Contractors and online accountants

on Wednesday, 21 June 2017. Posted in Contractors, Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting

Online Accountancy: talking to a brick wall?

Is talking to your accountant like talking to a brick wall?


Buying products and services online is often associated with value for money and ease, but many contractors are realising that accountancy online is an expensive and frustrating business.

The trouble with online accountants is that they treat their clients like numbers on a spreadsheet and add no value to the relationship – leading to serious and costly mistakes. They tie clients into contracts and force use of their preferred accountancy software. Advice is not forthcoming or proactive, often leaving the responsibility in the hands of the client!

The reality is that many are feeling ripped off, locked in and resentful of the amount of tax they’re paying! Online apps are all very good if you know exactly what you are supposed to feed into them!

Many contractors who trade via a limited company are turning to Aysgarth Chartered Accountants for our personal approach to accountancy. We take time to get to know our customers, explain all of their responsibilities in simple language and support them in maximising their profits and success.

Recently we met with a contractor who had a P60 showing nil. After a short discussion we were able to show him the mistakes with his salary and corporation tax computations. His relief and delight were evident in the feedback we received: “It is evidence in itself of [the online accountant] approach being somewhat lacking, that you were able to explain things much more clearly to me in the space of a telephone call and a few emails in less than a week, than [they could] in a year and a half!"

If there are any freelancers and contractors who would like a bit more hand holding when it comes to accounts and tax, and all via a personalised bespoke service, then please get in touch – we would love to help!

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How rubbish are your accounting records?

on Thursday, 22 December 2016. Posted in Contractors, Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting

And is it your accountant’s fault?

How rubbish are your accounting records?


We all know that if you are trying to run your own business and do everything that sometimes the accounting records fall below the required standard. But when you pay a professional, either an accountant or a bookkeeper, to look after your books of account you expect better. How I wish that was always the case.

I have seen instances where businesses have relied on bookkeepers and accountants to keep their Cloud or desktop accounts packages up to date and correct but the fees they have been charged have been a waste a money.

The worse Cloud examples have been on KashFlow, which is probably due to their system being too complicated with the accountants and bookkeepers not really understanding it all. However even on Xero I have seen mistakes. I have also witnessed similar errors on desktop accounting packages like Sage.

These are all genuine examples:

Ignoring the accounts package.
The year end accounts should reflect your accounts package but some accountants forget to put the year end adjustments and journals on to the clients’ accounts. This means that every year the accounts package and the financial statements grow further apart and have little in common. If you run a balance sheet report at your last completed year end does your retained profit figure agree to the year end accounts? If it doesn’t your accountants are not looking after you.

Year end routine.
Every accounts package has a year end routine to run so that it knows the old year’s accounts have been finished. This can be as simple as entering a date or a tick on your accounts package or like KashFlow it can involve running their year end adjustment, which bizarrely is found in reports and not in journals. I could tell you about 2 companies, both of whom used KashFlow, where the previous accountant or bookkeeper had no idea about the year end routine and at any point the client could have entered an old item in a year that had been finished but the accounts package had not closed down.

Setting-up your accounts package
There is one bookkeeper whose work I have seen where they did not realise they were acting for a limited company but had set up Xero for a sole trader. This meant they treated a number of items incorrectly: Directors’ loans are not the same as Owner’s drawings, a personal car cannot be treated as an asset of the business, where was the share capital etc?

Have they done what they said?
I have had an argument with one sacked freelance bookkeeper who was adamant she had filed the client’s VAT returns, despite the fact that HMRC were still showing them as unfiled and we ended up filing them. This was one of many errors that bookkeeper made, but she was always so convincing in arguing her case that she had done everything. I do not mind giving people the benefit of the doubt but once they start to lie it is time to replace them.

Does the bank account balance?
Generally if the bookkeeper or accountant has a bank account balance that agrees to the bank statement you know there should not be too many problems. But if they cannot get your bank account to balance, and there is no reason why they cannot, then again you should replace them. One bookkeeper, who had not been helped by the accountant, managed to have 3 different bank account balances in various sections of KashFlow!

