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Business Jargon – your go-to guide…

15th May 2018
15th May 2018

In order that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel and can hit the ground running, we’ve found an A to Z of modern business jargon to help you streamline your thinking and add value…

 

A is for Armchair General – who manages to find fault with everything despite having no experience of their own

B has to be for Blue Sky Thinking.  Where would we be without it?

C is Cascading – the new word for dissemination of information

D is for Deep Dive – in-depth analysis

E is an Elephant Curve, the “hottest chart in economics right now”!!

F stands for FMC – fixed-mobile convergence, of course!

G is Gazelle, investor speak for a high-growth company

H is Hodl – not Glenn, but ‘holding on for dear life’ as prices fluctuate wildly

I is the IoT, or Internet of Things

J has to be Joined Up Thinking, which we all do all the time, don’t we?

K is Kaizen, Japanese management philosophy which means ‘continuous self improvement’

L is Low Hanging Fruit, an easily solved problem

M is for Moat, a business exceptionally good at protecting their profits

N is for Narwhal, Canadian unicorn – or Canadian business worth over $1bn

O is for Ostrich effect, where investors avoid risks by pretending they don’t exist

P is a Paradigm Shift, a fundamental change in approach or values

Q is a Quick Win, a guaranteed success in short time frame

R is a Root and Branch review, or forensic analysis of the whole organisation

S is a Strategic Staircase – or business plan.

T is to Touch Base Offline – meet face-to-face

U is Unified Communications, using flexible working methods

V is for Voip, Voice over internet protocol

W is to Wallpaper a meeting, filling a meeting with people who only agree with you

X is a Xenocurrency, a currency that trades in markets outside of its own currency

Y is Yield, expected income from a bond

Z is a Zombie Project, one which refuses to die

 

For more detail, check out the article here.  And just to check we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, here’s a list of the top 50 most annoying office jargon terms.  Have we missed any out?

Why local SEO is important to SMEs

8th May 2018
8th May 2018

local seo for local businessMost people have heard of SEO – search engine optimisation, where your website is listed high on Google (and other search engine) listings.  For the local business, the aim is to be high on searches for local businesses.  Nearly half of all Google searches ask for local results, so the aim for a local business is to be in that box which shows the top 3 results – here’s a search we did for “plumbers Wisbech”.  If you’re not in that top 3, your potential customers are going to have to work harder to find you.

So how do you get there?  There are some easy and straightforward techniques which you need to put in place – of course there are more complex and technical things to do as well, but for now we’ll concentrate on the more simple things you need to do.

Make sure your contact details are consistent.  Your name, address and phone number need to be the same wherever Google looks – if not, the search engine is more likely to show results from a business which is consistent.

List in the local directories.  Claim your listing, and make sure your details are correct in the main local directories – such as Yelp, Yellowpages, Foursquare and many more.

Google My Business is the most important place to be listed – claim and verify your listing if it’s the only thing you do!

Positive reviews are important.  Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers for a review of your business, as they help in developing your search profile.

Make your website content local.  You increase the chances of appearing in local searches if your website is clearly about a specific area, so make your content relate to your area.

 

Having a local SEO strategy is important if you are looking to have any sort of online presence.  There’s lots of help available on the internet, don’t miss out on the opportunity!

Why SMEs should use social media

23rd April 2018
23rd April 2018

Is #socialmedia ever out of the news nowadays?  A quick glance at today’s headlines shows 2 social media items in the top 10 – and they’re not good news stories!  Just last week saw the news that pub chain Wetherspoons are withdrawing totally from their many social media accounts.  In such a frenzied atmosphere, many businesses are reviewing their social media activity.  The fact remains, though, that it does play a key part in the marketing strategies of many successful brands.

We see it as particularly useful for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  A recent article asked 4 entrepreneurs how they use social media to develop their local businesses.  Their top 4 points were:

  • Reaching people who don’t know we exist – this business promote their workshops on Facebook, reaching a wider audience than before, and ask people who attend their workshops to write a review on Fb
  • Use hashtags to stand out – particularly on Twitter and Instagram, allowing people to easily search for you. Examples we use locally include #Fenland and #Wisbech.  The newly launched #LoveWestNorfolk hashtag is also really useful.
  • It’s powerful marketing on a budget, using social media as a digital version of word of mouth. Getting people talking about you and your business helps spread the word and develop your following and customers.
  • Why SMEs should use social media

    Our Get Fit competition prizes

    Tapping into people’s interest in buying local. You can target a local audience and grow that, letting you develop your customer base.

