Category Archives: In the News

Coronavirus or COVID-19 – now one of the biggest economic emergencies of modern times – continues to take its toll on the world as the UK adapts to a new normality in order to ‘flatten the curve’. With stricter measures enforced by the day so as to halt the trajectory of the virus, the impact of social distancing, self-isolation and a nationwide lockdown has shaken the economy to its core, with many businesses forced to cease trade within the past week alone. Yet while the future has never felt more uncertain, help has been made available for both businesses and the self-employed to hold fast these next few months – increasing the chances of recovery once the very worst is over.

“We are working round the clock to do whatever it takes to protect our people and businesses” – Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer

 

Available as of this week (March 23rd), the following government-backed proposals will offer ‘temporary, timely and targeted’ support to SMEs throughout the Coronavirus crisis.

Available as of this week (March 23rd), the following government-backed proposals will offer ‘temporary, timely and targeted’ support to SMEs throughout the Coronavirus crisis. While we have outlined the next steps for each different element of support, please remember we are working very hard to support all of our clients and we welcome calls or emails if you have a query. If you don’t have a business adviser or accountant, we are also happy to take on new clients at this challenging time.

 

Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme

The government-owned British Business Bank’s Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme is now accepting UK-based applicants with a turnover of no more than £45m. Designed to support firms with access to finance worth up to £5m (for up to 6 years), the government will also make a Business Interruption Payment for the first year so as to cover upfront costs; in addition, it will further encourage lenders to support SMEs with a guarantee of 80% per loan, pre-lender cap-dependent.

Next steps: Click here to view the full list of certified finance providers (including all major banks) to discuss your business plan.

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

In a bid to support UK businesses in avoiding the ‘unnecessary’ route of redundancies, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will enable HMRC to reimburse up to 80% of an employee’s wage (with a cap of £2,500 per person, per month) when declared a ‘furloughed worker’. A furloughed worker is classed as one who has been asked to stop work (not made redundant) because their employer cannot cover costs due to coronavirus, and they must not undertake any work while furloughed. The employer may choose to pay the remaining 20% of the worker’s wages.

Next steps: Employers wishing to access the scheme must contact HMRC with a designated list of furloughed workers via an online portal (soon to be confirmed). Workers affected by this action must also be notified as to their change in employment status.

All UK businesses will see VAT payments automatically deferred for 3 months under this new measure, with self-employed workers also benefiting from postponed Income Tax Payments

 

VAT and Income Tax Deferral

All UK businesses will see VAT payments automatically deferred for 3 months under this new measure, with self-employed workers also benefiting from postponed Income Tax Payments via the Self Assessment System – now due January 2021 instead of July 2020. While VAT refunds and reclaims will be issued as normal, businesses will have until the end of the 2020/2021 tax year to settle accumulated liabilities.

Next steps: This is an automatic measure, but businesses will need to cancel their direct debit in sufficient time for HMRC to process this change. For self-employed individuals facing financial difficulties, the Time to Pay offer can also support in overcoming any tax liabilities.

 

Business Rates Holiday (Retail, Hospitality, Leisure and Nursery)

Retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses including shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas, live music venues, hotels, guest and boarding premises, self-catered accommodation, places of leisure and assembly, and nurseries based in England will receive a business rates holiday for the 2020/2021 tax year.

Next steps: SMEs can use this business rates calculator to estimate the saving, which will automatically apply to the April 2020 council tax bill. For nursery eligibility, businesses must be occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register, for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

 

Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme

Businesses based in England in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – with properties of a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000 – will be eligible for a cash grant of £25,000 under this scheme. For smaller businesses within these sectors, those with a rateable value of £15,000 and under will also be eligible for a £10,000 grant.

Next steps: Any business eligible for the above grant(s) will be contacted automatically by their local authority. Queries regarding the grant should be passed on to your local authority.

 

Small Business Grant Scheme

For those SMEs paying reduced business rates (or none at all) due to small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) or tapered relief, the Small Business Grant Scheme will provide one-off payments of £10,000 to cover everyday business costs.

Next steps: If eligible, small businesses will be automatically contacted by their local authority regarding this grant. It’s worth noting that this is only available to businesses occupying a property.

 

HMRC ‘Time to Pay’ Scheme

For businesses and self-employed workers paying tax to the UK government, the Time to Pay service supports those in ‘financial distress’ as a result of outstanding tax liabilities. These will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and are dependent on the claimant’s unique circumstances/liabilities.

Next steps: For businesses concerned about missing their tax payment due to the COVID-19 outbreak, HMRC can be reached on this dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.

 

Finally – as previously highlighted in our Budget 2020 articleStatutory Sick Pay (SSP) can now be reclaimed by SMEs in support of absent employees (whether self-isolating or hospitalised) as a result of COVID-19 for up to two weeks. Under the new criteria, those with a workforce of 250 employees or less (as of February 28th 2020) will be eligible, with the government working to launch a repayment mechanism in the coming months. Should evidence be required to cover those employees claiming SSP with physical symptoms, an isolation note can be obtained from the NHS website. For self-isolating employees living with an individual with symptoms, this can be attained via NHS 111 online.

Adams Moore continues to provide support for SMEs through this unprecedented time, and at present remain business as usual. For further guidance regarding the above measures or any future services required, please don’t hesitate to contact the team.

 

We understand the current situation is likely to be both challenging and stressful for many of our clients, but we want to reassure you that it is business as usual at Adams Moore and our offices remain open. Please do not hesitate to contact us via the usual methods if you have any queries, but we are advising people to keep themselves updated on the latest information and business advice to inform their response to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We’ve put together some links you can follow to obtain the latest information, advice and guidance quickly and easily.

