Robert Stone s. Small Business Guide. Robert Stone BA FCA

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1 Robert Stone s Small Business Guide Robert Stone BA FCA Robert Stone & Co Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers Old Magistrates Court East Street Ilminster TA19 0AJ Tel

2 About Robert Stone & Co We re here to help you and your business succeed Robert Stone & Co was formed in 1993 by Somerset chartered accountant Robert Stone, BA FCA, based in offices in Barrington In 2009, due to the growth of his increasingly successful small firm, Robert Stone bought the Old Magistrates Court in East Street, Ilminster. The dilapidated Victorian building - formerly the town s police station, complete with cells - was duly renovated and in 2010 the firm moved in. Robert Stone s aim has always been to provide small to medium size businesses and taxpayers with outstanding general accountancy and taxation services, including personal advice and support. His team includes a Chartered Accountant, a Chartered Certified Accountant and a Tax Technician. For more specialist areas, the firm calls on the expertise of consultants and will work closely with clients financial advisors and solicitors to provide a comprehensive service. Robert Stone & Co takes pride in its quality of work, its professionalism and its excellent understanding of small businesses. We enjoy helping solve clients problems and will actively get involved in growing their businesses through advice and planning. For Robert Stone, Ilminster couldn t provide a better base from which to work. An active community, as well as a thriving centre of commerce, this historic market town reflects the ideals and goals that set Robert Stone & Co apart from other chartered accountants. Robert Stone Robert's career path started in the City of London, where he trained, worked and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in From an early stage, he knew he wanted to work with small businesses and so he moved first to Kent and then to Somerset in 1983, working with practices of various sizes. In 1993 Robert achieved his goal of starting his own firm, specialising in small and medium local business and tax clients. His extensive experience is now widely recognised, resulting in a high level of demand for his services, as well as those of his dedicated team. "I enjoy the challenge of helping clients to resolve all sorts of problems and I like to take an individual, hands-on approach with accounts. Increasingly, I find myself becoming involved in wider aspects of business and tax advice and planning for clients at all stages of their lives." May 2012

3 Robert Stone s Small Business Guide Contents Page 1. Why Start a Business? Personality Skills Top ten traits of successful entrepreneurs Common problems for business failure How to be a success Finding the right product Following the formula for success 2. Creating a Business Choosing your business structure Sole Trader Partnership Limited Liability Partnership Limited Company Franchises The right premises Welcoming customers Employing staff Attitude Minimising Risk Insurance Health & Safety 3. Accounts, Tax and National Insurance Keeping records Your accounting system Computerised accounts packages Understanding and managing information Tax and VAT The self employed self assessment system Tax evasion v tax avoidance - why the taxman isn t always right Do your tax planning in advance An overview of the taxes Income Tax Corporation Tax Capital Gains Tax Value added tax (VAT) National Insurance

4 Wages - operating PAYE Making sure you get paid Proven procedures for ensuring prompt payment 4. Finance How to raise finance How to get your bank to say yes Establishing a good relationship with your bank Different types of finance Bank loans Mortgages Enterprise finance guarantee Factoring Invoice discounting Hire purchase and leasing Leasing Trade credit Equity finance Venture capital Business angels Grants Finance sources for small business 5. Sales and Marketing Creating a successful marketing campaign The four Ps of marketing Customer dedication Adding value The two ways to increase profits The power of leveraging Preparing for business Your target market Unique selling proposition Guarantee it with risk reversal Testimonials and case studies Your pricing strategy Marketing material Customer satisfaction is of no use Your business name Geographic location Business image Creating a website Your logo Strapline Stationery Vehicles Opening hours Speed of service What are the competition doing? Direct marketing

5 Internet marketing SMS marketing Public Relations AICDA Your reselling system 6. Further Support and Useful Sources Accountants Solicitors Insurance Advisors Banks Commercial Estate Agents/Surveyors Useful Sources

