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How your accountant can help you manage your business

There comes a time in every business’s life span when things reach a bottleneck. It could be down to one of any number of reasons, but at those times it’s often difficult to figure out how to extricate yourself from it and keep the business marching on. It is at times such as those that it helps to get an independent perspective from someone who knows you and your business but who is not invested in it in the same way you are – in other words, someone who can see the wood for the trees. It may surprise you to hear that your accountant could be just the right person for the job. Why? Let’s explore how and why they can help and then you can decide for yourself.

Profit and loss are going in the wrong direction

Your business won’t be the first to experience this nor the last, but it is something that most will encounter at one time or another: your profits are decreasing and your losses are mounting up. Your accountant will know your business by now and be able to navigate those accounts with a clear head and without prejudice. They will be able to find where things went wrong and why and suggest ways to turn things around. The sooner you engage them where this is the issue the quicker they can help put things right to avoid the problems becoming insurmountable.

You are looking to grow

If you are in this position, then things are going really well! If you have done everything you know how to do and done it well, then your business is going in the right direction. A fresh pair of eyes and some new ideas can help you jump over the hurdle of taking the next leap to growth. It is often not something that you can do yourself as you are too immersed in the day-to-day running of the business and lack the time to analyse and research other avenues to branch off to.

You want more or different kinds of customers

Looking to grow your market share but not quite sure how to do it? With knowledge of similar businesses and your specific sector, as well as of the particular unique selling points of your business, your accountant can come up with some fresh ideas of how to target and win a larger share of that market segment you are working in.

You need to streamline your processes

You may have reached that tipping point where things are going well but your administrative tasks and processes are beginning to take up too much time. This could be taking you away from managing the business and focusing on business development. Your accountant can assess where your processes can be restructured and streamlined to cut down the time they take and get you back on to the things that bring in the money.

Your team could do with a morale boost

Sometimes you could be doing everything right and going well, but it could mean your staff are overworked. Alternatively, if your business is suffering your staff could be too. Don’t risk giving them the opportunity to move elsewhere. With some advice from your accountant who will have seen similar situations before, you can work together to come up with solutions to raise morale again and keep your hard-working team on your side, ready to take the next steps for the business.

For advice and assistance with managing, growing, and troubleshooting your business talk to us at Cain and Beer. We have a team of specialists on hand to help, all you need to do is get in touch by phone 020 3633 1340 or email at for a chat or to book an appointment.

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What is GDPR and does it affect you?

You have probably caught wind of it already, but just in case you haven’t new legislation comes into force in May regarding data compliance. The General Data Protection Regulation, better known as GDPR, comes from the European Union and is designed to give people control over how organisations use their data.

What exactly is it?

The GDPR will replace the Data Protection Act that has been in force in the UK since 1998 and takes effect from the 25th of May 2018. The reasoning behind this new regulation is two-fold:

  • To give individuals more control over how their data are used given it is relatively easy for organisations to abuse it. The Cambridge Analytica scandal recently in the news is a prime example of this and this regulation will go a long way towards avoiding similar situations in the future.
  • To give organisations greater clarity over what they can and cannot use people’s data for.

Who is affected?

Anyone who controls or processes data will have to comply with the new regulations. What does this mean? A controller is someone who determines how and for what purpose data is processed, while a processor is someone processing the data. In other words, any organisation – such as a business, charity, not-for-profit – which asks for information on personal data is a controller. Organisations such as IT firms who would process data on their behalf would therefore be the processors. It is worth noting that any organisation that does business with the EU is affected, so if you have an office or branch overseas – say, the USA – which deals with data belonging to EU residents, they will also have to comply.

What does this mean for my business?  

If you control or process data, you must ensure that it is done in a lawful manner. This means that you must gain consent for data to be used in the way(s) in which you wish to use it. For example, you can no longer use someone’s data to add them to a newsletter mailing list, you must seek their consent to use it for that purpose. That consent must be explicit and affirmative – so people will have to actively tick a box rather than passively agree by accepting a pre-ticked box. Controllers must also keep a record of that consent, including how and when it was given; individuals have the right to withdraw that consent at any time.

Individuals also have a right to ask to see what data an organisation holds for them at ‘reasonable intervals’. They can also seek rectification of any errors or gaps and they can ask for details on how their data are stored, how they are processed, how long they are being kept for, and who has access to them.

If data are used for a specific, one-off purpose, then they must be deleted as soon as that has been completed and the data are no longer required.

Full details of the new regulations can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website or you can talk to anyone in our team at Cain and Beer about how it may affect your business. We’re on the phone on 020 3633 1340 or on email at when you need us.

