Date posted: 26/06/2018 7 min read

Supercharging CA practices

For Amanda Gascoigne, a sea change crystallised her aim to pursue her passion for making accounting practices stronger and smarter.

In Brief

  • Port Stephens consultant Amanda Gascoigne is a member of the Australian Taxation Office’s Single Touch Payroll Readiness Working Group.
  • She helps accountants achieve their business vision and mobile technology gives her tools for business success and work-life balance.
  • She says accountants must help their clients make the transition to the new Single Touch Payroll regime, which starts on July 1.

By Cameron Cooper.

The peaceful idyllic seaside setting of Port Stephens, with its blue waters and views of including seasonal sightings of migrating whales, belies the frenetic pace that of Port Stephens dynamo Amanda Gascoigne CA’s busy, busy life keeps.

Business consultant … blogger … author … former board member, advisor to the Australian Taxation Office … and a mother of two teenage boys, Callum and Dempsey, for good measure. “It’s full  on, but because I love what I do. I get energised by each of those different components,” Gascoigne says.

Five years ago, she brought in a business partner – her accountant brother, Ryan – before last year merging and selling her accounting practice of 18 years in Maitland, NSW, Gascoigne Consulting, to increase her flexibility and the capacity to help more accountants achieve their goals.

Colourful flair

After tossing up between fashion design and accounting after leaving school, Gascoigne has no regrets about choosing the latter and credits her creative side for giving her an edge in business. Not for her the staid image of an accountant – she proudly wears bright oranges and pinks and has incorporated these favourite hues into her personal and business branding. “It actually brings a sense of energy and fun to the work I do, whereas a lot of accountants think they have to choose boring colours because it fits the stereotype of an accountant,” she says. While financial nous can never be discounted for accountants, Gascoigne believes that “bringing “their own personal flair” to advisory work matters even more is especially important at a time of ever-increasing as financial services competition competition in the financial services space gets tougher.

Helping hand

Still an adviser to and associate of a newly-merged NSW firm, Anova Chartered Accountants, Gascoigne’s main day job now is empowering small and solo accounting firms through her coaching and mentoring business, Amanda Gascoigne Consulting. 

Whether it is assisting them with technology choices, use of social media, client management, team culture or achieving a better work-life balance, she identifies their problems and guides them as they seek and implement strategies.

Too often, she believes, accountants lose their passion and become disengaged because they get weighed down by peripheral issues that dominate their time and focus. “It’s really about helping them have a firm that sits within their vision of what they want from their practice and life.” Gascoigne speaks from experience, recalling a time when she became so obsessed with work that her family and health started to suffer.

“I became so consumed in it and the money was coming in and we were busy, but I was getting up at 4am as part of my normal day and I realised something was going to give if I kept that up,” she says.

Urged by her husband to slow down, she stepped back and thought about why she was in business – and started transforming the practice into one that truly worked for her family, staff and clients. For instance, she did not feel obliged to take on every potential client, and recognised that if she did not want to work around the clock, she should stop engaging and replying to after-hours emails. “It’s important to set boundaries and rules.”

Port Stephens, a beach getaway in the Hunter Region of NSW, has been instrumental in allowing Gascoigne to achieve a better work-life balance. Once just a destination for family holidays, she and her husband and children decided to shift to the area known for its vibrant blue bays. The kids joined Nippers, and Gascoigne and her husband enjoyed walks on the beach to ensure that life was not all about work. “From that moment on, we’ve loved it. It feels as though we are constantly on holidays.”

Payroll reforms

As part of her current work, Gascoigne is a member of the Australian Taxation Office’s Single Touch Payroll (STP) – Readiness Working Group, which is laying the groundwork for efforts to streamline payroll reporting. From July 1, 2018, employers with 20 or more employees will havehave had  to report to the ATO payments such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and superannuation information each time they pay their employees, unless they have a deferral or exemption in place. Pay cycles do not need to change, nor do the current due dates for PAYG and superannuation.

While it is not yet compulsory for employers with 19 or fewer employees to adopt the changes, Gascoigne sees it as a chance for businesses and their accountants to take advantage of cloud computing and software platforms such as MYOB, Xero and QuickBooks, letting them to access real-time data that can subsequently allows them to make more in inform their business decisions.

Related: Simplifying Single Touch Payroll

What do accountants need to know and tell their clients?

The ATO believes the changes will bring greater transparency to payroll activity. Gascoigne says small enterprises still relying on spreadsheets could struggle at first.

With the start of Single Touch Payroll on 1 July: “There could be potentially a lot of changes for small businesses that are not using software at all for accounting and payroll. That’s going to be a challenge.
Amanda Gascoigne Founder, Amanda Gascoigne Consulting 

“There could be potentially a lot of changes for small businesses that are not using software at all for accounting and payroll. That's going to be a challenge.”

For advisers of such clients, Gascoigne encourages them to put STP aside and present a case about the business benefits of cloud accounting. The ability of the software to then report the STP obligations is “merely a bonus”. 

Under the new regime, reporting can be through existing payroll software so long as it is updated to offer STP reporting. To ensure a smooth transition, Gascoigne says businesses should assess their headcount and ask their tax agent or payroll software provider for assistance. (The ATO has STP resources on its website to help employers understand their obligations.)

She means business

While selling her accounting firm had not been on the immediate horizon, Gascoigne can rest easy knowing that it was the right move at the right time. “Now I’ve got a lovely balanced setup and can help so many accountants with their practices and what they may consider that elusive work-life balance.”

Cameron Cooper is a business journalist based in Brisbane.