UK Circumstances

Find out the number of cases and risk level in the UK, what to do if you’re a returning traveller, and what the Government is doing about the virus.

Click here for more information

Guidance for Employers and Businesses

This guidance will assist employers and businesses in providing advice to staff on:

  • the novel coronavirus, COVID-19;
  • how to help prevent spread of all respiratory infections including COVID-19;
  • what to do if someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in a workplace setting;
  • what advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas;
  • actions to take if staff come into contact with someone who is self-isolating or is a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Click here for more information

ACAS Advice for Employers and Employees

Click here for more information

Support for Those Affected by COVID-19

  • The Budget has announced a plan to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses affected by Covid-19.
  • The Chancellor has set out a £12 billion package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
  • This publication gives further detail on the measures announced by the Chancellor including additional funding, Statutory Sick Pay changes, and an increase in the Business Rates retail discount for one year.

Click here for more information

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This will temporarily replace the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG); becoming available over the coming days. See the latest updates on the British Business Bank website.

Click here for more information

Other Finance Options

A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest. Businesses can also access a range of finance through the Government-owned British Business Bank, visit the Bank’s Finance Hub.

Click here for further information

HMRC Covid-19 Helpline

Call 0800 0159 559

To support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to Coronavirus, call the above helpline.

 

It’s that time of year again where company owners up and down the nation wait with baited breath to hear what the annual Budget has in store and how, most crucially, it will impact their business. As Rishi Sunak’s first Budget in a post-Brexit landscape – paired with the yet-unknown impact of Coronavirus on the economy – this year’s proposals are under more scrutiny than ever if the Chancellor wishes to ‘unleash the country’s potential’ as previously promised. Here, we explore the top five reforms concerning SMEs and how the Budget 2020 looks set to shape the future of UK businesses.

Here, we explore the top five reforms concerning SMEs and how the Budget 2020 looks set to shape the future of UK businesses.

1. COVID-19: protective measures for small businesses

 To ensure the impact of coronavirus on the UK economy remains temporary, the Chancellor has announced a number of measures to help stabilise both small businesses and the self-employed community:

> Statutory Sick Pay refund – for businesses of 250 employees or less, Statutory Sick Pay will be paid to any worker absent through self-isolation (as advised by a health professional), and refunded by the Government for up to a 14-day period – whether testing positive for the virus or not.

> Employment and Support Allowance – to support those with a disability, health condition, or self-employed individuals without access to sick pay, the contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be claimed from day one – as opposed to day eight – meaning faster access to funds.

> Business rates abolished – from independent cinemas to local restaurants, the Chancellor has announced that business rates are to be abolished altogether this fiscal year in support of businesses with a rateable value of £51K or less. Those eligible for small business rate relief will also receive a £3K cash boost.

> Funding scheme for SMEs – with the Bank of England slashing interest rates by 0.5% in an emergency move, a term funding scheme will also be introduced for SMEs. This will encourage lenders to offer cheaper loans during the economic crisis, in turn supporting the cashflow of smaller businesses in need.

Key takeoutBusinesses should encourage employees to self-isolate if symptoms should arise so as to protect the wider workforce, safe in the knowledge that both parties are protected by Statutory Sick Pay.

 

2. ‘Access to cash’ made simple

 While we may live in a largely contactless society – with many SMEs adopting the latest innovations to go cashless altogether – not all businesses are following suit, with some remaining reliant on the handling of cash where day-to-day transactions are concerned. For smaller businesses operating in local communities, the Chancellor’s plans to protect and promote the usage of cash will help them stay afloat, enabling those customers wishing to pay with cash to continue doing so. Soon to commence talks with the Bank of England, the Payment Systems Regulator, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Treasury’s plans to safeguard the nation’s access to cash include support for banks suffering branch and cash machine closures, as well as the creation of a new system to move money around the UK so as to make cash accessible for all.

Key takeout – Cash-reliant businesses looking to adopt alternative payment methods should review their long-term strategies, based on new legislation designed to make access to cash easier for all.

 

Cash-reliant businesses looking to adopt alternative payment methods should review their long-term strategies, based on new legislation designed to make access to cash easier for all.

 

3. A ‘light-touch’ approach to IR35

 As one of the more controversial policy shake-ups to take place this year, the IR35 tax reform will be actioned from 6th of April – despite calls from the self-employed community for it to be reversed. Introduced to the public sector in 2019, IR35 will now extend to the private sector – meaning self-employed freelancers and contractors will be required to pay the same level of tax as a permanent member of staff. While Sunak chose to omit any mention of IR35 in his Budget speech, the legislation will involve a light-touch approach during its initial roll-out; customers incurring off-payroll penalties within the first year will be let off, for example. Designed to crack down on those contractors operating under a limited company for tax benefits, IR35 enforcement will be for the company in question to decide regarding who falls under its umbrella.

Key takeoutSelf-employed workers affected by the IR35 reform will be granted more time to adjust to this financial change, and so are advised to plan accordingly for its potential impact.

 

4. The National Insurance tax cut

Standing by its manifesto to ensure hardworking people pocket more of what they earn (with the first £12,500 earned remaining tax-free), the Government will increase the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 this financial year. Affecting 31 million taxpayers nationwide, this will mean a saving of £104 for the average UK employee, while the self-employed worker will receive a tax cut to the chime of £78. As an increase of 10% where NICs payment is concerned – for both employed and self-employed workers – upper NICs thresholds will continue to freeze at £50,000, while other thresholds will rise with inflation. In addition, the National Living wage will be increased to over £10.50 an hour.