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How You Can Achieve a Healthy Work Life Balance

While many of us may not see it, working too hard is affecting our free time more these days. This means less time with family and friends, as well as losing out on sleep and relaxation.

The world of business is more competitive than ever, so our automatic reaction is to work as hard as we can. Although this can mean financial success, it could also mean that our personal health may suffer as a result.

Here are our top tips on how you can achieve a healthy work life balance:

Do Not Let E-mails Rule Your World…

This can be very difficult, especially for those who are self-employed, but constantly monitoring our emails just means that we are not getting the rest we need, which neither benefits us or our clients. As such, you should make it clear as to what times you can be contacted. An out of office reply also allows you to politely inform your customers or clients of a time you will be back in the office to respond to their e-mail.

Of course, not all companies and individuals can follow this process, but they shouldn’t assume they must tackle e-mails alone, as even self-employed individuals can hire help should they require it. As such, if you have e-mails that need to be constantly monitored or replied to, then why not consider a virtual assistant service? Not only can this be a cost-effective solution, but it also ensures that you’re getting the rest you need.

Sometimes, You Simply Must Say No…

While it’s not easy to admit, the fact is that some of us can be too nice for our own good. Many people like to appease their employer by trying to meet a series of challenging demands, but sometimes, it’s just not realistic. In this regard, you shouldn’t be afraid of saying no. Consider the other option, you take on the work and find that you’re just not able to complete it. This will have a more detrimental impact on your character than saying no, so don’t feel you must be superhuman; we all have our limits!

Work Smart…

Many would assume that the harder we work, the more we get done. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, as many will be able to testify. As such, we should look to work smarter, rather than harder. Some may struggle with this, but you’d be surprised at how productive instilling such a habit can be.

For example, all high-priority tasks should be given a realistic time limit for completion. Giving unrealistic turnaround times only means that your personal time is being affected as a result.

Many people now outsource what they simply do not have time to do; bookkeeping, social media, marketing, recruitment, admin and so on. Of course, many may assume that they cannot afford such a service but consider this. If you’re able to keep on top of all your tasks with such a small investment, it can only furnish you with more rewards moving forward, especially when it comes to money.

Work is Work & Home is Home…

While it can be difficult to split the two, it’s important that where possible, we know when to leave work alone. Again, in today’s hustle and bustle, it can be easy to feel lazy for doing so, but we’re all entitled to some much-needed respite.

Again, it’s completely understandable that some of us become anxious when trying to commit to such an endeavour, but outsourcing tasks can mean that you’re able to rest up, without the constant worry of an overwhelming inbox when you return.

It also means that you’re able to maintain a healthy relationship with loved ones at home, as they will not be frustrated that you’re constantly engaging with work, which can also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Set Your Own Guidelines…

When it comes to dealing with overwhelming amounts of work, it’s easy to bury our head in the sand and hope for the best. However, a more pro-active way of addressing such issues is to be clear in the beginning as to what your availability is, and when they can expect to receive the finished work.

Some of your clients may not be happy that their work is not top priority, but they will be disappointed when they don’t get the completed work by the expected deadlines. As such, clarity is key, and it stops unwanted bouts of stress.

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Setting up an auto-enrolment pension

Setting up an auto-enrolment pension

If you are an employer, then you are required by law to provide a workplace pension scheme for all your eligible staff. If you became an employer after the 1st of October 2017 then you must automatically enrol staff into a scheme, whereas if you were an existing employer at this time then you should have been notified of the applicable start date (known as the staging date) for your business.

Setting up a pension scheme can be a daunting task if you have never had to do it before. Pensions can be a complex area to navigate if you have no experience and it can be particularly tricky for a small business given all the other requirements on you as an employer, not to mention the actual day-to-day running of your business. It can be beneficial to get a specialist involved in managing it all for you so you can focus on everything else you need to do.

A few things you need to know about auto-enrolment:

You must determine what is included in employees’ earnings

There are three types of earnings that are classed as pensionable salary and you need to decide which definition you will use. They include:

  • Total pay: this includes salary, bonuses, overtime pay, and any benefits (such as health insurance)
  • Basic pay: this covers the base salary only, excluding bonuses and benefits
  • Qualifying earnings: this calculates the pensionable salary based on the top and bottom limits of National Insurance

You must select a pension provider

There is a large number of pension providers on the market offering a range of options and services to clients. As well as understanding the basics of what is involved in setting up a pension scheme you also need to be able to understand what each pension provider offers and what their charges are before deciding which one is right for you. With the new rules coming into force pension providers will become quite busy and some may even reach capacity and be unable to take on new business.

