Essential apps for small businesses

No matter their industry, small businesses and start-ups have one thing in common: they need to operate as cheaply as possible. All start-ups must ensure that cashflow is the for the first 12 months. And that means being careful where you spend money, and how to get the most out of your technology.

By including as many cost-saving and efficient tools into your plan as possible, you can get a lot of value from a little investment. And while there are endless services and solution packages on the market, many of these are too expensive for small businesses. They can also be overkill in terms of what’s needed to manage a growing start-up.

Essential apps for small businesses

Instead, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should focus on useful, efficient and cost-effective apps. Here are five excellent apps, all of which are either free or relatively cost-effective. They also offer premium and extra features that you can incorporate as the business continues to grow.

  1. Accounting app – Kashoo

Kashoo has been available to small businesses since 2008. It’s specifically designed for use by entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers. The app allows the user to create invoices, carry out audits and tax returns, and much more. After a free trial period of 14 days, there is a cost. At £12.75 it’s a reasonable outlay for a host of accounting features, and there’s a money-back guarantee if it doesn’t suit your needs.

The app was developed as the makers couldn’t find an accounting solution that offered the simplicity and features of an app. While there are loads of products on the market for accounting, they tend to be aimed at larger, more complex businesses. Kashoo appears fast, easy and simple to use, and has most of the features a small business owner would need.

Notable features include a function allowing you to create invoices across different currencies. Users can also use the payment gateway to accept credit card payments. There is excellent support 24 hours a day, and the app is updated constantly.

However, there are drawbacks. Specifically, the mobile Kashoo app is only available for iOS, which means Android users are out of luck. Other criticisms include the lack of functionality to bill clients at an hourly rate. 2

  1. Collaboration tool – Slack

Slack (Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge) is an easy to use, cloud-based collaboration tool. Crucially, it’s available for all mobile platforms and can be accessed via the webpage too if you prefer.

Originally an online tool for a game called Glitch, it relaunched in 2013 as a collaborative business tool. It allows businesses to divide work between various teams and clients and provides chat functions for all parties. Employees can hop in and out of chats and use the video feature to speak to colleagues face to face at any time. It works with more than 1,000 other apps, from Dropbox to Google Drive.

There is a free option, but it’s quite restrictive. The Standard options costs £5.25 per month, and the Plus option £9.75 per month. Slack does have a relatively steep learning curve but can be a great tool for the right business.

  1. Expense report tool – Expensify

Developer David Barratt came up with Expensify because he wanted to provide “expense reports that don’t suck!”. This app integrates services such as Uber, allowing the user to record expenses as they go. It also allows managers to review costs and work out ways to streamline their company expenses.

It’s competitively priced and relatively easy to use. However, you will have to spend time getting to grips with it in the first instance, as there are few direct instructions available online. Expect to pay £4 per month for each active user for the mid-tier package, and £7 for the ‘control’ tier package. There’s also a free trial option so you can work out whether it’s for your business.

  1. Office software – Office 365

SME owners can choose from many different software platforms for their business. However, Microsoft Office 365 takes some beating, and remains an excellent option for small businesses.

The web app version of Microsoft Office is ideal as everything runs from and is stored in the cloud. This means you can also log in using all kinds of mobile devices, and it’s not restricted to the office computers. It’s also easily usable on Macs as well as PCs. Office 365 offers the three big apps that everyone needs – PowerPoint, Word and Excel. OneDrive is a great automatic online backup, and other software applications are also available. These include Publisher, Access and Skype.

Different versions are available depending on your business needs. A personal edition of Office 365 comes in at £5.99 per month. If you need one for more users, the simple office package costs £7.99 per month and allows six separate users. There’s also Office 365 Business at £7.90 per month and Office 365 Business Premium at £9.40 per month.

  1. Complete business solution – QuickBooks

This has everything your small business needs in a single app. Made by Intuit, QuickBooks was originally a simple financial management software tool. However, the company quickly developed it to offer broad business solutions for SMEs. It can be downloaded or used as a cloud-based system, and used to pay bills, accept payments and administer payroll. Check the website for all the functions and price points. There is also a package available for freelancers, which includes being able to track expenses and mileage.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “This is a small selection of the apps available to small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and start-up owners. Taking the time to research apps and use the free trials available on a number of these digital apps is a good way to ensure you find the best for your business.

“Small businesses don’t need the same solutions as bigger businesses. There’s no point paying out for accountancy packages designed for much larger companies, for example. Technology means there are plenty available for every size of business, and any budget. Keeping costs down is essential for SME owners, and these apps can help do just that.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Report shows UK small businesses unconcerned about no-deal Brexit

New research shows that small businesses that deal with exports and international trade are not unduly concerned about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

With the UK’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson increasingly taking a no-deal stance on Brexit, it’s interesting to note that small businesses are more concerned by the global economic slowdown and US trade protectionism.

Global economy more worrying than no-deal Brexit

More UK SMEs say they are concerned with the US President’s ‘America First’ stance on trade, than leaving the EU with no deal, according to the survey by OFX. Furthermore, the survey shows that the majority of UK SMEs say the uncertainty over Brexit has ‘no effect’ on their international strategy and future plans.

