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July 22, 2017

What can I claim as expenses through my limited company?

There’s an increasing number of online accountancy firms that are super easy and convenient to use – but might lack that personal touch the older generation came to expect from the person overseeing company finances. Meetings with accountants used to be full and frank conversations about what can be legitimately claimed as expenses – although now your accountant’s expense advice might only extend to a quick glance over a spreadsheet.

It pays to be well informed when it comes to what can be claimed as expense and what can’t. While it’s no substitute for professional advice we can run you through a list of things you’ll want to make sure you keep you receipts for so you can dig into a bit more detail with your accountant later:

Banking costs

The more established your business becomes the more you’ll incur in business banking charges. Keep a track of monthly or quarterly charges and make sure they’re on your expenses list.

Specialist clothing

If your business requires specialist clothing for any role then this can be claimed for – as can equipment like boots, gloves, masks, helmets and so forth.

Living and working away from home?

If you’re living away from home because of work then you can claim for ‘subsistence’ – this means any accommodation and general living costs should be kept track of carefully as they can quickly add up. There’s a limit of 24 months – beyond which your temporary workplace is no longer considered temporary…

Travelling for work?

In a similar vein to living away from home – temporary accommodation when you’re on a long-distance visit can also be claimed. You can claim ‘incidental’ expenses of £5 if you’re away in the UK – and £10 if you’re away overseas.

Any travel tickets – whether that’s for planes, trains, taxis or boats can also be claimed, as can travel to and from business engagements – no sneaking in pleasure-boat or sightseeing tickets though.

Don’t forget to keep tabs on your driving miles too – you can claim 45p for every mile you do up to 10,000 – with miles beyond that dropping to 25p. Not a driver? No problem, bicycles experience wear and tear too – you can claim 20p per mile if you pedal your business miles.

Computer equipment

Claiming against computer equipment can be tricky – you have to ensure that you’re claiming for something that is used exclusively for work purposes, so if that iPad doubles up as the family music centre or feeds your CandyCrush addiction then you’ll need to scratch it from the list… You may also be able to claim back expenses for things such as web hosting for your business website, for more information on web hosting check out this great guide to wordpress web hosting.

Need training?

If you’re going on a training course that’s relevant to your work then this is also a legitimate expense. If it’s not immediately obvious why you might require the course – jot a quick note of why it’s crucial for the business and it’ll save you trying to justify it further down the line.

Phone use

As long as your phone, internet and mobile packages are registered in the company name then they can be claimed. Are you working from a home office with a shared line? Take a while to look through an itemised bill and pick out what are your business calls – they’ll have a cost attributed to them which can be claimed.

Working from home?

If you’re home based then there’s a varying amount that can be claimed. Let’s say you have 6 rooms and 1 of those is used entirely for work – you’ll be able to claim 1/6th of the cost of heating and providing electric for business use. Even if you don’t keep tabs on this use (it can be difficult to accurately work out) – HMRC allow you to claim £4 a week without receipts or statements.

Professional services

There are some obvious ones here – your accountant, solicitor and so forth – but don’t forget that any work done on your premises, specialist marketing, outsourced services can also fall into the professional services category.

Hire-purchase agreements

A little like mobile phone and utility contracts, finance contracts can be claimed – but only if they’re in the company name.

Insurances

Do you need public liability insurance? Insurances that relate to employee health and safety? Or something more specialised? These are all business expenses that you can’t safely trade without.

Stationary and printing

Any stationary that you buy to support your role is an expense – as is any printing you do. Don’t worry, this doesn’t just extend to the company printer, anything that you’re outsourcing or ordering online falls into the printing category.

Depreciation of company assets

This is a complex area with specialist calculations to be made. Essentially any asset held is likely to lose value as it ages – and this depreciation can be offset against tax. Your accountant is likely to be on top of this one – you just need to make sure you’ve got a comprehensive list of assets held.

Professional magazines, journals and subscriptions

If they relate to your work then subscribing to often costly professional publications is very much a business expense.

Eye-health

If your employees use screens as part of their role then you can claim an annual eye-test as an expense.

Employee general health

Although we have a national health service there’s an allowance made for any company who wishes for their employees to have a private medical health check.

Christmas party!

If  you’ve got a festive celebration planned then there’s an allowance of £150 per attendee that can be claimed, including partners and spouses – which might be some solace if the company credit card ends up behind the bar…

What can’t be claimed?

