Thursday, 15 June 2017

Making Tax Digital

Making Tax Digital... Ever heard of it?  Know what it is?

Whether you have or haven't it seems as though you're in good company.

About half the people we speak with have heard something about it and to the other half it's completely new.

So, what is it?

Quite simply Making Tax Digital or MTD, is the biggest change to the way tax is collected since the introduction of Self Assessment more than twenty five years ago.  In fact, we think it's bigger because it effects both individuals and companies.

MTD is the government and HMRC bringing the way individuals and businesses report on their tax affairs into the modern age.  It brings together all the different ways tax is reported on into one new process.

It is so big that it's being introduced over three reporting periods: April 2018 is the first critical date, followed by April 2019 and April 2020.

Before I launch into a huge explanation of what MTD, how it will work and what we're doing about it I need to make one thing perfectly clear: this is a huge project and timelines might shift and change.

In fact, there has already been some movement - so expect more.

Big Picture first.

HMRC and the government want to modernise reporting of income, expenses and profits because they reckon businesses make too many mistakes.  They also want to make the whole process more efficient and help (for 'help' read 'force') businesses to have better information about their finances.

Still big picture.

In essence when the project is fully implemented every business and individual tax payer with untaxed income of more than £10,000 will have to complete a return for HMRC four times a year and then complete a 'consolidating' report as well.

Just a little bit of detail...

If you run let's say a market stall as as sole trader and you make more than £85,000 a year from April 2018 you will have to submit a return of estimated figures cover the period April, May and June by 31st July.

You'll have to do the same again for the period July, August and September by the end of October... and so on.

And you'll have to keep records digitally... and you'll have to submit using government approved software.

At the moment the timescales for implementation look like this:

- April 2018: unincorporated bodies with turnover more than £85,000 will start reporting for Income Tax and NI

- April  2019: all other unincorporated bodies with turnover of more than £10,000 will start reporting for Income Tax and NI and all VAT registered businesses will report for VAT

- April 2020: all companies will report for Corporation Tax

Our message.

This is a huge, even mahoosive, project and details are still a little thin on the ground.

But please rest assured that we're on it.  We'll keep you posted and we'll make sure you know exactly what's happening, when, how and even who.

To start the ball rolling here's a link to a video we've prepared which should give you a high level view of MTD:

https://youtu.be/2eVaXroeVbo

Monday, 5 December 2016

How Much Should I be Paying My Accountant?

Hmmm...

A difficult question to answer but one I'm asked quite a lot.

Before having a go at answering this particularly thorny question I need to go back a little bit to explore the nature of 'price'.

First things first, then.

There is no such thing as cheap or expensive.  There is only value for money or not value for money... whether someone can afford something is an entirely different issue.

For example, I quite like cars and I quite like Bentley Continentals.  There's a Bentley Continental GT Speed for sale at the moment which starts from £168,900.

Is this cheap or expensive?

Well, in my heart of hearts I know that it's pretty good value for money (although other opinions may differ) and if I had the money I would buy one.

But I don't have the money, so I can't buy it in any case.  Does that mean it's expensive?  No... it just means I can't afford it.

And it's the same with your accountant - are they cheap or expensive?

Well, neither, actually.  They're either providing you with good value for money or poor value for money.

So the question is not is your accountant expensive, it's what's good value for money?

Here we get into the realms of opinion.  Just as I think the Bentley Continental GT is good value for money others will think it's a monumental waste of dosh - why on Earth would anyone spend such a vast amount of money on something that does the same job as a car that cost, say £20,000... or £10,000?

It all depends on what you're looking for in your car or accountant.  For me, what I believe to be good value for money is an accountant who is proactive - who contacts you with relevant information or ideas or suggestions for changing things around.

I also think good value for money is an accountant who charges a fixed fee that doesn't vary if you call a couple of times a month, or you pop into their office.  And don't think this is entirely altruistic... it's a win-win.  If you ask your accountant's opinion of for advice and they are able to help you out it just means there's one less thing for them to sort out at the end of the year.

