September 26, 2017

Have you got 31st July in your diary?

tax, self-assessment, HMRC, 31st July, accountant, herefordshire, monmouthshire, gloucestershire

Have you got 31st July in your diary?

 

We may all have put this matter to one side, filing the reminder letter in the unshrinking in-tray, but staying on top of our taxes is vitally important to all small businesses and those who are self employed.

The key is to not fear them or forget them!

 

I know you are busy, time so often our enemy and much better spent delivering our goods and services, but time has to be taken to keep our business affairs in order and avoid any nasty penalties. And if you don’t have the time, engage with someone who has both the time and the expertise.

Diary dates.

So, let’s start by reminding ourselves of the key dates for your diaries regarding taxes:

  • 5th October – registration date for individuals who are self-employed
  • 31st October –paper tax returns completed submission deadline
  • 31st January – online tax returns submission deadline
  • 31st January – deadline to pay taxes you owe
  • AND if you paid more than £1,000 tax on 31st January 2017, you may have more to pay by 31st July 2017.

How do you know if the July 31st deadline is applicable to you?

HMRC state this: ‘If you are self employed and earn enough to pay over £1,000 in tax and you have not already settled all tax due for the year to 5th April 2017, you will need to make a payment by 31st July this year.’

Also, if you have rental income or large amounts of investment income such as dividends, you may also be affected.

There is further information on the gov.juk website, or if you are unsure talk to your/an accountant.

You still have time.

If you haven’t already completed your tax returns, don’t panic! You can still avoid HMRC’s late filing penalties just start taking action now.

  • Gather together all your receipts, bills, bank statements, mileage logs, sales invoices and takings summaries
  • If you have already entered these into a spreadsheet or accounts software, such as QuickBooks Online, well done. It will make your life easier, and you will have a better handle on how the business is doing.
  • Gather other details of income such as bank interest, rental income (and related expenses), P60s and P45s and P11ds from any employment or pension you have. Also pension payments if you can deduct those from your tax bill
  • If you are married, discuss with your spouse whether there is benefit in reallocating some of the personal allowance to the other spouse (10% can be moved although some rules apply)

Decide if you are going to feel brave and prepare your own tax return. If so

And if you would rather have help making sure you are declaring everything and claiming all you can, call me and we can get things sorted.

Penny Lowe, Wellington Consulting

Visit my website to find out more about how I can help you and your business >

Business Advice from Berkshire – What lessons have you learned?

Having exhibited at The Business Show at Olympia recently, it gave me the opportunity to speak with many business owners and would be business owners.

Two topics kept re-occurring. The first was that many accountants are not good at communicating with their clients and the other was that successful businesses keep a careful eye on their figures. I believe both the above to be true, but what I found interesting is the number of times I heard them being said to be over the two days of the show.

Penny WellingtonTaking the first point, difficulty in communication, what can be done to address this? If you go on holiday to a country where a different language is spoken, you know it makes sense to learn a few words even if only to be polite and be able to say thank you. The more vocabulary you learn, the easier it is for you and the natives. In many countries, the local population have learned English which means we can take the lazy approach and still be understood without having to put in too much effort. Is it possible to take this approach with your accountant? Learn a bit about their language and what they are doing and it will be much easier for both of you.

The second topic really leads on from the first. By taking an interest in the figures – and by this I don’t mean you actually have to do them – you can monitor the current position of the business and realistically plan for the future. Many business owners would like to be in this position, but expect to do so without learning the basics.

If you do decide to learn the language – and a bit about the culture – I can guarantee it will make a difference to your business. Remember Finance for Business Owners is one of the courses I offer. I also work with larger businesses where the Finance Director believes ‘nobody understands him’. This can be true as the MD is too afraid to ask questions in case he can’t understand the answer. A course in language and Book coverculture can mean everyone can get the most from their holiday – oops I mean work on shaping the business and growing the profits.

Get in touch to book a bespoke course, or for the dates of the classroom courses. Also share your own thoughts on your learnings.

Business Advice from Berkshire – What are you hiding ?

Do you sometimes wonder why things are not going to plan? Do you have a plan? If I gave you a wipe board and asked you to draw up where you were advertising, where your leads were coming from, what business you were getting from these leads, and what leads you were getting from this new business, would the board be big enough?

