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Home office with chair, desk, lamp, computer and French doors to garden
With residence-based businesses booming, here’s what you need to know about mixing your working life with your living space.

 

Set up shop

The events of 2020 saw a host of Aussies set up a home office, joining the almost one million people already running their working life from their house or apartment. If it’s a permanent change for you, it’s worth considering what you need to do to get a proper home set-up. We’re sharing five handy things to know. 

1. Consult your local council

Generally, you can run a home business without local council approval provided your operations won’t impact your neighbours. However, the rules vary between councils and, if your home-based business includes food-related products, you may need additional permits and approvals. Be sure to check with your local council about restrictions that apply to your type of business and your area. 

2. Map out a dedicated zone

If you have the room, a space that you can close off is ideal, allowing you to shut the door on work at the end of the day. Depending on your needs, this could be anything from a desk area in a spare room to a dedicated study, converted garage or purpose-built studio. Will customers need to visit you? In that case a dedicated entrance that saves people traipsing through your home to your study could be an important addition.

Home office with chair, desk, computer and window to garden

3. Find the right furniture

For desk work, you’ll need a chair you can position at the right height for the kind of work you do, good task lighting and plenty of storage. For accounting purposes you’ll need to hold on to most records (such as invoices and receipts) for five years from the date you lodge your tax return, but the good news is these can now be kept in digital format, reducing the amount of paper in a typical home office. If your home office is the dining table, have a storage box or cupboard to hand where you can pack things away at the end of the day. 

4. Consider security

Depending on the nature and size of your home-based business, you may have to invest in extra security measures. Screen windows so your gear is out of easy sight of thieves, choose strong door and window locks and, for extra security, consider handy burglar deterrents such as motion-activated cameras and lighting. An alarm that can be linked to a monitoring service, particularly if your job requires you to be out and about a lot, is worthwhile. Secure tools in lockable cabinets and essentials in a sturdy safe. It’s also good practice to speak with an insurance broker, as most home policies don’t cover business equipment and activities. Business insurance is usually a tax-deductible expense.

Home office with desk, chair, computer and door

5. Do your financial homework

Accountant Holly Shoebridge, director of Oceans Accounting & Advisory (oceansaccounting.com.au), says anyone setting up a business needs to establish clear procedures from the start. Keeping good records makes it easier when it comes to quarterly tax reports. Set up a separate bank account for your business, which helps to develop an auditable financial trail and provides boundaries between personal and business spending. 

For business-related expenses, any deductions are required to have a direct connection to actual business income – check with your tax agent or accountant exactly what is allowable and keep receipts you can produce when required. Small business owners sometimes think of tax-deductible expenses as free money received back at tax time, but the true cash benefit is going to be relative to your personal income tax rate, which will differ from business to business and may only be 20-30 per cent of the full expense amount paid. 

The ATO website (ato.gov.au) has information on record keeping and income, and deductions for specific occupations, which can give you a good grounding, but for expert advice pertaining to your exact circumstances, always consult a qualified professional. At tax time, Holly advises speaking to a registered tax agent to get tailored advice on your unique business circumstances*.

*This information in this article is general in nature and doesn’t take into account your specific financial position, needs or circumstances. As with any major project, you should look at your own financial position, objectives and requirements and seek professional advice before making any financial decisions.

Improve privacy in your home office without losing natural light 

Install window film with help from our step-by-step guide.  

Photo credit: Lisa Zhu, Brigid Arnott, Rachael Turner/Front Porch Properties

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.