Accounting for Harness Racing

COVID-19 Business Action Plan Checklist for Harness Racing

 The COVID-19 pandemic is tracking to be the largest social upheaval the world has seen since World War II. The updates and announcements are coming thick and fast as the Government adapts to a moving target.

 It’s vital that every business develops a game plan to survive and hopefully rebound from this dramatic downturn. It’s not easy to stay calm in a crisis but having a game plan provides a road map to follow with a clear sense of direction. 

Business owners across most industries keep asking, “What do we do next?” In response, we have put togethera Harness Racing Business Action Plan Checklist (downloadable by clicking on image or link above) and recommend you work your way through each item on the list. There are significant cash incentives and other allowances designed to help businesses survive the crisis.

Paul Dobson "Talking Trots" (27.05.20)


Paul Dobson jumped on the line for an update with the guys on all the latest happenings.
1116 SEN Sports 

As all harness racing trainers, breeders and drivers know, the trotting industry is a tough 'gig'. In fact, you have to be as tough as a standardbred horse to survive with racing seven days a week and little respite for participants. The only holiday a lot of drivers take is an enforced holiday courtesy of the stewards!

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Jogging horses early in the morning combined with night racing and extensive travel are a recipe for exhaustion. Not only that, the financial returns for trainers, breeders and drivers generally don’t match the hours and workload. The long hours and physical demands of trotting probably explain why many trainers and breeders struggle to cope with their bookkeeping, administration and taxation responsibilities. While GST, BAS and tax payments often represent some of the largest financial obligations for a trainer or breeder, many end up paying too much tax, incur fines for non-compliance and struggle to get finance because their records are not up to date.

Having an accountant who has an intimate understanding of harness racing can put your business in the coveted 'one-one' position. Our Principal, Paul Dobson is a passionate owner and breeder who is a regular at Melton trots on Friday nights and he can then be found mucking out the stables on Sunday mornings. Whenever possible he attends meetings throughout Victoria and at Menanagle to watch his horses race and he also sits on a number of industry committees. He understands the industry, the issues you face and has a stable of clients including trotting drivers, trainers, breeders and owners from all around Australia.

Here at SBG Accountants we understand what is involved in running a successful harness racing business. Apart from the usual small business compliance issues of GST, BAS, PAYG and superannuation, we can assist you with managing your cash flow and help you obtain finance for your horse truck or vehicle. We’ll structure the finance for maximum tax effect, recommend the most appropriate accounting software to minimise the cost of compliance and help you to manage your payroll.


We are recognised as business start-up specialists and if you are looking to start a harness racing business, there are numerous issues to consider. There is your business structure, tax registrations, insurances, tools, softwareand your vehicle plus finance. As business advisors we can assist you in all of these areas plus provide advice on HR matters, payroll, marketing and the preparation of a business plan.

Over the past two decades our team of accountants have helped dozens of harness racing participants get their business off to a flying start. We offer you experience, technical tax knowledge and most importantly, an intimate understanding of the harness racing industry.

Starting a business is a bit like building a house and it all starts with solid foundations. In a business sense these include the right business structure, accounting software, insurances, a marketing plan, website and social media channels. Your choice of business structure is critical and there are a number of different options including sole trader, company, partnership or trust.

When it comes to selecting the most appropriate tax structure for your business we always recommend you ‘start with the end in mind’. There are a number of different options including sole trader, partnership, company and trust but Australian tax laws are complex and changing your business structure at some point in the future can trigger a capital gains tax event that could prove costly. Whenever we provide advice on business structures we always take into account issues like:

  • Minimisation of Income Tax
  • Maximize Asset Protection
  • Allow for the admission of New Business Partners or Investors
  • Comply with all Legal Requirements in your Industry
  • Consider Future entitlement to Discount Capital Gains Tax Concessions
  • Risk Profile of Your Industry

As a consequence, we often find the business structure is a compromise based on the relative importance of each of these issues.

Your choice of accounting software is another brick in your business foundations and up to date, accurate financial records let you to make informed business decisions. The wrong choice of software can be catastrophic and poor business records are one of the biggest causes of business failure. You need to match your business needs with your level of accounting skill otherwise you could end up producing ‘computerised shoebox’ records that cause frustration and extra fees which conflicts with our mission of helping you slash the cost of bookkeeping and compliance. Here at SBG Accountants, we want to be your accountant and business advisor, not an expensive bookkeeper. You’ll find we support a range of software options but do have a preference for cloud based solutions like Xero.