Key takeout Payroll departments should prioritise updating their employees’ salary status, in line with the latest changes.

 

Despite rumours it may be scrapped in Sunak’s maiden Budget, Entrepreneurs’ Relief will instead be scaled back to a lifetime allowance of £1m.

 

5. Entrepreneurs’ Relief under reform

Despite rumours it may be scrapped in Sunak’s maiden Budget, Entrepreneurs’ Relief will instead be scaled back to a lifetime allowance of £1m. While designed to incentivise the growth of new ventures in the UK, Sunak claimed that less than 1 in 10 claimants deemed it so – making it both unfair and ineffective. While 80% of SME owners won’t be affected by this change, the £6billion saved over the next 5 years will instead be allocated to additional business growth programmes. These include increased tax relief for companies involved with research and development (R&D), with R&D expenditure credit raised from 12% to 13%. Structures and Buildings Allowance will also increase from 2% to 3%, while Employment Allowance will rise to £4,000.

Key takeout – Company founders looking to sell their businesses this year should review the changes to Entrepreneurs’ Relief and how it may affect their future retirement funds.

 

Are you a fledgling business seeking tailored accountancy support? Adams Moore offers a fixed-fee ‘Business Start’ package designed to do exactly that – from developing your business plan to bookkeeping and training for staff. Or perhaps our fixed fee, unlimited accountant access Board Support service would suit your business where we act as an outsourced FD to drive your business forward with you.

Drop us a line to see how Adams Moore could help your business succeed in 2020.

As the bugbear of any business owner worth their salt, the issue of delayed payment can prove a repeat offender when it comes to the many challenges of managing a start-up. However, it’s when a pattern begins to form that late payments pose a very real threat to the future of a business – causing a harmful blow to cashflow, and ultimately, the ability to bounce back. So much so that a recent study by business banking platform Tide revealed that CEOs, founders and directors of UK SMEs were currently chasing down a crippling £50bn worth of late payments; self-employed individuals were also found to be resolving up to four unpaid invoices at once, demanding one hour of their time every day. While it’s clear that businesses are struggling under the weight of late payments, the more pressing question would be: what can be done to avoid them?  We delve further into the impact of an overdue invoice, and the new legislation designed to help keep them at bay.

Late payments pose a very real threat to the future of a business – causing a harmful blow to cashflow, and ultimately, the ability to bounce back.

Disturbing the balance

 For business owners familiar with the recurrent problem of late payments, the impact goes beyond the fundamental issue of cashflow. Not only is time wasted chasing down outstanding invoices, but the admin associated with this task – as well as failure to better optimise current processes – can put extra strain on SME owners eager to get ahead. According to a report by Intuit QuickBooks, over half of payment tracking occurs outside of the working day – not only racking up more hours on the timesheet, but eating into precious time spent at home with the family. For this reason, late payments are pushing business owners to the brink in more ways than one, with the potential to cause harm both inside the office and out. Where cashflow is concerned, absence of funds owed can also impact a company owner’s personal circumstances – such as the use of loans or credit cards – when costs associated with both the everyday running and growth of a business mount up.

 

Late payment legislation

 The unpredictable nature of late payments – despite seemingly positive relationships with the client(s) in question – have the power to catch SMEs by surprise, often leaving business owners feeling out of control. In a bid to reinforce the power of small businesses in the UK, Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn put a Private Members Bill before the House of Lords this year, legislating a 30-day window (maximum) for all invoices to be paid; the Small Business Commissioner would then be in a position to issue fines to those not settled within that timeframe. Furthermore, these new measures would also prohibit other payment procedures, such as ‘prompt payment discounts’ or money off in exchange for a fast-tracked invoice, and other predatory practices such as charges associated with on-boarding.

Addressing the problem last year, the Association of Accounting Technicians (ATT) made recommendations that were then backed by 73 per cent of MPs in Parliament. These included payment terms to be halved to 30 from the existing 60 days, the enforcement of a financial penalty regime (aimed at those late on a regular basis) and the compulsory integration of the Prompt Payment Code (PPC) for SMEs with 250 employees or more; a code that represents commitment to fairer payment terms, administered by the Chartered Institute for Credit Management (CICM).

With 23 per cent of UK insolvencies caused by late payments, we take a look at what steps business's should take next.

 

What SMEs can do right now

 While government-backed legislation is supporting SMEs in the deterrence of late payments, what changes can business owners make in the short term to prevent the event of one too many? With 23 per cent of UK insolvencies caused by late payments, business should take the following steps:

  • Review existing payment terms and how they are being negotiated;
  • Ensure these are promptly addressed with any new clients moving forward;
  • Credit checks can also be made to help business owners decide whether they enter into contracts with those considered ‘high risk’ – read more about credit checks for businesses;
  • Seek to streamline the process of dealing with these occurrences – as opposed to solely focusing on prevention;
  • Aim to reduce the administrative time required to chase up a late payment, for example, adopting efficient accounting software – like Xero – can help carry the load and make payment tracking more transparent;
  • Cloud-based invoicing systems provide the option to pay online with a click, likely encouraging swifter payment from some clients.

Depending on the amount owed, it could be more beneficial to write off the debt and you may be able to deduct it for tax reasons.

 

What should you do if a client or customer continues to ignore their invoice?

