Business Advice

Why change something if it is not broke
Why change something if it is not broke? 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

Why change something if it is not broke?

With the changes to self assessment thresholds bought in to simplify the submittal processes, has it really had the positive impact the government were hoping? Let’s explore this in more detail.

When the autumn statement was released there was a very small area included which relates to employees on PAYE who no longer have to file tax returns from 2024/25, regardless of the amount that they earn. This was a follow up on the changes introduced in 23/24 where employees who solely had income from PAYE only had to worry about self assessment when there earnings were in excess of £150,000.

When these changes were introduced there were a number of concerns raised about any underpayments or overpayments that could be made by professionals earning over £100,000 who do not have to file any returns in regards to self assessment.

There does appear to be a number of discrepancies which can cause issues with employees that have no other taxable income than PAYE. There can easily be failures to declare specific liabilities simply because it was perceived that this was no longer needed. There could also be a failure to pay any tax owed on investment returns because again it was assumed this was not applicable.

According to HMRC the message is simple; keep them up to date with all income by using their digital services. Report everything that is relevant. Of course this sounds easy but anybody who has used the HMRC platform knows it can actually be a complex matter. Coupled with the issues which arise when contacting HMRC support to ask questions the phrase “clear as mud” can sum up the entire process.

The simple solution is to leave it to the professionals. Seek out a qualified accountant who knows exactly what is needed can take care of the entire process. Take stock early, consider all factors that are relevant but most importantly, consult with experts who are easy and available to contact when you need them.

In summary the changes in self-assessment threshold have been introduced to simplify the process but clearly it has caused more confusion than clarity. So why change something when it is not broken?

If you have any questions in regard to self assessment thresholds or need some help with any aspect of business accountancy our team would be happy to help. Please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 20-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/20min

Reflecting on 2023
Reflecting on 2023 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

Reflecting on 2023

December is always an exciting month; businesses start to slow down and everybody looks forward to a much needed break spending time with friends and family. It is also a perfect time for reflection.

For us here at Stepping Stones it has been another enjoyable year supporting the small business community with all their accountancy needs. We have further cemented relationships with existing clients and have introduced a number of new clients working with them as their in-house accountancy department offering standard compliance services of:

  • Payroll
  • Tax returns
  • Tax planning
  • Bookkeeping
  • VAT returns
  • Year end

We have also seen growth in our management accountancy services, offering more strategic advice within areas of:

  • Business advisory
  • Compliance and incorporation

With so many areas to be positive about we are excited to see what happens in 2024.

Of course, first though we are looking forward to putting our feet up and relaxing. Our offices will be closing on Friday 22nd December 2023 and we will be back open again on Tuesday 2nd January 2024.

Finally, thank you to all our staff, suppliers and clients for their support this year.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

For anybody that does need some accountancy help, please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 20-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/20min

What is invoice fraud?
What is invoice fraud? 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

What is invoice fraud?

There are daily occurrences of spam related issues impacting people and businesses. It could be via e-mail or a telephone call and usually involve a person trying to impersonate somebody else. Their ultimate goal is to access confidential information and extract as much money as possible.

If we put this into a business context, there is currently a very popular scam running focussed on invoices. Invoice scams are common and can have a serious impact on a business’s cashflow. Often the impact of this type of fraud will mean more than £10,000 being exploited from a business from just one single invoice.

Invoice fraud occurs when a business is tricked into changing the bank details displayed on an invoice. Criminals will target businesses by impersonating suppliers. They will look to contact accounts departments and request that records on account need to be updated so that future payments are swiftly paid.

When the criminals are successful, they get paid substantial amounts which in turn means that suppliers remain unpaid and businesses have to swiftly provide a resolution. Often having to pay the cost of the invoices twice will have a serious impact on the businesses cashflow.

There are several steps that a business can take to protect themselves from invoice fraud:

  1. Carefully scan all e-mail communications, if a request for changing payment terms is made, make sure you speak to the company requesting the changes to ensure that it is legitimate. 
  2. If there are any requests for urgent payments, check their validity. It will be very unusual for a supplier to suddenly change their payment terms so a red flag should immediately be recognised.
  3. Make sure that all staff working in accounts are aware of these scams and are given the correct training in all aspects of fraud.
  4. Always be careful with e-mail attachments. Deploy security software that can quickly identify spam messages.
  5. Don’t give too much information away, for example only display the most important business information on a website and make sure any data collection is accurate and secure.
  6. When paying new suppliers, complete due diligence and only make payment when everything is 100% legitimate.