It’s important to remember HMRC’s guidelines when it comes to looking at your expenses – they clearly state that expenses should be “wholly, exclusively and necessary” for your business purposes. It’s important that you’re watertight on this requirement – when it comes to tax, a ‘little white lie’ is generally referred to as ‘fraud’ by HMRC.

Overview

Because we’re dealing with such a complex and professional area it’s important to note that everything here is intended as a ‘rough guide’ to expand people’s awareness as to what can be viewed as a company expense. You absolutely must seek the professional advice of a qualified accountant with experience in your field to ensure you’re maximising your expenses while staying on the right side of HMRC. 

July 6, 2017

The pros and cons of working from home jobs

  Image result for working from home loneliness To the untrained eye the idea of working from home might be wonderful, extra time in bed, no commute, the freedom to structure your day as it suits you and lots more enticing ideas – but working from home jobs come with their own set of disadvantages too. Before you jump in a new home-based role, have a think about some of the pros and cons to see if it would work for you. It can be useful to have this list to hand if you’re applying or interviewing for a working from home role too. Your employer is going to ask you what you see as challenges when you’re home based – if you can anticipate and think about how you’d work around some of these ‘cons’ then you’re sure to impress. Pros Freedom! Whether you’re self-employed or working for a company who offers working from home opportunities, there’s a tremendous amount of freedom that goes hand in hand with making your home your office. An increasing number of employers are happy that as long as you’re doing the work – meaning it can be done on your timescales. No commute With the average UK commute taking 30 minutes each way the idea of a 10 second commute is extremely appealing! You’re also removing the cost of commuting – depending on your choice of transport and location this could mean saving thousands of pounds every year. No boss checking up Some people work better without the anxiety of a boss looking over their shoulder at any given moment. This can be especially true if your boss doesn’t share your level of experience in your particular role – they might ask a lot of questions, challenge your practices or suggest working in other ways – without the knowledge to back up their thoughts. Working from home means you get to manage what your boss sees to some degree. Provided your work is done on time, then you’re going to be fairly free to get to that end point however you see fit. Financial incentives It’s not just commuting that adds to the expense of having a job. While the stereotype of home workers never getting out of their pyjamas might not be true – it does mean that you don’t need to be in a suit or other formal work clothing every day – meaning less spent on clothes, dry-cleaning, washing and other associated costs! You might even find that your employer pays you an allowance for resources you provide as a home worker. Family Being at home for your working day can mean being able to operate around the demands that family-life places on you. There are a lot of roles that give the flexibility to mean young children can be dropped off and picked up from school, partner work schedules can be accommodated, family members can be cared for – and many other things that a 9 to 5 office job just doesn’t allow for. Cons Motivation If you find it hard to get started or keep yourself going on work tasks throughout the day then working with no one to give you a nudge in the right direction can be difficult. 25% of working age adults consider themselves chronic level procrastinators – and when you’re at home there’s lot of ‘other stuff’ that can easily take up the time you’re meant to be spending on your role. If you’re employed – this can mean your time with home working freedom could be limited, if you’re self-employed, this could spell a downward spiral for your company… Lonely If you’re the kind of person who benefits from having a bustling workplace then home can feel very quiet, isolating and lonely as an alternative to the office. You might be able to drop into the office every now and again – and it’s likely that the phone will ring, but you’re not going to have those chats at the photocopier you enjoy – or share the birthday cakes that do the rounds. Got the space? You might think that working from home means putting the TV on, sitting your laptop beside you and getting on with it – but your productivity, your back and your general sense of a job well done isn’t going to thank you for it. Working from home normally means dedicated desk space, a computer, storage and any other professional tools – all out of the way of distractions, family and outside interference. Ideally a spare room is a good office – but not everyone has the space needed. Hard to balance Balancing your working from home role with life can be tricky – if you’re a workaholic then sitting until 11pm means it’s hard to keep on top of the life things that you’d normally do when the cleaners kick you out of the corporate office at 7pm. If you find you’re in a role that doesn’t interest you, it can be hard to get started – especially when there’s no boss tapping his watch at you if you’re booting your computer up at 9.15am… Doing too much? Having a job working from home means it’s easy to forget the time and end up sitting until the early hours of the morning tapping away on the keyboard. This can have a profound impact on your ability to do the role for a long period of time – burnout is hard to avoid, even if you love your role. If you’re working from home, especially if you don’t have family around that can spot the warning signs, stress, anxiety and depression can creep up on you if you’re not able to down tools at a sensible time. Is working from home right for you? Knowing what makes you tick is important when it comes to deciding on a working from home job. If you think you’ve got the motivation it takes to keep you on track – it can be brilliant to adapt your work to fit around life. If motivation and the will to get out of bed are things that frequently escape you, then you might want to think twice! If any of the cons on here feel like they might impact you, think about ways around them – for some people putting schedules and rewards in place for getting the job done can be enough to permanently develop their attitudes to work as a whole – and being able to adapt your role to family commitments can be a big driving factoring in developing yourself to make sure the role works for you in the long term.
June 27, 2017
6 low cost businesses you can start today

