November 14, 2019

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 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.

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.

Are you charging enough ?

 

What is enough for you? This leads from the question ‘why are you in business?’ This week I had a client who greeted me with the comment: “Every year when I drive over with my books, I tell myself I really ought to put my prices up”.

She provides her services mainly to the elderly in care homes with limited incomes. Her children have both left home and the second one is now going through university. Her main reason for working was to pay for their education, but she also enjoys her work. Do you think she should put her prices up?

Pricing is not all about making the greatest profit you can, it is about understanding the figures so you can decide what is appropriate. Do you want to price yourself out of the market, or just appeal to a small niche? Someone I worked with a couple of weeks ago had just taken an order for a dining table at £35,000. That is not a typo. I can confirm that I will not be placing a similar order.

In order to ensure you make a profit, you do need to understand what costs are involved, both in the delivery of that particular sales and in the running of the business. If you don’t have precise figures available, just jot down what your overheads are in a year divide, by twelve and realise how much you need to make in a month before you even consider the costs involved in a sale. This is why you cannot afford to work for free. By all means give a sample or taster away, but make sure your customer knows this is not the norm.

If you feel that you need to talk through your pricing structure please get in touch