If you have any questions in regard to invoice fraud or need some help with any aspect of business accountancy our team would be happy to help. Please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 20-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/20min

How to get a mortgage if you are self-employed
How to get a mortgage if you are self-employed 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

How to get a mortgage if you are self-employed

At various times in our working life, we may all have a desire to do something for ourselves and step into the world of business ownership. However, it is only a very small percentage of people that take the plunge and become self-employed. Those that do take the required steps benefit from total independence, a true love for what they do, flexibility in working hours and potentially unlimited earnings.

There are a number of excellent benefits of being self-employed. However, the one problem that can arise is with trying to secure a mortgage. Historically securing a mortgage when you are self-employed can be a challenge as lenders are concerned about the lack of evidence when demonstrating income. To help with this process there are several steps that can be taken to put a self-employed professional in a positive position when applying for a new mortgage.

  1. Preparation

Keep excellent bookkeeping records of income and expenditure, look to use an accounting system which, when populated, can prepare reports of accurate and meaningful data. Always ensure you have a positive credit score and if possible, have a good level of savings.

  1. Speak to the experts

There are several excellent mortgage advisors that specialise in self-employed mortgages. Seek their professional advice and guidance as they can complete an initial fact find, check on affordability scales and match you to the right lenders.

  1. Seek financial accounting help

Use a professional accountant to prepare all financial information. A lender will look more favourably on the application if the accounts have been prepared by experts. The credibility of providing accurate information gives a lender lots of confidence.

  1. Credit history

Try to maintain a positive credit score and if there are any negative connotations then work to address these and allow time before completing the mortgage application. It goes without saying the better your credit score, the better the chances of securing a mortgage.

  1. Positive cash flow

Try to ensure you have a positive cash flow which demonstrates that any bank accounts have a healthy credit. Where possible also have good levels of personal savings which, should income one month be slow, demonstrates that the repayment of mortgage fees will always be covered.

  1. Present the right documentation

Copies of trading history (for the previous two years), HMRC documents such as an SA302 and evidence of upcoming contractual agreements will be required when any mortgage applications are made.

Other personal information used for evidence will also be required these can include passport or driving licence, utility bills, council tax bills and bank statements.

Finally, being on the electoral register with the right to vote is also advantageous as a lender can research this and use it as verification for identification purposes and proof of address.

If you have any questions or need some help with any aspect of self-employment and accountancy support then would be happy to help. Please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/20min

Dealing With Late Payments
Dealing with late payments 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

Dealing with late payments

As a business owner cashflow is king and one of the biggest barriers faced is debt through late payments. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why customers delay making payment. Sometimes it through no fault of their own and for others that is just how they like to do things. Unfortunately for the company being owed the debt it can be very distressing.

Of course, late payment does not just affect the business owner, it can affect employees and the businesses supply chain. If money owed is substantial then trying to pay monthly bills such as salaries, rent or utilities can be incredibly challenging.

Staying on top of late payment is crucial, here are a few tips on how to deal with this:

  • Try to keep a healthy level of cashflow in the business. If you can keep a safety net it will help when customers take their time to pay.
  • If cashflow is an issue, look to take advantage of business finance, get a boost in funds, you can even explore the benefits of invoice finance which allows immediate payment once an invoice is raised.
  • Have accurate terms and conditions and be vigilant with them. When you sign-up a new customer, make sure that they have received a copy, fully understand them and agree to comply with them.
  • Either request a deposit before any work is started or if possible, ask for 100% payment upfront.
  • Fully understand your customers. Complete good due diligence and recognise that if a customer has poor credit rating or reviews then ensure you request full payment upfront. If you come across any red flags make sure you are 100% happy payment will be received, if not walk away from the project.

