Small business accounting

Business resources for freelancers & small business.

How/ when do I pay myself Dividends?

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What are the changes occurring with the UK VAT after Brexit?

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How will Brexit affect imports, exports, and shipping?

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How will ecommerce businesses be impacted by the Brexit trade deal?

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What banks does Xero integrate with?

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What banks does FreeAgent integrate with?

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Is there a FreeAgent mobile app?

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Where can I find FreeAgent accountants?

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When can I pay myself as a Limited Company Director?

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How do I pay myself through a Limited Company?

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How do I set up a VAT Direct Debit Payment?

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Can I expense Office rental?

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Can I expense gym fees?

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What are Invoice numbers?

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Can I expense Computer equipment?

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What are Tangible Assets?

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Can I expense Legal costs?

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Can I expense Travel & subsistence?

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How do I hire a new employee?

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Can I expense Stationery?

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Can I expense Software?

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What is Statutory Sick Pay?

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Can I expense general travel expenses?

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How do I pay my student loan?

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Can I expense Magazines, books & journals?

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What are Bank Deposits and depositing cheques?

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How do I pay a Contractor?

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What is a Trial Balance?

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How do I submit a P11D form?

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What are Current Liabilities?

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What is Statutory Adoption Pay?

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What is a Director's Salary?

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What is an Annual Return?

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What are Current Assets?

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What is Retained Profit?

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What are Money Transfers?

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What is Taxable Turnover?

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Can I expense mobile phone?

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How do I pay myself a salary?

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Can I expense Social Media Ads or Marketing Costs?

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How do I depreciate an asset?

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What are Authorised Agents?

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Can I expense a Laptop?

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What are Unallocated Payments?

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What are Payment Terms?

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Can I expense Conference expenses?

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How do I pay an employee?

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Can I expense my use of home as an office?

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Can I expense childcare?

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What are Director's withdrawals?

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How do I pay myself dividends?

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What is a Profit & Loss Account?

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Can I expense Utilities?

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What are Cost of Sales?

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Can I expense Professional fees?

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How do I pay Dividends to other Shareholders?

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How do I file Year End Accounts?

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Can I expense Optical expenses?

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What is your First Accounting Year End Date?

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How do I plan cashflow?

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Can I expense Eye Tests/ Glasses?

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What are Taxable Supplies?

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What is a Balance Sheet?

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How do I pay a Supplier?

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Can I expense Printing?

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What are Supplier References?

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Can I expense Entertainment or Dinners?

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Can I expense Marketing costs?

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What is a PAYE Annual Return?

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Can I expense Food & drink?

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Can I expense Taxi fares or an Uber?

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What are Written Down Values?

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What is Statutory Paternity Pay?

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Can I expense Phone calls?

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Can I expense Parties (or staff entertainment)?

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Can I expense Pensions?

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Can I expense Training costs?

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Can I expense Paypal charges?

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What are Rechargeable Expense: expensing a client?

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What is Statutory Maternity Pay?

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How do I pay a Limited Company Pension?

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What is a Partnership Statement?

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How should I pay overseas supplier?

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Can I expense Ebay charges?

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What are Interim Accounts?

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What are Aged Creditors?

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Can I expense my home office?

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Small Business & Limited Company Accountants

Reach more about our complete guides to Limited Company Accounting...

When do you need an accountant?

As a small business owner, you’re always on the lookout for ways you can save money. Therefore, deciding whether you need to get an accountant can be a difficult decision—as that’s an additional cost that you’ll incur.

But managing your business financials well is central to your small business success—and that’s something that an accountant can help you out with.

If you’re still on the fence about this, here are questions that can guide you towards making a decision:

  • Do I have sufficient accounting knowledge and abilities? 40 percent of small business owners find that financial management is the most challenging part of running a business. So if you find yourself struggling with accounting concepts and bookkeeping systems, bringing in an accountant may be your best option.
  • Do I have time to do my own accounting? As your company grows, you may find that you’re spending increasing amounts of time managing your finances. But are you the best person to do this, and could the time be better spent on scaling your business?
  • Am I facing compliance and tax issues? If you’re faced with complicated sales tax issues, or are up against a HMRC tax investigation, it’s best not to wing it without an accountant.    
  • How much help do I need with my business accounting, and what value can they bring? Do you require a full-time accountant, part-time help or periodic consultations? Will you benefit from having an accountant help out with financial analysis, meeting your tax obligations and data management? Once you’ve identified your requirements, you can then choose an option that best meets your small business needs.
  • Am I in the process of forming my company? During the company formation process, you’ll need to make decisions that can have a long-term impact on your business—such as choosing your legal business structure, conceptualising your business plan and setting up an accounting system. An accountant can provide insightful advice, leaving you better placed to make a well-informed decision.

Selecting an accountant

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re selecting an accountant:

  • Look for relevant experience: Seek out an accountant who’s experienced with working with small businesses. It’s a bonus if they’ve worked with businesses who are of a similar business structure, size, revenue and industry. It’s also beneficial if they’ve worked with larger clients, as that is an indication they’ll be able to manage your accounts as your business scales.
  • Ask for recommendations: Your personal network is a valuable source of information. Reach out to friends and family who are small business owners, as well as your connections on social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook.
  • Do your research: There are a few things to look out for when you review a candidate’s LinkedIn profile: their past testimonials, qualifications and experience, as well as their personal connections (keep an eye out for candidates who have a strong personal network). Before you engage an accountant for his or her services, do a background check by asking to speak to businesses they’ve worked with.
  • Ask about their communication processes and reporting frequency: Regular communication is key—you want your accountant to review your finances and offer advice on a regular basis, and not just to provide support during tax season.

