Tax tip

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

90 day planning

A lot of businesses don’t bother with a business plan because things change and they’re out of date almost as soon as they are written. 

I sympathise.  

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: 

  1. Review KPIs for last period
  2. Check actions from the previous meeting
  3. Discuss any issues and solutions
  4. 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 

  1. My PA, Kate, emails me with a summary and the detailed action lists for each of us
  2. I add my actions to my to do list.
  3. If necessary I allocate slots in my diary.
  4. 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.  

Tax Tip

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.

Tax tip

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

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!  

Software efficiencies

When you started up your business you probably ran it using a spreadsheet or a Word document. But now you’ve filled your time and you’re trying to grow you need better to software to ensure that everything runs as efficiently as possible. Here are some things that I use in my businesses:

Marketing – I use Active Campaign as both my CRM (customer relationship management system) and to email things like this top tip to our clients and prospects. Active Campaign links to forms on our website and to our scorecards.

Process management – Minerva Accountants has lots of beautifully repeatable processes so we use Bright Manager (formerly Accountancy Manager) to manage those processes, client documents, file client emails (so anybody on the team can see all the communication), and automated reminders. My coaching and consultancy business has fewer repeatable processes but it is much smaller so I manage my to do list on Trello

Cash collections – as far as possible we use recurring monthly invoices on Xero and collect payments through direct debit using Gocardless. Any invoice on Xero is automatically fed to Gocardless and, when payment is made, the receipts are matched to the invoices on Xero. Clients can also pay by card using Stripe which also matches the invoices. These save hours of debt collection time and bookkeeping in a small business.

New year clear out

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.

Collaboration for the win

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?

The beauty of integrated apps

As you know I’ve just been on holiday. We stayed in 3 different towns/cities on the edge of the map! I had to download three different German maps to my satnav in order to drive a total of about 5 hours.

This made me think about how wonderful it is to use integrated applications for business (because I often think about my business when I’m not busy working in it!)

We are a Xero based firm so there are over 1,000 integrated apps available in the official app store and other unofficial ones too. The ones we use most are:

Gocardless – raise an invoice in Xero and it automatically collects the direct debits and matches the payment to the invoice so it saves bookkeeping time too.

Dext/Hubdoc – clients can scan/photograph/email invoices to upload them into Xero (also QBO or Freeagent) where they, or we, can do their bookkeeping. Dext is the most expensive but saves much more time with their OCR (optical character recognition) and machine learning changing the roll of the bookkeeper to checking rather than typing.

Clarity – this is a big hit with clients as we can help them to see their numbers in a simple format and decide how they want to grow their business. The software uploads the latest info from Xero (also Sage or spreadsheet) so that we can discuss the current situation and improvements. It then helps to prepare an action list for the client.

These are the most valuable integrations that we use. What do you have on your list?

Tax tip

Payments on account can add a large chunk onto the amount of tax that you have to pay. If your income is likely to be lower next year than this year then it may be worth reducing your payments on account and we sometimes do this for clients who are winding up their sole trader business or who are going through a hard time. But BEWARE! If you reduce your payments too low and the final tax bill comes out higher then you will have to pay interest on the shortfall. This is to discourage people from reducing their payments too far.