6 Robert Stone's Small Business Guide Part One Why Start a Business? WELCOME to Robert Stone's Small Business Guide. This guide is designed to highlight the challenges you will face as a small business, to point you in the right direction and to offer you encouragement with your enterprise. Lots of people dream of having their own small business. Why work for someone else when you can be your own boss? But not everyone has what it takes to run their own business. Before you get started, take the time to analyse your personality and your skills. Ask yourself the following questions and be as honest as you can when making your answers: Personality Are you motivated and focused? Do you have the capacity to work hard? Are you self disciplined and organised? Are you able to accept criticism? Can you cope with financial insecurity? Do you have the support of family and friends? Are you confident about your product or service? Skills Personality alone is not enough to run a business. You will also need a multitude of skills to help you succeed and must have the ability to learn quickly and adapt to changes. If you are lacking skills in certain areas, you can always learn them or pay someone to do it for you. But it is better to be aware of your shortcomings from the outset. Here are the core skills that you will need: Finance Have you ever kept accounts? Do you understand cash-flow? Do you have a business bank account? Sales and marketing Can you sell your product? Do you know your target market? Do you understand the different types of marketing? Legal What is your knowledge of trading laws? 1

7 What business insurance will you require? Have you thought about indemnity or public liability? Business planning Can you think strategically? Do you have a business plan? What are your goals? Communication Can you communicate effectively both verbally and in writing? Are you good at meeting people? Can you put your message across clearly? People management and HR Are you a leader who can motivate a team? Are you familiar with employment laws and regulations? Time Management Can you prioritise tasks? Can you juggle several demands at the same time? Are you used to meeting deadlines? Top Ten Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs 1. They work hard (and play hard) 2. They are always curious and eager to learn 3. They network 4. They continually work on themselves and learn from their mistakes 5. They are highly creative and are not afraid to try new ideas 6. They are self reliant and take responsibility 7. They are good at keeping things in perspective and staying relaxed - even in a crisis 8. They live in the present moment, never seem rushed and achieve a lot in their day 9. They have vision - they observe trends, notice changes and always keep one eye on the future 10. They respond instantly and quickly, whether it is to new technology or when they see an opportunity Common problems for business failure The statistics are tough - by the end of the first year, 40% of new businesses will have failed. Within three years 56% will have failed and within five years 76% will have failed. Here are a few of the common causes for business failure: No clear business plan Inability to delegate Lack of market research Not identifying who the customers are Poor cash-flow No system for projecting income and expenditure Lack of organisation 2

8 How to be a success - some inspirational examples Henry Ford wasn't an instant success - his early businesses failed and left him broke five times before he founded the Ford Motor Company. Domino's Pizza took an old idea of home delivery and applied it to pizzas by offering free pizza delivery. At the age of 59, Ray Kroc, a milk shake mixer salesman took over McDonalds from the McDonald brothers and turned it into the most successful fast food operation in the world. Sir Richard Branson, whose name is synonymous with the Virgin brand, is now worth over three billion. His first business ventures - Christmas trees and breeding budgerigars - both failed, but after opening a record shop in London he bought the Virgin label, which became a huge success. He has an ability to pinpoint lucrative business ventures: Virgin Rail, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile etc and has a high personal profile. James Dyson is an unlikely billionaire who has made his money inventing vacuum cleaners. His simple idea of a cyclone vacuum has made him into a household name. In his early inventing days, it was his wife who supported him. Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, started her business for skin products in her garage after developing ideas while travelling. Finding the right product No business is going to succeed without a good idea, product or service to start with. A bad product cannot be turned into a fantastic business success, unless the product is changed. So make sure that your business idea is viable. Not only must your product be good, you must also have researched that there is demand for it or a potential demand. If you have hit upon a potentially viable idea, make sure that it is something you are passionate about - a half-hearted interest will get you nowhere. But perhaps you have the skills and motivation, but not a product? If so, here are some suggestions to help you source a business idea. Depending on what you do, your current job could potentially be turned into a business. Is there a market for your skills and insider knowledge? Turn your hobby into a business. Does something that you make have retail potential? Could you provide training for other people who are interested in your hobby? If you have desire and knowledge, turning your hobby into a business can be far easier than starting from scratch. Look for obvious gaps in different business sectors or industries. Keep your eyes and your mind open to all possibilities. Have you come across a business that is closing down that you think you could make work? Very few business ideas are original. Study successful businesses and see if you could do something similar or better, without infringing copyright. Read newspapers and magazines, and look constantly for opportunities while out and about, asking yourself if an idea could be turned into a business. Trade shows and exhibitions are another source for ideas. If you are a creative person, perhaps you could come up with a new product or a new way of producing something. 3