  • Discuss the situation with your lawyer and accountant – depending on the amount, it could be more beneficial to write off the debt and you may be able to deduct it for tax reasons;
  • If you haven’t appointed a lawyer before, start by speaking to the Lawyers for Business helpline, and should you need an accountant, please contact us to discuss your situation;
  • Issue the invoice again and explain that you will start court proceedings if payment is not received within seven days;
  • After seven days, a Small Claims Court claim can be filed if the amount is less than £10,000;
  • If the payment is over £5,000 you are also entitled to serve a Statutory Payment Demand, which – if not met – will give you grounds to present a winding up petition in Court;
  • Hiring a debt collection agency should be your last resort, but if required carefully check terms and conditions and ensure the firm is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

 

From day-to-day accountancy services to the deployment of cloud software, Adams Moore offers tailored support to businesses wishing to improve financial efficiency within their business. To find out how we can help, email, call or drop into the office to arrange your free new client consultation.

 

Okay, so what you know may technically have placed you in the shoes of the company owner you are today, but when it comes to the valuable skill of relationship building – more formally known in the corporate world as ‘networking’ – it’s also about who you know. For SMEs wishing to take the next step (wherever they happen to be on the ladder), the business of networking should not be downplayed. Instead, it should form a key part of any growth strategy – particularly for those wishing to employ the efforts of experts they trust, or better still, clients they value. We take a look at how networking has the power to elevate start-ups in more ways than one: to further strengthen relationships, save money, and continue on an upward trajectory.

The business of networking should not be downplayed. Instead, it should form a key part of any growth strategy.

Focus on what’s in front of you

If you’ve yet to find the right suppliers for your business, it’s worth considering the already-trusted industry professionals within your circle: your clients. When it comes to ensuring a relationship with staying power, clients can offer the flexibility of services as and when required, together with peace of mind ensuring tasks are being performed to the best of their ability; using clients as suppliers can also help a business generate new leads through word-of-mouth recommendation.  Here at Adams Moore, a small group of our own clients also act as our business suppliers, assisting us with everything from IT support to electrical maintenance to PR. Enlisting the services of our clients also gives us greater visibility, with more open lines of communication and regular meetings to discuss activity from both sides of the table.

“Working for Adams Moore, while also using them as our accountancy firm, offers a unique dynamic when it comes to sharing our expertise.”Leon Swanepoel, Enlo Ltd, IT Consultants

 

Other local suppliers that are also our clients include The Printing Shed, AC Electrical, Common Sense Financial Planning Ltd and Hannes Digital.

“The greatest thing about working for each other is the fact that we’ve built up a very honest relationship. It may sound silly, but trust can be a rare commodity nowadays – especially when a challenge pops up and you really need someone on the other end of the phone that you can rely on!” – Gary Chamberlain, The Printing Shed, Print & Design Solutions


“Business networking is vitally important and particularly here where accountancy and financial planning go hand in hand. Working closely with Adams Moore is a real meeting of minds and partnership working at its best.”Stuart Evans, Director & Chartered Financial Planner, Common Sense Financial Planning Ltd


“Using Adams Moore as our accountants, as well as other customers as service providers, has opened up new business via word of mouth. Similarly, we have recommended Adams Moore so it’s really win win.” –
Carl Bailey, AC Electrical Ltd, Electrical Contractor

 

“It’s important to remember that networking comes in many different shapes and sizes"

Alternative networking

 For fledgling start-ups (or those SMEs yet to dip their toes into the world of networking), taking the first steps can often feel the most daunting; without clear direction, it can also feel like wasted time. Social networks like LinkedIn are a great place to start interacting with like-minded SMEs – whether in the local community or at the other side of the world – and can provide a stepping stone to that all-important face-to-face meeting. Business owners can use it to research other companies of interest, join industry-related groups (type a keyword, hit search and scroll down for ample results), and engage with other members’ content – as well as posting their own. LinkedIn Premium allows users to send up to 20 direct InMail messages per month, with visibility over other key stats like how often they appear in searches and who, specifically, is viewing their profile. Information on both small and large-scale networking events is also likely to be shared here – whether it’s Walsall’s ‘Old Bank Business Networking Especially for SMEs’ or Birmingham’s ‘Investment and Business Opportunities in the Midlands’ (to name but a few).

If ‘corporate-style’ functions aren’t your bag however, a more alternative affair could prove an easier route to sparking that initial conversation. Taking inspiration from various events already running up and down the country, joining or forming your own networking group should be both fun and productive. Whether it’s a coffee with your peers, speed networking for time-strapped start-ups, ‘netwalking’ on the local footpaths, or networking with cocktails – a little imagination can go a long way. Research what’s already out there, and you’re sure to find the most effective way to reach out to your small business community.

“It’s important to remember that networking comes in many different shapes and sizes, and one shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it means attending a breakfast event and handing out business cards to everyone in the room. For me, my friends and family acting as advocates are key. For example, I have one client that I met at a breastfeeding group before I even started my business, another who I was introduced to via a friend who tagged me on a local Facebook group query and Adams Moore got in touch through someone I used to work with. Every person you meet can be a jigsaw piece in a huge networking puzzle.” – Keredy Andrews, Hannes Digital, Marketing and Reputation Management Agency

 

It’s worth considering the already-trusted industry professionals within your circle: your clients.

Embrace the skill exchange

 Another effective way to connect with other small business owners and potential clients or customers is through skill sharing. This is particularly beneficial to those start-ups in need of help to ‘help themselves’, or who are unable to make bigger financial commitments in the early stages. Simply put, what skill or knowledge can you offer others in return for the skills or knowledge you need, but don’t have a budget for? This can be done online or in person through a variety of forums, and will also depend on the type of support needed. Sites like Skillshare.com offer free tutorials for small businesses, ranging from  time management hacks to building the perfect website. Whether you’re a member or contributor (or why not be both), this can also help forge new relationships with like-minded businesses from all over the world.

