April 25, 2018

Do you want to increase your profits?

Wellington Consulting, accountant, business coach, herefordshire, monmouthshire

Wellington Consulting – helping you leap ahead in 2018

 

I assume the answer is yes, so the question is how? Well, to start with do you know what your profits were for 2017?

Now that 2017 is finished, do you know what your profits were for the calendar year? If your accounts year end is March, you may tell me that you know what that figure was, but we are nearly round to March again, so what is your year to date figure?

Business is ongoing, so your record keeping and review of your figures should be as well. Without this, how do you know if you are covering costs, if you are able to offer a discount, or need to raise your prices?

To increase your profits, you must know where you are starting from. Note, I have not said increase sales, like most other people you hear, because at the end of the day it is what you have left after costs that really matters. If you start getting more sales by selling at a loss, you have achieved increased sales, but you end up with less in your pocket for more ‘work’, so looking at costs is also important. Even, simply, cutting costs can improve your profits.

You probably have plans for 2018, have you discussed them with anyone else and had them validated? Who is going to make sure you stay on track? That is what working with a business coach can give you. Someone to help you clarify what you want to achieve and work with you to make sure you do achieve it.

Some coaches have ‘proven systems’, but this relies on you having the plans that fit their system. My approach is that each business owner is an individual, so listening and working with them is what is important. Understanding that ‘life’ can sometimes get in the way, but helping you keep focus so you can strike the right balance to still achieve what you want from your business.

If you want to know more about working with a business coach to improve your profits, give me a call or drop me a lime when it would be good to call you.

May I wish you a Happy and Profitable New Year

Piles of leaves in the garden. Piles of receipts in the office?

Piles of leaves in the garden. Piles of receipts in the office?

Piles of leaves in the garden. Piles of receipts in the office?

The leaves are falling and we are preparing for the colder months. Does this include making sure you have systems in place for recording your businesses receipts and payments?

Do you sometimes feel that as fast as you brush up the leaves the wind scatters them about, or do you have a leaf vacuum that gathers them all together leaving a neat looking garden or drive and a contained volume of leaves to file in the compost heap or bonfire.

Perhaps your book-keeping is the same. You dip into it on occasions but it keeps escaping. Wouldn’t it be better to have systems in place to capture the information. I am not suggesting you set light to the papers once they have been input, but as HMRC will accept electronic copies of documents now, you could do.

Some book-keeping systems, including QuickBooks, allow you to take a photo of the receipt with your phone and upload it to the cloud. You then tell the cloud what it was for and how it was paid and the software does the rest. Couldn’t really be simpler. The great thing is that you are doing little and often rather than having this elephant that is too big to eat.

In speaking to some non-clients, their view is that elephants are not just big and scary but have hidden tricks up their sleeve. What they meant by this is there are some payments that they just don’t know what to do with or how to classify. My suggestion is have a heading of ‘Ask My Accountant’. This means that the payment (or receipt) can be logged in your system with lots of notes to help remind you later and then you can move on. An accountant will be grateful for drawing ‘funnies’ to their attention in this way rather than they be missing, or hidden somewhere. Your accountant knows that, with information supplied by you, the buck stops with them regarding classification and whether an item is tax allowable or not. That is part of what you pay them for.

Enjoy your accounts and this will help you grow your business.

Business Advice from Berkshire – Cost of working at home

gravatarIf you work from home, how do you calculate how much you can claim from the taxman? Over recent weeks, one of my clients has been experiencing a tax investigation. I am glad to say that he got the all clear, but in the meantime, I have had the opportunity to chat with a current tax inspector. When I thanked him for sharing some of the Revenue’s view of allowable expenses and what they look for, he said it was all part of the education process. Whatever the reason, I would extend a thank you.

One area we spoke about was the claim for ‘use of home as office’. He took quite a tight rule on this. He was looking to see if other members of the family also used the room, whether the children had their own access to the internet or used the business computer. How much of the home was taken up with storing papers (or was everything scanned in and only taking up space on the computer). Were there outbuildings for the storage of materials and large equipment used in the business, or were they full of push bikes, lawn mowers and other domestic items.

Although he was asking simple questions, you can see that the Inspector is only trying to establish the truth. Considering whether you are crossing the line between tax avoidance and tax evasion. If you issue one or two invoices a month for working at client’s premises, and it’s a long term contract so you are not spending hours surfing the internet for the next client, what percentage of internet/computer use is actually for work? How would you justify 100% business use?

HMRC have recently brought out an option for claims like this called simplified expenses. You can use them only if a sole trader or partnership. If you want to claim use of home, HMRC will expect you to work for more than 25 hours per month from home. If this is all you do, you can claim £120 per year, 100 hours per month, and it goes up to £216 per year and 200 hours per month is £316. So, instead of the flat rate, you can start to calculate exact components, but this involves square feet, number of people, number of working hours etc. If you have staff coming in with their own key, this adds to the justification.

