Why your SME needs a CGMA CFO!

Flying Superhero

Many businesses require the skills of professionals to oversee and direct financial operations. These professionals are referred to CFOs, chief financial officers, or financial directors (FD).

So what should your Chief Financial Officer be doing for your business…..

1. The CFO should be able to look into to future to see what the future financial needs of the business will be
2. He/She should negotiate funding facilities to ensure the business can manage its cash flow needs
3. The CFO should be able to foresee the future tax consequences and risks of decisions
4. He/She should help the business to achieve the best possible credit scores
5. Identify ways to reduce costs and improve profitability
6. Understand the business owners objective and focus the business on achieving those objectives
7. Ensure financial and regulatory compliance
8. Ensure accurate and timely reporting of management information
9. Evaluate growth opportunities
10. Apply corporate governance

What key questions should you regularly ask your CFO…..

1. What is our cash cycle and how can we improve it – Cash Cycle Blog
2. What Key Performance Indicators should we use and what are they telling us – KPI Blog
3. How can we improve profitability – 15 ways to improve profitability Blog
4. What is our Business Plan and is it the right plan – How can you create a Business Plan
5. Can we reduce Overheads – 10 creative ways to reduce overheads Blog

Many smaller businesses and SME’s can’t afford a Full Time (or even in some cases a Part Time CFO or FD) but they need help with:
• Business Plans
• Budgeting and Forecasting
• Cash Flow Management
• Buy or Rent decisions
• Capital Investment Appraisal
• Accounting Procedures and Systems
• Business Strategy
• Busines Funding and Investment
• KPI’s

Expert Advice Fotolia

Virtual FD’s fill this gap because:
1. You only pay for what you need
2. There is no employment contract
3. It provides access to higher level of expertise (in theory)

But be careful who you choose. There is no law preventing anyone from calling themselves an accountant, and as a result small businesses are unknowingly paying someone without the necessary skills to handle their finances and help their business grow.

So what experience does your accountant have to show that they have the skills to be your Virtual FD?

I am sure that in theory they have the technical skills but is that enough?
With the exception of CGMA (CIMA) accountants many accountants in practice have never worked in business let alone been a Finance Director!

I happen to think that time served experience as a CFO does make a difference because it greatly improves your insight and skills.

Would you get on a plane with a Pilot who in theory knew how to fly but had never actually piloted a plane before?

When you choose a Virtual FD you are trusting them with the success of your business. Choose wisely!

CIMA operates a Masters degree standard scheme of qualifying examinations for prospective members. It is active in promoting local education, training and management development operations, the promotion of new techniques through its research foundation and the dissemination of management accounting practices through publications and other media related activities. WIKIPEDIA

Chartered Global Management Accountant™ (CGMA®) is the global designation for management accountants. It’s powered by the resources and expertise of AICPA and CIMA, two of the world’s leading accounting organisations.



What are the rules for claiming reduced VAT on conversions?

mounting thermal insulation boards

VAT Notice 708 has the exact details and whether or not the 5% rate can be used is a matter of fact not opinion. HMRC will not give specific clearance, they will refer you to the rules and ask you to check the rules with your builder for your project.

The property owner doesn’t issue a certificate (as would be needed to Zero Rating), its for the builder/developer to determine whether and on what the 5% VAT rate can be applied.

The basic conditions for reduced-rating the conversion of premises to a different residential use

7.1.1 Introduction

If you carry out work to an existing building you will normally have to charge VAT at the standard rate. You may, however, be able to charge VAT at the reduced rate of 5 per cent if you are converting premises into:

  • a ‘single household dwelling’ – see paragraph 14.4
  • a different number of ‘single household dwellings’ – see paragraph 14.4
  • a ‘multiple occupancy dwelling’, such as bed-sits – see paragraph 14.5, or
  • premises intended for use solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’ – see paragraph 14.6

Example 1

A block of flats consists of 4 floors, each with 4 flats. A lift is installed and work is carried out throughout the whole building. On the ground, first and second floors the footprint of each flat is changed to take account of the new lift. This results in the internal configuration of each flat being changed. On the third floor 3 penthouse flats are created from the original 4.

