Sisters doing it for themselves in the male-dominated world of heavy machinery hire

Three Leicestershire sisters are following in the footsteps of their father and launching their own plant hire business.

Hollie, Jade and Ruby Finnegan have launched FinniGroup, having spent years supporting dad Paul Finnegan with his Leicester-based plant hire firm Joinpoint.

Based close to the city centre, Joinpoint has a fleet of 45 dump trucks, more than 30 excavators, as well as rollers and attachments.

The sisters turned to Paragon business bank for financial support because of its long-standing relationship with their father’s business.

Over the years it has helped Joinpoint buy new equipment which has been used for big building projects from work on the NEC in Birmingham, to work on the M42, and at the National Space Centre, in Leicester.

One highlight was working the digger that retrieved the body of King Richard III from under a car park in Leicester eight years ago.

Hollie and Ruby had already established their own plant hire businesses, but decided to form FinniGroup alongside Jade, so that they could all work together.

Paragon provided a funding package worth more than £250,000 for two Bell 30E dump trucks, so that they could begin building a fleet.

Hollie Finnegan said: “Even though plant hire and construction has traditionally been male dominated, growing numbers of women are getting involved.

“Everyone we’ve met along the way, from customers to suppliers, have all been lovely and encouraging.

“After seeing the success of our father’s business, we wanted to invest in some plant equipment ourselves and learn more about the family business.

“Paragon has been a key factor in us starting up our new joint business.

“Without this we wouldn’t have been able to start FinniGroup and we hope to use Paragon’s support more as our business grows. We knew that using Paragon was a great option for us and the best support we needed, at a rate we are comfortable with.

“Paragon provides a friendly and reliable service, and we know that the team is only a phone call away.”

Terry Lloyd, head of construction at Paragon, said: “I have worked with Paul and Joinpoint for many years, so it is great to now be supporting the next generation of his family.

“We understand not only the needs of FinniGroup but also the machinery that Hollie, Jade and Ruby are investing in, which makes a real difference to a customer.”

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Surge in machinery purchases expected with new Budget write-off rules, but caution urged

As of today, farmers can instantly write-off the full value of machinery purchases, thanks to changes announced in the Federal Government’s COVID-19 recovery Budget.

Previously, a portion would have been tax-deductible in the first year, and the rest would have been depreciated over future years.

The change is likely to encourage businesses to bring spending forward and invest more now.

This is because the full amount of an asset can now be claimed as a tax deduction upfront, in the first year it is used or installed, reducing the amount of tax a business will pay.

The measure is available to all businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion.

The Government’s instant asset write-off cap was increased from $30,000 to $150,000 at the onset of the coronavirus but had been set to end on December 31 this year.

The Government will also introduce a ‘loss carry-back measure’, allowing losses made to June 2022 to be offset against profits made in or after the 2018-19 financial year.

This means farmers could purchase machinery and immediately deduct the full cost to generate a tax loss, which could result in the refund of tax paid in the past two financial years.

Machinery sales spike expected

Dealers are preparing for increased interest in new machinery in the wake of the announcement.

Patrick Fox, regional operations manager for the Wimmera with John Deere dealer Emmetts, said he thought there would see more interest in spending into next year.

“This is going to spark some enthusiasm to complete the purchase they may have been thinking about,” he said.

Harvesters in a row
Harvester sales are expected to rise thanks to the new incentive.(Supplied: Leigh Burke)

Timing is ideal

Mr Fox said, in areas that were enjoying a favourable season, the announcement had come at the ideal time.

“It’s definitely fortunate timing, especially with the forecast of rain over the next couple of days, that’s going to go a long way to helping finish grain crops,” he said.

“And for us, it is perfect timing, because our early-order programs were released recently for most product lines.

“For those product lines that we generally sell around October, November, December, there’s definitely going to be a flurry of activity for our sales teams.”

‘We can increase our capacity’

Apple and cherry grower, Fiona Hall, of Orange NSW, said the instant asset write-off scheme had already helped her business.

“It has allowed us to install a new grader this year, and to extend our packing shed,” she said.

A woman in a white shirt standing in front of some flowering cherry trees
NSW cherry grower, Fiona Hall, is one of the many farmers expected to make new machinery purchases.(ABC Central West: Luke Wong)

“And it means that we can increase our capacity for the increase of planting.”

Things to watch out for

Rural accountants have welcomed the news but have urged farmers to proceed with caution.

Cherese Mackley, a partner at BCH Accountants in western Victoria, said farmers should not look at this tax year in isolation.