6 low cost businesses you can start today

They say that if you do a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s a nice sentiment – but how many people can afford to abandon their current work in the hope that you’ll find your dream job before the next mortgage or rent payment is due? For a lot of new businesses, starting out means working alongside your current job – and doing so on a tight budget. Working toward freedom from your regular job means you’re going to have a lot more flexibility to expand and diversify going forward. We’ve compiled 6 ideas that won’t cost a fortune to get started and could be a step toward doing something you love! Reselling books and magazines Your local charity shop or car-boot sale is likely to be awash with books and old issues of magazines – so much so that it’s not uncommon to see ‘5 for £1’ offers to make space on the shelves. People don’t have the time to sort through the huge piles, so everything tends to have one low price – even though there’s money to be made. A quick look on Amazon or Ebay will see back issues of magazines selling for anywhere between 99p and £5 – so if you’ve bought a stack of 20 for £1 you’re moving into impressive profit margins quickly. The internet is going to be your outlet here, so opening an account on a popular selling site is essential. That said, if you’re willing to spend a little more time, you can target your buyers a little more precisely – selling issues of Total Guitar magazine on a guitar forum’s buy and sell section might take a little more time – but you’re likely to make a little more. If you’ve got a particular area of interest then focus on that as your starting point. Pet services There are huge numbers of people who want a pet but don’t want their animal to hinder their lifestyle, offering an opportunity for anyone who’s animal focused to make some money. Could you offer a walking service? Perhaps you could open your pet-friendly home for animals whose owners are going to be away? Do you have specialist knowledge of exotic animals that you could turn into money when their owners go on holiday? Freelance writing Are you knowledgeable about a particular subject? There’s a huge market for good internet ‘content’ whether its a plastic strapping supplier or local digital marketing agency you will be in demand  – in other words, the text you read on websites and blogs. The people who create websites might have the technical expertise needed – but the time and effort required to create the right words to accompany a site means it often works out well to pass that job to someone else. Again, you’re going to want to focus on areas that you’re interested in – not just for your own job satisfaction, but because you’ll stand out from the crowd if you look a little different from the hordes of other writers online. “Freelance writer specialising in health and fitness, yoga and vegetarian eating” An intro like that is likely to attract more of the right kind of work for that person instead of: “Freelance writer, I’ll write about anything, good rates” There are some great freelance websites that you can get started on for little or no sign-up fee too, look at sites like PeoplePerHour and Fiverr as places you could start selling your services. You’ll find some great tips on most sites on how to work with clients too – so you’ll find your feet in no time. Building flatpack furniture If you live within an hour or so of an IKEA store, there are going to be massive numbers of people who buy furniture despite dreading the prospect of building it when they get home. If you’re at least a little technically minded and can find your way through the flatpack instructions then people will be delighted to invest in you putting it together for them. £25 will get you a respectable cordless screwdriver – and save the arm ache that comes after extensive Allen-key turning… Cleaning and housekeeping You don’t have to work on the internet to make money. If you’ve got an eye for cleanliness offering cleaning and housekeeping services can turn your skills into cash very quickly. As people become more and more busy, having someone take care of their home tasks can make a lot of financial sense. That might be cleaning, ironing, general housekeeping (washing up, making beds, tidying) – or even light gardening and outdoor tasks. The great thing is, it’s likely that you’ve got the items you need to clean with already – and if transport is a problem, you’re probably going to be working for someone who already has an ironing board and hoover – so the chances are you could take any other required kit in a bag. Starting by offering your services locally can work well, whether that’s flyer and business card through the door or some advertisements on local noticeboards or social media. Become a ‘virtual’ assistant As more and more people’s lives rotate around working online – there’s a growing demand for people who can help coordinate what they’re doing. The actual tasks are going to vary from person to person, but sending emails, organising a schedule, researching and some data entry tasks are not uncommon. Flexibility is a good trait to carry into your job as a virtual assistant – you might not have a huge amount of contact with the person you’re working for – sometimes you’re just on the end of a Skype connection – but being able to tick jobs off their to-do list is going to make you invaluable. The demand for virtual assistants is high, especially those who speak English fluently. Again, freelance sites are the place to look! Work to suit you If you’re planning on working alongside your current role you can adjust the times you work in your new business to suit your needs. As your confidence grows, that can be the time to start looking at ways of dedicating more time to your new venture. Alternatively, you might enjoy balancing two roles and the financial incentives that come with that!  
June 14, 2017
How to impress a potential new client

