Cash is vital to you and your business, lack of cash kills businesses.
So how can you improve cash flow:
- Prepare a detailed cash flow forecast, schedule your direct debits and standing orders, knowing how much cash you need and when will help you focus on where the cash will come from
- Invoice your clients as soon as you can, often small businesses invoice late and this just lengthens the time it will take to collect payment
- Get stage payments on large contracts
- Negotiate payment terms with your suppliers, try to at least match the client payment terms with the supplier terms
- If you are able to spread payments do it, for example, most insurance companies will offer you that chance to spread the payments over 10 months
- Adopt ‘just in time’ for stock items, don’t carry more stock than you need to
- Pay sales commissions only after the client has paid
- Change weekly payrolls to monthly where possible
- Sell assets you don’t need
- Sell obsolete and slow moving stock
- Consider paying mileage allowances rather than owning company cars
- Chase your debts
- Get a good credit rating as it will help you negotiate better supplier terms
- File your accounts and tax returns on time to avoid penalties
- Credit check your clients and agree terms based on their credit history and rating
- Diversify to smooth out seasonal trends
- Control your costs and reduce them where possible
- Make cash collection a KPI for your business
- Finance your fixed asset purchases
- Use Invoice Finance if your clients demand long terms
Profit is vital to every business, what is the point of being in business if you don’t make a profit?
So here are my tips on how to improve your profitability:
- Weed out loss making products, clients and departments – concentrate on high margin products and services
- Reduce Employment Costs – use Freelancers instead of Permanent Employees where appropriate
- Use Virtual Communication Technology – meetings can be held over the internet with Skype or other systems, it will cut traveling time and costs
- Use Social Media and Networking – marketing can be costly and the results can be hard to measure, use your contacts to generate leads and sales and always ask for referrals
- Increase Productivity – eliminate wasteful and unnecessary processes, I was told it used to take 17 people in the NHS to change a light bulb on a hospital ward (requisitions, approvals, payments, changing the bulb…) the solution to cut wasted processes was to keep a stock of bulbs on the ward
- Negotiate with suppliers – always look at ways to reduce cost including using alternative suppliers
- Understand your clients requirements – the client knows what he wants and what represents value, if you deliver value you will get more business
- Seek add on sales – what other products or services might be useful to your existing clients
- Keep an eye on your competitors – competitor analysis will enable you to understand differences in price, distribution, market and demand
- Find New Markets – use market research to expand into new areas
- Decrease Overheads – analyse all of your overheads including Rent, Rates, Utilities – could you sub-let part or your premises or reduce waste
- Reduce Stock Levels – can you turnover your stock more quickly or buy to order
- Improve your Cash Cycle – reduce slow payment by debtors, invoice promptly and settle disputes quickly
- Invest in Technology – automate processes with ERP systems
- Use Key Performance Indicators – KPI’s help you achieve your goals
You are entitled to plan your tax affairs in a way that makes sure you do not pay more tax than you have to. There are many legitimate ways in which you can save tax, or example by saving in a tax-free ISA (Individual Savings Account), making donations to charity through Gift Aid, claiming capital allowances on assets used in your business or paying into a pension scheme.
Here are 10 ways to pay less tax:
- Choose the right business structure for your business – most businesses start out as sole traders but once they start making profits convert to limited companies, this is because sole traders pay income tax starting at 20% and national insurance class 2, £2.70 per week and class 4, 9% on profits between £7,755 and £41,450, whereas, in a company a you could pay the tax and NI free salary of £7,748 and then pay dividends from profits after corporation tax of 20%
- Employ your family – Children can legally work from the age of 13 which means they can perform activities which are relevant and justifiable in your business. Each member of your family has a tax free allowance of £9,440 (2013/14).
