Just as cab drivers find security in sat nav and writers might sneak the odd peak at a thesaurus, small business owners – no matter how numerically minded – need a little help double checking that the figures all stack up from time to time. Fortunately, there is a wealth of fabulous financial resources out there; these are our go-to time savers.
A business loan is one of the most straightforward routes to securing funding for your business and anyone who’s ever applied for any type of loan online will have come across a loan calculator – it’s a vital first step in the loan application process. A clever tool designed to work out roughly how much your loan will set you back each month over a period of time, they’re a pretty accurate estimator of both monthly repayments and rates of interest.
As a professional advisor or representative for a business, it’s essential to get an overview of the terms of a loan before submitting a formal application, and by calculating secured loan repayments before taking the plunge, everyone involved is in a far better position to decide whether it’s the best credit route to go down. The initial size of the loan, the period of time you have available for repayment, and the interest rate you’re charged are all important factors in working out what you owe and when and it’s always advisable to look at the maximum repayment generated and work your budget around that.
There are plenty of calculators out there, so have a look around, or try one of our favourites here: MoneySupermarket Loan Calculator.
GOV.UK Business Support
A free, government-driven hub, the GOV.UK Business Support portal focuses on all sorts of support for businesses from finance, equity and grants to loans, expertise & advice, and recognition awards across three stages: not yet trading, start-ups (1-2 years trading) and established. Using a drop down menu where you can select the industry, number of employees and region that you’re interested in, it’s very comprehensive, easy to navigate and is updated by the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy daily to deliver news on schemes, directories and other great support streams.
There are 6 main types of tax in the UK. Six? I know, I thought the same, which is why I have an accountant. Anyhoo, they are: income tax, national insurance contributions, VAT (value added tax), excise duties, corporation tax and stamp duty. Whether they choose to admit it to themselves or not, a lot of people fall into the ‘rushing to meet tax deadlines’ camp; according to HMRC, 576,500 self-assessment returns for the tax year 2017-18 were received after the January 2019 deadline but before January 2020, which means 4.94% of tax returns due by 31st January 2019 were late.
The overall reason this is so baffling is because rushing like mad to get your financial ducks in a row at the eleventh hour is stressful. And then, if you end up missing the deadline anyway, you get a fine. The only way to beat the ‘rush hour’ is to get organised. Make sure the filing date is for each of your tax returns is set as a reminder on your calendar for at least two months before the due date and every week thereafter until the due date with an increasingly more urgent alarm tone to accompany it (and double check occasionally too as dates can change from time to time). Fully accepting that you’re in camp rush? Get an accountant; they are born with financial deadline dates tattooed on the inside of their eyelids.
Some of the most important dates and things to remember about taxes:
- Corporation tax is due 12 months after your year-end date.
- Self Assessment filing and payment are due by the 31st of January, and anyone on a payment on account scheme will have to pay their second payment by the 31st of July.
- Stamp Duty must be filed and paid within 14 days of the transaction taking place.
- VAT must be filed and paid within one month and 7 days of your VAT quarter end date if you’re filing and paying online.
You can also see more deadlines and key dates at GOV.UK.
Guide to Business Expenses
Did you know that although business entertainment costs aren’t ordinarily tax deductible, you can claim up to £150 per head as a business entertainment expense as long as it’s an annual event (well hello there future New Year’s, Easter, Spring Bank Holiday, Summer Bank Holiday and Christmas parties) to which all staff are invited? Allowable expenses are a many-splendoured thing and include everything from the costs of starting your company, rent, utilities, office costs and salaries to phone bills, advertising and accountancy fees.
Knowing your capital allowances from your employee expenses is a must; this is a great guide for limited companies, and anyone self-employed should check this out. If you wish to commit to memory every single expense and benefit known to man from accommodation to works bus services (xylophones, yeti and zoos clearly didn’t make the grade), please do so here.
As pressing as multiple tax deadlines are, working out the amount of tax you’ll part with over the course of the financial year and budgeting your cashflow once tax has been taken can be a bit of a headache too. Hence, the tax calculator: every accountant’s best friend. Confused about sole trader vs employed director vs full director’s dividend? Just pop in your gross profits, age, sex and select the tax year, and the most tax-efficient option for you is revealed in minutes. The Small Business Tax Planner estimates the amount of profit your business can make and how you can remove the profit from the business in a thrice. And, the IR35 calculator works out take-home pay differences between three different contractor income scenarios including umbrella company, limited company outside IR35 and limited company Inside IR35. Clever stuff.
Business Rates Info
Estimated using a property’s rateable value (the property’s estimated value on the open market), business rates are a tax on property used for business purposes and are charged on things like offices, shops, pubs, and warehouses. Most non-domestic properties incur business rates and they can also be charged where only part of a building is used for non-domestic purposes. Working from home is slightly different in that, generally, you won’t have to pay business rates if you use a small part of your home for business purposes, but you will have to cough up additional dough on top of your Council Tax if your property’s split into domestic and business parts (e.g. a flat above a shop), you sell things to people who visit the property, or you employ anyone at your property.
