Will your tax return stand up to HMRC Profit Benchmarking? 1

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HMRC have been doing lots of research on SME businesses, the most interesting areas of research are:

Understanding Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) business life eventsSME Customer Journey Mapping

Research was carried out to understand:

  • the key life events and activities that SMEs experience
  • how these relate to tax
  • what opportunities there are for the improvement of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) services by more closely aligning them to business lifecycles

The Transparent Benchmarking Team Statement (November 2014)

HMRC is conducting a number of pilots, focussed on SME customers, designed to explore the effectiveness of publishing benchmarks on aiding greater voluntary compliance.

Following the first pilot (benchmark net profit ratios for Painters and Decorators, and Driving Instructors) in March 2014, HMRC will run two more in the autumn. One of these will focus on self-employed taxi drivers and pharmacists, where HMRC will be writing to around 2,500 agents that have a number of clients in the target sectors. The idea is to test whether publishing benchmarks through an agent is more effective than writing to a customer directly. Letters will also be sent to a sample of represented and unrepresented customers within the selected sectors to form control groups for evaluation purposes. All represented individuals and businesses written to directly will be informed that their agent has not received a copy of the letter.

The benchmark for both sectors is the net profit ratio. Because this is a controlled pilot exercise, not all agents or businesses within the relevant sectors will be receiving a letter. (source CIOT)

The Benchmarks we know so far are:

  • Painters & Decorators range from 59% to 79%
  • Driving Instructors 31% to 67%

So the range of profits are big!

We await the ranges for Taxi Drivers and Pharmacists.

If your profit doesn’t fit then you need to know why.

Do not ignore the letter because HMRC are likely to follow it up and assume you are deliberately trying to avoid tax!

You may have some valid reasons for not fitting the benchmark and you must explain those reasons to HMRC.

A deliberate error will results in a higher penalty (up 100% of the tax) but can also open the door to HMRC going back over up to 20 years of your accounts!

The letters refer to common mistakes in:

  • Travel Expenses
  • Telephone Costs
  • Utility and insurance charges
  • Professional Fees
  • Capital Expenditure

You may find these blogs helpful

Motor Expenses

Travel Expenses

Home Office Expenses

10 Ways to Save Tax

HMRC also have some useful toolkits/checklists…..

Business Profits Toolkit

Private and Personal Expenditure Toolkit

steve@bicknells.net

10 creative ways to cut your overheads 3

Businessman struggling with large Expenses

Making a profit and generating cash is vital to all businesses and a key way to improve profit is to reduce overheads, here are a few ideas:

  1. Re-think your office/premises requirements – Premises are big cost for most businesses, could you operate in a smaller space and sub-let part of your offices? could you work from home?
  2. Telecommute – Technology effectively reduces distance, so there is no need to require administrative people or specialists to be physically located together. Use VOIP, Skype and Video Conferencing.
  3. Cars – Company Cars can be expensive, time consuming to manage and emotive, why not consider car allowances
  4. Staff – Generally the biggest overhead is people, consider outsourcing rather than having the fixed overhead of in house staff
  5. Shop around – Are you getting the best deals on Stationery, Printing, Insurance, Light & Heat…..
  6. Students – Students, apprentices and interns are eager to learn and will be less expensive then experienced employees
  7. Refinance Debt – Could you reduce the cost of borrowing? could you borrow from your Self Invested Pension Plan?
  8. Paper –  Sorting, filing, and finding files requires time and space. Purchase a scanner and scan all important papers and keep them in well organised electronic files to save space and administrative costs.
  9. Go Green – Reducing waste and saving energy will save money too
  10. Buy Second Hand – Second hand office furniture is plentiful and its cheaper than buying new

steve@bicknells.net

15 ways to improve profitability 5

Profitability

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:

  1. Weed out loss making products, clients and departments – concentrate on high margin products and services
  2. Reduce Employment Costs – use Freelancers instead of Permanent Employees where appropriate
  3. Use Virtual Communication Technology – meetings can be held over the internet with Skype or other systems, it will cut traveling time and costs
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Negotiate with suppliers – always look at ways to reduce cost including using alternative suppliers
  7. Understand your clients requirements – the client knows what he wants and what represents value, if you deliver value you will get more business
  8. Seek add on sales – what other products or services might be useful to your existing clients
  9. Keep an eye on your competitors – competitor analysis will enable you to understand differences in price, distribution, market and demand
  10. Find New Markets – use market research to expand into new areas
  11. Decrease Overheads – analyse all of your overheads including Rent, Rates, Utilities – could you sub-let part or your premises or reduce waste
  12. Reduce Stock Levels – can you turnover your stock more quickly or buy to order
  13. Improve your Cash Cycle – reduce slow payment by debtors, invoice promptly and settle disputes quickly
  14. Invest in Technology – automate processes with ERP systems
  15. Use Key Performance IndicatorsKPI’s help you achieve your goals

steve@bicknells.net