So to summarise: if you want accurate accounting records that tie in with your year end accounts do not simply get any accountant or bookkeeper to look after them. Make sure they have experience in that accounts package and keep checking up on their work. We offer a review service when we can look at your accounts and report back to you about the quality of the work: please use the contact us page to get in touch with us to discuss this further.

And if your accounts are a mess then you need to do something about it now. It will require an investment to sort it out but the cost of doing nothing will be more. Again please use the contact us page and let’s have a conversation about it. We are here to support you and improve things for your business.

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No excuse for filing tax returns late

on Wednesday, 20 April 2016. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting, Tax Advice

Using technology, being prompt

There really is no excuse for filing tax returns late.


Recently tax returns have been in the news with leading politicians feeling the pressure to publish their returns. What did we learn? The Tory politicians had other sources of income and the leader of the Labour party completed his return by hand, forgot to include his pension income and was fined £100 for filing his return late.

There really is no excuse for filing tax returns late. The tax year finishes on 5 April and we have until the following 31 January to file our tax return and pay the tax. That is nearly 10 months. This year our first client’s 2015/16 tax return was filed on 15 April and the second one was filed on 20 April.

That does not mean we can avoid filing tax returns right up to the deadline on 31 January 2017. We do our best to keep our clients on the straight and narrow and if a tax return is filed late we know that it is not due to our incompetence but due to our client not providing us with the information we need. However, we know of some accountants who are routinely disorganised and frequently file their clients’ tax returns late. If you have had experience of that and it wasn’t your fault then you really should move advisers. Contact us to see how we can look after you properly.

We also use technology to speed up the whole process. Politicians have to file a hard copy of their tax returns but most other people file online. 100% of our clients had their 2013/14 tax returns filed online and every year since has been the same. Once the tax return has been completed we put it in a secure part of the cloud, our client approves it and we then file it. This whole process can take minutes and not a single stamp will have been used!

If you like our approach – the use of technology and being prompt – then we would like to have a chat with you to see how we can take away the worry of tax returns so you can focus on something more productive.

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Invoicing - is it all right to use a spreadsheet or word processing template?

on Tuesday, 15 March 2016. Posted in Contractors, Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting

The right tool for the task in hand

When you want to hammer a nail you don’t pick up a screwdriver do you? It is all about the right tool for the right job.

So why when you need to invoice a customer do you send your client an invoice from Excel or Word? Spreadsheets and word processing packages are not the correct invoicing apps for a serious business to use.

The first problem with them is that it is easy for them to contain errors.

Addition errors: My wife recently received an invoice from her music teacher: 2 lessons at £30 each were totalled as £30 in total. Was this an error in the formula or was the last month’s invoice not retyped correctly?

Update errors: It is easy to forget to update fields: sending out invoices in the current month dated last month, not updating the invoice number – how many invoice numbers 347 can you have?

Saving errors: Or what about issuing an invoice and then forgetting to save it or keep a copy? No one will now know about that invoice or will chase it for payment – trying to keep costs down has now cost you a lot of money!

The second problem is that they duplicate time and effort. All those invoices have to be entered on to your accounts package (or worse: accounts spreadsheet). Your poor bookkeeper is now re-typing everything, checking it is all complete: where is invoice 980 or did it ever exist?

The solution: use a proper accounts app (like Xero, FreeAgent or KashFlow) that can produce professional invoices but update the accounting system at the same time. The invoices are more likely to be accurate, will have a proper audit trail and can be easily checked or recovered without the poor bookkeeper wasting hours of time that you are paying them to do a productive job.

Save money by being more efficient and using the right tool for the job! If you want to discuss this further then please get in touch.

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Why Should I Move to the Cloud?

on Monday, 21 September 2015. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting

The Cloud

What is Cloud Accounting?
On this website we go on about Cloud Accounting, which is where you access your accounting information securely over the internet. And yes your data is safe and secure. We are used to accessing our bank accounts over the internet and there is no fundamental difference when it comes to Cloud Accounting Apps

There are many benefits of going with a cloud based application.
We can access live data, so when you call us we can log on to your accounts and discuss matters with you whilst reviewing live data.