Book coverThe truth is, it is not easy to be accurate, but you must feel confident that you can justify the figure. This is a time when talking these things through with an accountant – and then documenting the method applied can be very useful.

Have a look at your last set of accounts. Talk to your accountant before signing off this year’s. Remember it is your signature even if the accountant has calculated the figures!

Please share your thought on this subject.

How NOT to make a loss

This week has not been the most productive for me with issues of expected deliveries not happening, computers not playing and tax offices asking for what they already have – and me spending over an hour on the telephone (mostly on hold) to read HMRC what they had been given two months ago. I am sure you have had weeks like this. You get to Friday and wonder how much money the business has made as a direct result of your efforts.

Blank view pennyOther weeks the opposite happens, I get through to the tax office within a couple of minutes, speak to a nice helpful person at HMRC who suggests they can do something for the benefit of the client before I even ask it. Clients turn up to an appointment with their cheque book in hand and request to settle their account at the end of the meeting and then agree the date of the next meeting – so it is not they want to dispense with my services! Others send an email the same day as I send them the invoice, saying they have transferred the money into the company bank account.

Which sort of week would you rather have? What has this got to do with making a loss? The fact of the matter is that life is not perfect and by accepting this, you can build in ‘slack’ to cover the cost of repairs, the lost time, the extra staff salaries. When some new business owners come to me, they have worked out their expected revenue without appreciating the time needed to do marketing, administration, documentation and other roles that may have been done for them in a corporate environment. Even in larger firms, senior staff seem to think that preparing for an exhibition and attending it can just be done in addition to the usual work. Staff cannot be making sales calls while driving to and assembling a stand. When looking at costs, the set up day needs to be taken into account as well as fuel, accommodation etc.

forecastAs with much of business success it is all down to planning. Plan for the unproductive time and associated costs and base the sales required on having to cover these costs as well as those of the ‘good’ sales. If you do this, you will avoid a loss and if the worst doesn’t happen, you can make an even bigger profit.

If you need help in identifying costs you need to include in your plans, get in touch. If you want to share some of the hidden costs you have discovered, please reveal all below.

Is your sales forecast achievable ?

They say anything is possible, but at what cost? I have been working on my forecasts for the coming year and having designed my ideal position, I then re-visited the figures to make sure they were practical.

 The good news is that they are, but only after they had been tweaked and I accepted that, in order to be as productive as I want to be, I will be getting extra help in certain areas. As part of this plan, we have compared this year to last to see where we need to do things differently. We have prioritised our efforts and pencilled in dates for the next twelve months.

forecastWhen I say we, I mean my team and I. We did spot that I appeared to be taking extra holiday during one month – I wondered why I was getting so much in the coming year! We also worked together on where to focus and decided on actions to get certain things moving as we knew there would be some quick wins as well as certain areas that would take longer to set up.

So much for my plans, how are yours going? Will you need an investor to fund the next stage of growth? Are you looking to stay the same size but work more efficiently? Do you know where you want to/expect to be by Christmas? Will you have sufficient funds available to finance your tax bill? It is all very well starting with sales revenue, but you also need to focus on the costs and the cash flow.

 Having decided on your ideal revenue, work out what the related costs are, when bills will need to be paid, and when you expect receipts from your revenue. Then add in the VAT and tax bills and if you are a sole trader or partnership, the cash you want to draw from the business. If you are a shareholder in a limited company, consider what dividends it will be able to pay during the year. You are well on your way to having your complete financial plan.

The final stage is to decide how and how often you are going to monitor it. There is little point in putting lots of effort into a detailed plan that sits inside your computer till the end of the year. Don’t put the time in if you are not going to use it. If you are happy to rely on good luck, may I wish you all the best.

 Book coverIf you need help with your planning, Wellington Consulting are happy to work with you to create a plan. You can even come over to our offices to avoid the distractions in yours.

 Let me know whether you use luck or judgement for your plans.

How to reduce your Tax Bill

As we approach the end of the tax year – 5th April 2013, what can you do to reduce your tax bill? Although you have left it a bit late, you still have a couple of days to act.

If you have a pension scheme and some money to spare, you could pay some extra money into your pension scheme. Just remember to tell your accountant that you have made extra payments. If you do your tax return yourself, you need to include this extra payment.

Another option is to invest some money in an ISA. Although the rates of interest are not high, you will not have to pay tax on the interest earned, so if you are a higher rate tax payer, this could almost double the actual rate of interest.

If your year end is 31st March, have you declared all the dividends the company can afford to pay? This is where you need to monitor your profits as there is no point putting yourself into the highest rate of tax, when this is due to reduce from 6th April 2013. If you are not sure, speak to your accountant and tell them you need to know whether to do something before 5th April.

Other lesser ways to reduce your tax bill is to ensure that your business is being charged for all the amounts you pay out on its behalf. A client today, realised that she hadn’t charged the company for the mobile phone she used for business for the last 6 months. I personally know I need to put a mileage claim in for last month and this. How up to date are you with such claims? If you do not put your claims in, not only will your business pay more tax, but the costs you consider for your business will not be accurate and may distort your planning and cash flow plans.