- Avoid earning more than £100,000 – Once you earn over £100,000 you start to lose your personal allowance, when earnings are above £118,880 all of your allowance of £9,440 will have been lost
- Pay into your Pension – Currently you can pay £50,000 per year into to your pension
- Pay Dividends – Generally directors will take a low directors fee and the rest of their income in Dividends
- Claim Expenses – You may well have an office at home and use your car for business
- Use Company Assets – Sometime the Benefit in Kind Tax works in your favour, so you could get the business to buy the assets for you to use for example a commercial vehicle or computer equipment
- Buy Assets – You should be able to buy assets with a loan or on credit but you will get the tax relief as soon as you take ownership
- Check for Building Assets – do have integral building assets
- R&D – Could you claim R&D tax credits
The Intermediaries legislation known as IR35 was introduced on 6th April 2000.
The aim of the legislation is to eliminate the avoidance of tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) through the use of intermediaries, such as Personal Service Companies or partnerships, in circumstances where an individual worker would otherwise –
- For tax purposes, be regarded as an employee of the client; and
- For NICs purposes, be regarded as employed in employed earner’s employment by the client.
Many Freelance Contractors have some assignments within IR35 and some outside, you can ask HMRC for their opinion.
If you would like HMRC’s opinion on a particular engagement you should send your contract(s) to:
IR35 Customer Service Unit
Ground Floor North
e-mail: IR35 Unit
Tel No: 0845 303 3535 (Opening hours 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Closed weekends and bank holidays) Fax No: 0845 302 3535
If your contract is within IR35 its not the end of the world, the chances are that you will still pay less tax than a direct employee, to calculate the tax you have to work through 8 stages of calculation, here is a summary:
- How much were you paid? deduct 5% for business costs
- Add any other payments/non cash benefits
- Deduct business expenses – travel, meals, accommodation
- Deduct capital allowances relevant to the work done
- Deduct pension contributions made by your company
- Deduct any NIC paid by your company on your salary and benefits
- Deduct any salary or benefits already paid and taxed
- If the answer is zero or negative then there is no deemed payment, if the answer is positive you do have a deemed payment which will be taxable
HMRC have a spreadsheet you can download which has further details.
Last week Zero Hours Contracts were in news, the BBC reported on 5th August 2013:
The Business Secretary Vince Cable fears zero-hours contracts are being abused after research suggested a million people could be working under them.
I think that employers may be tempted to switch from Zero Hours to Freelance Contractors.
PCG published this story on 3rd July 2013:
Demand from UK businesses for contract workers is continuing to rise in 2013, which could be good news for freelancers looking to get their foot in the door on a lucrative new project.
Why is it attractive to use Freelancers?
- Skill is more important than location in many business sectors – we live in world where internet can allow you to work with anyone at anytime, you can now track down the best person to work with even if they live thousands of miles away
- Lower fixed costs – Using Freelancers will lower your fixed costs (in similar way to Zero Hours Contracts), you employ them for a specific project and only pay for what you need so there isn’t any surplus capacity
- Tax advantages – Freelancers run their own business and that means they pay less tax than employees. Employers save tax too, such as Employers NI.
- Competitive Advantage – You can put together a team for a contract rather than finding contracts that fit your workforce, this means you can hire the best.
- 110% Commitment – A Freelancers success and future work depends on them performing to the highest level on every contract, failure is not an option for a successful contractor.
So is it a mission impossible for salaried employees to make the transition to Freelancers
On the 8th August, HMRC published a leaflet to help you identify the tell-tale signs of avoidance schemes, and warn you of the potential negative consequences of using them.
You are entitled to plan your tax affairs in a way that makes sure you do not pay more tax than you have to. There are many legitimate ways in which you can save tax, or example by saving in a tax-free ISA (Individual Savings Account), making donations to charity through Gift Aid, claiming capital allowances on assets used in your business or paying into a pension scheme. But there is a big difference between using tax reliefs and allowances in the way in which they are intended to be used, and trying to bend the rules to avoid tax.
There are warning signs you can look for which should help you decide whether you are being offered good tax advice about how to plan your affairs or whether you are being sold a tax avoidance scheme.