If things do go wrong, there are also some steps you should follow for best practice:

  • Keep good positive lines of communication, never be derogatory towards the company and document every single form of contact, if it is a phone call try and record the conversation.
  • If you must take action, seek the help of a reliable debt collection agency, ask for recommendations as it can be a challenge to find the right company to support you.
  • Finally, if all else fails seek legal advice and consider taking the matter to a small claims court.

In conclusion at some time or another a business will be faced with chasing outstanding debt. The key thing is to trust your feelings and do what is right for you and your business.

If you have questions or need some accountancy help, please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 30-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/20min

Managing Work Related Stress
Managing work-related stress 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

Managing work-related stress

There are many pressures faced by a business owner and they run the risk daily of becoming over stretched and pressurised which leads to high levels of stress and illness. All of which results in damage to health and the business.

In order to combat work-related stress here are a few hints and tips:

Health & Wellbeing

It is easy to overdo things as a business owner however it is important to look after your health and wellbeing. Allocate sufficient time for exercise, plan your diet and eat healthily, surround yourself with family and friends as often as possible to ensure you keep good mental health.

During a working day it can be very easy to get dragged into all sort of activities and before you know it the whole day has passed and all you have achieved is to raise your stress levels. It can be very beneficial to schedule some time for exercise whether it is before you reach the office, over lunch time or towards the end of the day. It could be a brisk walk, cycle, trip to the gym, run or a combination of them all.

Just 20 minutes of exercise could make all the difference, that and eating a healthy balanced lunch can decrease stress, sharpen the mind and focus you for work.

Another recommendation is to meet up with friends and family. When surrounded by good people, stress levels are lowered and the mind is again heightened. Scheduling time away from work allows you to become far more focussed and efficient when in work.

It can’t always be work, work, work

As business owners we all are driven to be successful and profitable. However, it is a well-known fact that if the sole focus is on the business then lifestyle, stress and mental health can be seriously affected.

As well as making time for family, a business owner also needs time for themselves. It could be taking up a sport such as golf. With a commitment of 1 game per week you get you 4 to 5 hours a week away from everything, the perfect opportunity to reset.  You get the benefit of improving both mental and physical health.

Build a good network

At times a business owner can feel very isolated, all the pressure is on their shoulders and trying to discuss the business with friends and family can be difficult. It is important to seek out other like-minded business professionals who can be used as sounding boards. Having both social and emotional support from people who are in the same position and know the issues being faced can be extremely beneficial.

Even if you don’t have this at the moment, there are a lot of excellent networking groups that can be explored. Remember networking is not always about generating new business, it is also perfect for building a team of trusted professionals.

In conclusion if you look after your work-related success there are broad health and business benefits.

If you have any questions or need some help with any aspect of business finance or accountancy our team would be happy to help. Please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 30-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/20min

Explaining Sustainable Finance | What is Sustainable Finance | Understanding Sustainable Finance
Explaining sustainable finance 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

Explaining sustainable finance

The word sustainable is one of the more common “buzz” words being used currently. In essence it refers to the ability of being maintained at a reliable rate without causing damage. Typically, it will be associated with a social or environmental goal.

It is also being introduced into the area of finance under the heading of sustainable finance. Sustainable finance will take into consideration areas of environmental, social and governance. The money made available under this remit is as a result of longer-term investments in sustainable and economic projects.

With the government focused on transitioning to a sustainable economy, more and more businesses are dedicating time and resources to adopt processes which carefully consider these factors. With a target of net zero, the SME sector will play an important role in social and environmental best practices.

Sustainable finance has been introduced to help businesses with their commitment in reducing the carbon footprint. Funding initiatives like this help in 5 key areas:

  • Developing financial solutions which bring broad benefits and help deliver positive action in climate change.
  • Increasing awareness of sustainability and how it should be applied in a business scenario. At times this could also highlight areas or skills needed to complete these transitions.
  • Building knowledge across all areas so that when new purchases are made, they can be undertaken with sustainability in mind.
  • When employees are made more aware of their sustainable responsibilities they can be upskilled and retrained to help embed new initiatives and processes into the business.
  • Better access to products and services that are sustainably focussed and designed with helping protect the environment.

One final point, businesses need to start to recognise the importance of sustainability and adopt best practices. There are several great resources that can help successfully navigate through the changes needed.

