Over the last few years, and particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic up-ended so many people’s economic prospects, thousands of Australians have changed the way they work, starting their own business either to boost the income they make from their “day job” or to step outside the employment rat-race altogether to enjoy the freedom of being their own boss.

Many of them have moved into the retail sector, with a wide variety of new, bespoke retail outlets springing up selling everything from fashion, cosmetics and antiques to gifts and stationery.

The problem is that far too many people who’ve made the transition haven’t given any thought to the tax implications. To help ease the stress, H&R Block has prepared some tax tips that all new retail business owners should know:

Declare your income

First and foremost, income you receive from your business is taxable and must be declared on your tax return. You might think your little shop is just a hobby but the ATO will disagree!

Claim what you’re entitled to

You can claim deductions for any expenses you incur as part of running your business.

That includes the cost of stock, rent of the shop and travel expenses to source supplies or visit trade shows.

Admin costs are deductible, including legal fees, accounting fees and expenses to actually run your shop, including power, water, and cleaning costs. If you run the admin side of your business from home, don’t forget to claim the appropriate proportion of home-office expenses, such as internet fees, landline or mobile phone bills, costs of office furniture, etc.

Finally, where expenses relate to a mixture of business use and private/domestic use, make sure you only claim the business related element.

You’re on your own now

Particularly if you’re coming out of a paid job, you’re probably used to getting your taxes deducted straight from your pay packet by your employer. But now you’re in business on your own account, you need to proactively manage your cash flow to set money aside for future tax bills. This might seem obvious but unfortunately failing to set money aside to pay tax is one of the most common pitfalls that new businesses fall into.

You might also need to register for GST. For most businesses, you only need to register for GST if your turnover from your business (combined with any other business you run) exceeds $75,000.

You can also claim back GST incurred on business purchases. You will need to report your GST sales and purchases at least quarterly by lodging a Business Activity Statement (BAS) with the ATO.

So, running your own business comes with extra tax obligations. You’ll need to look after your own taxes (and potentially your own super). But running your own business also comes with some tax perks. For instance, you have access to all the tax concessions available to small businesses, including the full-expensing of capital assets, which is available until 30 June 2023. That means you can immediately deduct the cost of any fixtures and fittings, motor vehicles or technology items (such as laptops, desktops, POS equipment or security systems) you use in your business.

Stay out of trouble with the ATO

In order to keep taxes stress free, make a visit to your H&R Block accountant. Most people find it far less stressful to simply pass on all their information to a tax agent and leave it to the agent to complete their BAS and tax return, safe in the knowledge that the work done will be accurate and complete.

An experienced agent will usually be good at sniffing out those obscure tax deductions you didn’t know you could claim so they can often pay for themselves several times over. Best of all, the tax agent’s fee is also tax deductible.

Mark Chapman is director of tax communications at H&R Block.