For us, we use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about our business.   We use all 4 of the above strategies.  If we were asked for our top tip, we’d say:

  • Don’t just do the hard sell as it can put some off. People use social media for information and entertainment – you have to do both!

With this in mind – have you entered our Get Fit competition over on Facebook?  If not – why not? 😊

And if you’re not already following and liking us, head over to Twitter and Facebook and find us there.

Non taxable employee benefits

20th April 2018
20th April 2018

There are a lot of things an employer can provide to their employees that are not taxable.  We thought we’d do a list of the most common benefits – how many of these did you know about?

  • Subsidised onsite restaurant/canteen facilities (as long as they are available for all employees)
  • Providing a car parking space at or near your place of work
  • Providing a mobile phone for private use by an employee
  • Employer’s contribution to a registered pension scheme
  • Trivial benefits (excluding vouchers) which cost no more than £50 and are not in recognition of services provided by the employee. This exemption applies to items such as birthday presents
  • Benefits aimed at encouraging employees to travel to work not by car. This exemption includes work buses, subsidies to a public bus service, as well as the provision of bicycles and related safety equipment (again, these need to be available to all employees)
  • The cost of a Christmas party or similar event is allowable, up to a cost of £150 per year per person. If the cost exceeds this, then the cost of the whole event is taxable.
  • Workplace nurseries for childcare as well as employer approved child care schemes
  • Relocation and removal expenses up to £8,000 (subject to certain conditions)
  • A home workers expenses of £4 per week/ £18 per month can be paid tax free, without any need for supporting documentation/evidence
  • Long service awards (gold watches being the traditional gift) to celebrate employment of 20 years or more are exempt up to a cost of £50 for each year of service
  • Training expenses paid for by the employer
  • Sporting/recreational facilities which are available to employees generally but not to the public
  • Employee liability insurance as it protects an employee from a work related liability
  • Provision of eye tests and/or glasses for VDU use (provided it is available to all employees)
  • Awards of up to £25 under a staff suggestion scheme
  • Loans with a beneficial interest rate (ie below the official interest rate, OFR), provided the loan is less than or equal to £10,000 throughout the tax year

So if you are an employer looking to reward your staff in a way that is tax efficient for them, then you may want to consider some of these items.

How to change accountants

13th April 2018
13th April 2018

There is a big myth that some people believe that you can’t move accountants.  The truth is you can – here we look at how to change accountants, and how easy it is to do so.

The simple answer is it’s very easy to move and your new accountant will handle it all for you. I like to think it’s as simple as a pen and a passport. By that I mean all you need is some ID and a pen to sign a few forms and letters.

We always welcome new customers along for a “free” no obligation meeting. In that meeting, we get to know you and your business. We ask you to bring along some ID, your most recent accounts and/or tax returns, and we will discuss some general information about you and your business.

When we meet we nearly always quote our fee so you know what services will be covered and the cost for these services.

If you then decide to take up our services and move over to us there are a couple of forms to sign then you are ready to move.

Once you have informed your previous accountant that you are leaving,  then the first job for us to do is to write to them to say we will be taking over. It’s a standard letter and it’s called ‘professional clearance’. All registered accountants have to do this. This letter is sent to your old accountant and they reply direct to us handing over any documents and information we need.

Sometimes the old accountant will send you a letter, called a disengagement letter. If you receive one, you need to reply immediately by signing and returning it to them. Sometimes this is required before they will forward any handover information to us.

Many of our new clients come to us from other accountants or professional advisors. Some have often been with their current advisor for many years and have a great loyalty, something we also hope to have from our customers.

The bottom line, then, is that you can move at any time, you are not bound by contract and you can move freely and as often as you wish.

This is how simple it is.  Often, people say afterwards how easy it was and they wish they had done it years before. So if you are thinking of a move, please call for a free meeting and let us show you how we can work as a team.

Time is Precious

4th April 2018
4th April 2018

Time managementThe clocks went back, we’ve just had a long Easter weekend, spring is here – doesn’t time fly by?  Ever wonder what we do with our time?  A recent survey found that the average employee in the UK spends 10 hours a week preparing for and attending meetings, yet half of those meetings they think are un-necessary.  Another source found that the average office worker spends about 16 hours every week in meetings.  When do they get to do any work?

We value our face-to-face meetings with our clients, which is a key part of our business.  We’re always seeking smarter ways of doing business, and this article suggests strategies for making sure business meetings don’t take over the working day.  The idea of having a time-keeper is a good one. The key message to take away from this: meetings are a means of doing a job, not the job itself.