So, having drawn up what is actually happening, how does this compare to you plan? Sometimes doing this simple exercise highlights where assumptions have been made, where links are missing and where you could do better.

Penny tennisRecently I was asked how my Finance for Business Owners courses were selling. Not as well as I had hoped was my answer. I then did the exercise above, and guess what, I found out why. Having set up the details on several course sites, I had not set the course to ‘Live’. It is now on Eventbrite, with dates, and the ability for customers to pay. The next thing to do is make sure I tell people!

Another stage I was falling down on was referral business. I had good intentions to contact course attendees, but intentions don’t make things happen, actions do. I have contacted those I taught last month to ask them for feedback. The feedback included “Penny’s presentation was very practical with anecdotes relating to real situations.” And “I found it to be extremely helpful and gave me confidence when I provided training for our client.” This is from a firm of Chartered Accountants in Cornwall. Do I want lots of referral business in Cornwall? I do already have one client down there. But what it did mean was I could pass the contact details on to a firm of Accountants in Kent who were asking about my QuickBooks for Accountants course.

It is good to have an excellent product or service, but even better to tell people about it! That is the bit that makes the money. Just make sure you are charging enough and not just doing it because you enjoy it. See, I had to bring figures into it somehow.

Should you wish to attend the Business Owners course, either give us a call or go ahead and book via Eventbrite. https://pennylowe.eventbrite.co.uk

Advice from Berkshire: Doing it is not as bad as you think!

What jobs do you have that you keep putting off? What will it take to make you do them?

All of us have something where the thought of doing it is worse than the act itself. Business owners often put off doing the tasks that they believe are not why they went into business. For some this may be as simple as changing the ink in the printer, for others it could be chasing outstanding invoices, for me it was raising my presence on the internet by putting videos on YouTube.

wconI knew it needed doing, some years ago I went on a very good course that showed me all the way through from researching what I should focus on, to filming, to uploading onto YouTube. I did one ‘film’, struggled with technology so put off doing any more. Earlier this year I did another to promote my book ‘Understanding Accounts for the UK Business Owner’ (www.understanding-accounts.co.uk) but then stalled again. I was happy with content, happy with filming but didn’t want to waste my time if I couldn’t upload it.

The truth is that technology has moved on over recent years. Uploading is easy. There are options to automatically resize, trim and other editor type tasks. Employing a professional is the best option, but I can now say I am prepared to have a go. I know what is needed and could give them the best chance to produce an excellent job, or I can do an adequate job for my purpose. Take a look at my latest Youtube offering here

Yes, you know what I am going to say next. Keeping your books of account up to date are just the same. The thought is worse than the deed. Doing it little and often means it is not that giant intimidating you and causing you to be like a rabbit in the headlights and stand there immobilised. Technology has moved on. If someone can show you what to do each week, and after several weeks you realise that it is not as bad as you thought, you can then keep doing it. You then start to see the fruits of your labour. Keeping on top of customer debts, planning your cash flow, seeing which activities within the business are bringing in the money and which are costing you. I was training a dentist last Friday and I suggested having a heading called ‘don’t know’ so if he met a bank payment he didn’t recognise he could park it and come back to it later rather than having an excuse to abandon his work.

Who will you choose to help you get started? Wellington Consulting offer private and very small group classes on Finance for the Business Owner. If you compare the cost of a course with the extra profits you can make as a result, you would be making a wise business decision to come along. Contact us at info@wcon.co.uk to book your place.

The courses are mostly held in Wokingham, but if you would like me to travel to you, I am happy to do so, providing you cover the costs. Yesterday I had an enquiry from Truro in Cornwall today I am in Croydon and tomorrow in London. Thursday I have a course in Wokingham and Friday I will be doing accounts work – and replying to emails. Further filming may have to wait till Saturday, but I now know that I can do it.

How Can you afford it ?

