Archive for the ‘Accountancy and finance’ Category

New businesses excluded from a Government scheme to encourage more start-ups should still ensure they plan ahead to minimise their tax liabilities.

The National Insurance Contributions (NIC) holiday scheme

The scheme was launched on September 6th 2010 and means employers do not have to pay the first £5,000 in NICs for each of the first 10 workers during the first 52 weeks of their employment, provided that year falls within the three-year period up to September 5th 2013.

However, while new firms across the UK are set to benefit from potential tax savings of up to £50,000, those in the East, South East and London regions are being excluded from the scheme.

Another postcode lottery?

Barry Jefferd, Tax Partner at George Hay, said: “This is incredibly unfair on new businesses in the region who will be at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in other areas.

“However, employers should still give serious thought to tax planning in order to minimise their liabilities and take advantage of any opportunities that might not be available at a later stage.

“While businesses in the East may not be able to enjoy the same tax breaks as others around the country, we can still help them make valuable tax savings, ensuring more of their hard-earned money goes back into those companies rather than the taxman’s pocket.

“Equally, if any new businesses in the area are unsure of their NIC obligations, then we can advise them accordingly.”

 

Further reading: NI holiday scheme slammed by Labour, Accountancy Age 04.01.12 – Administration costs more than savings.

Disclaimer: This article is for general guidance only.  All taxation planning should only be undertaken after appropriate professional advice.  George Hay Chartered Accountants are registered to carry on audit work and regulated for a range of investment business activities by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

 

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Chartered accountancy firm George Hay, which has offices in Biggleswade, Huntingdon and Letchworth, has announced of the appointment of a new senior partner.

Current senior partner Eddie Fuller  stepped down from the position on March 31st, and partner Nick Willis has taken over at the helm.

Eddie will still continue at the practice where he has worked for over 45 years and has been a partner since 1985. He provides accountancy services to a number of clients particularly specialising in agricultural businesses.

Nick joined George Hay in 1977, and was appointed as a partner in 1987. He has built up a strong reputation specialising in small and medium-sized businesses. 

LeadershipNick is a Chartered Accountant and member of the Institutes Audit and Assurance Faculty he serves as a member of the executive committee of the UK200 Group and chairs their membership service committee. The UK 200 Group is a national association of accountants and lawyers of which the practice is a member. 

Commenting on his new role, Nick said: “I am delighted to have been appointed senior partner and look forward to continuing to take the firm forward and helping it grow”.

For further information on George Hay, please visit www.georgehay.co.uk.

If you are a plumber or heating engineer and have undeclared earnings then now is the time to tell the taxman.

 

New amnesty launched 

Plumber James #2HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has launched a ‘tax amnesty’ known as the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan (PTSP).

 

The PTSP is the fifth tax amnesty to be offered to UK residents. Those targeted in previous schemes have included doctors, dentists and offshore account holders.

  

The amnesty provides an opportunity for plumbers who have not yet done so to make a full disclosure about their income without receiving excessive penalties and is only open until May 31st. Those who register with the scheme before this date will then have until August 31st to pay any back taxes as well as interest and penalties.

 

Potential Penalties

 

The Look of (Un)certainty...In most cases, HMRC will impose a penalty of 10%, although this could vary between zero and 20%, depending on your individual circumstances.

 

Those with undeclared earnings who fail to take advantage of this opportunity will face a crackdown by HMRC, which will be using information from the CORGI and Gas Safe registers to identify individuals it wants to question.

 

You can be sure that the penalties will be a lot higher if the taxman catches you out – and he is unlikely to be too sympathetic if you did not use the disclosure opportunity available.

  

While there are still costs involved, including the reduced penalty, the bill for making a full disclosure will still be a great deal cheaper than it would be when the taxman comes knocking.

 

Barry Jefferd, Tax Partner at George Hay, can advise on a wide range of taxation matters, including making a disclosure to HMRC. This opportunity is unlikely to be repeated, making it all the more important to act sooner rather than later.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for general guidance only.  All taxation planning should only be undertaken after appropriate professional advice.  George Hay Chartered Accountants are registered to carry on audit work and regulated for a range of investment business activities by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

 

 For more business news updates like this, please subscribe to my monthly business support newsletters using the “join my lists”  widget in the top right of your screen.  Thank you.

If you found this post interesting/useful please share it with your social network and/or bookmark it.  Also, your comments are always valued and will help me to write new posts that are relevant to readers of this blog.

Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraOn 1st March 2011, HMRC finally increased their allowable fuel rates to better reflect the sustantial increases in fuel prices we have all been suffering.

To make sure you are using the correct rate to get maximum tax benefit click here.

 

 

 For more business news updates like this, please subscribe to my monthly business support newsletters using the “join my lists”  widget in the top right of your screen.  Thank you.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

If you found this post interesting/useful please share it with your social network and/or bookmark it.  Also, your comments are always valued and will help me to write new posts that are relevant to readers of this blog.

Often when I mention the words “business plan” to people, whether they are just starting up in business or already established and looking to grow or change their business, they give me the “do I have to?” look!