Time management Managing time is what this is really all about.  There are so many different methods available – just Google ‘time management’ and you could easily waste a couple of hours going through the results (to save your time, here’s a list of 10 easy to implement tips).  The quadrant system is neat: make 4 boxes and decide which tasks are urgent or important.  Avoid tasks in the not urgent and not important box – but it’s those in the not urgent but are important box that tend to get lost.

In the end, it comes back to the work-life balance.  Harvard Business School research discovered 94% of working professionals say they work more than 50 hours a week, with nearly half saying they work over 65 hours.  Many people running their own business know exactly what this feels like.  If you’ve got any good tips on how to achieve that elusive balance, do tell us!

Individuals’ Tax Rates & Thresholds 18/19

28th March 2018
28th March 2018

We are approaching the 2018/19 tax year and hence new tax rates and rules will be coming into force. From 6 April 2018 our individual personal allowance (amount each person can earn tax free) will increase to £11,850 per year (£988 per month; £288 per week).

Earnings up to the basic rate tax band of £34,500 are taxed at 20%, earnings which fall between £34,501 and £150,000 are taxed at the higher rate band of 40%.  Earnings over £150,000 are taxed at the additional tax rate of 45%.

As an employee the amount you can earn before Class 1 National Insurance is deducted has increased to £8,424 per year (£702 per month; £162 per week) for 2018/19. Once you have earnt above the threshold, deductions will be taken at a rate of 12%.

Student loan deductions are taken at a rate of 9% once you are earning £18,330 per year (£1,527 per month; £352 per week) if you are on Plan 1 or £25,000 (£2.083 per month; £480 per week) if you are on Plan 2.

The annual exemption for individuals for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) has increased to £11,700 whilst the standard rate of CGT has remained as last year: 10% if the gains are within the basic rate band and 20% if they fall within the higher rate band. However, it is also worth noting that the rates for gains on residential property not eligible for Private Residence Relief are 18% within the basic rate band and 28% in the higher rate band.

Inheritance tax remains at 40% for estates which exceed the nil rate band of £325,000 and additional residence nil rate band of £125,000. There is a reduced rate of 36% for estates in which 10% or more has been left to charity.

With most other thresholds increasing it is disappointing that the tax free dividend threshold falls to just £2,000 from 6 April 2018.  Any remaining dividends within the basic rate band are taxed at 7.5%. Dividends falling within the higher rate band will now be taxed at 32.5% and any that fall into the additional rate are taxable at 38.1%.

New 2018/19 tax rates and allowances

26th March 2018
26th March 2018

We are approaching the 2018/19 tax year and hence new tax rates and rules will be coming into force.

From 6 April 2018 the threshold for National Insurance contributions has increased to £8,424 per year (£702 per month; £162 per week). Employees deductions are taken at a rate of 12% whist employers are taken at 13.8%.

The Employer Allowance remains at £3,000 for the 2018/19 tax year, this can be set against an Employers Class 1B liability.

Class 1a National Insurance on employee expenses and benefits remains at 13.8% for the 2018/19 tax year.

Student loan deductions are taken at a rate of 9% once the employee is earning £18,330 per year (£1,527 per month; £352 per week) if they are on Plan 1 or £25,000 (£2.083 per month; £480 per week) if they are on Plan 2.

The National Minimum Wage rates effective from 1 April 2018 are as follows: –

Aged 25 and above (national living wage rate):  £7.83

Aged 21 to 24 inclusive:  £7.38

Aged 18 to 20 inclusive:  £5.90

Aged under 18 (but above compulsory school leaving age):  £4.20

Apprentices aged under 19:  £3.70

Apprentices aged 19 and over but in the first year of their apprenticeship:  £3.70

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Paternity (SPP), Adoption (SAP) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

The rules for the first 6 weeks of SMP or SAP remain the same at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings.

The rate for which SMP, SPP, SAP and ShPP is paid after the first 6 weeks has increased to £145.18 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):  The weekly rate for SSP has increased to £92.05.

Employee vehicles: Mileage Allowance Payments (MAPs)

The rate at which MAPS are paid to employees (for using their own vehicle for business journeys) remains at 45 pence for the first 10,000 business miles in a tax year then 25 pence for each subsequent mile.

You do not have to report the approved MAPs to HMRC, anything above the approved rates would be reportable.

The rate of Corporation Tax remains the same at 19%, whilst the capital allowance rates also remain the same for plant and machinery at 18% for main rate expenditure and 8% for special rate. The Annual investment allowance also remains the same at £200,000.