Do you sometimes find yourself wanting something for the business, but thinking you can’t afford it? Like any purchase, you should first ask yourself the questions ‘why do I want it? What benefit will I get once I have purchased it?’

miniDepending on the answer to these two questions, you can then decide whether to even think about how to fund it. A very simple and small example was a purchase I made at the weekend. I am a latecomer to iPhone’s and have historically logged my mileage in my diary so I could make a claim at the end of each month. Sounds good as I always have my diary with me so can easily enter the mileage. Trouble is, you run out of space against the day; although I keep my diaries, it would be hassle for the taxman to go through and agree my monthly claims even though I do circle the numbers for easy reading. However, one of my clients has been using FYI Mileage and sending me the sheets each month. I splashed out £1.99. I can now tell you I have done 12 trips amounting to 143 miles since 1st July. By recording 27 more miles than I would otherwise have remembered to claim for, I have covered the cost by the reduction in Corporation Tax I will have to pay. I am sure I will manage this by the end of July. So, return on investment one month maximum.

 I know this is a minute example, but I also placed an order for a stand at The Business Show at Olympia. This is costing nearer £3,000. Same rules apply. What do I need to ‘sell’ at the show to recover the cost and cover my, and my staff’s, attendance and travel and accommodation? I have done the maths and happy that we will bring in revenue that will exceed the costs.

 So the next question is cash flow. How do I pay for the show before I get the money from the sales? The answer is I agree a payment plan to spread the payments. The salesperson was amused that when I had said that my business is training clients in the area of understanding their finances, that I was demonstrating exactly the same to him regarding my own. Justifying why I was not prepared to pay it all today, or even all within 30 days when the show was not until November. That I could use much of the cash not paid up front to generate the income that would allow me to pay the balance prior to the show. A mutually beneficial timing was agreed with the condition that I would be included in all marketing even if they had not received full payment. I have got caught out by that one before. So watch out for Wellington Consulting links in The Business Show marketing. I also hope to see you at stand 160!

So what have you bought recently that you first thought you could not afford until you worked out the benefits? How did you finance it? Please share your ideas so that others can enjoy accounts and grow their business.

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 Flexible is your Business?

With changing times and circumstances, how flexible is your business? Over the last ten years my business has changed its focus due to both customer demand and what I want from my business. To me, this is one of the benefits of being the business owner. The future of the business is my decision.

Book coverWhy are you in business? Are they the same reasons now as they were when you started? I am sure you are wiser and have built up a tremendous knowledge of things you didn’t know, you didn’t know when you started. What else is there for you to learn?

For many business owners, there are some topics that you would rather delegate and positively avoid, what are yours? Even if you don’t do the hands work, you need to have enough knowledge to delegate. If numbers are your monster then I can help you fight it and win. Like David and Goliath, a few well-chosen tools can give you the upper hand. The story of the hare and the tortoise is much the same. A careful and controlled approach means you do not need to go to extremes to win.

gravatarIf you find that your market place is changing, that the technology is moving on at a rate of knots, that you want to fit extra activities into your life in addition to your work, it is down to you to decide how to deal with this.

My business is leaping into its next phase which includes supporting many more businesses succeed and grow. In what area do you need help? Are your customers moving into a direction that you need to catch up with? Or do you need to educate your customers? This will demonstrate you want to do the best for them, to help them keep up with the times. They will then start to respect you as the expert, hang on your every word while you steer them in the direction you want them to go.

Remember, if you monster is numbers, I can show you the tactics to win.

How much do your customers owe you?

If you go overdrawn at the bank, they are quick enough to let you know you have their money if it is not by prior arrangement. And they charge you to let you know and charge interest until you pay them back.

Birmingham-20121029-00115Would you be better off if you treated your customers the same as the banks treat theirs? It may be that you wouldn’t want to upset your customers and you would rather they did not go to the competitor every couple of years. But, you are in business. If people buy from you, they should expect to pay. It is up to you to make it clear before they buy, when you are expecting payment to be made.

If you operate with a bank overdraft, you know all about paying interest. If all your customers paid you within the terms you lay out at the start, how much smaller would your overdraft be? How much less interest would you be paying – all that then becomes profit and can either be used elsewhere in the business or be enjoyed by the business owners.

Many business owners don’t like to charge customers interest, but the banks have no problem! Remember, the alternative to charging interest is to either make sure you are paid before the work is done, or depending on the industry, issue credit terms and make sure you have a system in place to chase the moment an invoice becomes overdue, relentlessly until it is paid.