You are always using the up to date version of the package – there is no having to pay extra for upgrades or having a different version to your accountant.

When the year end accounts are being prepared there is no need to wait for the list of journals to put on the accounts or suspending bookkeeping while we use the live data.

You can access the data anywhere in the world – including on handheld devices.

You do not get charged for the number of users but simply to access the online package.

How easy are they to use?
Even for someone with very little accounting knowledge they are very easy and intuitive, however most accountants will help you to get used to the package or the Apps usually have good support desks and help manuals.

What cloud providers would you recommend?
Xero is our favourite, we love the look and feel of it, but KashFlow is good and improving all the time. A lot of contractors like FreeAgent but from an accountant’s viewpoint we aren’t as impressed but we happily work with clients who love FreeAgent.

SME accounting solution.
Cloud Accounting Apps offer a straightforward accounting solution to SMEs which is so much better than spreadsheets or manual records. Invoices and statements can be emailed out to customers. Bank transactions can be automatically fed into your accounting software – every morning our bank transactions just appear waiting to be reconciled. You can scan every receipt and invoice and link it to the accounting transaction – as an accountant we love that, no need to ask our clients a question about the transactions, if we need to know more information the answer is just a click away!

Cloud Accounting: Why Should I Move to the Cloud? Why wouldn’t you want to! If you want to know more please get in touch.

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Too old to start your own business?

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice

Too old to start your own business or build a plane?!

Don’t you believe it! The world loves to scare us: I have seen a caption doing the rounds on Facebook that said an “Entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down”. No! Per my dictionary an Entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”, which is just as well as I couldn’t build an aeroplane, even if I was still on the ground!

We like to read stories of college students setting up high-tech businesses that grow and make them multi-millionaires. The reality for most business owners is something different.

Some of Aysgarth’s most popular tweets have been those that reported news stories about older Entrepreneurs. One popular Tweet we issued was based on the BBC news story that said that 38% of business founders were over 40.

And according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) when the large increase in the self-employed between 2008 and 2012 was looked at 84% of them were aged 50 or over. So the answer to my title question is a resounding no!

Interestingly the ONS think that 38% of the self-employed are aged between 35 and 49 with a further 34% aged 50 to 64 years old.

So if you have always wanted to be your own boss and you have a great idea or have seen a gap in the market or you simply think you can provide a better service than your current employer then I recommend you count the cost and seriously think about starting your own business. Read some of our blogs that cover start-up issues and when you are ready get in touch so we can help you as you start out on this exciting new venture!

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Are you paying too much tax?

on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. Posted in Accountancy Advice, Tax Advice

Are you paying too much tax?


I am always surprised at how many employees who are paid under PAYE have no idea about their tax affairs and are therefore paying too much tax. Are you one of them? You need to ask yourself: Am I paying too much tax?

Do you know what your Tax Code is? And more importantly how much it should be? Have you ever received a PAYE Coding Notice and did you read and take time to understand it?

In the 2015/16 tax year, which covers the 12 months from 6 April 2015 to 5 April 2016, everyone pays no tax on their first £10,600 of income (this figure is correct at the time of writing but may subsequently change). This means most people will have a tax code of 1060L. For the 2014/15 tax year the usual code was 1000L.

If you have a different code do you know why? If you don’t then you should call HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) on 0300 200 3300 and ask them – but please allow at least 40 minutes to get through!

Let me tell you about two case studies:

An employee left her job with one of the top 4 banks and set up her own business. I reviewed her old tax code, which just looked wrong. Then going back over a few years managed to get her a tax refund of £3,161.41.

The problem was that the bank had told HMRC about some benefits in kind, so they correctly altered her tax code, but the employer then processed her salary as if they had paid her a sum equal to the benefits in kind. She was therefore taxed twice.

The second case was where an employee had two jobs. HMRC had placed all her personal allowances with the second job that she eventually stopped. Her main employment suffered with a tax code of BR. This meant everything she earned was taxed and she suffered with no tax-free amount for years. Again I was able to get her a refund.