9 Follow the formula for success Believe you can Create the right environment at home and at work Enjoy yourself Keep an open mind and keep learning Plan ahead Stick with it - see the job through to the end Be willing to take risks Take responsibility for your actions Manage your time effectively Prioritise your workload - write a priority action list at the END of each day Delegate unnecessary jobs wherever possible Learn to say NO Don't do everything to perfection - being 100% perfect takes twice as long as 90% perfection, which is often good enough 4

10 Part Two Creating a Business Choosing Your Business Structure Now you've found your business idea and have decided that you can make a go of it, no doubt you are raring to get started. But first you must decide what legal structure you will trade under. There are different advantages and disadvantages to each type. Sole Trader This is the simplest and most popular way for a small business owner to start up. There is no formal registration process, except to advise HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that you are self employed. You can trade in your own name and will be taxed via the Self Assessment system - tax and National Insurance will need to be paid twice a year in January and July, based on your profits. You also be liable to pay Class 2 National Insurance of 2.65 a week. You can employ people including your spouse and even children for work done by them for the business. Advantages: Simple book-keeping - just keep a profit and loss and balance sheet. Easy and quick to set up. You get to keep all the profit after tax. Disadvantages: You are personally liable for all the debts incurred. Your personal assets are at risk and can be seized by creditors. Partnership This is the next most popular way of running a small business and involves two or more people (maximum 20) carrying on business together with a view to making profit. The partnership can operate under a trading name, but the names of all the partners must be shown on all correspondence. There is no formal registration process, but partners should inform the HMRC that they are self employed. It is advisable to have a written partnership agreement, setting out the terms of the partnership to avoid disputes later on. Your accountant can help you draw this up. Advantages: Quick and relatively easy to start. Responsibility for business debts is shared with other partners. Disadvantages: Each partner is personally liable for up to 100% of the partnership debts. Your personal assets are at risk and can be seized by creditors. If your partner cannot meet their liability, you can be sued for the whole amount of the partnership, even if you only have 50% of the business. 5

11 Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) An LLP is treated like a normal partnership for tax purposes, but has the added benefit of Limited Liability protection. It is viewed as a separate corporate body and is set up through registration at Companies House. As with Limited Companies, there is public availability of accounts. Floating charges can be granted over its assets in its own name, which normal partnerships can't do. Advantages: The partners all agree a figure for which each individual partner will be liable. Personal assets are protected. Each partner is assessed individually for tax. Disadvantages: There is a lot of paperwork involved in the setting up. Limited Company A Limited Company is usually established by businesses with a track record and it is set up through registration at Companies House. A Limited Company may appear more credible and substantial than it really is. It is a separate legal entity in its own right - the business is owned by the limited company and not you. You are the shareholder who owns the business, as well as the director, who manages and runs the business and is technically is an employee of the company. Advantages: A shareholder's liability is limited to the extent of the money put in. A Limited Company has better borrowing potential. You can have different classes of shares with different rights. You only pay corporation tax at 20%. Disadvantages: Annual accounts must be filed at Companies House and are available for public inspection. Directors are personally subject to regulations and can be fined or found guilty of a criminal offence for failing to comply. A Limited Company is more complicated and costly to set up or wind up. It also costs more to run. Missed annual returns can lead to fines. Franchise Another type of business structure to consider is a franchise. This is where you own the business (the franchisee), but the name of the business is dictated by another business (the franchisor). Franchises are normally run to a particular format, with the advantage of using proven systems, support and training. Advantages: It is in the interest of the franchisor for you to be successful. 6

