Blog

Christmas isn’t for paperwork

In case you haven’t noticed, Christmas is coming! With the majority of our clients being small businesses, it probably signifies a time with a bit of down time where no doubt instead of resting you’ll be trying to catch up on paperwork. If that’s you then don’t forget, we’re here to help! Even if it isn’t directly bookkeeping related work that’s eating your time, we can relieve the pressure there to let you concentrate on running of your business and importantly at this time of year especially, take a break!

It may be there’s nothing obvious we can do for you but even just having a chat through might help – feel free to give us a call to chat things through! I often come away from networking sessions with little nuggets from others which can help a new idea grow or help improve our internal systems, one of our aims for next year is to share more of these and our customers posts through our facebook page (do follow us if you’re not already!) so feel free to give us a nudge if there’s anything specific you’d like us to share.

We’ve moved – again!

I know it’s only been less than 6 months since I wrote a blog saying we’d moved, but we’ve done it again! We knew when we merged that an office move would have to happen, an office with 2 desks just doesn’t work for a company having 3 full time employees! Thankfully, it didn’t take long – we’ve found a lovely new office at Kent Elms Corner, with the lovely Elms Cafe one side and The Fish Shop the other so we’re good for lunch too! 

We’ve got free parking outside for up to an hour and a lovely big letterbox for all your paperwork drops, all of which should be directed here from now (as I’m moving house soon too so don’t drop there anymore either!). 

As part of our lovely new base we’ve got a dedicated meeting and training room, allowing us to improve our training offering and be more available for client meetings by having the space in house, so please pop in and have a cup of tea and a look around. We certainly love our new space and can’t wait to get stuck into work here!

Prices for bookkeeping

When I was first starting out as Practical Bookkeeping, one of the things I was very unsure about was pricing. Not the amount to charge people but if I should advertise these prices. Partly I was put off as I didn’t want to give a cost out for a package and then have a client expect that price, even if they didn’t quite fit in that category, as everyone’s different. However, sounding this out with my Husband he (unsurprisingly!) disagreed with me, encouraging me to give some guide prices on my website. His argument was that he never used a bookkeeper or accountant when he was self employed as he assumed it would be expensive and that it was better to spend his Christmases holed up in his office at home doing a year’s worth of expenses, but if he’d known the costs he’d have probably used one. He didn’t try too hard to find the costs out, he certainly didn’t talk to anyone but did have a google and didn’t see anything obvious.

Although this was a few years ago and more people do put their prices online now, so he could have found them, it did make me pause and think, as I had done a few quotes where people had been shocked at the price, both for being too much and too little, showing they didn’t really know what to expect. So from a plus side for me, if the people who couldn’t afford or justify the cost had more of an idea they probably wouldn’t have asked for a quote so would have saved me time from quoting a job that didn’t happen. More importantly it means my potential customers are asking for quotes with an idea of what it might cost, so even if they need an extra hour of bookkeeping added to a advertised package to get everything done the cost will still be around the advertised amount, hopefully meaning they’ll go ahead!

So while I won’t say any costs here so they don’t go out of date if I change anything (There’s some package costs here for companies and here for self employed people on the website), I am now happy to say what we charge, especially as we feel our rates are very competitive and it means people are less shocked when they get their quote! We also try to charge a fixed monthly fee wherever possible to help our customers know what they’re going to pay, great for budgeting and cash flow!

Of course, like I said earlier, every customer is different and they don’t all fit into the packages we advertise, they are just guides which we can customise to fit everyone’s requirements. We also review the package and charges after the first regular 3 months (so after any catch up or set up work), then annually from there, ensuring that the package and price reflects the work required as businesses are always changing! For example, the hire of an administrative assistant might mean you need less from us so we can reduce, or you might take on additional contractors and have extra bills to process and CIS returns, we’ll always ensure that our packages are right for your business.

We also understand that some times things will be changing short term, for example if you provide seasonal services so are busier some months than others, while your work load for us will go up and down we are happy to bill you the same each month, knowing it will all average out over the year (obviously unless you don’t want us to!).