However in both cases the refunds could have been more but we were restricted by how many tax years we could go back.

Action: you need to check and make sure your tax code is correct and keep checking it every year. If you ever get a PAYE Coding Notice letter then read it!

I cannot guarantee you are due a refund but are you certain you are paying the correct amount of tax?

Simon Young

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Cookie-Cutter Approach?

on Saturday, 13 December 2014. Posted in Contractors, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting, Tax Advice

perhaps it is time for a change as we are not all from the same mould

Are you an individual or a commodity? And what about your business? We treat our clients as individuals. We go out of our way to listen to and to understand our clients. That means we recognise they have choices, which they will exercise based upon their knowledge. All clients are different.

We will recommend what we think is the best approach but if the client wants to take another way (and it is legal!) we will work with them.

For example, we generally do not think spreadsheets or desktop accounting packages are the best way for most small businesses to record their bookkeeping. We recommend Cloud-based accounting packages, for example Xero or IRIS KashFlow. If a client, however, wishes to use another package or spreadsheets we will not sack them, unlike some other accountancy practices.

Likewise we will recommend the approach for owners of family run businesses to take in order to pay themselves. If the owner-managers wish to take another legal approach then once we comprehend their reasons we will work with them, we will not take our bat home.

If you do not like accountants (or other suppliers) dictating how you should operate then perhaps it is time for a change, time for a different approach, as we are not all from the same mould.

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“My mate in the pub says…”

on Saturday, 25 October 2014. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Tax Advice

Choose your advisers carefully as cheap isn’t always best value for money

Choose your advisers carefully


I hate it when I receive a call from a client that starts "My mate in the pub says..." As a general rule whatever follows next will be answered: no. The best example I had of this was many years ago and the call went like this:

Client: My mate in the pub says he doesn't pay any tax. So why do I pay tax?
Me: Where does your friend live?
Client: Switzerland
Me: And where do you live? [I already knew the answer to this question!]
Client: Bradford
Me: Well, if you want to go and live in Switzerland then a Swiss accountant might be able to help you achieve the zero tax goal but if you wish to stay in the UK and earn what you are earning then there will be tax to pay.

Choosing the right adviser is important. Your family and friends may be knowledgeable and good in their chosen field but paying for independent and professional advice from an expert is an important investment.

We were recently asked what one piece of advice we would give an entrepreneur, our answer was get good advisers. Good advisers should be good value for money but they might not be cheap and will probably not be free.

We set up many limited companies and charge for it. I have met individuals who only approached an accountant after they had incorporated their businesses themselves. Sometimes this was perfectly done but two incidents stick out in my mind. The first was the company where the shareholders decided they would put their £8,000 redundancy into the company. Instead of having a small share capital and lending the company the balance, it all went in as shares. The second was the company where the husband was a director and the husband and wife were both company secretaries. Neither of these cases were necessarily wrong they were just unorthodox and when I asked them why their company was structured the way they had chosen they could not answer the question.

In life you usually get what you pay for. Following cheap or free advice may end up being the most expensive decision you ever make. We are not the cheapest accountants but we do look after our clients and give advice. One client who left for a cheap accountant soon came back to us. On another occasion we lost the informal tendering process on price but once we pointed out some of the errors their current cheap accountant had made (and we later discovered even more mistakes) they decided we would be good value for money and another client was won.

Be friendly, go to the pub with your mates, but choose your advisers carefully. We love questions and want our clients to approach us if they have a worry about anything and because of that we have many wonderful and varied discussions. But we do not advice clients after an evening in the pub!

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Business, spelling and grammar

on Wednesday, 23 October 2013. Posted in Startup Advice, Business Advice

I am shocked by the poor grammar and spelling in some business correspondence, as an example I recently received this email:


I'm following upon my previous email to see if you would be interested in discussing about my primary email. It would be great if you can forward this email to the right person.
Apart from this aru you looking any think let me know i will get back to you more information as soon as possible and in most cases within 2 hours.

Let me know your targeted industry---and targeted area------[any sector ] based on that I will send few samplies.

I appreciate your time, Regards..."