 

More on individual Income Tax changes to follow…  Need help?  Get in touch…

Business in the UK

20th March 2018
20th March 2018

We often hear talk of “the economy”, and “business” – but we thought we’d delve a little deeper into what this actually meant in 2017.

How big is the economy, for example.  Gross Domestic Product – which is the total value of everything produced in the country – totalled $2,627,140 million in 2017 – or around £1,869,919 million.  Such big numbers are difficult to grasp, so GDP per person may be a bit more helpful – £28,400 per person.

There are 5.7 million businesses in the UK.  Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) account for over 99% of all businesses.  An SME is defined as employing under 249 people, so clearly some SMEs can be pretty large.

Micro-businesses are the next scale down, and these are defined as employing between 0 and 9 people.  There are 5.5 million of these, or 96% of all businesses.  33% of all employment is within this micro-business sector, and 22% of all business turnover.

Next down are sole proprietorships, where there are no employees.  There are 4.3 million, 76% of businesses.

In our patch, Fenland and West Norfolk, the economy is heavily dependent on SMEs as there are very few employers with over 250 people on their books.  Clearly the economy as a whole is made up of many very small businesses.

Across the country, there were 414,000 new businesses registered (in 2015, the most recent year stats are available), with 328,000 businesses folding.   In East Anglia, there were 13,000 more businesses started than folded.

Nationally, the service sector dominates with 4.3 million businesses.  The definition is wide, and includes retail, transport, accommodation, food, information technology, finance, insurance and many more.  Service industries employ 79% of the total workforce and contribute 71% of total turnover.  Retail accounts for 10% of all businesses, 19% employment and 33% of turnover.

 

The term ‘business’ covers such a wide range of activities and sizes.  Whilst ‘big ‘business’ takes up many of the headlines, it’s the smaller businesses which touch the lives of so many people as employers, employees or customers.

For much more analytical data on UK business, have a look here and here .

What is a cryptocurrency?

14th March 2018
14th March 2018

What is it?

Essentially, a cryptocurrency is digital cash.  Technically it’s a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system”.

The clever aspect, and which enables it to work, is a way of ensuring that the cash is only spent once.  It’s a bit like making sure you can’t cut and paste cash so you can spend it more than once!  Again in technical terms, it uses a decentralised system rather than one central system.  Under a centralised system, one server keeps a record of the account, balances and transactions.

In a decentralised network, every part of the network maintains the record of accounts, balances and transactions.  Effectively they are entries in a database that no one individual can change without meeting specific conditions.

What’s a blockchain?

Simply put, “the blockchain is a public ledger where transactions are recorded and confirmed anonymously. It’s a record of events that is shared between many parties. More importantly, once information is entered, it cannot be altered.”  This, then is the decentralised network which records all cryptocurrency transactions.  Everyone in the chain has access to all the information.

What are the cryptocurrencies?

The top 5 as of early 2018 are:

  • Bitcoin, which almost everyone has heard of. There are about 3 million individual owners of Bitcoins.  It is accepted at more retail outlets than any other cryptocurrency.
  • Ethereum, or Ether. There are about 750,000 owners of Ether.  It has set itself up to be more of a currency for business use, rather than retail.
  • Bitcoin Cash is under a year old, and is an off-shoot of Bitcoin which can be transacted quicker.
  • Ripple has a more corporate image (and backing) and is more of a decentralised transaction network rather than a cryptocurrency.
  • Litecoin is another Bitcoin offshoot and is pretty much identical apart from transacting quicker.

It is a fast-moving sector, and you can expect many new entrants over the short-term future.

What does it mean for my business?

As cryptocurrency becomes more widely accepted, more customers will be wanting to use them to pay for goods and services, so businesses will need to have that payment capacity.

The first thing you’ll need is a wallet – effectively a bank account specifically for cryptocurrency when you can store your payments and also convert the cryptocurrency into cash.

The Main Benefits:

  • It’s quick and less expensive than, for example, credit cards (although there may well be a charge for the wallet itself)
  • All payments are final – no more needing to chase bad debts or fears of fraud

The Big Downsides:

  • There is high volatility of prices of the cryptocurrencies. Ethereum, for example, once crashed from a value of $319 per coin down to just $0.10 – although it subsequently went back up in value.
  • It is essentially an unregulated market. Taxation issues are not clear and may change quickly.

Because it is still a relatively new phenomenon, things change quickly and it is important to fully do your own research and remember that most people have something to sell!  This article serves only as a very brief introduction.  As a start, find out more about what cryptocurrency is here, what blockchain is here, the different types of cryptocurrencies here, and what it all means for small businesses here.   And if you need to talk to us, find us here.

 

 

 

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