12 Disadvantages: You pay the franchisor for all his help, normally an upfront initial payment and ongoing payment, typically a percentage of the sales. It is your responsibility to thoroughly check the credentials of the franchisor. Visit the British Franchise Association web site: and check to see whether the franchisor is a member. The right premises Do not underestimate how important it is to find the right premises for your business, whether it's an office, industrial unit or a retail outlet. They will reflect the image you wish to portray and will influence clients and especially potential clients. You need to strike a happy medium. Too luxurious will give the impression that that your services/products are expensive and possibly unaffordable, plus your clients will think they are helping fund your posh premises and will resent you. Too modest and you will fail to inspire confidence. Where? Geographical location is crucial. Before you start searching, decide which areas you want to be in and when you find somewhere suitable, ask yourself how good are the communications? What is the parking like? Are there good link roads close by? Commercial premises are not as easy to find as residential. Look for estate agents who specialise in commercial property, call your local authority, look in your local newspaper's property section and drive around the area checking out properties to let. Do you want to be in an industrial or retail area? Business Park or High Street - which is the best choice? Buy or lease? The best option when starting up a business is to lease a property. This way you don't tie up crucial capital or if you grow very quickly you can relocate easily. Another alternative is to use serviced offices, which are a flexible way of taking premises without any long term commitment - they can be rented for a month at a time - and offer useful extras such as a reception, furniture, phone lines etc. Always get a solicitor with commercial experience to look at the lease. You must also consider points such as: Length of the lease Rent level and rent reviews Who is responsible for decoration and repairs Are there any restrictions on the use of the property What are the rates? Who pays the legal fees in connection with the leases? Keeping up appearances Keep your premises tidy both inside and out. An untidy office creates the impression of a disorganised business. Think about the decor - framed posters, photographs and press cuttings about your business make inexpensive focal points of interest in a room. 7

13 Working from home Not all businesses require special premises. Working from home is a simple and inexpensive way of establishing a work base. Many self employed people work from home, which is a cost saving and convenient solution. Check whether you need to notify your house insurers or your mortgage company, as it can change the risk. But this should not be a major obstacle. There are also plenty of companies who supply garden offices and workshops, or you could just use your garage. Again you will need to check on the insurance. Welcoming customers How good is your hospitality? Do you offer customers food and drink? A bowl of sweets in reception or a mug of coffee while the customer is waiting at the garage can make all the difference to a customer's experience. Why not introduce the WOW factor and provide a menu of drinks available. Check that your signs make customers feel welcome. Avoid negative signs such as: Don t Park Here or No Refunds and use positive signs like: Thank You For Your Business, Valued Customers are Welcome to Park Here and use Welcome instead of Open on your door. Personal Appearances - Dress Code How you and your staff dress will affect how you are perceived. Dress as appropriate for your business. Have you ever noticed how the Labour front bench are often dressed in blue suits and red ties? It s no coincidence that studies have shown these colours to represent authority and passion. Employing staff When your business is a success and you need an extra pair of hands, it's time to take on your first employee. This means a whole new list of obligations and legalities. Most importantly, you have to make sure you have the money to pay the wages - even before your customers pay you. First of all, you will need to operate a PAYE (pay as you earn) scheme to deal with the tax and national insurance on their wages, as well as pension contributions. With national insurance, not only will the employee have NI deducted from their pay packet, you will also have employers NI to pay. Other considerations include: adhering to the minimum wage legislation and working time regulations (which control how many hours an employee can work), redundancy pay, a written statement of the terms and conditions of employment, itemised pay statements, fair dismissal, statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay. Hiring the right people is one of the most important and challenging tasks you will face as you grow your business. Advertising a position and interviewing applicants is a time consuming process and it is crucial not to rush it. By taking the time to identify the right person, you minimise the risk of hiring the wrong person. Don't forget to ask for references and to take them up. Staff motivation is also something you should pay attention to. Create an environment in which employees want to follow the rules and are motivated to achieve their full potential - they will work harder for you. Remember, staff motivation is key. Attitude A positive, can do attitude and enthusiasm can do wonders for your business. It s 8