How to impress a potential new client

If you’re starting out in business, lets say as an IT services and support company in Glasgow,  it’s important to seize every opportunity – from the initial lead gathering stage to the point you agree to do business. You might think the sales process needed differs vastly company to company, but countless studies and consumer research tells us there are fundamental skills that people respond positively to. Follow these pieces of advice to maximise every opportunity you get:
  1. Do what you say you’re going to do!
This might seem like an obvious first step, but you’d be astounded to discover the sheer number of companies who just don’t do what they tell their customer they’re going to. When you’ve got a client onboard, this can be the thing that makes or breaks a working relationship – if they’re paying you, a customer expects a level of service. You might be able to salvage a working relationship even if you’re a little lacklustre – but if you’re not following up with sales prospects in the way you should, they’re just going to quietly take their business elsewhere. Set realistic expectations No one expects you to break your neck trying to accommodate customer relationships – if you’re pressed for time tell your customers to expect a call back in “3 days” rather than “in the next half hour” – no one minds, as long as you always meet or exceed their expectation!
  1. Ben Duffy questions
It’s likely you’ve never heard of Ben Duffy - although he was an extremely successful advertising salesman who attributed almost all his success to one technique. The great thing is, his technique isn’t quirky, it’s based on displaying empathy for your customers. Empathy, or the ability to understand your customer’s point of view or emotions, is hugely powerful in winning business. How does it work? Ben Duffy would think about the customer he was going to interact with then write a list of questions and concerns that he might have if he was in their shoes talking to him. Fairly early in his sales process he would say something like: “I was thinking about the kind of questions that I would have if I were in your shoes today – I noted those down and brought some information that might be helpful” When he told his customers what he thought they would ask, his questions were almost always identical to those they had either thought or prepared. Using this technique establishes the fact that you understand your customer and their needs – before you’ve even begun answering questions. And the best thing is, if you’ve posed the right questions, you can prepare excellent answers that showcase everything you can do. Expanding on clichés You’ve probably heard the phrase “people buy from people”, but realistically this isn’t the case – it’s certainly not Amazon’s multi-billion-pound business model! The truth is, when people need to interact with a salesperson or business owner, they want to know that their needs are understood. Show people that you understand them and you’re well on your way to securing their business – and if you don’t, you’ve got a deeper understanding of how you can develop to fit the next person’s similar needs.
  1. What is it? What does it do? What does it mean to me?
If you’ve got a product or service to talk about it can be tempting to go off on huge rambles about the ideas or designs behind what your customer is looking at or discussing with you. This is totally understandable, it’s your passion after all. Some people are deeply interested – but if they are, they’ll ask. If you want simple, uncomplicated messages about what you do, stick to this format: What is it? - What is this product or service that you’re showing or talking about? What does it do? - Explain the functions and how it would work for that person. What does it mean to you? - What is the impact your product of service will have on that person or their business? If it helps, prior to any meeting, imagine your customer is asking you those questions – how would you answer? It helps if you consider the person you’re selling to as being selfish – ultimately, they want to know how your product is going to enhance their life. It does not matter if your product or service is £1 or £1 million, people are going to want to know these three things. The questions are just as relevant applied to a cup of coffee as they are to a super-yacht.  Don’t be ashamed to show people that you’re working on this basis either – straight talking is seen as a very positive trait - and explaining that you’re always considering how you will benefit a customer is another tick in the ‘empathy’ box. Think about your competitors You might want to build something into ‘what does it do’ and ‘what does it mean to you’ to reflect why you’re the right choice when compared to competitors – when you learn to differentiate your business based on the value you offer a customer you’re on to a winning formula. Putting it all together Even if you don’t outright communicate these considerations to customers, just working with these points at the forefront of what you do can be extremely powerful. They can even form the basis of how your company works. When you’re a business owner you can sometimes miss the bigger picture. It’s totally natural that your focus is on the specifics that make your product or service just right – but don’t forget to take a step back now and again to look at how your company interacts with customers. This point where your business meets customers is the point at which many companies thrive – or fail. Using these fundamental skills can help give you a customer focused reference point – meaning no matter how passionate you are about the service you provide – your customer always feels like they’re number one.