“What we need to consider is the implication to future years’ taxable income,” she said.

“For example, say a farmer buys a header for $700,000, the business would get a $700,000 tax deduction. However, if in three years it was traded on a new model for $500,000, that would increase the taxable income in three years by half-a-million dollars.

“You need to take advantage of the tax legislation that’s passed, but at the same time be careful that you’re not spending to buy a tax deduction you don’t really need.”

But Ms Mackley said it could also present opportunities to withdraw from farm management deposits.

“Say you spend enough money on plant and equipment that it results in a loss, it may be an ideal time to redeem farm management deposits if you’re fortunate enough to have them,” she said.

On the carry-back measure, Ms Mackley said it would be useful for some people, but wouldn’t be available to most farmers.

“That won’t affect a lot of farmers because most farmers don’t trade through companies, and the carry-back rules are in relation to trading companies, not a trust,” she said.

Cotton harvester in crop
Accountants are urging farmers to get advice before making big-ticket machinery purchases.(ABC Rural: Courtney Fowler)

Unprecedented investment incentives

In his Budget speech, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the measures were the “largest set of investment incentives any Australian Government has ever provided”.

“A trucking company will be able to upgrade its fleet, a farmer will be able to purchase a new harvester, and a food manufacturing business will be able to expand its production line,” he said.

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Couple warns consumers about tractor and machinery ad scams suspected of swindling almost $400,000

Verna and Gary Elks needed to update their old tractor and found a deal that seemed too good to be true — and it was.

The couple discovered a website advertising a $20,000 tractor and began the purchasing process, after conducting some checks to see if the offer was legitimate.

“As we’re getting older we simply need a little more help,” Mr Elks said.

“We just needed one with a bucket, we’ve got an old tractor but it hasn’t got a bucket and it was just going to make life a little bit easier for us.”

Mr and Ms Elks initially received helpful emails, phone calls and were even given access to an online tracker to watch the tractor’s journey to their small property in Western Australia.

But it never arrived.

NT Consumer Affairs said websites like this lift images from other sites and misuse ABNs to appear legitimate.(Supplied: NT Consumer Affairs)

They said they were embarrassed but determined to expose the fraud.

“It’s the old adage, if it looks to good to be true it is, so just be really careful,” Ms Elks said.

“Well, we’re one of them and we thought we’d done all the right things.”

On closer investigation of the website Mr and Ms Elks had contacted, a street view map of the listed “tractor showroom” address revealed it was a vacant block in Darwin’s industrial area.

“It was a big blow, big, big blow,” Ms Elks said.

“A small farm the size of ours, it was a real hit in the guts, it’s put us behind the eight ball now.

“It destroys you when it happens,” Mr Elks added.

Gary Elks uses his tractor on a property in Western Australia.
Gary Elks had hoped to upgrade his tractor for use on his family farm in Western Australia.(Supplied: Verna and Gary Elks)

Western Australian consumer protection website WA ScamNet last week published a warning about the scam site, which it said was impersonating a company called Bora Machinery.

WA ScamNet said the real owner of the Australian Business Number (ABN) had been contacted.

NT Consumer Affairs has also listed more than 20 websites it believes to be fraudulent.

NT Consumer Affairs deputy commissioner Sandy Otto said consumers across Australia had lost more than $380,000 so far to these sites.

“They’re very attractive to people who are wanting to update their machinery because the prices are so good.”

The websites have focused on advertising “big ticket” items, such as tractors, motorbikes, campervans and heavy machinery.

Fake Pakenham Tractors website.
NT Consumer Affairs said it was finding more fake websites like this one each week.(Supplied: NT Consumer Affairs)

Ms Otto said the sites were misusing content from legitimate sites and lifting ABNs to appear more legitimate.

The scam websites constantly evolve and rebrand and Ms Otto said two more had popped up in the past few days.

She said any website requesting a direct transfer of funds into a bank account, whether or not it was an Australian account, should raise a “red flag” for consumers.

Senior Constable Jason Corbett from the NT Police Cyber Crime Unit said they were looking at several lines of enquiry with NT Consumer Affairs and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Mr and Ms Elks said they would encourage people to purchase items in their local area, even if it meant spending more.

“Try and buy local if you can, it’s better to spend an extra few thousand dollars than it is to lose $20,000,” Mr Elks said.

“It’s highly unlikely they’ll be caught and you definitely won’t be getting your money back.

“They got us a beauty.”

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