December 14, 2019

Your Books Under the Microscope

Last week saw a letter from HMRC asking for all the information that had gone in to the accounts for the tax return to 5th April 2012. I wrote and asked what format, as the letter said they had technical people that could help with computer system.

I had a pleasant phone call from HMRC to say could we print everything out and bundle it up for him. I explained the invoices were Word documents filed per month, the payments were in a spreadsheet per month so would he like a CD with the information. No, we needed to print out each sheet and send everything in a single package. Everything includes my year end adjustments for own use and disallowed items, bank statements for the period as well as the signed accounts.

I have spoken with the client and I think they are going off to Tesco to get some more reams of paper. We have agreed to meet up in a fortnight to make sure we have everything required and box it all up. HMRC have given us a month to get all the information to them and the member of staff at HMRC admitted he was in no rush to receive it as he had a plenty there already. I didn’t ask what the turnaround time would be!

How well would your records stand up to such scrutiny? When the accountant returns your books and says you need to hold onto them for current year plus six, do you know exactly where you have stored them? I have previously had a client who’s garage was flooded some years ago so he binned the soggy papers. He ended up with a large tax bill as he couldn’t produce proof of some payments. Do make sure your storage facility is waterproof and mouse free.

It is possible to get insurance against such investigations. This will cover the extra time your accountant has to spend in talking to/writing to HMRC. It does not cover lost papers or invented figures so make sure you can justify your payments out and be able to demonstrate the completeness of your sales.

It is not just HMRC who may want these figures, I had to produce 3 years sales invoices to an insurance company to justify my claim for loss of earnings against the other party after a road accident some years ago.

Need guidence on your record and data keeping ? Contact me for more information.

What Costs can you control ?

Do you know what benefits you get from the costs your business incurs? Do you know what it is paying out for, and to whom? As time moves on, so does the needs of every business – and business owner. Are there alternatives to what you are currently spending your money on that could give you a greater benefit?

A simple example may be when do you upgrade a computer system further rather than biting the bullet and replacing the systems? Although it may seem painful at the time, I know many accounts staff who spend time and frustration waiting for their system to do things – or rebooting when they have asked it to do too much. For some reason it is often forgotten how much time the accounts department spend at the keyboard – or waiting for their computer to give them an answer! How does that come back to costs? The tasks that they can’t do as they do not have time may be costing you money. Payment of unpaid invoices not being chased meaning the money is in your customers’ account – not yours. Relationships with suppliers strained as their bills are not getting processed as quickly as they might. This may lead to early settlement discounts being missed or the opportunity for direct debit discount not being investigated.

I am not intending waving a flag to help the accounts department, just asking that you acknowledge the contribution that they make to the business. As a business owner, you don’t need to enter the figures and chase the debts – that can all be delegated. What you need to do is understand the figures. It is not the calculation that matters it is what you do as a result of the answer. Don’t be put off by the numbers, others may like those better than you. In the same way you may or may not enjoy driving a car, the fact you can – or can hire someone – makes most locations accessible to you. You can then choose whether you go there. The important thing is you have the choice providing you have the knowledge.

If I can be of any help contact me - oh and big news on the Book Next Week !

Do you enjoy working online ?

The government is trying to encourage greater use of computers. This may be a move to efficiency, but is it what you like to do?

This might sound a bit rich, as you are reading this on line, but do you do it by choice? What happened to the old days of piles of papers?

As an accountant, I still deal with piles of paper. Most departments at HM Revenue and Customs cannot communicate by e-mail. They are improving, but having tried to deal with things over the telephone, including call backs to then be told to write in can be a little frustrating. What compounded the issue for me was the first chap I spoke with didn’t know the answer so I suggested writing in. I was told not to do that, as it would not be looked at for at least three weeks. This is much better than some departments a couple of years ago, where they had a three month backlog of post. So things are improving.
Can we help ?
If you have an outstanding issue, by all means ask your accountant to chase it, but the more information you can give them, the more they can give HMRC, the more likely you are to get an answer. If you have an outstanding tax return for 2011/12, get it moving now so you know how much tax you will have to pay by 31st January 2013. If you are due a refund, there is still a chance you could get it by Christmas – if you act now and let them simply put the money in your account. If only one could just get all customers and client to ‘simply put the money in your account’, life would be wonderful!