Business plans haven’t been dreamt up by accountants to allow them to charge a fee to their clients for “added value” services or simply to bore you to tears.  Every book you read about business success and every leader you hear speak will highlight the necessity of planning.  So “yes” you really have to, unless you like to live life by the seat of your pants.

Failing to plan and planning to fail

If you are starting up your business and you don’t have a plan, how do you know

  • what that business will do
  • what it’s target market will be
  • how it will work  (processes, structure, personnel etc)
  • how it will be financed? (funding, cash flow, collateral/security/personal guarantees etc)
  • whether it will make money and
  • whether you will get out of it what you want?

Are banks still lending?

There has been much reported in the news over the last year or so about how difficult it is to get bank lending nowadays for small and medium sized businesses.  Ask any business bank manager this question and they will quip “we’re always open for business” but there is no doubt that they are being very cautious. If anything is going to help you get the banks on your side,  it will be a comprehensive, well thought through business plan with back up for your assumptions and a realistic timescale for paying back the loan.

If you want to approach an investor, your business won’t even be considered for investment if you don’t have a business plan that you can back up with facts and figures that make you and your business a credible investment.


Getting value from the planning process

Planning is not just something business owners should do when setting up their enterprises or when getting finance.  There are plenty of benefits of planning on a regular basis.

  1. Take the time to think through a plan and then write it down, you are more likely to actually do it than if you keep it in your head.  Even better, communicate that plan to a trusted adviser such as your accountant or a business coach who will be able to help you evaluate it and provide an objective viewpoint.
  2. Take off your rose tinted glasses, a great looking plan may make you feel good now, but it will demotivate or be dismissed as irrelevant later.  Be realistic and honest with yourself and don’t forget to factor in non-monetary elements such as the amount of time you intend to invest. 
  3. Use the planning process to brainstorm.  Perhaps carry out a SWOT analysis to help you to ‘stretch’ your thinking.
  4. Use the plan as a way of involving key people in your business.  This will help them to be more committed to the results and encourage leadership/loyalty.
  5. Most of the ‘added value’ of business planning comes from regular reflection.  Don’t take the time to write a plan and then archive it!

In summary

A good business plan will help you to understand where your business is going, give it structure and direction, provide a communication channel for key stakeholders and build credibility when obtaining any funding or investment that you need from external sources.

If you haven’t got an up to date, clear and realistic business plan, take action now. 

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

If you have a pension, then you are about to see a significant reduction in the amount of money you can put into it without paying tax.

From next April

The Government will slash the annual tax relief limit on pensions from £255,000 to £50,000. There will also be a reduction in the lifetime allowance on money that can be saved in a pension fund from £1.8 million to £1.5 million, which will come into effect from April 2012.

The Government hopes the changes will save it more than £4 billion a year, which it will use to tackle the budget deficit.

Warning

Experts have already warned that some people with long service in final salary pension schemes could suddenly face higher bills, particularly as the increase in accrued pension will now be multiplied by a factor of 16 instead of the current factor of 10.

However, the Government says that the changes would affect 100,000 pension savers a year, 80% of whom earned more than £100,000 a year, meaning that very few people earning less than that amount would actually have to pay any pension tax.

Utilising your allowance

Anyone with unused annual allowance from the last three tax years will be able to carry them forward if they are a member of a pension scheme during that period, meaning that if a pension contribution is more than £50,000 then they may not have to pay the annual allowance charge.

At George Hay, we can advise you on all aspects of pensions, including how the above changes might affect you.

For further information on whether you are getting the best from your pension, please contact us.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

If you are planning to treat your employees to a festive event, take care not to create a taxable benefit, that would certainly make your event expensive for both your business and your staff – Bahh Humbug!

The rules clearly state that employers can spend up to £150 a head annually on staff events, not a penny more. If the total cost of the event (including travel, accommodation etc) divided by the number who attended equates to £150.01 the whole amount is taxable.

The £150 is inclusive of VAT and can be spent on one or more events in the tax year.  The type of event you chose is not an issue, but all employees must be invited and it must be considered an annual event.  So a one-off party to celebrate a retirement for example does not qualify.

Unfortunately, you need to plan and budget carefully.  Its a delicate balance between being a generous, hospitable boss and playing Scrooge.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

If you were among those hit by the new 50p top tax rate back in April, then you could now be more likely to receive a rather unwelcome knock on the door from the taxman.

Proposal

Under plans unveiled by the Liberal Democrats at their recent conference in Liverpool, half of the UK’s 300,000 higher earners affected by the top tax rate face having their tax affairs checked over by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This means that the number of tax investigations will rise from the current figure of 5,000 to 150,000 a year – an increase of 3,000%.

Why?

The £900 million drive is designed to crack down on tax avoidance, the legal practice of using existing provisions within the current tax regime to minimise your tax liabilities. This should not be confused with tax evasion, where tax liabilities are avoided by illegal means, amounting to tax fraud.

Those who ‘hide’ money in offshore accounts will also come under scrutiny as part of the increased investigations.

As a result of the scheme, the number of criminal prosecutions relating to tax matters is expected to increase five-fold, while the Treasury has announced that it expects the initiative to bring in £7 billion a year by 2015.