Finally, I think good value for money is transparent.  You should know what you're paying up front and there should be nothing hidden because then you can budget correctly for period ahead.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Our New App - Using the Mileage Calculator

Last time round I talked you through how to record an expense using our new app.

This week I'm going to show you the mileage calculator which, personally, I think is ace.

If you haven't already, you'll need to download our app.  It's completely free and you don't need to be a customer to do it... you can use all the features to make your life easier.

To download you can visit either the App Store or Google Play and search TaxAssist Awesome (hmmm... that app developer with a sense of humour!

Alternatively you can follow either of these links to get to the right place:

App Store

Google Play

So - to the Mileage Calculator...

Open up the app and either click on the expenses picture on the front screen or tap expenses from the menu.

You'll get this screen:



Tap 'Add An Expense' and at the top of the screen you'll get two options: Expense or Mileage.  Given we're talking about mileage, have a guess at which one you need to need to tap... yep, you're quite right.

This will bring you through to the first screen of the Mileage Calculator which looks like this.



You need to add a few details.  Your name you just need to type in once and the app will remember you.  You have the option of adding your company name - it's up to you.

Tap on 'Mileage Date' to bring up a calendar so you can add the day the journey took place.  You can add journeys for any date but we suggest you do it on the day you make the journey - just so you remember to claim everything you're due.

You also have the option of adding the client you are working for - but it is just an option.

You then have a couple of choices.  Tap the box for either Private or Company car and choose either Single or Multiple Route.

Single Route is simply point to point - you leave, you arrive.  When you select this option you'll be asked whether this was a return journey - if it was the app automatically calculates both journeys; there and back.

Multiple Route allows you to add a number of journeys in one entry.  Perhaps you are travelling from one job to another and then home at the end of the day.  These 'legs' to your journey can be made as one entry.

Here's an example of a completed page:



Simple!

It's okay getting information in but how do you get it out again?

Well, that's easy, too.

Have a look at the first screen shot again.

See where it says 'Export All'.

Click on that and this is what you'll see:



Select the date range (we suggest once a month) and hit the red button that says 'Export'.

This creates a spreadsheet and will open up your email on your 'phone.  The default email is to us but you can change it to send the spreadsheet to yourself (or your own accountant if you'd like) ready to complete your VAT return, expenses claim or your year end accounts.

We'll even send you a reminder to download info via the app.

It really is that simple.

If you've downloaded the app and you want some help with the expenses module feel free to pop in or give me a call.  Here are the contact details:

Corstorphine: 0131 202 9888
Dunfermline: 01383 665 666
Goldenacre:   0131 322 3988

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Using Our App

Our new app has all the things you'd expect from an app...

Funny pictures of the team, useful documents in a library, calendar, telephone numbers and so on.

But the the thing we're most proud of is the Expenses Module.

The Expenses Module allows you to keep track of your day to day expenses and your mileage... and it's all completely simple.

Here's an example.

First thing first - you need to download the app which you can do from the App Store or Google Play by searching TaxAssist Awesome.  (I know, I know - an app developer with a sense of humour!

You can get into the Expenses Module in one of two ways.

Ont he front page of the app there's a box called 'Expenses' - tap this.  Or int he top left hand corner of the screen there are three lines.  Tap on these and a menu opens - the Expenses Module is listed fairly near the bottom of your screen.  Just tap on the word.

Once you've done this, the Expenses Module opens.

To Add an Expense

Tap 'Add and Expense'.


The first time only you'll need to add your name - either yours or your business.  Once you've done this tap on each white box to complete the process:


  • Date of Expense - this brings up a calendar.  We suggest you add an expenses as soon as it's incurred
  • Supplier - just a short description.  So if it's your lunch, for example, just type 'Greggs'.  (Other sandwich shops are available!)
  • Category - this will bring up a menu - simply select the expense type.  For your lunch it would 'Travelling expenses'
  • Amount - add in the amount.  This is the total you paid including any VAT which is specified on your receipt
All good so far?