There are also a range of reliefs for certain properties, most notably small business rate relief, which is available if your property has a rateable value of less than £15,000 and if your business only uses one property. Full relief is available on properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less and for those that fall between £12,001 and £15,000, relief goes down gradually from 100 per cent to zilch. If you’re a small business but you don’t qualify for small business rate relief, your tax bill will still be worked out using a lower small business multiplier rate; it’s not as confusing as it all may initially appear and the best place to head for clarification is to gov.uk’s introduction to business rates pages.
Wonderfully self-explanatory, the salary calculator does exactly what it says on the tin and has been designed to help you get a grip on your finances whether that’s to do with working out what your take-home pay will be from a new job, finding out how much tax and NI you part with on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis, or working out what you’ll need to earn to fund your dream lifestyle. Updated with the latest April 2020 tax rates, the site is a one-stop shop for all your salary calculation needs and includes a take-home calculator, an hourly-rate calculator, a maternity/sick pay calculator, a pro-rata calculator, a mortgage repayment calculator, and even a debt consolidation calculator.
Pension Contribution Calculator
Most of us can get our heads around the fact that employers make contributions to an employee’s pension fund based on a percentage of the employee’s earnings. Then it starts getting more complicated… The amount of pay that pension contributions are calculated on is called pensionable earnings and pensionable earnings can be calculated in different ways, which is where a pension contribution calculator steps in and relieves all the maths-based stress.
Just FYI, qualifying earnings is the name given to a band of earnings that you can use to calculate contributions for auto enrolment. For the 2020/21 tax year this is between £6,240 and £50,000 a year. Basic earnings are the earnings of the employee excluding any fluctuating income such as bonuses, commission, overtime etc. And total earnings mean all earnings are classed as pensionable and contributions will be calculated from the first pound earned.
For a worker earning basic pay of £20,000 plus an annual bonus of £5,000 for example the amount their pension contributions are based on would be the full £25,000. But, hey, if you don’t have an accountant’s brain and all of that just sounded like gobbledegook, take the easier route and let this marvellous tool do the hard work for you.
The primary reason we like using Privnote is because you can genuinely summon up your best Mission: Impossible spy vibes and end an email with ‘this message will self-destruct’ when you use it. A brilliant and insanely easy way to share confidential information such as passwords with colleagues and clients without the fear that some malicious hacker (or aliens, the government, Carole Baskin, who knows?) will steal it, it’s a free web-based service that allows you to send top secret notes over the internet.
It’s fast, easy, and requires no password or user registration at all. Just write your note and you’ll get a link that you then copy and paste into an email or instant message to the person who you want to read the note. When that person clicks the link for the first time, they will see the note in their browser and the note will then automatically self-destruct, which means no one (even that very same person) can read the note again.
Other non-financial resources recommended by our team (just because they’re so damn helpful. You’re welcome):
Let’s just clear something up. Google Drive and ODrive are not the same thing. Google Drive is a file and storage synchronisation service that allows users to store files on their servers, synchronise files across devices and share files quickly and easily. ODrive is a universal cloud-based storage system that makes any cloud storage unified (so all of your different accounts from Dropbox to Instagram are accessible in one place), synchronised, shareable and encrypted at scale – it doesn’t download everything unless you tell it to and allows password-protected shared folders, which Google Drive doesn’t do.
As well as delivering 24/7 access to files in a secure system and making them available at a much faster pace than other cloud software, the ODrive sync client enables you to view content from your desktop system without ever needing to clutter up your home computer with files – a rare feature, and one that makes the system particularly stress-free to use.
Working on your calendar availability, this wondrous tool called Calendly helps you schedule meetings without sending too many emails back and forth between clients. Just email a link to other meeting attendees and everyone is given the option to choose a mutually available time.
Another amazing feature is time-zone detection, so you don’t need to spend precious minutes working out what on earth the time is in other countries (I find this inordinately hard, which is weird) because any international clients’ locations will be recognised and scheduled accordingly. Great for accountants and business owners who want to fit all their clients in their schedule, but avoid overbooking.
A fantastic resource full to bursting with courses that range from around six weeks right up to degree level and cover everything from business & management to nature, law and psychology, FutureLearn is an online directory that connects you, the ‘student’, with world-class universities and industry experts.
Whether you want to develop as a professional, brush up on an existing skillset or just fancy taking up a new hobby, it gives the chance to join millions of other brainiacs from around the world all learning together with educators from top universities and cultural institutions, who’ll share their experience through videos, articles, quizzes and discussions. All you have to do is sign up, pick a course (they have start and finish dates) and then choose your price point: learning for free gives you access to the course for its duration plus 14 days, regardless of when you join; the ‘upgrade’ option gives you access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn, access to course tests if there are any, and a printed and digital Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation once you’re eligible; and, ‘unlimited’ gives you access to your choice of hundreds of online short courses and tests for a year, a printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible, the freedom to keep the content of any of the courses you’ve gained a digital Certificate of Achievement on, and the flexibility to complete your short courses in your own time within a year.
Have any favourite financial or business resources worth their weight in gold? Let us know in the comments below!