Hosting a free event for local SMEs, whether at the office, in your store, or the nearest community centre/hub is a more relaxed way to introduce your services, but crucially you must share something of value to the attendees. If you have staff members, this can also prove a great team building exercise, and may unleash some hidden talents transferable to their current roles within the business.

 

Adams Moore has a wealth of experience supporting SMEs on all aspects of their business journey – from start-up accountancy to payroll services. To find out more, get in touch to organise your free consultation today.

If you’re a business seeking to boss your accounting this year – or a VAT-registered company above the threshold of £85k – you’ll want to learn more about Xero: an HMRC-recognised Making Tax Digital (MTD) software. If you fall into the latter category at the very least, it is now mandatory to banish those spreadsheets and submit your tax returns digitally. For SMEs in general however, the move to a digital accounting platform provides a faster, smarter way of working – freeing up more time for business owners to focus on productivity, growth, and the things that really matter. So, whether you’ve yet to become HMRC-compliant for MTD, or you’re keen to embrace more efficient workflows, we explore how digital accounting can streamline your processes with software provider Xero.

The move to a digital accounting platform provides a faster, smarter way of working.

The Xero effect – transform your accounting with digital

MTD aside, there are so many reasons why small businesses should consider the transition to digital accounting. Not only can traditional methods prove time-consuming and costly where additional support may be required, but the manual processing of such data also increases the risk of human error – or worse still, a security breach if found in the wrong hands (when shared via a USB drive, for example); similarly, the back-up of data can easily fall by the wayside during busy periods, and thus not always be guaranteed. By switching to a digital accounting system, not only can you iron out existing processes, but futureproof your business by allocating time more efficiently. Here’s just a few ways this can be achieved with cloud accounting software like Xero:

Improved visibility – With financial updates provided in real-time, the bigger picture is always in your hands. Whether in the office or on the move, Xero accounting software also allows multiple users to access key information from wherever they are, resulting in improved communication when collaborating across a wider team of employees and/or advisors.

Reduced costs – Up-front costs associated with accounting are significantly reduced with software like Xero, resulting in a far more reliable solution should funds not always be available. From system administration to on-going maintenance and potential server failures down the line – these are all covered by Xero without incurring additional fees.

Routine updates – Thanks to free automatic upgrades, you’ll always be using the very latest version of your Xero accounting solution – without any glitches to worry about. Plus, with the regular (and all-important) back-up of data, you can rest assured that your information remains both up to date and stored safely within the cloud.

Enhanced security – As one of the most secure ways to safeguard your data, the cloud can provide a solution that is not only watertight but also cost-effective – the perfect match for smaller businesses on a budget. This ‘offsite’ method of storing data also means productivity needn’t be affected should disaster ever strike. In other words, nothing can ever be ‘lost’.

By switching to a digital accounting system, not only can you iron out existing processes, but futureproof your business by allocating time more efficiently.

A ‘softer landing’ with MTD

As with the majority of roll-outs affecting UK companies over the years, teething problems with MTD – including the hurdle of complex or legacy IT systems for some businesses – have prompted HMRC to extend the deadline for SMEs yet to become MTD-savvy, known as the ‘soft landing’ period. In addition, a page dedicated to service availability issues, whether with your Government Gateway login or for those businesses overseas, has been set up by HMRC to support with the transition.

For businesses and organisations with a turnover of £85k or more – this includes sole traders,
partnerships, limited companies, non-UK businesses (registered for VAT in the UK), charities and trusts – MTD is now a compulsory requirement; and that’s where cloud accounting software like Xero comes in. Those with a VAT period starting on (or after) 1 st April now have until April 2020 to set up their digital links with compatible software to share with HMRC. Whether moving from an Excel spreadsheet or converting from other software, the Xero platform provides a seamless transition for SMEs, while ensuring they fulfil their MTD obligations. To get started, businesses can sign up to MTD for VAT via HMRC, after which customers can activate the MTD solution via their Xero account. Find out how an accountancy practice like Adams Moore can support with MTD, when both VAT Returns or Year End accounts are due.

As one of the world’s leading digital accounting solutions, Xero continues to drive growth for clients wishing to cut costs, save time and improve efficiency within their business. To find out more, get in touch with Adams Moore – a recognised Xero accountancy software provider – on the benefits of going digital this new year.

It’s the year 2020 and with not a hoverboard in sight, the task of filing an often-daunting tax return is enough to bring any small business or individual down to the ground with a bump. With just three weeks remaining to the deadline of 31st January, your Self Assessment return should be your focus if you want to swerve the unwelcome penalty of a £100 fine. Nevertheless, the short deadline for submitting a tax return that’s 100% accurate needn’t be cause for alarm with these five tips. Let us help you sail into February 2020 with that done-and-dusted feeling, and your Self Assessment tax return long behind you (for another year, at least).

Read our five tips for completing your Self Assessment in January 2020 to avoid a HMRC penalty.

Own your details

When it comes to filing your Self Assessment return – particularly if doing so for the very first time – you’ll need to ensure you’re armed and ready with the correct details ahead of starting your form. Failure to have these to hand will only delay the process even more, or worse still, risk a late submission. Instead, make sure you’re in possession of the following information ahead of getting started:

  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) – you’ll have received this 10-digit number after setting up your limited company; you’ll also be sent this number once having registered for Self Assessment. If missing, you can request your UTR by calling the Self Assessment helpline.
  • National Insurance Number – whether it’s a payslip, your P60, an official tax/benefits letter, or the National Insurance section of your personal tax account, your National Insurance Number is fairly straightforward to locate. If lost, fill out a CA5403 form, or call this helpline.
  • P60 – this key orange document details how much tax you’ve paid on your salary over the past year. If working for an employer, you should have received this by 5th April – the end of the tax year.
  • Untaxed income – you’ll need to provide these details from the past tax year to include self-employment income, dividends, interest on shares (if any), child benefit and income from other means, such as renting out property.
  • Expenses – it’s important to keep a record of any expenses relating to self-employment, even if for your reference alone. More crucially, you’ll need to provide these details for Self Assessment along with expenses relating to other forms of income.
  • Tax relief contributions – this applies to any other contributions such as pensions or charitable donations that may be eligible for tax relief.

