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Tax write-off boost: 12 months to go

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Optometrist Willy Gunawan ordered his equipment on Budget night 2015

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Helen Carter
Journalist

 

Optometrists nationwide are embracing the Australian Government’s $20,000 tax write-off initiative to buy equipment for their practices.

Equipment distributors across Australia report the move has had a big impact on sales. Since the announcement in the 2015 Federal Budget, slitlamps, chairs and stands, autorefractors, motorised refractors and phoropters have been the hottest items in demand ordered by eligible optometrists. Corneal topographers and perimeters have also been popular. The initiative expires on 30 June 2017.

The 2015 tax break enabled small businesses with aggregate annual turnover of less than $2 million, which includes most optometry practices in Australia, to get an immediate and full (100 per cent) tax deduction for any individual assets they bought costing less than $20,000. The previous threshold was $1,000.

The 2016 Budget extended the write-off to include businesses with a turnover of less than $10 millon.

The limit applies to each individual item and small businesses can apply this rule to as many individual items as they wish. The tax benefit applies to assets they start to use or have installed ready for use. It encourages businesses to invest in new assets and stimulates the economy.

Win-win

The CEO of the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association of Australia (ODMA), Finola Carey, predicted at the time that the move would be a ‘win-win’ situation for both optometric practices and suppliers, enabling practices to improve cash flow and update equipment and technology.

‘Even though assets up to $20,000 could previously be claimed over a period of years by depreciation, being able to claim the full value of an asset in a single year will result in improved cash flow and potentially allow practitioners to spend some dollars improving their product offering as well,’ she told Australian Optometry at the time.

Twelve months later, Carey says: ‘Following the 3 May 2016 Federal Budget, ODMA is delighted that the $20,000 equipment write-off will continue for small businesses with up to $2 million turnover and the fact this may even be extended to larger practices up to $10 million. This initiative should continue to be a cash flow bonus to allow practitioners to keep updated in all areas of their practice so they can provide the best optical solutions for their customers.’

Early adopter

Optometrist Willy Gunawan from Collins Street Optometrists in Melbourne was very quick off the mark last year. He texted his request during the Budget speech, contacting Cameron Loveless from Designs For Vision with an order for a new slitlamp.

Gunawan said he had been thinking about renewing his equipment and creating a new direction for the practice, including adding another consulting room, when he heard the announcement. He thought it was a good chance to kick-start things.

‘The Budget initiative essentially triggered me to get the ball rolling,’ he said. He ended up adding and equipping another room and upgrading his two existing consulting rooms. He later ordered two more digital slitlamps, two new chairs and stands, an autorefractor and an Oculus K5 keratograph.

Budget boost

Loveless, optometry product specialist with Designs For Vision Australia, told Equipment that optometrists were aware of the government move and it had had a big impact on sales.

‘A lot were reviewing their chairs and refraction stands and upgrading them,’ he said. ‘Prices range from $8,000 to $15,000 so this was a big thing. The Oculus keratograph 5M unit was also popular as it’s under $20,000 although extra software modules increase the price. The chairs and stands, Oculus K5 and slitlamp imaging systems made up the three big ticket items most in demand and this was where we saw the biggest increase in sales after the announcement,’ he said.

As Loveless points out, the tax write-off is of benefit only to optometrists with established, profitable businesses, and isn’t helpful for a business just starting operations.

‘This sales boost will continue next year as many practitioners seem to be spreading their purchases over two and a bit years so they don’t have to buy everything all at once,’ he said. ‘Some were planning to buy one piece last year, one this year and one next year.’

Must-have items

At OptiMed, managing director Robert Sparkes says he has noticed increased interest in equipment under $20,000 since the announcement and attributed the increase of sales in this sub-$20,000 bracket to the government incentive.

‘Our biggest sellers from this bracket have been anything from the Blephex lid kits through to autophoropters, field analysers, photo slitlamps, the Optix A12C autorefractor and updating chairs and stands,’ Sparkes said.

‘The most popular item we have sold that fits this category is the new Takagi 700GL slitlamp with imaging attachments. We have sold more than 50 of these. Along with our DUO chair and stand, they have stood out as the must-have items from our range.’

Zeiss has noticed an increase in the uptake of perimeters. Ophthalmic systems product manager for the Zeiss medical business group, Matthew Wensor, says the company has seen an increased uptake in some instruments since the announcement in May 2015.

‘One of the areas that we’re most well-known for is perimetry,’ Wensor said. ‘The technology in the field of perimetry has advanced in recent years so we’ve seen a number of clinicians take the opportunity to update their old perimeters to the latest models: the Humphrey Field Analyzer 3 (HFA3) and the Humphrey Matrix 800.

‘Other items that we offer in this price bracket include the Atlas 9000 corneal topographer, the i.Terminal centration unit and our range of routine diagnostic equipment.’

 

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Humphrey Matrix 800 (Zeiss)

 

Great uptake

Ryan Heggie, product manager ophthalmology and optometry with Device Technologies, says automated refraction systems, both phoropters and autorefractors, have been the most popular items sold in this price bracket since the announcement.

‘Device Technologies has seen a great uptake of this government incentive. It has obviously been embraced by the market as a great way to minimise the profession’s cost in purchasing either new or replacement equipment,’ Heggie said.

‘With practices looking at different ways of differentiating or streamlining their systems, we have seen a large increase in sales of slitlamps with not just a digital imaging interface for standard slitlamp photos, but also in the sales of the Topcon SL-D701 FAG System.

 

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Topcon SL-D701 Slit Lamp (Device Technologies)

BOC Instruments national sales executive Robin Lanesman says BOC saw an initial boost in orders soon after the announcement but these have since tapered.

‘We supply a broad range of sophisticated and elegant consulting room and lens edging products for under $20,000,’ he said. ‘These include fundus cameras, autorefractors, motorised refractor systems, chair and stand units, auto-tonometers, photographic slitlamps and lens edgers.’

Lanesman says the most popular item for BOC in this price bracket since May 2015 has been the motorised refractor systems, particularly the Nidek Smart Refractor.

If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, it’s not too late. There is another year to put your equipment orders in as the offer does not expire until 30 June 2017. 

 

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Nidek RT5100 Smart Refractor (BOC Instruments)

 

Further reading

Write-off changes offer small business boost, Optometry Australia website

Growing jobs and small business: expanding accelerated depreciation for small businesses, ATO website



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