Communicate the changes to your staff

Once you have determined what constitutes earnings and which pension provider you are going to go for you need to let you staff know what changes are being introduced and how they will be affected. Although you are only legally required to send out a single communication to staff, the reality is that you will be faced with questions and uncertainty so it is worth considering an engagement strategy. This could include a variety of channels as well as follow-ups to ensure that all affected staff have been informed and understand what it means for them.

Do you need help?

Consider early on whether this is something you want to manage yourself, or if you want to get help from a specialist. An expert working in this field will be up to speed on all the details and requirements that will affect you and be able to advise on the right providers who can meet those needs. They can also help you communicate changes to your staff and answer any questions they may have, allowing you to focus on running the business.

For advice and guidance on auto-enrolment or for details on how we can assist, just ask our team at Cain and Beer by calling us on 020 3633 1340 or emailing us at .

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Why it pays to get help to set up a limited company

Why it pays to get help to set up a limited company

You have been thinking about it for a while and you are now ready to take the plunge and get your own business going. Enough with working for others, it’s time to be your own boss. You have the idea, you have the funding (or financial backing), and you know exactly how you want things to work.

The first step is getting the business officially set up. This is where things can get a little uncertain if you have not done this before. There are a number of options available when setting up your own business and you need to be sure that you pick the right one for you and your circumstances. For many the best way is setting up a limited company. Suddenly what seems like a straightforward process can become a bit of a headache as you attempt to navigate your way through the mountains of paperwork that are required in order to get going.

At this point, getting a bit of expert advice and help could be the difference between getting it right and potentially getting it very wrong. You are also no doubt more than a little distracted with all the other administrative processes that go hand in hand with setting up and running a new business. So why bother trying to do it all when you can get some specialist help to set you up properly?

Using a professional to sort it out for you has a number of advantages:

They know how to navigate the system efficiently. Setting up a limited company requires completion of certain specific documents including articles of association and decisions on people with significant control in the business. You will also need to register your new company with Companies House, as well as do all the checks you need to do to ensure that your proposed company name is unique and available for use.

They add value. As well as giving you back precious time to do the things you do well as part of organising and running your business – i.e. finding new clients, servicing the ones you already have, organising suppliers, office space, promotional materials, etc. – they can advise on the order of when things need to be done to ensure that the process is smooth. With significant experience in doing precisely this for a number of businesses, they know what needs to be done and can advise accordingly so that you are not wasting your time trying to do things before they become necessary (or worse, missing something and having to go back a few steps).

They keep on top of things. As things become due they will either be able to get on with it on your behalf, or know when to come to you for your approval (where required). This allows you to keep your focus on all the other things going on in the set up and running of the new business.

A small investment in using professional services to set up your new limited business definitely makes good business sense. For advice and assistance Cain and Beer are on the end of a phone or email to help you out – call us on 020 3633 1340 or email us at – we’d be delighted to help.

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Is VAT allowable on Business Entertaining?

We get asked this question a lot by our clients and the answer unfortunately is NO you can’t claim the VAT on business entertaining as a rule.

However, you can claim the VAT element on entertaining your staff and overseas customers. So, if you had a Christmas party for all staff you could claim the full value of the VAT. If the Christmas party was for staff and their partners then you would have the deduct the VAT proportion of the partners.

If you need advice on which expenses you are allowed to reclaim the VAT on then please just ask by emailing us at calling us on 020 3633 1340 or you can contact us via our website www.cainandbeer.com.

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10 Things Your Bookkeeper Should Do For You

10 Things Your Bookkeeper Should Do for You

1 – Give You Back Your Precious Time  

Do you really want to be spending your evenings and weekends doing your bookkeeping even if you know what you’re doing and unfortunately, a lot of business owners don’t! You probably think that it is best to do everything yourself to keep your costs down but it is best to leave important jobs like your bookkeeping to an expert; the outlay can easily be saved in the long run. A good bookkeeper will save you time; valuable time that can be better spent by you growing your business. Do you really want to be spending your evenings and weekends doing your bookkeeping even if you know what you’re doing and unfortunately, a lot of business owners don’t!

When you start out in business it is easy to get caught up with everything that needs to be done, cleaning your office or workplace, making the tea, organising your staff (if you have any), ordering stationery, buying stamps, collecting work, buying tools and materials, going to the bank and oh yes keeping up to date with your paperwork and updating your books!! Although it saves you money initially, all these things actually stop you from doing what you started out in business in the first place to do and make money.