Although the overall number of single household dwellings in the building has changed (there has been a reduction by one unit) only the work to convert the third floor will be eligible for the reduced rate because it is only in this part of the building that the number of dwellings has changed. But see also the next example.

Example 2

Taking the above example, if the reduction in the number of flats on the third floor happens by combining 2 of the original flats together – the other 2 being refurbished – then the reduced rate will only apply to the work to merge the 2 flats together.

Example 3

Taking example 1, as well as the changes to the top floor, the number of flats on the ground floor is changed to 5 smaller units. In this example, the overall number of dwellings in the building has not changed (there are 16 units both before and after the work). However, as parts of the building are examined independently, and because the respective parts of the building meet the conditions at paragraph 7.3, the reduced rate can apply to the work to convert those parts.

What services can I reduced-rate?

Other than installing goods that are not building materials, you can reduced-rate any works of repair, maintenance (such as redecoration), or improvement (such as the construction of an extension or the installation of double glazing) carried out to the fabric of the building.

You can also reduced-rate works within the immediate site of the premises being converted that are in connection with the:

  • means of providing water, power, heat or access
  • means of providing drainage or security, or
  • provision of means of waste disposal

All other services are standard-rated. For example, you must standard-rate:

  • the installation of goods that are not building materials, such as carpets and fitted bedroom furniture
  • the erection and dismantling of scaffolding
  • the hire of goods
  • landscaping
  • the provision of professional services, such as those provided by architects, surveyors, consultants and supervisors

7.6.1 Garages

You can reduced-rate the:

  • conversion of an outbuilding into a garage
  • construction of a new detached garage, and
  • the construction of a drive serving the garage


  • the garage is intended to be occupied with the ‘single household dwelling’, ‘multiple occupation dwelling’, or the premises intended for use solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’ resulting from the qualifying conversion, and
  • the work is carried out at the same time as the qualifying conversion

Please note however that you cannot reduced-rate the provision of a hardstanding unless it is also used as an access.

If you carry out work that requires statutory planning consent or statutory building control and it has not been granted, then your work is standard-rated.


Contact Us


How to use Sage One for property accounting

To Let

Whether you choose to set up your property investment business as a Sole Trader, Partnership or Limited Company you will need to keep accounting records.

Landlords need to register for Self Assessment and companies need to file accounts and pay Corporation Tax.

You will need to keep track of the rental income and claim allowable expenses

  • Mortgage or Loan Interest (but not capital)
  • Repairs and maintenance (but not improvements)
  • Decorating
  • Gardening
  • Cleaning
  • Travel costs to and from your properties for lettings or meetings
  • Advertising costs
  • Agents fees
  • Buildings and contents insurance
  • Ground Rent
  • Accountants Fees
  • Rent insurance (if you claim the income will need to be declared)
  • Legal fees relating to eviction

How can Sage One help you?

Rent Collection

Sage One is cloud based which means you can access your records 24/7 on any device but more than that you could invoice your tenants and put a pay now button on their invoice (using Sage Pay).  Making it easier to pay and track rent will keep you in control.

Work with your accountant

Sage One has accountant access so your accountant can help you quickly resolve queries and provide advice, no more print out and back ups.

Budgeting and Planning

You can use the Sage One help plan your cash flow and Sage One has build in Cash flow Forecast based on supplier and tenant payments

Connected Bank Accounts

Sage One links to you bank account so you can always be up to date on rent collected

Multi User Access

As you business grows you can allow others to have access which you can control


You could set up each property as a ‘Project’ and runs reports for each property or all properties. Here the analysis codes you can use:

Type Examples of use
Department Sales divisions, regional sales.
Cost centre Business locations.
Project A specific property or planned work.

You can also use Nominal Codes for analysis.


Contact Us




How do you claim VAT Bad Debt Relief?