14 catching and will come across to your staff and prospects. Encourage your staff to have a similar outlook and to follow the following tips: Smile, both when you meet people and when on the phone. It makes people feel good and breaks down barriers. If you smile, they ll smile back at you. You need to develop a giving attitude. The more you give, the more will come back your way. Everything you do is customer focused. See the good in things and the opportunities when there s an obstacle. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Encourage others, forgive others and never let a negative experience effect you for more than five minutes. Always have something nice and humorous to say. Minimising Risk Your business is always at risk from various angles. You need to try to minimise risks by having procedures and crisis plans in place to deal with them. Here are a few of the most important risk aspects to consider: Reliance on key staff. Reliance on key customers. Reliance on key suppliers. Is there a partnership or shareholders agreement in place? Is there an IT strategy and does it cater for IT developments, viruses, system failures, back up procedures and Data Protection Registration? Is there insurance cover for an IT disaster? Do stock levels cater for peaks and troughs in demand? Insurance In addition to insuring your business premises - whether they are within your home or rented space, you will need to take out business liability insurance. Every business is unique and your insurance requirements will depend on the type of business that you are running. But the most important ones to consider are: public liability (if you have to make visits to a client's home or premises it covers you against injury or damage on that visit) professional indemnity (insures you against mistakes made from advice given to clients) employer's liability insurance (this is a legal requirement to cover the health and safety of your employees) product liability insurance (covering you against a customer being injured or suffering property damage due to goods sold to them by you) business interruption insurance (which offers a safety net against a claim that stops you from working), health insurance (in case you are ill or injured and unable to work) and tax/vat investigation insurance. also check whether your major business assets and your stock are insured. Health and Safety Being self-employed you have legal responsibilities for complying with health and safety legislation. This will benefit you in the long run, because it will help you avoid 9

15 staff illness and accidents, and the costs associated with them. If you have five or more employees you must have and display a written health and safety policy. Under current legislation there are inspectors who can arrive unannounced at your premises to ensure your compliance with the law. Remember, better health and safety standards can lower your insurance premiums. You should be considering the following areas: Display screen equipment such as computer screens - employers must pay for staff to have regular eye tests. Electricity at work Fire precautions First aid Health surveillance Manual handling Noise levels at work Personal protective equipment Recording and reporting of accidents, injuries and illnesses at work Safety signs. Work equipment. Work places such as rest rooms, canteens, toilets, etc. Waste products Young persons. Data Protection - you will need to register for Data Protection if you hold data on personal individuals. You can register online and find out more information from the Information Commissioner's Office at 10

16 Part Three Accounts, Tax and National Insurance Keeping records It may sound obvious, but the importance of keeping good, up-to-date financial business records should be one of your main priorities. Many small business owners lack an understanding of how to manage the money in their business. The books can seem like a chore to do when you get a spare few minutes and you possibly have no understanding of the accounts that are produced for your business. If you can t measure it, you can t control it. This is why you need a system to deliver the figures you need to control your business. By law, you must keep records to allow you to correctly complete your tax return and should retain your accounting records for five years and ten months after the end of the tax year If you don't keep records, how can you show what you've earned and if HMRC come calling and decide to investigate you - every record becomes vital evidence. For the self employed this includes keeping a record of: All amounts received and spent in the business with a description of each. Where the business involves trading in goods, all sales and purchases of goods in the trade. While not legally required, it makes it easier to keep track if you have a separate business bank account. Your accounting system Exactly what you need in your accounting system should be discussed with your accountant and the exact bookkeeping system will depend on the type of business. You can use a hand written accounts book, spreadsheets, or a software package, but as a minimum it would normally include: A Cash Book. A Petty Cash Book. The receipts and payments should be analysed and many stationers will stock these books. Make sure you keep all your records, right throughout the year and update them regularly, rather than letting paperwork pile up. The penalties for incorrect records should be viewed as good motivation for maintaining a proper bookkeeping system. For small businesses, analysing receipts is normally easy, often having one column for sales and another column for any other receipts (such as money introduced by you, or interest received). There are more different types of expenses and you will need different columns for different types such as goods for resale, purchase of assets, personal drawings and overheads. The overheads will normally require analysis in different columns (e.g. motor expenses, rent, telephone, stationery). 11