This genuine email contains spelling mistakes, incomprehensible sentences, is addressed incorrectly (where is my name?) and those square brackets suggest that the proforma email has not been edited correctly.

What a waste of time and effort! The email did not generate a penny of business for the sender.

Whilst this is an extreme example many native English speakers make stupid mistakes: from CVs to business letters poor grammar and bad spelling simply close the door to business opportunities.

Another recent email contained the following: "...just a few hundred meters from Wetherby town centre..." I think they meant to say a few hundred metres, which is a distance, and not that you had to pass a few hundred gas, or electric, meters to get to Wetherby town centre.

Does this matter? Despite the many spelling and grammatical mistakes I make, I think it does. Mistakes give the wrong impression and therefore get in the way of winning new business and make you appear unprofessional. Take time to read and re-read your written work – does it really say what you think it says? Or does it say something completely different?

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Why Don’t You Send Statements Out?

on Tuesday, 01 October 2013. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting

With modern technology sending statements really is easy and very efficient

Do you send your customers a statement of account? It really is a simple idea and helps credit control.

Using a Cloud Accounting package like Xero means you can email your statements as often as you want. We email ours three times a month: on the 10th, 20th and the last day of the month. We choose which debtors to send them to and it is amazing how often payment is received within a few hours of the statements being sent out.

With modern technology sending statements really is easy and very efficient – a few clicks and they are emailed out to your customers.

Keep the statement simple by listing all the outstanding transactions. There is no need to show all the movement for a month. As businesses rarely send out cheques there seems little point having a statement that can be split into two to become a remittance advice – if the writing is too small it will not be read!

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Social Media

on Friday, 23 August 2013. Posted in Accountancy Advice, Business Advice

We have won clients through Twitter – have you?

We have won clients through Twitter – have you?

Social Media has changed so much in our lives and businesses. It has long ceased to be the preserve of teenagers.

Businesses have been on Facebook and Twitter for a number of years now. It is a great way of reaching a large number of people and businesses – potential customers. However care must be taken, do you remember the negative PR over the McDonalds' Twitter campaign #McDStories and Waitrose’s #WaitroseReasons?

We have much to learn about Twitter and other social media, but in a recent report looking at accountants in Leeds we were:

1st in the Top Twitter Account by Average Quality of Tweets, beating the Big 4 and other Top 10 firms;

7th in the Top Followed Twitter Accounts (and first independent firm); and

7th in the Top Twitter Accounts by Overall Score (and first independent firm)

So here are our thoughts on Twitter:

Twitter tip No. 1. Do not send an automatic Direct Message when someone follows you. A personalised Tweet is so much better. We immediately unfollow anyone who sends us unwarranted DMs.

Twitter Tip No 2. Don't RT literally every Tweet on your timeline as you will clog up ours! We need to see the wood from the trees.

Twitter Tip No.3 Clever users of Twitter sometimes stop talking and instead start listening.

Twitter Tip No 4: There is a balance to be had here, but do not repeat your tweets too many times. Repetition can be bad.

Twitter Tip No 5: Do not send loads of Tweets all at the same time but allow some delay between tweets. Seeing 5 tweets in a row from the same person or organisation looks odd. They won’t be read. Some systems allow you to schedule your tweets to go later on in the day.

Twitter Tip No 6 Do not let Bots tweet on a regular basis for you. On Christmas Day we do not want to read – “Happy Tuesday what are you all up to today?”!! And we couldn’t care less how many followers you have lost today or what you have just bought from Amazon.

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VAT and the startup business

on Monday, 11 March 2013. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Tax Advice, VAT advice

VAT1 Application for VAT registration

One of the many issues we discuss with people starting out in business for the first time is VAT, the dreaded Value Added Tax.

Should your new business be VAT registered? Consider your expected sales levels and who your customers are. Also think about the expenditure you will be incurring. When you register for VAT you can reclaim VAT on any services incurred in the previous 6 months or any assets that are less than 4 years old that you still have: i.e. fixed assets and stock.

Consider one of the many VAT schemes. Cash accounting is great if you sell to other businesses and have to charge VAT. VAT is only accounted for as you receive the cash or pay it over. However only small businesses can use this scheme – you have to plan for the cash flow issue of when your business out grows the scheme.

