4 tips to keep job costs down for your construction business

10th March, 2017

The building industry can be nerve-wracking and expensive, so you could probably use a few tips on keeping job costs down.

Running a business in the industry can be really complicated – there are invoices to generate, sub-contractors to organise, payments to take and accounts to stay on top of.

Whether you’re a business owner, contractor, plumber or sparkie the most important things are to:

  • Document the jobs you do
  • The time it takes you to do the jobs
  • Capture signatures
  • Quickly retrieve paperwork and payment

Beyond that, there are four key things you can do to keep job costs low and make your life easier so you can just get on with the job.

Tip 1: Avoid penalties from the ATO

The ATO is focussing on contractors in the building industry, as it seeks to recoup unpaid GST and undeclared income.

One of the key ways the ATO will be attempting to detect contractors who have not lodged tax returns or included all their income is by analysing Taxable Payments Annual Reports (TPAR).

You will need to lodge a TPAR if:

  • You’re a business primarily in the building and construction industry
  • You make payments to contractors for building and construction services
  • You have an Australian Business Number (ABN)

Taxable payments are due by 28 August each year. You are required to report actual payments made and include the following details:

  • The contractor’s name as shown on the invoice
  • The contractor’s ABN
  • The contractor’s address (if known)
  • The total amount paid or credited to the contractor over the income year
  • Whether any GST has been paid
  • Any other information you think is relevant

You may be penalised if you don’t lodge your annual report by the due date.

One of the easiest ways to keep costs down is to avoid being pinged by the ATO for non-compliance.

Luckily, MYOB online accounting software will ensure your business is always compliant with tax changes, including taxable payments reporting.

Tip 2: Limit your unknown building costs and track expenses

When you’re out on a job, you don’t know what you’re going to find that could cost more than you thought it would.

For example, builders will generally try to exclude any costs relating to the footing of a property from their quotes until they get a sense of what’s in the ground.

It’s generally safe to assume sloping blocks and waterfront properties are going to have the highest costs for footings – but again, you don’t know until you get a look at the place.

It’s all about trying to gain as much information as possible early in the project by speaking to the right people, such as surveyors.

While you’re on the job, it’s all about tracking your expenses so you don’t end up with a nasty surprise.

Again, MYOB online accounting software gives a more accurate view of your purchases and makes your tax obligations easier by storing your paper bills and supplier invoices securely in your accounts.

It sure beats having a whole bunch of receipts in the glovebox of the ute.

Tip 3: Stick to your budget

Stick to your budget. This is a critical tip many business owners seem to ignore.

Use online accounting software such as MYOB Essentials to keep track of your budget and ensure your accounting records are accurate and all your lodgement requirements are up to date.

Don’t have time? Then hire a bookkeeper to help you.

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to use an add-on solution

From job estimates, invoices and timesheets, here are some nifty apps and online tools to make business life easier for trade and construction businesses.

Tradify is a great add-on to use to manage all your jobs online and track every job from quote to invoice.

The best way to keep job costs down is to get a complete view of your business, money coming in and going out, then boost productivity with the above suggested tips.

The information provided here is of a general nature for Australia and should not be your only source of information. Please consult your tax agent, BAS agent or accountant as each small business’ circumstances will vary.