Embrace digital

If you’re used to the old-fashioned way of sending a tax return by post, submitting your bill online can help speed up the process – while also giving you greater visibility of its status; if you’ve yet to file your ‘paper’ return, the postal deadline of 31st October has now passed so you must submit digitally. Once having registered for Self Assessment, you’ll then need to wait for your 12-digit activation code in the post which can take up to 7 working days to arrive (you can’t file your return without it)! If having filed in the past and misplaced it, you can retrieve a lost activation code by following these instructions.

Enlisting the help of an accountant offers a sure-fire solution to the task at hand – minus the hassle (and piles of paperwork).

Utilise expert skills

While filing your own Self Assessment return is effectively an added string to your bow, juggling the additional demands of running a business can also cause unnecessary stress – often resulting in a tax bill that is inaccurate. The alternative? Enlisting the help of an accountant offers a sure-fire solution to the task at hand – minus the hassle (and piles of paperwork). More cost-efficient than you may think, an accountant will also take your individual circumstances into consideration, and even advise on how to make savings to your final tax bill. Adams Moore offers peace of mind by guiding clients in this unique way, whether it’s your very first Self Assessment or you’re seeking more tailored advice, and it’s not too late to get in touch with us about your 2020 return.

Seek help online

For those unexpected queries and niggling hurdles along the way, you can always save time by seeking the answers online. Compiled to make the process more seamless, read up on the HMRC helpsheets on how to complete the supplementary pages of your tax return, for example. In addition, the Self Assessment YouTube playlist is a go-to resource when filing your return – from tips on budgeting for your tax bill to claiming motoring expenses. If a phone call does become necessary, the HMRC helpline uses voice recognition software, so be sure to state your problem clearly and concisely in order to receive the most relevant advice, such as “question about late penalty”.

 

Learn from last time

Cast your mind back to last year’s tax return – how would you do things differently this time? Did you struggle to obtain the right paperwork for example, or even pay the full bill itself? By making a few simple changes, from sorting your bank statements and travel receipts to opening a savings account (designed specifically for tax), a little forward planning goes a long way. While spreadsheets and filing systems may seem like additional work throughout the year, you’ll soon be grateful for them once the Self Assessment deadline comes back around.

 

At the start of this month, we wrote a post giving an overview about what you need to know if you’re considering hiring an apprentice, including information on contracts, funding and various qualification levels. It got us thinking, why not let the people who have experience of this route take the reigns and give our readers even more of an insight? So we have! Two of the current apprentices at Adams Moore – Elizabeth Hudson and Jason Morning – tell us about their journeys so far and their career aspirations.

Elizabeth’s story

“I went to Landau-Forte Sixth Form College in Tamworth and studied History, Biology, Business Studies and Psychology, and during this time my mom changed careers and was training to gain a qualification via the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). As I have always been good at maths, she suggested that I consider going into the accountancy profession and as there were a lot of career events on at Sixth Form, I had the opportunity to talk to accountancy professionals to gain a better understanding of the industry. I found the work to be very interesting and I chose to study a BA (Hons) in Accountancy and Finance at The University of Lincoln.

“When I finished my degree I worked full-time at a local fast food establishment while also writing to all the reputable accountancy firms in the area, as I couldn’t wait to put my new knowledge to use. Adams Moore responded asking me to come in for an interview, as they were looking for someone for a maternity cover contract, but after my probationary period I was made a permanent member of staff. Martin, one of the Partners, asked if I wanted to undertake an apprenticeship so I could become a fully qualified chartered accountant via the professional body the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down because I loved working at Adams Moore, paying for the ACCA qualification myself would have been difficult at the time and having both office and classroom time seemed a sensible and balanced way of learning. I’ve been an apprentice for 11 months now and I really like the well-rounded approach; I gain experience in the workplace but also learn, and build on, fundamentals through exam study. It’s given me a lot of confidence – I know the theories and know I can also put them into practice.

“As I completed a relevant university degree – and it’s similar if you have the AAT qualification like my mom has – I benefit from some exams exemptions. The apprenticeship offers a wide range of exams which cover all areas of accounting, but with my past studies it’s great that I have fewer exams to take. I have already taken and passed the Audit and Assurance exam and I am currently undertaking the Professional Taxation Module. My exam for this is coming up in March and as I am interested in all things tax and hope to focus on this area my career progresses, it’s an important one! Everyone (and all other areas of accounting) is affected by taxes and I find it rewarding to help clients in a very direct way – people turning to an expert in taxation can really save themselves money.

“My aspiration is to become a qualified accountant within the next few years, and I’m sure I’ll still be enjoying my work at Adams Moore. There is a really friendly atmosphere within the workplace so while we work hard, we enjoy ourselves. When there is a challenge, we come together to help each other – I couldn’t ask for a more supportive team as I gain more knowledge to reach my goal.”

At the start of this month, we wrote a post giving an overview about what you need to know if you’re considering hiring an apprentice.