Here are the warning signs according to HMRC:
- it sounds too good to be true and cannot have been intended when Parliament made the relevant tax law (for example, some schemes promise to get rid of your tax liability for little or no real cost, and without you having to do much more than pay the promoter and sign some papers)
- the tax benefits or returns are out of proportion to any real economic activity, expense or investment risk
- the scheme involves arrangements which seem very complex given what you want to do
- the scheme involves artificial or contrived arrangements
- the scheme involves money going around in a circle back to where it started
- the scheme promoter either provides any funding needed to make the scheme work or arranges for it to be made available by another party
- offshore companies or trusts are involved for no sound commercial reason
- a tax haven or banking secrecy country is involved
- the scheme contains exit arrangements designed to side-step tax consequences
- there are secrecy or confidentiality agreements
- upfront fees are payable or the arrangement is on a no win/no fee basis
- the scheme has been allocated a Scheme Reference Number (SRN) by HMRC under the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) regime
Be on your guard!
At the moment all businesses supplying telecommunications, broadcasting and e-services such as downloaded ‘apps’, music, gaming, e-books and similar services to private consumers located in other EU Member States (referred to as ‘B2C’ supplies) are taxed where the business supplier is established, which is simple to understand and implement.
In the Finance Bill 2014 this will be changed and from 1st January 2015 VAT will be charged in the country where the customer has ‘use and enjoyment’ of the services.
So lets say you are an American (normally zero rated) on holiday in France, even though you pay with an American credit card and buy from a UK supplier because you are reading your ebook in France, French VAT will apply. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it.
To help with this HMRC are introducing the VAT MOSS (Mini One Stop Shop) and businesses can register from October 2014.
Unless businesses opt to register for MOSS, businesses that make intra EU B2C supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting and e-services will be required to register and account for VAT in every Member State in which they have customers. MOSS will give these businesses the option of registering in just the UK and accounting for VAT on supplies to their customers in other Member States using a single online MOSS VAT return submitted to HMRC. This will significantly reduce their administrative burdens.
- Examples of telecommunications services include: fixed and mobile telephone services; videophone services; paging services; facsimile, telegraph and telex services; access to the internet and worldwide web.
- Examples of broadcasting services include: radio and television programmes transmitted over a radio or television network, and live broadcasts over the internet.
- Examples of e-services include: video on demand, downloaded applications (or “apps”), music downloads, gaming, e-books, anti-virus software and online auctions.
HMRC VAT Place of Supply Link
If you supply e services its worth considering the accounting and pricing changes that you will need to implement and how you will incorporate the ‘use and enjoyment’ rules.
The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 comes into force on 1st September 2013 and Section 31 makes changes to the Employment Rights Act 1996 inserting section 205A Employee Shareholders.
205A Employee shareholders
(1) An individual who is or becomes an employee of a company is an “employee shareholder” if—
(a) the company and the individual agree that the individual is to be an employee shareholder,
(b) in consideration of that agreement, the company issues or allots to the individual fully paid up shares in the company, or procures the issue or allotment to the individual of fully paid up shares in its parent undertaking, which have a value, on the day of issue or allotment, of no less than £2,000,
(c) the company gives the individual a written statement of the particulars of the status of employee shareholder and of the rights which attach to the shares referred to in paragraph (b) (“the employee shares”) (see subsection (5)), and (d) the individual gives no consideration other than by entering into the agreement.
(2) An employee who is an employee shareholder does not have—
(a) the right to make an application under section 63D (request to undertake study or training),
(b) the right to make an application under section 80F (request for flexible working),
(c) the right under section 94 not to be unfairly dismissed, or
(d) the right under section 135 to a redundancy payment.
Giving up employment rights might not sound like a good idea for employees but there are tax advantages for both the employee and employer:
- Dividends are not subject to PAYE or National Insurance
- Dividends would not be used as Pay in Auto Enrolment
- Capital Gains Tax Allowances should make most gains tax free
- The employer will benefit from cost savings on the sacrificed employment rights