So don’t be scared to ask for a quote, if you fit into a package on the website then great, if not then we’ll make one for you! Just get in touch!

0% or no vat – Which is it?!

I often hear shouted from another room a question along the lines of “Is it No VAT if I’m doing a PO for someone who’s not VAT registered”, usually signifying my Husband is working from home and has forgotten the difference between 0% & No VAT entries on QuickBooks. He’s probably not alone, as they produce the same result for him when using either when raising a PO or processing his expenses, but they do make a difference further down the line, as using the wrong one can make things appear on a VAT return when they shouldn’t or the opposite, so it is important to get it right! Plus it makes life easier for your bookkeeper if you get it right first time, which will keep them happy!

Essentially, 0% is for zero rated items like most food & postage, plus suppliers that could charge VAT on their services if they were VAT registered, but currently aren’t. No VAT is for tax payments & wages. Simple as that. And now I’ve written this blog my husband can look at this rather than shouting through the house for help!

Big news from PBS! 

We’ve got some big changes coming up at PBS starting today! I sent a very excited e-mail a few weeks ago to my existing clients but as today is the official launch date I can now share the news with everyone!

Some of you who’ve asked us for accountancy services in the past will know of Martin from BAT Services, as he’s been the accountant we have recommended, equally we do some bookkeeping work for them, a relationship that’s worked well for both of us. Over the past few months we’ve looked at developing this relationship and as such, from 1st October we’ll be merging the two companies under the name of Practical Bookkeeping, Accountancy and Taxation Services (or PBATS) 

Martin has over 15 years experience as an accountant and we’re both looking forward to being able to offer a full range of services to our clients. Personally I’ve known Martin my whole life – he’s my older brother! As such we’ve similar personalities so I’m confident that as we get on, you’ll get on with Martin too! 

So, to cut to the chase, you’ll be wanting to know what will actually change?

The short answer, is nothing – well unless you want it to!

We’re not going to be pressuring anyone to move to us for accounting services, we’re more than happy to continue to provide the same services as we do now to you, however big or small.

The extra services we’ll be able to offer from 1st October 2019 are:

  • Annual statutory accounts (Limited company accounts)
  • Corporation tax returns (Limited company tax returns)
  • Company secretarial services
  • Tax advice and planning
  • Budgets, forecasting and cash flows
  • Management accounts and analysis
  • Business advice and strategy
  • Independent examinations

We’re more than happy to provide you with a quote for any of those, be it because you’re not completely happy with your accountant or you just want to compare prices, whatever the reason we’d be happy to help. 

We’re also developing our social media side further and as part of this we would like to share what our customers are doing, to aid with this we’ve taken on Charlotte in a part time role, so she may be in touch to make sure we’ve got all the right social media details of your company so we’re following the right people! 

And of course, you’ve already read our recent blogarticle introducing Susan who we took on back in May, who looks after all of our payroll and assists with our day to day bookkeeping services.

So lots of changes have already happened and are happening, all for the better we hope! I still want to keep our personal relationships with you all so don’t worry, you’ll still be hearing from me and seeing me just as much as you always do, I’ll just have a great support team working with me! It may even mean a blog entry or two not written by me!

Welcome Susan!

May saw us taking on our first member of staff, Susan.

I originally met Susan when she was my maternity cover 5 years ago, when I returned part time so Susan stayed on where we became friends and worked well together. After I left we stayed in touch, Susan left and moved into another job and it was while she was there that I mentioned potentially needing to take someone on to ensure PBS could continue to provide the same level of service as we expanded.

She (thankfully) was interested in the role and officially joined us. She’s spent the first few weeks finding her feet, seeing how I’ve set the systems up and getting to know our client base, but is already proving a great asset to PBS.

Initially I’ll continue to be the main point of contact for all existing clients, with Susan assisting me where needed, but new clients will have the pleasure of dealing with Susan from the outset. 

I’m more than happy with my decision to employ Susan, I know we can get along both inside and outside of work and that her work ethic fits the PBS way of doing things. It’s not to say I’ll only employ people I know, but as the first employee she’s a great fit! 

Did you need to go digital?