If you have questions or need some help with any aspect of sustainable finance our team would be happy to help. Please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 30-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/30min

The Benefit of a Commercial Mortgage | Commercial Mortgages Explained | Commercial Mortgage Advice
The benefit of a commercial mortgage 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

The benefit of a commercial mortgage

Business stability is incredibly important, especially when trying to ensure the long-term future of an organisation. An area that is often overlooked, but which is immensely important, is with the ownership of a commercial property. A business in a rented location has nothing in return for their payments whereas a monthly fee towards the ownership of a property will help to increase the equity of the business.

Of course, taking the decision to purchase a commercial property is the easy step the biggest issue will be finding the right finance option to fund the purchase. It will be very rare for a business to have the funds available to outright purchase a property, instead they will need financial help and the perfect solution is a commercial mortgage.

There are several commercial mortgage options available:

  1. Owner occupied commercial mortgage – used by the business for its day-to-day operations.
  2. Investment commercial mortgage – the financing of a property which is then leased out to business tenants.
  3. Buy-to-let mortgages – a business will purchase residential properties and then let-out to residential tenants.
  4. Mixed-use mortgages – ideal for when the property has both commercial and residential aspects for example a flat above a retail outlet.
  5. Property development mortgages – utilised to finance the construction of commercial and/or residential properties

Once a decision is made on the type of commercial mortgage required the next step is to identify who can help with this. There are again several options available:

  1. High street bank – historically the most popular choice as they can secure the best rates and terms for a business, however the application process and turnaround can be time consuming
  2. Specialist banks – often established to assist with more complex solutions such as commercial mortgages which results in them having more options available.
  3. Finance brokers – independent finance companies who adopt a whole of market approach and can match a business with a specific lender.

Having determined the best commercial mortgage option and the best funding choice the final stage is the application process. The steps are as follows:

  1. Identify the best funding option
  2. Make an offer for the commercial property
  3. Instruct professionals to undertake a valuation
  4. Agree the loan requirements
  5. Source and instruct solicitors to complete the deal 

In conclusion there are broad benefits to purchasing a commercial property but make sure that you source the right mortgage.

If you have any questions or need some help with any aspect of business finance or accountancy our team would be happy to help. Please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 30-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/30min

Can A Smart Meter Help With Business Costs | Advice on Business Costs | Accountancy Advice Business Rates
Can a smart meter help with business costs? 758 513 Stepping Stones Accountancy

Can a smart meter help with business costs?

Staying on top of your costs is important for a small business and adopting a policy for best practice cost savings can be extremely beneficial. As the UK economy continues to fluctuate, we are seeing increasing utility charges. Focusing on running costs and energy usage should form an integral part of the businesses best practice cost saving policy.

Clearly staff have a responsibility for embracing cost savings, areas such as keeping temperatures to an optimum level, switching to energy efficient lightbulbs, switching off devices rather than leaving on standby and moving to a paper-free ethos are just some areas that can be focussed on. However, ultimately it is the business owner who must lead by example and make sure all the best practice savings are deployed.

Something which will help almost immediately is the installation of a smart meter. This device will allow better understanding and control of the business’s energy usage and costs. The UK Government are big advocates that the business community start to benefit from the introduction of smart meters.

A smart meter will provide real-time analysis on energy usage which is then fed directly back to the energy suppliers. This information can put a business owner in better control with greater visibility of how to make the business cleaner whilst also saving on running costs.

3 key benefits of why your business should install a smart meter:

  1. A smart meter gives immediate data which results in accurate billing. In essence, you will only pay for the energy that you use so from a budgeting perspective you can accurately predict your energy costs and help to successfully manage cashflow.
  2. You have total control and can easily manage every aspect of your energy usage.
  3. Not only do you benefit from real-time energy analysis, but you can also make use of historical data. The smart meter will give you access to energy statistics dating back 12 months. This helps with monitoring the success of cost saving activities that have been deployed and with budgeting.

Whilst we are not experts with the installation of smart meters, we are a firm of proactive accountants looking to help the small business community.

If you have any questions or need some help, please call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail hello@steppingstonesaccountancy.co.uk. You can also book a free 30-minute call with Yarka – https://calendly.com/yarka-ssa/30min

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