Here comes the really clever bit.
If there's VAT applied to whatever you've bought tap 'Yes' box to the next question.  If there isn't, tap 'No'.

It doesn't matter whether you're VAT registered or not yourself.  Confirming that VAT has been paid will simply separate the VAT element out on the CSV file that gets sent to us.

Finally, if you have the receipt tap the final box 'Yes'.  You will then be prompted to take a photo of the receipt.  The app then attaches the photo to the expense.
You can throw the receipt away.

Finally, finally REMEMBER TO TAP 'SAVE' IN THE TOP RIGHT HAND CORNER!

Choices

Once you have a number of expenses you might want to submit them to someone.

If we're looking after your bookkeeping, accounts or your personal tax return you'll need to send your expenses to us.

You can do this once a month, quarterly once a year... whenever.

And it's really easy to do.

Back on the front page of the Expenses Module click on the button that says 'Export All'.

You will be prompted to select a date range for the expenses you wish to export.

When you've entered the date range you need, tap 'Export'.  The default email where your expenses will be sent is us... but you can change that to whatever email address you want.

So, you could send the expenses spreadsheet to yourself for your own records!

Next week, I'll talk you through the Mileage Calculator... which is brilliant, too.  Of course, feel free to get in touch if you'd like some help with it before next week.

0131 202 9888.

To download our app visit the App Store or Google Play:

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Mortgages

Pretty often, in the past, we've been asked if we 'do' mortgages.

'Well, no...' we always replied, because we didn't 'do' mortgages; we simply referred on to other people.

Then, one day, a customer of ours called us in a state of what I can only call apoplexy.

Not at us, fortunately... but at his mortgage broker.

He'd just learned that he'd been turned down for a mortgage because of his situation.  Essentially his situation is that he's a director of a limited company, pays himself a small wage and takes dividends for the rest.

Standard stuff, but the mortgage broker didn't understand this, submitted an application based a very small wage without explaining the full circumstances and lo and behold, his client got rejected.

Painful... and not a nice conversation for us to have, either, even though it was nothing to do with us per se.

But we have this rejection to thank for what we did next.

Find My Mortgage is a new mortgage broker based in our offices in Corstorphine, Dunfermline and Goldenacre.

You can find out a bit more about the business here: https://www.facebook.com/findmymortgage/

Here are the essentials.

Find My Mortgage is run by Neil Johnston.  The FMM philosophy is simple - to make finding the right mortgage for any given set of circumstances as easy and as stress free as possible... they would even go as far as saying 'enjoyable'!

And this philosophy runs through everything Neil and Richard do.  From the very simple things - you won't find a pin striped suit nor a a tie between them - to the more fundamental.

For example, how they get to know you and your circumstances, what you're trying to achieve and what would work best for you.

Find My Mortgage has access to the whole of the mortgage market and they can help you find the right mortgage quickly and efficiently.

So, here's what we would really love... if are thinking about:


  1. Moving house or buying your first home
  2. Reviewing or renewing your Buy to Let mortgage (whether it's fixed rate or variable interest)
  3. Consolidating some debts into one loan
  4. Building an extension for which you need to borrow some money
Please do give Find My Mortgage a buzz on 0131 441 1000.




Friday, 30 September 2016

How to Choose an Accountant

I do recognise that I may be biased but I have some pretty clear ideas about accountants, how to choose the right one for you and what your accountant should do for you.

So I thought I'd write about it and you can make your own mind up about my potential bias.

Let's get cracking, strangely, with what accountants shouldn't  be doing to encourage you to sign up with them...

What they shouldn't be saying is something along the lines of 'Come to us because the accounts we produce will be accurate...'

That's a bit like going into a motor dealership and the sales person saying 'Buy this car, all four wheels are entirely round...'

I mean, when you think about it, what's the alternative?  A car with three round wheels and a square one?  An accountant who produces inaccurate accounts?