If you haven’t done so before, sit down this weekend and make sure that you – and any other member of staff eligible – have caught up with your expense claims

Are you worried about RTI? Do you know what it is?

As from 6th April 2013 all employers will need to tell HMRC every time they pay someone. This is known as Real Time Information (RTI). Whether it is the usual staff getting their monthly pay, or a casual member of staff getting cash for helping you out for a couple of days, the taxman needs to know.

If you run your own payroll, the chances are you are using software to do the calculations. It is likely that it will also file the necessary forms on line for you but it is worth checking.

The logic behind this change is that HMRC will be able to link multiple employments together as they are happening and make sure the correct tax code is being used. This should stop so many employees getting bills sometime 3 years after the tax year in question. The other benefit to the taxman is they know how much you should be sending them each month so, if you don’t pay, they know how much to chase you for!

The emphasis will again be put on the employer to ensure that the employee is entitled to work in the UK. For new employees, HMRC suggest seeing a copy of the passport to confirm name, date of birth and help towards a right to work in the UK. If a potential member of staff does not have a passport, HMRC suggest a birth certificate as an alternative. That is all very well unless the female in question has got married. How do you then match the name to the individual without marriage certificates etc? There are alternative documents that can be produced, but does someone turning up for a day’s work carry these papers about as well as their National Insurance number – they may need to in future.

Once the individual is set up within a payroll system, the operation should be straightforward. It’s a bit like sending HMRC a copy of the payslip each time you work out pay as well as giving one to the employee. If it is a casual worker who gets paid cash at the end of the day, it is up to you to work out the correct figure to pay. In a very few cases such as this one, you can send the copy of the payment details through to HMRC within 7 days of making the payment. Most other cases you need to tell them on or before the date the payment is made.

How many hours do you work ?

As part of the new regime that HMRC are bringing in for payroll know as RTI (Real Time Information) you will need to declare whether each employee does under 16 hours, 16 – 30 or over 30 per week or is an occasional worker. As a business owner, you may well do over 30, but how many do you get paid for?

 

At minimum wage (currently £6.19 per hour) you would need to be taking a salary of £9,657 to meet this hourly rate on 30 hours per week. If you are a director of a company, it may be that your company recognises your efforts by paying you a dividend depending on the profitability of the company. Even if it does not have the cash to pay you at the time, it may reserve the funds by adding it to the amount the company owes you. This is not uncommon. Dividends do not attract National Insurance whereas salary does.

 

So, is this a ploy by HMRC to ensure that company directors are getting a fair wage or will they start chasing those companies that primarily pay their directors by way of dividends on their shareholdings?

 

The good news is there is another box to tick which says the hours are unspecified. As a director you may choose how many or how few you work so this sounds like a more accurate answer.

 

If you employ your children during the school holidays to create PowerPoint slides, help with your web site, proof read the book or reports you have written, they would be counted as ‘occasional’ workers so must go on the payroll, but you don’t have to pay them every month. Remember this is an allowable expense of the business and will reduce the tax bill whether you are a sole trader or a limited company unless – of course – you pay them a huge salary. The minimum wage for under 18s is £3.68 per hour.

Grow your business by understanding your accounts

Most business owners are not accountants. This may sound obvious but understanding your accounts is one skill that every business owner needs if they are going to succeed.

 

Employing an accountant is a good idea, but an even better one is for you, as the business owner to understand what the output that you pay for actually means.

 

At a meeting last week, a client said that they realised they needed to be more involved when the area manager ask them about sales figures – they were fine with that. They were then asked about the overheads, what size was the electricity bill typically? How much did they have to pay for waste removal? They realised that all this information went into a carrier bag and was passed to their accountant. Although all the information was input into an on-line system so they could see it whenever they wanted – they had purely focused on sales and never looked at the rest.

 

If you have not bothered, or were too scared to ask, I suggest you get a copy of Understanding Your Accounts for the UK business owner by going to www.understanding-accounts.co.uk and purchasing your own copy. This book explains what the figures mean, which to worry about by using plain English and examples.

 

IT has taken me a while to produce the book but it was released 7th February 2013 so is up to date and purely focuses on the UK.

 

So … Enjoy Accounts and Grow Your Business

What are you planning for next year ?

Many people start a year with New Year’s resolutions, but they often do not achieve them. Are you going to be one of those?

I would suggest the main reason for failing to achieve is that you can see the goal you want to achieve, but don’t plan a route to get there. If you want to travel to any destination, you wouldn’t just expect to arrive without the journey. How you choose to travel is a matter of for you. The decision will be based on research, preferences and practicality – and possibly budget.

One question I have long asked myself is why do many business owners put more effort into choosing a car than the decisions that affect their business? So, my simple request to you is decide where you want your business to be this time next year and then put the effort in to planning the route including check points to ensure you are on track. If you do this you will get there.

Happy Christmas and a Successful 2013