With the first monthly VAT submission due a few months ago in June and the first quarterly MTD VAT submission due a few days ago on 7th August, we’ve heard of some people who were still unaware they needed to comply. Will there be a raft of fines sent out by the HMRC to businesses who haven’t submitted digitally or will there be any leniency? 

The official notice on MTD for VAT introduced a ‘soft landing’ on penalties for the first 12 months, but this is only in respect of the digital links used for transferring or exchanging data between programs, so claiming to be unaware of needing to submit digitally will fall outside of this scope. Indeed HMRC have the power to charge a penalty for failure to keep the required VAT records with a maximum penalty of £500. 

The HMRC also have the power to charge a penalty of up to £400 for filing a VAT return other than electronically without their prior agreement (VAT regulations 1995 reg. 25A), a power that’s not been used much but which will be extended to include using compliant software to file.

Again, a ‘soft landing’ approach is expected but only when a trader has made reasonable efforts to comply – saying you didn’t know you needed to is again unlikely to fit the bill. 

So if you find you should have gone digital but didn’t, please feel free to get in touch and we’ll help you get on the digital track.

We’ve moved!

We should have shouted about this more and definitely sooner than we are now but we’ve moved!

Originally run from my home, we officially moved into our lovely office in Leigh-on-Sea during April. We’re at 1168 London Road if you want to call in and see us, although do check someone will be there as we’d hate for you to have a wasted journey and we’re still on the road a lot visiting clients, that’s not going to stop now we’ve got an office! 

As part of our lease we’ve also got access to a meeting room within the Old Gasworks on Progress Road so if it’s easier for you to come to us then it will no longer involve my dining table at home! 

Finally, you may have noticed I’ve used the term us above, it’s not me being posh, we’ve also taken on our first employee in May too, however I’ll do a lovely blog introducing Susan soon!

Do I need a Bookkeeper?

There is no simple answer to this question – the fact is that anyone can do their own bookkeeping. This might sound crazy coming from a Bookkeeper but with modern, digital software making this even easier most sole traders with simple income and expenditure can indeed do their own bookkeeping.

The question that most small business owners should be asking is ‘is doing my own books a productive use of my time?’ Every hour/day/weekend you spend on your bookkeeping is time you aren’t productively earning for your business.

It doesn’t stop there – while you are happily processing your income and expenses and possibly even your tax return, are you keeping up to date with compliance changes? Tax thresholds? Are you claiming all the tax-deductible expenses you are entitled to?

I think once you get to the stage where bookkeeping is the bottom of the to do list and never moves up or becomes a stress that keeps your business from progressing, you’re overdue a chat with a bookkeeper about how they can help you.

We understand the huge step outsourcing this integral part of your business can be, we also believe it is an affordable and viable option for many small businesses. 

We offer no obligation consultations to discuss your bookkeeping needs – however big or small, so contact us to arrange a coffee or chat.

How to find a great Bookkeeper

Outsourcing your bookkeeping is a big deal – you know it’s the right thing for your business and your sanity, but where do you start?

A personal referral is by far the best place to start – if you have a trusted friend or business acquaintance who can recommend someone they have worked with you are off to a great start!

Someone with experience in the industry is hugely important. A bookkeeper with experience and knowledge in accounting can make a huge difference when it comes to passing records to an accountant. A tidy set of books handed over at year end takes the stress out of tax return time. (Not sure what’s the difference between an accountant and a bookkeeper? Have a look here)

Relevant qualifications, licenses and insurance should also be seriously considered. Bookkeepers can be qualified and licensed by a number of professional bodies (AAT, IAB to name 2) but should always have professional indemnity insurance as well as Anti Money Laundering cover – for their own protection as well as yours.

Finally, once you are happy with the above you need to be able to trustyour bookkeeper. You should feel comfortable with them, feel you can ask questions and seek advice from them. 

We understand the huge step outsourcing this integral part of your business can be, we also believe it is an affordable and viable option for many small businesses. 

We offer no obligation consultations to discuss your bookkeeping needs – however big or small, so contact us to arrange a coffee or chat.