Accurate accounts are the minimum that any customer should expect.  After all, the end product - a tax return, VAT figure or set of accounts - should all be the same, notwithstanding interpretation of the rules and the odd mistake.  They all come from the same raw materials: the records provided by the customer.

How do you make a choice, then?  Because, unless an accountant explains why they're the best choice for you and/or your business there's only one thing that will really drive your decision: price.

And we all know cheap does not mean the best.

To help make the choice here are my top six tests for choosing an accountant:

  1. First and foremost, do you actually like the accountant you are thinking about signing up with?  After all, you might well be asking them for advice... and even better, they could actually be proactive and call you with some ideas.  If you get on well with your accountant, you have a good relationship with them, then you are more likely to receive relevant advice because the accountant knows more about you and you are more likely to respect (and take) the advice given.
  2. Will you have a named contact - someone who you can build a day to day relationship with so you know who to call and you don't have to explain the same things over and over again?  Of course, it's not always possible to speak to the same person every time (they might be allowed holidays) but in general terms it really helps.
  3. It may sound a little silly but do you actually like going into the office?  Are the people friendly and do they seem genuinely pleased to see you.  A lot of practices measure their staff in chunks of time and so they don't have time to invest in a bit of banter... once again, if you enjoy visiting your accountant's office you are more likely to on a regular basis and you are more likely to get the advice you are looking for.
  4. Are your fees fixed?  If you are charged by time this can make things difficult - you might not know how much you are actually going to be charged and it might make you more reticent about calling or visiting...
  5. Is your accountant investing in technology?  Do they have their own app for completing expenses claim forms, for example?  Do they promote a cloud based bookkeeping system such as QuickBooks?  And here's another easy test - do they have two screens on every desk?  If they do they are probably investing in technology which is very, very important.
  6. And finally, do you get the impression they want you to succeed?  It's a bit difficult to tell, but if you asked would they put your business card out in their office?  Do they invite you to networking events from time to time?  If you asked them for a recommendation to another business, do you believe they would be able to do it?
Ultimately, of course, the choice depends on what you, the customer want and need from your accountant, so if the person your sitting in front of you asks 'What are you looking for from your accountant?'  You're probably onto a winner!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Our New App

I've been banging on about our new app for a while but it genuinely is just around the corner.

And we're really excited about it... for a number of reasons.

But mostly because our app is not just a pretty face, it serves a genuine purpose which should make your life as a business owner easier... and, if I'm entirely honest it'll make our lives easier, too.

So, I (kind of) hear you ask - what's so useful about your blog?

Well, apart from all the other stuff you usually get on apps from accountants - things like a directory so you can get in touch with us really easily, fabulous pictures of the team, some documents and an outline of the tax year... I can hear you all glazing over from here.

Apart from all that there's a really neat Expenses function.

The Expenses function allows you to do a couple of things.

Firstly you can record expenses... the app allows you to make a note of the amount and categorise the expense.  You can then take a photo of the receipt and get rid of it.

Secondly, you can record your mileage.  Just put in your start location, destination and whether it's a round trip or a trip with multiple stops and click a button.

Okay - all well and good.  But here's the really good bit.

Every month you can hit a button and our app wraps up all your expenses, turns them into a spreadsheet, attaches the photos of your receipts and emails them to us.

And you can do the same with your monthly mileage claim.

But now for the quid pro quo - the bit that makes our lives just a bit easier... but only if you're on QuickBooks (our cloud based bookkeeping package).

The spreadsheet we get from your app is already configured so we can directly upload to QuickBooks.

That means a couple of things - we can get information to you quicker and more efficiently.  In turn this means you can be better prepared for whatever your finances throw at you.

The second thing is that we are starting to make the collection of information from you easier and easier - something we're really keen to do.

Now to the rub... we need something from you!

We're actually looking for 10 volunteers to download the app and use it and report back on how they find it.  It should be too onerous, just tell us really briefly what works, what doesn't and what else you'd like to see.

If you'd like to be a Guinea Pig, just email richardlambert@taxassist.co.uk and he'll do the rest.