Penny LoweI do suggest a system as otherwise you can find you spend more time chasing money than making it. If you do find this is the case, you may need to revisit some more basic questions such as why do customers feel they don’t need to pay. Do you need to charge some customers a premium as you guess from the start they will be late payers? Do you need to hire someone to get heavy as you would rather keep them sweet for the next purchase they choose to make. I have been used as an excuse – and a threat when my clients are chasing money. My accountant is worried that you might be unable to pay and won’t let me do any more work until you do. If you don’t pay, you will leave me no choice but to pass this debt over to someone else to deal with (accountant or small claims court).

The trick is to be consistent and this is another reason to have a system. If ‘it’ can chase for you, it will free up time for you to do the more profitable tasks.

What tips do you have for making sure your customers pay? Enter your comments below.

How to reduce your Accountancy bill

When you get actually pay your accountancy bill, do you know what you are paying for? Does your accountant discuss with you how it might be reduced either in total, or as a percentage of sales? Would you be happier to pay more to your accountant?

For some types of services you purchase, there is an element of flexibility in the price, depending what you are prepared to do so that the supplier does not need to. I know I tidy up before my cleaner comes so that I am not paying her to put things back in the room they belong. I mow the lawn, so that the person that helps with the garden can concentrate on the flower beds. My horse is at DIY livery so that I can look after my horse and the yard owner can look after the fields and fencing. In the last example, I could pay more and ask them to also look after my horse. The down side would be that I would not have such an intimate knowledge of how my horse was on a day to day basis. If I had a competition coming up, I would have to pay extra for the preparation – or I might not know if he was fit enough. This is also true of your business. You need to know what is important to you and your business. What you can outsource and what needs to be done or monitored by you.

If you outsource all your book-keeping and accountancy functions, they should be done to a high standard, but how do you know? Do you look at the results – or just keep paying the money? Have you ever thought about sitting down with your accountant and discussing what you need to run your business on a day to day basis?

The original comment was how to reduce your bill – or at least as a percentage of turnover or profit. My answer is to understand what you need to run a profitable business. Put systems in place to allow you to monitor this on a monthly basis (at least). Ensure that the figures you are relying on are accurate and complete. Then, when you get to the end of the year, the figures will all be there and ready for the accountant to produce the annual accounts and calculate your tax bill.

The added benefits are that you will be better able to manage your business allowing you to increase your turnover and profits. You will know your tax bill well in advance of the due date. Most importantly you will see what needs to change during the year while there is time to have an impact rather than getting to the end of the year and realising you should have done things differently. You will see and understand what your accountant has done to help you grow your business.

Want to discuss your options? Contact me for a consultation.

Why are you in Business ?

This is a question I often ask new clients. From my viewpoint, it gives me an insight into what they care about most. If they simply say to make money, this gives me the lead to ask how much money? How close are they to this goal? What are they doing to help them exceed it? If they say it is nothing to do with money, I ask more questions to find out why they feel this about money.

For many business owners, money is actually a secondary consideration providing they are making enough. But again, I would ask the question how much is enough? Please don’t try and work out your ‘earnings’ from your business as an hourly rate. For some business owners, the hours they put in may mean they are actually close to minimum wage. If you do 60 hours a week for 52 weeks a year at minimum wage, your salary would be just under £20,000. I would suggest that your life expectancy would not be very good either.

I am sure that you are not one of those that lives purely to work and pay the bills. At an income level described above, it would be much less stressful to be employed by someone else and let them make the strategic decisions.

So, how much do you earn? Check on you last year’s tax return. How many hours do you work? How much do you charge for your time? This may not be a direct hourly charge, but when you attend sales meetings trying to convert a stubborn prospect, or spend time resolving issues that needn’t have happened, have a think about how much this is costing you. What else could you have been doing with your time that would have earned you/your business more money? That is certainly how I feel about the domestic cleaning and ironing. I can earn more in the 3 hours a week I pay for help, than it costs me to employ that help. What parts of your business can you apply the same logic to?

So whether you are in business to make money or provide a good product or service, remember you have still got to pay the bills. Your time is valuable, you only get one life – make the most of it! Need help understanding your figures ? Contact me for a consultation.