Cash is king and most small businesses fail due to lack of cashflow. Even if you have a relatively small business you can use accounting software like Xero to:
- Add a link to your invoices for clients to pay by card using Stripe, Paypal, or similar
- Plug a small (usually free) card reader (Zettle, Square, or similar) into your phone for clients to pay by card before you leave site
A lot of businesses don’t bother with a business plan because things change and they’re out of date almost as soon as they are written.
Although I do like to have a 12 month budget to check that I have enough money to pay the team and to reinvest in the business we rely mainly on a 90 day planning cycle. Things are usually fairly predictable for the next 90 days so we get together as a team. It’s the only thing we try to do in person as we all work remotely the rest of the time.
We loosely follow this agenda:
- Review KPIs for last period
- Check actions from the previous meeting
- Discuss any issues and solutions
- I share my plans to move the business forward for the next 90 days and we all agree what needs to be done step by step, and by whom.
After the meeting
- My PA, Kate, emails me with a summary and the detailed action lists for each of us
- I add my actions to my to do list.
- If necessary I allocate slots in my diary.
- Kate works through all her actions (much more efficiently than me!) and gently reminds/nags me to get on with mine
The result is that, over the next 90 days, we make a lot of progress. Even if we don’t quite get around to everything the business has moved forward a lot from last quarter.
It’s like my running – CONSTANT FORWARD MOTION, no matter how slow.
If you’d like a copy of our budget workbook you can purchase a copy here [please insert best link] or drop me a line if you’re interested in group or individual coaching to improve your own business.
We submitted 36% of our self assessment returns in January!
Last year I submitted only one in January so what changed?
Well, I acquired Longhill Accounts in June and we spend three months meeting, greeting, and onboarding nearly 200 new clients May – July. For the most part this went through smoothly although some had problems signing up to Accountancy Manager as they weren’t used to technology. Poor rural internet service means that many clients still do things manually as it’s more reliable.
Once they were on board we then had to set each new client up on Xero or Xero Ledger in order to use XeroTax. And, of course, each client takes longer in the first year as we had to familiarise ourselves with them and their business. Because no two businesses are identical.
But we don’t just do self assessment returns, we also has to keep up with limited companies’ accounts and corporation tax, bookkeeping, VAT, and management accounts. So when we had caught up everything that clients had sent in proactively we STARTED to send the annual reminders. Usually we would send reminders in April, June, and September with final reminders going out in October. This year we didn’t send the FIRST reminders until the end of November.
Then Accountancy Manager rebranded as Bright Manager AND CHANGED ALL THE LINKS! So our poor new clients now had to handle a second set of instructions from us (once we realised that this was the problem!).
In spite of all that the team worked their socks off over weekends and evenings in December and January and we finally submitted the last return with 3 days to spare.
But this fabulous team shouldn’t have to work so hard and neglect their personal lives.
We’re busy celebrating now but today we had our quarterly planning meeting to make sure that we have a much better tax return season this year. I intend to go skiing in January 2025 so we need everything submitted before Christmas. Watch this space …
Get your tax return done early so that you have more time to save the tax due. The deadline for payment is still 31 January 2025. If your income has reduced this year then we may also be able to reduce your July payments on account.
Company cars are not really tax efficient and we often advise clients to buy the car privately and just charge the company for mileage. For one client with expensive taste in cars we even recommended staying as a sole trader rather than a limited company.
This is because cars are treated as benefits in kind and taxed as if you have additional salary. The value of this benefit is based on a percentage of list price (including accessories). The employee pays tax and national insurance and the employer also pays national insurance.
The percentage used for electric vehicles is much lower than for others although this is increasing each year.
As well as the vehicle and fuel for personal use is taxed at a flat rate for the year so work out how much you use to see if it is tax efficient.
HMRC do not make the law, they interpret it in the same way that accountants and tax advisers do. If we can’t agree on the interpretation then the courts will decide. HMRC is not the final arbiter.
HMRC have all sorts of helpful information on their website for the public to read. This means that it is often dumbed down and vital points can be missed in the interest of simplicity. This means that Google and ChatGPT can lead to ‘interesting’ ideas from clients on how they can save tax which ends up with me correcting them by quoting chapter and verse of whichever act is applicable.
Our clients work hard so we don’t want them to pay any unnecessary taxes but we also want them to sleep at night knowing that they have complied with all laws and regulations.
Too many accountants just rely on the HMRC website and forget to check the correct sources. Proper CPD is really important to maintain professional standards and to give the best advice. We should be better than Google!
You don’t have to wait until the new year to do it (see also Spring cleaning and back to school flurries of activity) but I do like an excuse for a good declutter.
Here are some things you might want to look at:
• Stationery – we run a paperless office and don’t have a printer but it still amazes me how much stationery we have around that might be useful to somebody else
• Poor clients – yes, we have a clear out of these every February after the big tax deadline. You probably have a few clients who could be moved on to make room for more suitable ones
• Inbox – how many emails are you subscribed to that you don’t read. If they’re not useful to you (including this one) then don’t just delete them but unsubscribe
• Wardrobe – not a business one but, unless you already do Project 333 you can probably get at least one bag of clothes and shoes to the charity shop or bin
• Client files – archive any paper or digital files you no longer need
Make space to plan your year with our budget workbook and video.
Content creation takes both ideas and time so why not make the most of your content and save valuable time by using it in as many ways as possible. For instance, if you are giving a talk you can reuse it as follows:
1. Record it for online use
2. Cut the video into clips for social media
3. Use the audio as a podcast for people to listen to
4. Write it up as several shorter blogs
5. Write it up as an article for your local paper or other publications
6. Use it in your newsletter/e-news
7. Extract quotes for social media
Last month I was invited to the ICB (Institute of Certified Bookkeepers) awards, also known as the Lucas after the inventor of the double entry system, Luca Pacioli. I love judging the awards as I get to see what the best bookkeepers are doing to help their clients. A good bookkeeper is worth their weight in gold.
I’m also a Champion of the ICB, an honourary position that I was awarded a few years ago. This allows me to use the CICB letters after my name along with my usual FCA.
As well as seeing the best bookkeepers take the stage to collect their awards (including some who had travelled over from the trouble in Ukraine) there were software awards too.
I was delighted when the bookkeepers voted our favourite Xero as the bookkeeping software of the year. We also have client using Freeagent which was chosen as the friendliest software; not surprising as their chief accountant, M, writes all sorts of useful guides.
Which is your favourite bookkeeping software and why?
I’ve been working away in the frozen North aka Manchester. On one of the days I had a break between speaking engagements so I borrowed a desk from another forward thinking accountant, the lovely Stuart Hurst. We exchanged a few ideas on how we could each improve our accountancy businesses and look after our clients better.
Collaboration beats competition every time.
Who do you collaborate with?