Best Accounting Software

When do you need accounting software?

Should you stick with your current accounting practices—or is it time to implement a new way of handling your accounting? Here are the signs that indicate it’s time to make the switch to accounting software:

  • Your business is growing
  • You need faster access to information
  • You’re spending increasing amounts of time on manual, repetitive tasks
  • You’re facing an increase in manual errors
  • You lack technical accounting skills
  • You lack a proper accounting system
  • You’re not able to comply with MTD requirements (if applicable)

Accounting & Limited Company Deadlines

VAT Returns deadlines

Most businesses need to submit their VAT return quarterly (this applies even if you don't have VAT to pay or reclaim). The deadline for submission is a month and seven days after the end of a VAT period.

Self Assessment deadline

Online returns must be filed by 31 January. Paper returns are due earlier, and must be filed by 31 October.

Company accounts deadline

As a limited company director, you’re required to file the following:

  • Annual statutory accounts: For your first year of operation, you need to file these accounts within 21 months of your date of incorporation. For subsequent years, these accounts must be filed within nine months of your Accounting Reference Date (ARD).
  • Company Tax Return (CT600): This should be submitted 12 months after your accounting year-end.

Unlike limited company directors, sole traders aren’t required to file accounts with a public body.

Accounting Terms

Cashflow

Cash flow refers to the total amount of money that is moving in and out of your business.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet shows how much a business owns (assets), owes (liabilities) and the amount that is left over for its owners (owner’s equity) at a point in time.

Profit & Loss

The P&L is a financial statement that shows how much money your business has made or lost.

Dividends

Dividends are a payment of profit that a limited company distributes to its shareholders. It is the money remaining after all business expenses and liabilities, as well as outstanding taxes (including VAT and Corporation Tax) have been paid off.

Year End Accounts

At the end of a business’ accounting year, limited company directors are required to file the following...

  • With HMRC:
  • Company tax return (CT600)
  • Annual statutory accounts
  • Director’s report
  • With Companies House:
  • Statutory accounts (full, abbreviated or micro)

Directors Loan Account

A DLA is is a record of all transactions between the company and its directors. It records not just the money owed by the directors, but also the money owed to them. At the end of the financial year, the amount is recorded in the balance sheet either as an asset or liability.

Benefits in Kind

Benefits in kind are benefits provided to a director or employee that aren't included in their salary or wages. These can be assets or services, such as company cars, private health insurance or non-business travel and entertainment expenses.

Self Assessment Tax Returns

Self Assessment is a tax return form that businesses need to submit to report their annual earnings to HMRC. The term ‘self assessment’ refers to the fact that it’s the individual’s responsibility to work out how much tax they should pay.

Self Assessment Payments on Account

Payments on account are advance payments for your tax bill that are spread out across the year. You'll need to make two payments each year, and these are due on 31st January and 31st July.

P11D Form

The P11D form is a tax form that records employment benefits that the employees and directors of a company have received across the year.

Holiday Pay

Holiday pay is calculated based on a week's pay. The calculation will vary, depending on the kind of hours an employee works (fixed hours, shift work with fixed hours or no fixed hours) and how they are paid for the hours. We’ve elaborated more on this, as well as payment for overtime and commission in a separate article.

Entrepreneurs Relief

Entrepreneurs' Relief is a scheme that reduces the amount of Capital Gains Tax payable when you dispose of (sell) shares in your business. You pay a reduced tax rate of 10%— instead of the usual rates—on the first £10 million of gains. There isn't a limit to the number of times you can claim.

Free Accounting Advice

Optimizing cash flow

‘Cash is king’ is an adage that holds true—particularly when it comes to small business finances. Even profitable companies are faced with the threat of closure, if negative cash flow becomes a regular occurrence.

Keeping a firm grip on your cash flow is key, and we’ve outlined a few tips you can implement:

  • Stay on top of your accounts receivable: Late payment is a common problem faced by all businesses, but small business owners can be the hardest hit. It’s critical to stay on top of your accounts receivable, so that you’re better able to minimise delays in receiving your payments. Steps you can take include following invoicing best practices, structuring your payments by milestones and requesting for deposits if you’re fulfilling large orders.  
  • Optimise your accounts payable: Keep your cash flow healthy by maximising the potential of your accounts payable. Steps you can take include building positive vendor and supplier relationships (this is key to improving problems like late payments), as well as taking full advantage of payment terms.
  • Keep a close watch over your cash flow: Blaine Bertsch, CEO of financial forecasting tool Dryrun advises small business owners to update their cash flow projections “every time something happens in their business that affects their cash flow”.
  • Avoid expanding too rapidly: Small business owners should guard against overly quick growth, as this can create pressure on their cash flow. Business owner Tim Berry shares about his experience on Entrepreneur.com, where his business experienced doubled sales and nearly went broke.