" (same as overpayment) or creating an invoice and allocating the prepayment to it.
Note: Income in Advance shows on the balance sheet report as a liability (GST exclusive).
You can adjust for small differences (cents rather than dollars) between what was invoiced and what was paid using the adjustment option in the reconciliation screen.
For larger differences you can do a find and match to match the invoice and then click the receive money button on the find and match screen to create a receive money transaction for the remaining amount. If it is an overpayment then have a look at the Overpayments FAQ item.
Before you file your Xero GST return you should check the following:
- If you have bank accounts without automatic bank feeds make sure you have downloaded and imported all transactions for GST period.
- You have reconciled all transactions for the GST period.
- The bank balance in Xero is correct for each of your bank account and there are no orphan transactions showing in the reconciliation report(s) - this FAQ gives detailed information on how to do this.
- You have entered any expenses paid for personally over the GST period - this FAQ gives detailed information on how to do this via expense claim or accounts payable invoice.
- If you are on an invoice basis for GST make sure you have all your invoices entered into Xero for the period.
- Run the GST report and check the GST Audit Report tab to make sure you have coded GST correctly - e.g. overseas purchases generally won't have GST.
- If there are any unusual or unusually large transactions in the period check you have coded them correctly.
- If there are any adjustments have a quick look at the Late GST Claims tab - it can be quite confusing but give it a go! Xero creates late claims to correct GST when you change a transaction that was filed in a previous GST return. For each transaction updated there will be two entries, one to reverse out the original transaction and one to put in the updated transaction. If there is no affect on GST (e.g. you just changed tracking) then the net affect should be $0.
The GST report will automatically put in adjustments when it thinks they are needed.
Xero will add adjustments If you change a transaction that has already been included in a previous GST return (for example change the account code). Xero will reverse out the GST on the original transaction and put it back in for the updated transaction. This all happens on the adjustment tab. You get two entries, one taking out the GST from the original transaction and one next putting the GST in as coded for the updated transaction. This looks quite confusing where there has been no change in the GST treatment, for example if just the tracking code was updated, as the net affect is $0 but Xero tell us it was easier for them to do it the same for all updates rather than to work out that for some the two halves cancelled each other out and therefore could be left out of the report. Perhaps in a future update the report will be smart enough do this.
If you have assets you want to get into Xero then you can do it via an accounts payable invoice coded to an asset code and paid from Funds Introduced (paper transaction) OR by transferring the money out of the business to yourself and reconciling it either to an AP invoice, or coding it to the equipment code when you reconcile it. A couple of points to note here:
- You can claim GST on second hand goods
- If the item is worth less than $500 excluding GST then code it to an expense code, i.e. you claim the whole lot as an expense and it doesn’t get treated as an asset (unless you really want to see it as an asset)
To change the email address you log on to Xero with:
- Log on to Xero
- Click your name on the top right hand side of the screen
- Click the Account option of the dop down menu
- Click the Edit link next to your email address
- Enter your new email address and confirm it by entering your password, then click Change Email
If you have just started in business you may have some existing assets that you are going to use in your business as "tools of the trade" - for example a computer, a cell phone or even a vehicle (also see our FAQs on motor vehicles and FBT).
The first thing you need to do is get the market value of any second hand assets you want to bring into the business (new assets use the purchase price) - an easy way to do this is to find several similar items on Trademe and take an average selling price. Save a copy of the listings in case IRD ever queries you how you worked out an assets value.
Next you need to do the accounting side in Xero.
If you have an invoicing version of Xero then it is easy, create an accounts payable (bill) invoice and enter each asset in at market value and pay it from Funds Introduced.
- If you are GST registered then set the invoice to be GST inclusive and enter the GST inclusive market value - you can claim GST on second hand goods even if the seller isn't GST registered.
- If you are not GST registered then the invoice will be set to no GST.
- Date the invoice in the financial year you want the assets brought into the business - e.g. 31/03/2013 will make sure they fall in the 2013 financial year. If you are on an invoice basis for GST this date also determines which GST period the GST will be claimed in by Xero.
- If an assets market value is less than $500 (GST exclusive if you are GST registered) then code that asset to an expense code, e.g. Computer Expenses, Office Expenses, or Telephone and Internet. These low value assests can be fully claimed as an expense.
- If an asset is more than $500 then you need to code it to an asset code (these have numbers in the 700 range, e.g. Computer Equipment, Office Equipment, Vehicles). Assets here are depreciated over the useful life of the asset using IRD specified rates - i.e. you claim part of the cost each year. Sorting out depreciation is something we do as part of annual account preparation at year end.
- Pay the invoice from Funds Introduced - you will usually use the same date as the invoice date but you don't have to. If you are on a payments basis for GST this date determines which GST period the GST will be claimed in by Xero.
If you don't have the invoicing version of Xero then you can enter the assets using an expense claim.
Both methods are described in more detail in our FAQ on reimbursing yourself for business expenses paid for personally.
If you are self employed and the organisation deducts withholding tax from the amount you invoice them you need to account for this in Xero.
In the example below we have invoiced Majestic for $600 plus GST = $690 and they have deducted $240 of withhholding tax and paid a net amount of $450. You can reconcile it in Xero as follows:
- Make sure in your chart of accounts you have an account code of type current asset for "IRD Withholding tax paid" with No GST
- In the reconcile screen for the $450 received click Find and Match
- Tick the invoice you sent to Majestic for $690
- Click the Adjustments button
- Click Bank Fees (ok, it isn't a bank fee but this works)
- Fill in as per the screen shot below with the $ amount being the difference between what you invoiced and what they paid - i.e. the withholding tax deducted, and the account code Withholding tax paid
You can only use the method above if there is a single deduction from the invoice. If multiple items are being deducted (e.g. Withholding tax and insurance) then you should edit the invoice before you reconcile the payment and add in negative line items for the deductions so the total matches the payment.
Yes and no.
Xero isn't hard to use but it is different to traditional desktop accounting systems. If you use it the "Xero way" it is blindingly efficient, if you use it as you would other accounting systems then you end up creating extra work for yourself.
If you enjoy reading manuals and watching how-to videos then you can absolutely teach yourself how to use Xero effectively in a few hours or less - there are some useful links on our resources page to get you started.
However if you are like most of us and you just want to start using it we recommend strongly that you get some one on one Xero training to point you in the right direction. It will save you a lot of time down the track. We can provide this training, check out our Xero page.