The flat rate VAT scheme can be useful but it depends on the rate that has been allocated to your sector and how much VAT you think you will suffer. The scheme is wonderfully simple and there is an additional 1% reduction in the flat rate during the first year of trading. Be careful because many accountants over look this scheme.

Also be careful of property and VAT, which can be a minefield. Talk to an experienced qualified accountant about this area.

The VAT registration limit increases each budget and there is a trap here that everyone must be aware of. The VAT limit covers a 12 month period. This year is any 12 month period. Your accounts might show that in each of two years you kept below the current registration limit, however if your sales were not incurred evenly but were bunched together at the end of one accounting period and at the start of the next then you may quite easily have gone over the limit. This can be a disaster if you get it wrong. If you cannot go back to your customers to recover the VAT then you must pay it out of your profits, and there will also be penalties and interest to pay.

If you wish to discuss VAT further please get in touch.

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Cloud Accounting

on Thursday, 14 February 2013. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice, Business Advice, Cloud Accounting

Cloud accounting: Xero's dashboard. email for more information


Small and medium sized (SMEs) companies use a number of different ways to record their accounting transactions:

1. Manual books of account: ok, not many do nowadays but I could introduce you to some who do.

2. Spreadsheets are often used and I am always amazed by the mistakes they contain. There are often formula errors, the formatting could be improved etc.

3. Accounts packages which rely on backups being emailed to the accountant.

4. Cloud accounting packages.

We think the last one is the best solution. We can see your records and how your business is doing simply by logging on to the internet. We see live data and there is no reconciliation needed between the year end accounts and your records.

You can process your bookkeeping transactions or keep a check on your business' finances wherever you are – imagine reconciling the bank account whilst on a train!

It also means we can have an intelligent conversation about your finances as we are both instantly seeing the same live data.

There are many cloud solutions available: FreeAgent, KashFlow and Clear Books amongst others but the one we prefer is Xero. It is straightforward to use and causes us to get passionate about it. It looks very smart as you can see from the dashboard above and the bank reconciliation below.

And talking of bank reconciliations: they are very simple. You can either have live feeds from your bank or you can download bank statements into Xero and then you simply click away. Rules can be set up so Xero remembers where to post the transaction but always allowing you the final authorisation.

Xero takes away the problem of paying for upgrades – they are all included in the cost so you and I are on the same version and there are no compatibility issues. And whilst there is a small monthly fee to operate it you can have as many users as you want at no extra cost.

So we love cloud accounting and especially Xero and look to assist more SMEs in their move across to the future of bookkeeping and accounting.

 Xero Bank Reconciliation

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The New Year: Time to start a business?

on Saturday, 15 December 2012. Posted in Startup Advice, Accountancy Advice

The New Year: Time to start a business?

Over the Christmas holiday period what will you be thinking about? Brussels sprouts or something more significant?

What will your New Year Resolution be? Will it be to set up your own business?

Family run Owner Managed Businesses (OMBs) are the backbone of this country. According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.9% of all enterprises, employ 58.8% of all private sector employees in the UK and account for 48.8% of private sector turnover.

Whilst this suggests SMEs could be more productive their owners are probably enjoying more flexible working arrangements. Sometimes they may work until after 11 pm but at other times they will be sat watching the school nativity play. And the best thing about setting up your own business? There is no boss telling you what to do!

So think about your business idea, think about how to fund it, what you will survive on whilst you are establishing it but sometimes the diver has to stop thinking and they just take that dive off the board and into the pool. Which is why a lot of people who find themselves without a job set up their own business, explaining the BIS statistic that from the start of 2010 to the start of 2011 the number of SMEs increased by 94,000 – a 2.1% increase.

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xero-certified-advisor-logo-hires-RGB cashflow-logo


We love Cloud Accounting and think it is the way forward for most businesses. We are Bronze Partners with Xero Online Accounting Software and Certified Partners of IRIS’s KashFlow. Please contact us for more information on Cloud Accounting and also read our blog.