While tax avoidance is certainly not illegal, the announcement highlights the importance of seeking professional advice on all tax matters to ensure you do not fall foul of any investigation.

Impact on small business

Even if you have nothing to hide, tax investigations can be both costly and time-consuming, particularly for smaller businesses which have neither the time nor the money to spare.

Need support?

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At George Hay, we can advise clients on all aspects of taxation and can help you ensure that all your tax affairs are in order. We can help you ensure you do not pay too much or too little tax and, should you find yourself the subject of an investigation, can offer as much assistance as you need.

We are also able to offer tax investigation protection. As with any insurance, everyone hopes they will never need to use it, but taking out cover now could save you thousands of pounds in investigation fees should the taxman come calling – money that could be put to better use in your business.

For more information on any area of taxation, including tax investigations, or to find out more about tax investigation protection, please contact us.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

Everyone in business has heard the term “Cash is King” and understands the importance of cash flow, but when in the day to day ‘busy-ness’ of business it is easy to take your ‘eye off the ball’.

So in these difficult times, if you find yourself in a position where cash flow becomes a matter of urgency rather than a procedural chore, what can you do to turn things around?

Here are my top five quick fixes, each one worthy of a post of its own.

1. Debt Collection

Focusing on getting paid for what you have provided is an obvious place to start. 

Don’t allow customers to improve their cash flow at your cost and don’t get lazy when it comes to implementing rigid credit control procedures. Many ledger clerks are instructed by their managers not to issue payment until a debt has been chased both in writing and verbally, so don’t cut corners or get caught off guard. 

If you are uncomfortable with this discipline or you have accepted that this is not your skill set, outsource it.  I recommend Ken Brown from Direct Route for everything from collecting a single difficult debt to completely managing your sales ledger. 

Also, be sure to focus on servicing customers that do stick to your payment terms.  Don’t forget my previous advice about allowing “he who shouts loudest…” to distract you from those that are key to your success.

2. Improve terms and conditions of sale

Meet with each of your valued customers without delay and renegotiate terms.  By prioritising their needs and building confidence in your business relationship, agreements regarding quick payment, or even payment on delivery can be made. 

If need be, offer an early payment discount to encourage quick settlement.  Often the reduction in margin, is substantailly less than the cost of finance such as overdrafts or the deminished goodwill from not meeting debts as they fall due.

Don’t forget that it costs a lot more to attract and service new business than it does to obtain more business from your current clients.


3.  Get your bank manager onside

Having up to date management accounts, a clearly defined business plan that demonstrates that the current difficulties are short term and building an open, honest business relationship with your bank manager will no doubt create flexibility. 

Once they have built confidence in you as a business owner, they will at short notice be able to offer solutions and support.  Involve your accountant in this process.

4.  Manage suppliers

This aspect is often not given enough attention.  In the same way that you manage customers, prioritise, negotiate and treat your suppliers with respect. 

Being honest with them and honouring any payment arrangements you have agreed with them will keep your integrity and prevent suppliers from ‘digging their heels in’.

Also, if you hold stock, review your processes and speak to your suppliers about delivery times etcetera, they may be able to help you to manage a ‘just in time’ system by offering you a priority service. 

5.  Increase profitability

Certainly not the easiest or quickest approach and one where you might want to seek support from your accountant or a business coach.

Looking at overheads is an obvious point, but how about reviewing historic data to identify which products/services in your sales mix generate the biggest contribution and assign time and effort in pushing these.  Perhaps redirect your marketing budget and reward your team for selling these items or finding innovative ways to deliver these at lower costs.

As well as focusing on your most profitable products/services, take time to identify your most profitable clients

Budgeting can take time, but often some ‘quick wins’ can be discovered by carrying out these accounting exercises.  They can also drive long term process and cash flow improvements. 


The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

For more advice on subjects such as this, please ‘join my lists’ for a monthly business support newsletter.

If you do not currently offer your employees a company pension scheme then you need to take heed of a new scheme announced by the coalition Government.


All employers

From October 2012, all employers, no matter how small, will have to enrol staff in the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST), unless they already offer a comparable pension scheme to their employees.

NEST

NEST is a scheme designed to give people more access to good quality pension savings, especially for those on low to middle incomes. The Government hopes that this will prompt people to start saving for their retirement, particularly with people now living longer with little or no savings.


Phased implementation

Each employer will be given a date from when the changes must be in place. The reform will be phased in over a four-year period to 2016, starting with larger firms and then working down through medium and then small and micro-employers. The size of an employer will be based on PAYE data.

A minimum contribution level will also be phased in gradually, with employers eventually contributing at least 3% of qualifying earnings by October 2017.

Eligibility

To be eligible for enrolment, staff must work in the UK, be at least 22 and under state pension age and not already be in a suitable pension scheme. They will have to earn at least £7,475 a year, which will be the threshold for paying income tax from April 2011.

Transferable and may be used by multiple-employers

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The advantage of NEST is that it can travel with a person from job to job, with more than one employer being able to contribute to a member’s retirement savings pot at the same time.


If you are an employer or considering employing someone, then George Hay can advise on a wide range of pension and tax issues to help ensure you are fully prepared for the changes.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.