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Protecting your confidential information

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Protecting your business’s confidential information is a high priority for employers, especially when employees leave.

Confidential information such as client lists, pricing information, market research data, sales and marketing plans are all considered to be confidential in nature and are at a greater risk of exposure especially when employees leave to take on a role with a competitor.

There are some ways to minimise risks and protect your confidential information, including the following:

Identify and label your trade secrets
Information that is not accessible to the general public and is valuable to the employer is considered confidential information. The information may provide the employer with a competitive advantage and is not easily accessible by others. If the information is viable from other legitimate sources or is used by employees in their usual work routine it may not be considered confidential.

When assessing your business be realistic and avoid overreaching every aspect of your business as a trade secret. After identifying confidential information and trade secrets, you may consider labelling documents or electronic information as “confidential” so employees are aware of what is considered confidential.

Limit access
Implementing internal controls is one way to restrict access to only the employees who need the information to complete their tasks. For example, physical documents containing confidential information may be stored in locked file cabinets and for electronic data, passwords should only be given to appropriate staff.

When an employee departs your business, it is important to collect documents and valuables provided such as smartphones and laptops to protect information from being leaked.

Consider a confidentiality policy
To ensure employees are aware of their expectations in regards to confidential information, you may consider adding a confidential policy to the employee’s handbook.

The policy should clearly identify what you consider to be confidential information in your business and when employees are allowed to access this information. The policy should coincide with the employee contract which should include a provision to prohibit use or disclosure of the business’s confidential information and trade secrets.

ATO targeting private school parents

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In the latest crackdown on tax evasion, the ATO is targeting parents suspected of paying their children’s private school fees from secret offshore bank accounts.

Following concerns that overseas accounts are being used to hide away secret funds, the tax office will be contacting more than 100 parents with private school fees of up to $100,000 per year paid from offshore accounts this week.

While there is nothing wrong with Australians having an offshore account, those individuals are still required to pay tax on the account’s interest or earnings. Suspected parents will be asked to provide documents and attend interviews to answer questions about their arrangements.

Government introduces significant tax changes in innovation statement

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Significant tax breaks and incentives for Australian investors were unveiled on Monday when the Turnbull government released their National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The tax changes are designed to help support start-ups to develop their ideas in Australia.

Investors will now be able to access a 20 per cent tax offset instead of deductions or a (CGT) exemption in start-up companies that are less than three years old, are unlisted, and received less than $20,000 in income in the previous year.

The reason for changing to the offset model over a deduction is because it will benefit people more evenly across the differing income groups. The cost of the offset is estimated to be $106 million over four years, with most funding beginning after 2017.

This means that if someone was to invest $20,000 and claim the offset, they would be able to reduce their income tax by $4,000. If the investor then sold their shares three years later, their initial $20,000 will also be exempt from CGT. For start-ups, this will bring forward the point at which they can receive a tax break.

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