Debt Envelope Scattered Stack

VAT Notice 700/18 sets out the basic rules

Conditions for claiming bad debt relief

Number Condition(s)
1. You must already have accounted for the VAT on the supplies and paid it to HM Revenue and Customs.
2. You must have written off the debt in your day to day VAT accounts and transferred it to a separate bad debt account.
3. The value of the supply must not be more than the customary selling price.
4. The debt must not have been paid, sold or factored under a valid legal assignment. (See paragraph 3.12).
5. The debt must have remained unpaid for a period of six months after the later of the time payment was due and payable and the date of the supply (one year after the date of supply for supplies made from 1 April 1989 to 31 March 1992), and
6. If the goods were supplied before 19 March 1997, ownership must have passed to your customer, or through the customer to a third party.
7. For supplies made to a VAT registered customer between 26 November 1996 and 30 April 1997, you must send a notice to them. A copy of the notice must also be retained. (See paragraph 2.7 for an example).


You must wait at least six months from the later of when payment was due and payable or the date of supply. The due date for payment may be determined by your normal credit terms, or by any longer period for payment which you agree with your customers. You cannot claim on a return for an accounting period earlier than the one in which you become entitled to the relief.

For supplies made after 30 April 1997, you must claim within four years and six months of the later of, when payment is due and payable or the date of supply.

Do I have to keep any records?

Yes, when you can claim a refund you must keep:

  • a copy of the VAT invoices for the supplies on which you are claiming a refund. (If you did not issue a VAT invoice you must have a document showing the equivalent information), and
  • a separate bad debt account showing the:
    (a) amount you have written off as a bad debt
    (b) amount of VAT you wish to claim as bad debt relief
    (c) VAT period in which you have claimed a refund
    (d) total amount of VAT charged on each supply
    (e) VAT period in which you originally accounted for VAT on the supply
    (f) payment received for each supply
    (g) name of your customer, and
    (h) date and number of the invoice to which the bad debt relates. (If you did not issue an invoice you must include sufficient information to allow the time and type of the supply to be readily identified)
    (i) a copy of any notice issued

Important things to note

  1. For Sales after 1st January 2003 it is not necessary to inform the customer that you are claiming bad debt relief
  2. The Bad Debt Relief Account is not part of the statutory accounts and does not mean the bad debt has been written off
  3. The Bad Debt Relief Account is often kept as a separate manual record supplementary to the main VAT records
  4. The VAT Bad Debt Reclaim is entered as Input Tax in period in which it is claimed
  5. Any money which comes in subsequently is considered to include VAT


Contact Us



Self Assessment Season Statistics 2016

SA100 tax return form with calculator and pencil lying on table

Self Assessment facts summary:

  • 11.26 million SA returns due
  • 10.39 million returns were received in total
  • Around 870,000 SA returns not submitted by 31st January 2016
  • 10.39 million returns received by midnight on 31 January (92% of total issued)
  • 9.24 million returns filed online (89%)
  • 1.14 million returns filed on paper (11%)
  • More than 4.45 million returns received in January 2016 (43% of total received)
  • 823,000 returns received on 30 and 31 January (18% of total returns received in January)
  • Busiest hour: 14:00 – 15:00 on 29 January – 50,358 returns received (839.3 per minute; 13.9 per second).
  • N.B. The figures are sourced from Self Assessment management information from the Computerised Environment for Self Assessment as at 01 February 2016 for the 2014-15 tax year.


Contact Us

Are you ready for Auto Enrolment?

Staging Dates

The tidal wave of small businesses going through Auto Enrolment has now started with the peak being next year in 2016/17.

So what do you need to do before you stage?

  1. Find out your staging date, this the date when your obligation under Auto Enrolment will start, the Pension Regulator calculator is a good place to start
  2. Nominate a person to be the Pension Regulators key contact and register their name with the Regulator
  3. Draw up a Project Plan and consider whether you need help (60% of companies currently staging have decided they do need help! and most businesses will start by asking their accountant to help with project management)
  4. Choose a Pension Provider – Nest, Now Pensions and The Peoples Pension are the 3 largest
  5. Makesure your Payroll can provide the analysis needed – Brightpay works with the providers shown below, does your payroll?