17 More complex businesses may also require the following: Sales Day Book to record details of sales invoices raised when selling on credit. Sales Ledger to keep track of what each customer owes you. Purchase Day Book to record details of purchase invoices received when purchasing on credit. Purchase ledger to keep track of what you owe to suppliers. Wages Book showing gross pay and tax and national insurance deductions for employees. Stock records, especially an end of year stock take. Nominal Ledger the hub of a double entry bookkeeping system that brings together all of the accounting records and from which a profit and loss account and balance sheet can be produced. As well as the records, you need to keep your cheque stubs, paying in books, bank statements, invoices and VAT returns. You need to ask yourself the following questions about your accounting system: Does the system produce reliable information? What do you like and dislike about the system? Is the information produced helpful in managing the business? What other information would you like that you don t get at present? Do you use the principle of segregation of duties throughout the financial system to reduce the risks of fraud? For example, is the person who signs for deliveries or approves purchase invoices different to the person who writes out the cheques? Of course, if you re the owner doing both, that s OK. Are the accounting records kept up to date? Computerised Accounts Packages There are many products on the market suitable for small businesses. The more transactions you have, the more use a computerised system will be. An accountant will then be able to offer more business advice. However remember that Garbage In = Garbage Out. Among the front runners are: Sage TAS Books Quick Books Recent developments in online accounting packages have made computerised accounting simple and very accessible. You will also need to consider: Do you and any staff who use it know how to operate it? Is a hard copy kept of the audit trail in case of back up problems? Are there passwords or security procedures needed to access the package? Are proper back up procedures in place? What if it goes wrong? Are there any back-up plans? Online packages are also now available. 12

18 Understanding and Managing Information To manage a business properly, it is vital to have to hand information such as the amounts paid to suppliers for goods and services received, as well as the value of invoices received, but not yet paid, as well as money expected to be received and the amount of cash in the bank. You will need to know your key performance indicators, which are the pieces of information that are key to understanding how the business is performing. The key indicators will vary between businesses and can include: Gross Profit by product Profit and Loss Account Key Financial Ratios Current Ratio Acid Test Ratio Gearing Assets to Sales Debtor Days Creditor Days Net Profit % Return on capital % Return on assets % Operating Profit Your accounting systems can monitor more than just your money and these may well be part of your key performance indicators. You can also check on things like the number of customer complaints received, orders delivered on time, conversion of sales leads to customers, quality control rejections, staff turnover and break-even point (at what level of sales do you break-even and how does this work out on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. You should build into this the level of profit you need to live). Tax and VAT The Self Employed Self Assessment System When you become self employed and start a business, you become eligible to pay income tax under the self-assessment system. To join the system you need to notify HMRC that you have become self-employed. You should complete a CWF1 form, which provides all the information the Revenue need. You must register within three months of the last day of the month in which you started or there is a penalty of 100 to pay. This form also deals with the setting up of payment of Class 2 National Insurance of 2.65 per week. The tax year runs from 6th April until 5th April and you need to submit a tax return by the following 31st January with details of your income. You must do this even if HMRC do not send you a tax return. However, HMRC should either send you a tax return in the post each year, or remind you that you need to fill one out, giving you plenty of time to complete it. You can complete it and send it back in September by 13