To build a house you also need the right tools and when 'constructing' your business we have developed a number of tools including a start-up expense checklist broken down into various categories including: 

-  tools and equipment
-  professional advice and software
-  information technology costs
-  marketing
-  vehicle and float costs

This checklist will help you identify all your potential establishment costs and these figures then filter through to our cash flow budget template and allow us to produce a projected profit and loss statement for your first year of trading. These reports can also tuck neatly into our business plan template that is designed to help you secure funding from external sources like a bank.

Our business start up checklist is another useful tool. For a trotting trainer, driver or breeder your car, truck or utility is arguably your most important business tool and you can download our Motor Vehicle Tax Guide from the resources section of our website to learn more about the alternative methods of claiming your vehicle expenses and the distinction between a business and private trip. In addition, through our affiliate partners we can also assist with vehicle finance (chattel mortgage, CHP or lease) and get you fleet pricing on your new car, ute or light commercial van that could save you thousands of dollars.

If you're starting a business you don't need to reinvent the wheel as we have all the tools and resources to help you get off to a flying start. We view the tax return as the start of the client process not the end and we can do some financial modelling and use industry benchmarks to compare the performance of your business against your peers so you understand what is working in the business, what isn't working and what areas you need to work on.


For small business owners, your marketing can be the difference between gloom, doom and boom. Most harness racing trainers and breeders rely on their reputation and referrals to grow their business and while these ingredients remain important, you need to shift your marketing focus online. Increasingly your website is the first touch point with a potential new owner and you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

One of our biggest points of difference compared to other accounting firms is our marketing expertise. We can assist you with your branding (business name, logo and slogan), your corporate brochure and help you harness the power of social media to win more business. Over the past few years we have worked with dozens of harness racing clients to help them create affordable, quality lead generation websites that are responsive to smart phones and tablets. We can provide advice and guidance with your website content including video production and if your website lacks calls to action or lead magnets we'll help you build them. In addition, we'll introduce you to strategies like re-marketing and search engine optimization to drive more traffic to your website.

If you aren’t using some of these marketing techniques your business probably won't reach its full profit potential.

The marketing process begins with your branding and we have worked through the process with dozens of clients over the years and using some online resources we can help you build a modern brand that resonates with your target market. We can even help you develop your stationery at a fraction of the cost of engaging a graphic artist or marketing consultant.

The team at SBG Accountants offer you an extensive range of accounting, taxation and business coaching services including:

  • Start-Up Business Advice for Standardbred Horse Trainers, Breeders and Trotting Drivers
  • Tools including the Start-Up Expense Checklist and Templates for a Business Plan and Cash Flow Budget
  • Advice and Assistance with the Establishment of Your Business and Tax Structure
  • Registrations for ABN, TFN, GST, WorkCover etc.
  • Preparation of Business Plans, Cash Flow Forecasts and Profit Projections
  • Accounting Software Selection and Training – Bookkeeping, Invoicing & Payroll
  • Preparation and Analysis of Financial Statements
  • Preparation of Finance Applications
  • Bookkeeping and Payroll Services
  • Tax Planning Strategies
  • Assistance with your Marketing including your Branding, Corporate Brochure etc.
  • Advice and Assistance with your Website Development, Content and Search Engine Optimization
  • Business & Risk Insurances (Income Protection, Life Insurance etc.)
  • Wealth Creation Strategies and Financial Planning Services
  • Industry Benchmarking and KPI Management
  • Vehicle & Equipment Finance (Chattel Mortgage & Lease)
  • Monitoring and Controlling Labour and Sub-Contractor Costs
  • Advice & Assistance with Pricing your Services and Claiming Motor Vehicle Expenses
  • Recession Survival Strategies
  • Advice regarding Employee Relations and Workplace Laws
  • Business Succession Planning

We specialise in family run businesses and harness racing in Australia is certainly a family business with so many second and third generation participants. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you build a better and more profitable business.

We invite you to book a FREE, one hour introductory consultation to discuss your harness racing business needs. You can expect practical business, tax, marketing and financial advice that could have a significant impact on your bottom line. To book a time, call us today on (03) 9629 6744 or complete your details in the box at the top of this page. Let's get to work ON your business so it is more profitable, valuable and saleable.

SBG Accountants & Business Advisors - Taking Care of Business