BrightPay Pensions

In addition you will need to work on elements of the Project Plan such as Assessing the Workforce, Letters to Employees, Considering Postponement etc



Contact Us

What expenses can the self employed claim?

Business people group.

The UK has seen the fastest growth in self-employment in Western Europe over the past year, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

There are many types of expense that you can claim and HMRC have just created a new guide…

HMRC expenses


Pre Trading expenses

Many business owners incur in costs before they actually start in business. You can go back up to 7 years can claim costs as pre-trading expenses.

Let’s says you want to start a home based business, you need to create an office at home or build an office in the garden. This means that you have building costs as well as equipment costs before you start trading. These costs are submitted to the new business as an expense claim by the owner on the first day the business starts.

Also you might have legal cost for contracts or renting offices or equipment, you could have costs for product development, stock, samples, or even a motor vehicle.

You can check more about pre-trading expenses legislation.gov.uk or at HMRC.

However, what happens when you have paid VAT prior being VAT registered? You can reclaim any VAT you are charged on goods or services that you use to set up your business.

Normally, this will include:

  • VAT on goods you bought for your business within the last 4 years and which you have not yet sold
  • VAT on services, which you received not more than 6 months before your date of registration

You should include this VAT on your first VAT return. If you have doubts as to whether you should be VAT registered or not, take a look at VAT Notice 700/1: should I be registered for VAT.

Simplified or Actual Expenses

Simplified expenses are a way of calculating some of your business expenses using flat rates instead of working out your actual business costs. You don’t have to use simplified expenses. You can just decide if it suits your business or not.

Simplified expenses can be used by:

  • sole traders
  • business partnerships that have no companies as partners

You can use flat rates for:

  • business costs for vehicles
  • working from home
  • living in your business premises

You must calculate all other expenses by working out the actual costs.

In order to find out which method works best for you, you can use the Government expense checker

Don’t forget Capital Allowances and the Annual Investment Allowance

Buying equipment, even if it’s on finance, is a great way to reduce your tax bill, the 100% AIA can be used on the date you buy the asset.

Currently, the Annual Investment Allowance is £500,000 and this has been reduced to £200,000 in January 2016.

It is not necessary to claim the maximum capital allowances available or even claim them at all, crazy as it might sound there are situations when not claiming capital allowances can reduce your tax bill!

Sole Trader Example

The personal tax allowance is currently £10,600 (2015/16)

Let’s assume profits are £15,000 and Capital Allowances available are £5,000, so that would reduce taxable profits to £10,000 which would waste £600 of the personal tax allowance.

It would therefore be better to only claim £4,400 in capital allowances and claim the remaining £600 in the following year.


Employers are saving £6k by opting for Self Employed Freelancers…

A survey by PeoplePerHour has shown that the self-employed segment of the labour market in both the UK and USA is growing at a rate of 3.5% per year – faster than any other sector. Should this growth continue for the next five years, researchers predict that half of the working population could be self-employed freelancers by 2020.

The survey also suggests that small businesses that hire freelancers instead of full-time employees could save £6,297.17 per annum. The survey shows that the average waste or spare capacity for each employee in a SMEs is 1.9 hours per day.

The research identifies a number of key drivers behind the shift from employment to self-employment, including “the availability of ubiquitous and inexpensive computing power, sophisticated applications and cloud-based services“. [Lawdonut]



Contact Us

IR35 new status test – coming soon

surprised businessman holding a laptop

IR35 is a nightmare for contractors, since it came into force on the 6th April 2000, it has never been clear cut as to whether a contractor is in or out of IR35. Being in IR35 means paying a lot more tax.

There are a range of factors to consider, including:

1. The nature of the contract and written terms
2. Right of substitution
3. Mutality of obligation
4. Right of control
5. Provision of own equipment
6. Financial risk
7. Opportunity to profit
8. Length of engagement
9. ‘part and parcel’ of the organization
10. Entitlement to employee-type benefits
11. Right of termination
12. Personal factors
13. The intention of the parties

But soon we may have an easy way to check, HMRC are planning to develop an online test similar to the Employment Status Indicator Test.