Jason’s story

“Having studied history and politics at the University of Leicester, accountancy wasn’t perhaps a career I was expected to follow, but I’ve always been a problem solver and a natural with numbers. I started being interested in accountancy around five years ago as a career option because of how it fits with my skillset. I considered various options, including an accountancy degree, but an apprenticeship really appealed to me. During my studies at school, college and university I realised that I learn best by taking a piece of information and practically applying it, so I decided achieving an ACCA qualification via an apprenticeship would be the best route for me.

“I was in contact with a number of recruitment agencies and I secured an interview at Adams Moore through one of them. I had an interview with Martin and Neil and immediately I had a good feeling about the role. Plus, the company was very open about the benefits of an apprenticeship to the company as well as myself, and it was good to know they had supported apprentices in the past. From an employer’s point of view, the company benefits from having a new loyal member of staff who is ready to learn the industry and it can shape that person around the business’ principles and processes from the start. Companies can also pay in to the Apprenticeship Levy (via the PAYE system), and they receive an allowance of £15,000 per annum to offset against the levy payment. This must be spent on apprenticeship training via certified providers within the first 24 months and the government pays a 10% top-up towards this fund. Smaller employers that don’t pay the Apprenticeship Levy must pay 5% towards the cost of training – although there are exceptions where even this isn’t required – and the government can offer support by financing the remaining amount.

“Apart from the financial benefit – I’m personally not paying to obtain a qualification and I also receive a wage – my apprenticeship is giving me the practical experience to support what I’m learning as part of my course. It means I understand the content in more depth so I feel I’m becoming a more rounded accountant. My new knowledge becomes meaningful as the application of it is helping real clients.

“The module I’m studying at the minute covers the UK legal framework in relation to accounting and business activities, and my next exam is in March 2020. I’ve found that my preferred task as an accountant is preparing annual accounts for limited companies and sole traders. I enjoy having direct contact with clients, feeding back to them about how I have assessed their year and how I recommend they should strategically move forwards from their current position to reach their business goals. This is one of the great things about Adams Moore, I have always been given appropriate responsibilities and never been treated like a junior who is ‘only learning’ a craft. The team is close knit and supportive and while there are always new challenges in accountancy, I’ve never felt out of my depth. With the encouragement from Martin and the team I know I’ll become an excellent chartered accountant who can give clients the support and knowledge they need to succeed.”

 

If you’d like to speak to us about how an apprentice could bring new life to your business in 2020 and how this route to having new employees can be financially beneficial, call us on 01827 54944.

With 2020 in sight, the new year represents a fresh start for businesses of the UK (after what may feel like a never-ending stretch of economic uncertainty). In order to embrace innovation, drive growth and remain as competitive as possible, entrepreneurs can look forward to a productive and profitable new year by taking note of the top trends predicted to impact businesses – both up and down the nation and across the globe. Read on for what promises to be the start of an exciting and eventful new decade for SMEs.

When a phone call or email isn’t always possible, the solutions AI can often provide as an alternative in 2020.

1. The rise of AI

From the transformation of customer service to ironing out administrative processes, AI and machine learning continue on their trajectory towards creating a more efficient and productive era for SMEs. While personalisation continues to play a significant role in ensuring an authentic customer experience, client demands have also indicated the need for round-the-clock, instantaneous answers when a phone call/email isn’t always possible – thus the solutions AI can often provide as an alternative. As opposed to being deployed as a direct replacement, chatbots are enhancing the service SMEs can offer to their customers by providing answers to common questions (reducing waiting times as a result), resolving queries and complaints, or simply pointing them in the right direction. Where internal tasks are concerned, cloud technology such as accounting software Xero is using machine learning to evolve its offering, whether enabling users to identify and collect documentation in one single location, speeding up both the invoicing and payment process, or the extraction of PDF bill details into Xero via its ‘email-to-bills’ feature.

2. The power of user reviews

With companies acknowledging the demand for a more streamlined user experience, the way in which customers respond will continue to hold sway over business growth – in the form of the humble review. SMEs can wield these positive experiences to their advantage by making it part of their best practice to request feedback – no matter how small the project or transaction – to be fed into new testimonials. Not only can these live as case studies on a company website, but such observations can also be condensed and used as part of wider marketing collateral – from leaflets to social content. Also to be encouraged is direct feedback to specialist tradesman review platforms, to Google reviews and individuals should make the most of LinkedIn’s recommendations function. As competition rises and customers continue to seek the very best options for their needs (particularly where online products are concerned), positive user reviews can reassure prospective clients that they are making the right decision, enhancing an SME’s credibility in the most genuine way possible. For businesses with smaller budgets, word of mouth can still count for so much.

Remote working will continue to gain traction in 2020 as a necessary component to futureproofing any type of business.

3. The transition to remote working

Remote working, whether you’ve yet to trial it or not, continues to gain traction as a necessary component to futureproofing any type of business. What’s more, the departure from the traditional 9-5 works both ways – serving as an attractive proposition to new candidates while allowing SMEs to hire the very best talent with no restrictions in place. For employees, the option of remote working (even if just a few days a month) offers them increased flexibility and an improved work-life balance, thus having a positive impact on their everyday drive and future performance. For start-ups in particular, remote working also provides new pathways to growing a young team, minus the hefty infrastructure costs involved with hiring a premises in the early days of set-up. Thanks to the ongoing evolution of business communication – from conference call facilities to integrated messaging and management platforms – ‘working from home’ doesn’t always mean employees left to their own devices, giving businesses improved visibility over their teams, wherever they choose to be.