19 post, or file it online by 31st January the following year. Accounts don t have to follow the tax year and your accounts can be made up to any date in the year. Accounts to 31st March are treated as if they went to 5th April for tax purposes. In the first year, the profits from when you started to 5th April are used as the basis of the tax assessment. To be allowable for tax, the expenses of a self-employed person have to be incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business. A claim can be made for use of home expenses if you work from home. Travel from home to work is not an allowable expense for tax purposes and neither is UK entertainment expenditure. On 31st January following the tax year you pay the balance of tax owing for the previous tax year. At the same time, you also make a payment on account for the next year. A second payment on account is paid on 31st July. The payments on account are calculated by reference to the actual tax paid for the previous tax year, although if you think the present year's tax liability will be less than the previous tax year, you can apply to have the payments on account reduced. Interest would be due if you make an under-estimate. The onus is on you to pay your tax when it becomes due. For failing to deliver a tax return on time there are penalties, starting with a 100 fine, but the penalties can increase substantially if you continue to not submit your tax return. In addition, interest is charged on late payment of tax and there are also surcharges for late payment on top. If tax is paid more than 28 days late, the surcharge is 5% of the tax due and if more than six months late, the surcharge increases to 10% of the tax due. Tax Evasion v Tax Avoidance - Why The Taxman Isn t Always Right In very simple terms, tax avoidance is legal, but tax evasion is illegal and you risk prosecution for breaking the law. However, in some sophisticated cases the Taxman has been trying to blur the boundaries and claim some forms of tax avoidance are illegal. A few examples will show the difference: The most common example of Tax Evasion among small businesses is making cash sales and not putting this money into your bank account or recording it in your accounting records, so the tax man will never know about it, or so you think! A slightly more thought out example, may be making up some forged purchase invoices. You write out the cheques to pay them with the name of the fictitious supplier on the cheque stub but it s actually made payable to you and goes into a secret offshore account. Again, this is tax evasion and is illegal. Choosing to run your business as a Limited Company rather than as a sole trader in order to benefit from lower rates of tax paid by Limited Companies is an example of tax avoidance and is legal. But it s not always black and white, there are grey areas. This may be because the law itself is in question or the facts of your particular case are in question. It often arises that HMRC may interpret 14

20 something in one way, surprisingly to their advantage, but the accountant and the taxpayer may interpret it differently. Please remember that HMRC do not make the law of the land and they often get it wrong. Be prepared to stand up for your rights if necessary and don t be bullied by them. You should fight HMRC on technical grounds, but you need to be very sure of your facts and the law. If you can t come to an agreement with HMRC, the matter normally ends up before the Tax Tribunal who are an informal independent tax court to decide the matter. HMRC know it costs you money in accountants fees to argue with them and you may back down as the tax saved is not worth it after paying your accountant. It makes sense to ask your accountant if you can insure for this type of cost most qualified accountants can provide this for you. This report will point out any grey areas and the risks, so that you are fully informed. Taking a small, calculated risk can be a legitimate business decision. Do Your Tax Planning In Advance Tax planning needs to be in advance, not after the year-end. Many small businesses will meet their accountant after the year-end to go through their accounts that s no good at all. Perhaps after the year-end your accountant suggests putting some wife s wages through the accounts to keep the tax bill down - this can really harm your financial health and you ll find out why in this report. Get it right at the beginning and you can do it. If not face the consequences. Pre year-end tax planning can be useful but you can t beat doing most of the planning before the year even starts. The sooner you act, the sooner you ll save the tax. An Overview Of The Taxes The tax year runs from 6th April to the following 5th April. Don t ask why, it just does. All tax rates and allowances are based on the 2012/13 tax year. Income Tax (IT) Every individual person, including children pay tax at the following rates: The first 8,105 this is tax free and is known as your personal allowance. It is reduced for those earning over 100,000 by 1 for every 2 of gross income above this limit. The next 34,370 taxed at 20% (taxpayers with primarily a small amount of savings income only, up to 2,710, will pay 10%) From 34,370 to 150,000 taxed at 40% (higher rate) Everything above that (meaning over 150,000) - taxed at 50% (additional rate). The main types of income most relevant to small business owners are the profit you make as a sole trader, or your share of the profits you make as a partner in the business. It helps to explain what this is: 15

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