The test will be completely anonymous.

Having clarity should make life easier for everyone!


Contact Us

Good news for employers – £3k employers allowance

Fotolia_45741373_XS cash

The NICs Employment Allowance was introduced in April 2014, for the purpose of supporting businesses and charities in helping them to grow by cutting the cost of employment. Eligible employers can claim the allowance, which reduces their Employer NICs bill by up to £2,000 a year. This is an ongoing allowance. Once an employer has claimed the allowance, they will continue to enjoy it in future years, without needing to do anything further. Over a million employers have benefited from the allowance since its introduction.

This measure will increase the Employment Allowance by £1,000 to £3,000 from April 2016. This means eligible business and charities will be able to claim a greater reduction on their employer NICs liability.

This is fantastic news for employers, but there is a potential sting in the tail.

HMRC plan to exclude one person businesses!

But many believe that HMRC’s plan won’t work because all you need to do is employ a family member or friend and then the one person should qualify for the allowance.

John Cullinane, CIOT tax policy director, said: “The government may find its plan to be ineffective in reducing employment allowance claims because it is open to abuse. It will simply have the effect of penalising single director-employee limited companies that are unable to, or do not know that they could, appoint another person as director or employee to claim the allowance.”



Contact Us

Should you lease or buy a van – which is better?


Commercial Vehicles are tax efficient which ever option you choose and provided your employees agree to minimal private use they won’t have to pay any benefit in kind tax on using the vehicle.

But its important to make sure the vehicle you choose is actually a van and not classed as a car. For example double cab pick ups are extremely popular and it makes a big difference whether a double cab pick up is treated as Car or a Van for tax purposes, in summary:

  1. Benefit in Kind on Cars is linked to CO2 where as on a Van its Flat Rate (and could be zero if your private use is insignificant)
  2. Vans qualify for the Annual Investment Allowance, Cars have restricted Capital Allowances
  3. You can reclaim VAT on Vans but its much harder to reclaim VAT on cars

HMRC have some guidance in EIM23150….

Under this measure, a double cab pick-up that has a payload of 1 tonne (1,000kg) or more is accepted as a van for benefits purposes. Payload means gross vehicle weight (or design weight) less unoccupied kerb weight (care is needed when looking at manufacturers’ brochures as they sometimes define payload differently).

Under a separate agreement between Customs and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a hard top consisting of metal, fibre glass or similar material, with or without windows, is accorded a generic weight of 45kg. Therefore the addition of a hard top to a double cab pick-up with an ex-works payload of 1,010 kg will convert the vehicle into a car (net payload reduced to 965 kg). Under this agreement, the weight of all other optional accessories is disregarded. HMRC has also adopted this treatment.


black large pickup

A double cab with a payload in excess of 1000kg can still be classified as a car if the taxman dealing with the case decides it is a car. You may have to justify a genuine business need for the vehicle.

Annual Investment Allowance

Since January 2016 the Annual Investment Allowance has been permanently set at £200,000, which means the first £200,000 you spend on assets, including Commercial Vehicles (vans), will be offset against your tax bill immediately. This applies to both the self employed and companies.

So if the buy your van, even if you get with a loan or on hire purchase, you should be able to make a big tax saving in the first year.

However, just remember that when you sell the vehicle there will be a balancing charge for tax, basically this means that the total tax offset will be the purchase price less residual value.

If you have already used up your AIA you will still be able to claim Capital Allowances.

If you lease the vehicle you can not claim AIA or Capital Allowances as you don’t own the vehicle.


If you buy the vehicle you will be entitled to full VAT refund, if you lease it you can reclaim the VAT on each Lease Payment (which slows down the recovery of VAT).

If you buy the Van when you later sell it you must charge VAT on the sale price.


Cash flow might be a reason to choose a lease as its likely the deposit will be less than if you get a loan or HP.


If you need different vehicles for different staff at different times, leasing might be a good flexible option.


Contact Us