4. The move towards big data

No longer the domain of larger corporations eager to learn more about customer trends, behaviours and buying patterns, enhanced access to big data can empower SMEs to make better strategic decisions. While this may seem a daunting (and potentially costly) prospect, there are effective, affordable ways smaller companies can harness big data to widen their understanding of the bigger picture. Firstly, business owners should decide on a set of aims before drilling down into this insight; do they want to learn more about their customers so as to improve the user journey accordingly? Do they want to market themselves more efficiently, and thus save time and money on this particular activity? Once having established these targets, there are a number of software options available to help steer such goals in the right direction – from starting small with free platform Google Analytics to a more comprehensive view with ClearStory Data. Dependent on size and budget, SMEs should approach the use of big data as a journey of ‘test and learn’ in order to unlock its true potential.

The adoption of 5G also enhances the use of further innovations – such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT)

5. The dawn of 5G

While the long-awaited arrival of 5G has continued to capture the attention of the UK business sector, what does it really mean for SMEs? In a world where communication is key, 5G has the ability to transform the way businesses operate, providing crystal-clear, instantaneous interactions from all corners of the globe – and not to mention average download speeds of 1Gbps. Not only could this radically improve productivity rates, but the adoption of 5G also enhances the use of further innovations – such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) – as they too evolve to better serve the small business community, advancing the start-ups of tomorrow. Automatically improving a company’s resilience and competitive edge, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the power of 5G and how it can propel the up-and-coming SME into 2020 and beyond.

Adams Moore understands the everyday strain of running a small business. That’s why with the right solutions in place, we’re able to support SMEs on their path to growth by alleviating time-consuming tasks – from flexible payroll support to bookkeeping and accounting. Get your new year off to a fresh start by coming in to our Tamworth offices for a free new client one-hour consultation and see how we could support you.

Ever wondered whether your business could benefit from appointing an apprentice? Providing a young recruit with the valuable chance to work alongside a team of experienced staff while learning job-specific skills, an apprentice could help you improve productivity by plugging a key skills gap – on a program tailored specifically to your business – and potentially aid staff retention (with an often-loyal new staff member emerging at the other side). From finding the right match to making the most of funding available, we cover the key things a small business should know before taking on that first trainee.

Whether employed by your company directly under an Apprenticeship Agreement, or found through an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) for which a fee is payable, apprentices are full employees and should be treated as such under a contract of service. You’ll also need to bear a number of other factors in mind to ensure your business fully complies with apprenticeship law.

You’ll also need to bear a number of other factors in mind to ensure your business fully complies with apprenticeship law.

Apprenticeship contract – employers must offer all apprentices a contract of at least 30 hours, including external training of which should account for 20% of this time. Contracts should also be for a fixed period (from one to five years) and role-dependent, with one year being the absolute minimum. Businesses are not legally obliged to provide employment at the end of the scheme.

Apprentice pay/rights – apprentices under 19 (and over 19 for their first year of training) must at least receive the National Minimum Wage of £3.90 per hour. Upon completion of the first year, the apprentice should be paid the National Minimum Wage in accordance with their age. Working Time Regulations ensure that apprentices receive the same rights as regular employers, such as the provision of sufficient rest breaks; they are also protected by the Equality Act 2010.

Apprentice dismissal – management have the right to dismiss an apprentice as they would any other employee should they deem such action necessary. The ACAS Dismissal Code still applies in this instance, and employers must still provide apprentices with the reason for dismissal in writing. Due to apprenticeship contracts being fixed-term, a dismissal notice period would not be required.

We cover the key things a small business should know before taking on that first trainee.

Finding your first apprentice

In order to be eligible, all apprentices must first meet the completion conditions of the Apprenticeship Agreement, which relates to the framework or standard for an apprenticeship in your industry. Candidates must also have completed the required training for the qualifications stated within the framework in order to receive their apprenticeship certificate. There are four levels of apprenticeship currently available in the UK:

  • Intermediate Level 2 – equivalent to candidates with five good GCSE grades.
  • Advanced Level 3 – equivalent to candidates with two A-Level grades.
  • Higher Apprenticeships 4-7 – equivalent to candidates at foundation degree level.
  • Degree Apprenticeships 7 -8 – equivalent to candidates at Bachelor’s or Master’s degree level.

Once having established the level of proficiency required, guidance on hiring an apprentice in England can be found on the GOV.UK page here; you can also search for vacancies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Depending on your business circumstances (and the apprentice(s) themselves), you may also wish to consider the types of funding available to help get you on track.

Depending on your business circumstances (and the apprentice(s) themselves), you may also wish to consider the types of funding available to help get you on track.

Apprenticeship funding

If your company pays (or plans to start paying) the Apprenticeship Levy, you’ll later be eligible to access government funding via an online account. This is paid via the PAYE system, and requires all businesses (with bills over £3 million) to pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill to the levy. An allowance of £15,000 per annum is then received to offset against the levy payment, yet must be spent by the employer on apprenticeship training via certified providers within the first 24 months; the government then pays a 10% top-up towards this fund.

For smaller employers that don’t pay the Apprenticeship Levy, funds must be paid directly to the provider, of which the business must pay 5% towards the cost of training. The government can then offer support by financing the remaining amount – dependent on the apprenticeship funding band. Employers with less than 50 staff members are not required to pay the 5% for an apprentice aged 16-18 years old, or for those apprentices aged 19-24 having previously been in care or with a local authority Education, Health and Care plan.

Here at Adams Moore, we’re proud to have taken on two hardworking apprentices via the BMet Apprenticeship Programme, as well as offering various work experience placements throughout the year. This has proven a fantastic opportunity for apprentices to both train and thrive within the unique environment of a small local business, while gaining valuable skills transferable to their future careers within the field. If you’d like to find out more about how an apprenticeship can help fuel your business and be financially beneficial, call us on 01827 54944 or contact us here.