2 – Save You Money 

If you have been keeping your own records and preparing your books or even if you fall into the trap of putting all your receipts and paperwork into a shoe box or carrier bags for your accountant at the end of the year, then, a bookkeeper can definitely save you money. An accountant’s fees or hourly rates will in most cases be a lot higher than a bookkeeper’s so your bookkeeper could actually save you money in accountant’s fees by preparing the books for your accountant to check so he or she won’t have to do all the legwork. There are also other areas where your bookkeeper could save you money these will be touched on later.

3 – Keep You Up to Date

As the emphasise is moving more towards ‘cloud accounting’ it is now possible to view your accounting position in real time so your bookkeeping should be done for you at least quarterly. Ideally if your bookkeeping is completed weekly you will always be up to date and know exactly where you stand, how much you have in the bank, what transactions are still to go through, how much you owe and to who and also how much you’re owed and by who.

4 – Prepare Regular Financial Reports for You 

If your bookkeeping is prepared for you weekly then at the end of each month your bookkeeper should provide you with some basic monthly reports which at the very least should include a profit & loss, a balance sheet, an aged debtors and an aged creditors list.

5 – Give You Detailed Management Accounts 

A bookkeeper worth his salt should also produce detailed management accounts; these are an extension to the regular monthly reports and provide drilled down information. For example, if you sell products you may need to know your best sellers or which products are the most profitable. You might also like to compare your figures from previous months or years so a report showing you a whole year month by month will be of real value.

These reports are key to helping you make informed financial decisions for your business and they will also show you what your ‘breakeven’ figure is which is basically how much you need to make to cover your overheads.

6 – Explain to You What It All Means 

Each month or at the very least every 3 months you should have a review meeting with your bookkeeper to go through your figures; during this meeting your figures will be explained to you. It is also an opportunity for you to ask questions and receive sound financial advice without having to wait until the end of the year. If you need

7 – File Your Returns Returns On Time 

It is essential that your VAT, PAYE, Corporation Tax, Self-Assessment and Annual Accounts are filed on time and these days HMRC are fining very heavily when you are late. If your bookkeeping is kept up to date, then there should be no reason for your returns to be filed late. Your bookkeeper should produce your VAT return and make you aware of when it should be filed by and how much you are due to pay and by when.

 

8 – Liaise with Your Accountants

At the end of your financial year, your accountant will need to prepare your annual accounts and calculate your Corporation tax payments using the bookkeeping that has been compiled by your bookkeeper. Your accountant will in most cases, need to ask questions or get clarification on certain transactions so your bookkeeper should be available to answer those questions.

 

9 – Deal with HMRC On Your Behalf 

Every now and then you may receive correspondence from HMRC and have a need to communicate with them. Your bookkeeper should be available to liaise with HMRC on your behalf and assist you if there is an inspection. Again, as your bookkeeper has prepared your accounts he or she will be best placed to speak to HMRC as they will have first-hand experience of the records.

 

10 – Assist with Your Cash Flow 

You have probably heard the expression ‘Cash is King’ well the truth is that so many businesses fail due to lack of cash despite being owed a lot of money. A decent cash-flow forecast should be part of your management reports that you receive but if it isn’t your bookkeeper should at the very least, keep you abreast of where you stand.

If you would like further advice about any of the above 10 points then please do not hesitate to contact us either by calling us on 020 3633 1340, emailing or via our website www.cainandbeer.com

 

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Bank charges need not cause you grief

Do sights like this cause you worry? Then read about some of our handy hints below

It is so important to always know where you are with your bank account and keep regular tabs on incomings and outgoings. It is all too easy to bury your head in the sand and leave your bookkeeping to chance but that comes at a premium.

Things can be a lot easier if you use accounting software like Sage; providing you keep it up to date that is; you will know when certain payments are due out of your account.

Have you any idea how much your bank charged you in the last 12 months for going overdrawn without an overdraft or for unpaid transactions and unauthorised overdraft interest? If it is high that should be enough of a wake-up call to ensure you don’t get hit like that again in the next 12 months.

By taking a few simple steps you can drastically reduce your bank charges: –

  • Write a list of all your regular payments in date order on a spreadsheet showing payees and amounts payable. If the amount varies each month then make an educated guess based on previous months.
  • Add this list to your calendar as events, showing payee and amount for each direct debit and set a reminder for a few days before to check your bank account.
  • Do just that! Check your bank account to see if there will be enough cleared funds.
  • If there is enough money, great do nothing! If there isn’t, you need to take action right NOW! You either have to cancel the payment or pay money into your account.

This may cause a bit of inconvenience to cancel payments but generally your payees will understand especially if they only have to wait a few days to be paid. It could improve your relationship with your bank and possibly have a positive bearing on your credit rating.

To find out more about our bookkeeping services, workshops and training, please call Cain & Beer on , or email us at

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