Businesses in the UK are still optimistic about engaging in global trade. Just under half (48%) report increased sales over the last 12 months, with the average increase standing at £45,000. At the same time, 44% are planning to either begin or increase international trade over the next 12 months. Almost half (47%) of the UK SMEs in the survey say they intend to increase sales to Western Europe in 2020.

US trade policies cause for concern

However, despite the optimism surrounding Brexit, the survey does show UK SMEs are concerned about the trade policies from the United States. These include a threat of possible tariffs covering billions of pounds worth of goods from across Europe. This has resulted in a shift towards Western Europe as the ideal export market, and away from the US.

There has also been much in the media about the potentially negative impact of a hard border being imposed between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Despite this, the survey shows that just under half of SMEs in Northern Ireland are focusing trade attention on the Republic of Ireland over the next 12 months.

During the last 12 months, 68% of SMEs in Northern Ireland upped their international sales by £52,440 (on average). These results make it the fastest growing region for international exports from SMEs.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “UK SMEs should continue to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. However, this shouldn’t be the overwhelming issue facing small business owners. Putting Brexit into perspective is the key to working through other challenges presented by the knock-on effect to the global economic situation. It is possible that a global recession could impact currency and trade. The results of this survey are encouraging in that UK SMEs are working on protecting their interests so that they can continue trade as usual.”

“As the date for Brexit approaches, I’m encouraged to see how much confidence UK SMEs are showing across the country. This is particularly true for those in Northern Ireland, where small and medium sized businesses are embracing trade across the border regardless of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

“Small businesses are leading the way by showing that taking sensible measures and adopting the mantra ‘business as usual’, will help the UK economy weather the storm of uncertainty.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Government cash boost for small business innovation

Innovative businesses in the UK could benefit from a cash boost of £125 million. From this total, £100 million is available in Government grants for research that is deemed pioneering. The remaining £25 million as loans for the commercial aspect of transforming ideas into reality.

Any size of UK businesses, including SMEs, can compete to win a slice of the £125 million. If successful, the money will go directly into transforming their ideas into reality in the form of world-leading products and services.

Small business innovation grants

The £100 million is available through the Innovate Smart grant initiative, and applications are now open. Past winners of the Innovate Smart award include Magic Pony Technology, which was sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million earlier this year.

Magic Pony Technology is a London-based start-up that develops machine learning techniques based on neural networks. These systems are designed to operate and think like human brains, and are used to enhance photos, videos and to develop graphics for augmented reality or virtual reality apps. Co-founders CEO Rob Bishop and Zehan Wang stayed on as part of the deal.

The third start-up focusing on machine learning that has recently been acquired by Twitter, Magic Pony Technology benefited from SMART funding, as well as from investors including Entrepreneur First and Octopus Ventures. It’s the perfect example of what can be achieved by smart start-ups with ideas and expertise.

How to apply for Smart funding

If you want to find out about how to apply for the next round of Innovate Smart funding, see the Government website. Applications opened on 25 July 2019, so now is a good time to get involved if you have the right business idea and backing.

Smart is the new name for the Open Grant Funding programme from Innovate UK. Applications can be from all kinds of technological backgrounds, including media, creative industries, arts and design, engineering or science, and can be applied to any part of the economy.

Any application has to include at least one SME, and the project must run between April 2020 and April 2023. Different rules apply to projects, depending on their projected length:

  • Projects scheduled to last between six and 18 months must have projected costs between £25,000 and £500,000.
  • Those scheduled to last between 19 months and 36 moths must have total project costs between £25,000 and £2 million and be collaborative.

Lead businesses within each consortium must be based in the UK and can be any size. They must also be carrying out the research and development (R&D) project within the UK.

Either be an SME if they want to go through the project independently or include at least one SME if a large company that wants to collaborate.

The project team that wishes to work with the lead business must be based in the UK, and be other a business, charity, public sector organisation, or academic organisation, and must also be conducting the R&D in the UK. Other stipulations include proof that it is intended to commercially use the results in the UK.

Further support grants

There is also a further £25 million allocated through Innovation Loans to go towards projects that are in much later stages and are near to going on the market. This scheme is focusing on businesses that need help to het over the final barriers to commercialisation.

In a press release, the Government’s Business Secretary, Greg Clark, says: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are backing our homegrown businesses to boost productivity and create jobs, growth and opportunity in every part of the UK.”

Many businesses have already benefitted from funding provided by the Government to support innovation, including Digital Shadows. This online digital risk company has raised £20 million to fund its innovation that was developed using a Smart award.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Smart grants and other funding through Innovate UK are great ways for the Government to support innovation in either single businesses or collaborations between different sectors. With the deadline for the UK leaving the EU currently set at 31 October 2019, it’s important for small businesses to plan ahead.

“Applying for Government support is a way to ensure innovative ideas make it through to completion, therefore boosting jobs and the wider economy. The Government is increasingly recognising the importance of the SME sector to the economic stability of the country, which is encouraging. As we continue to move through uncertain times, it’s important that small businesses continue to push forward with innovative and disruptive products and services.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Equity crowdfunding – everything you need to know

If you’re in the business world, you will have heard of crowdfunding. An increasingly popular way of raising money for charity, crowdfunding moved into the mainstream a few years ago.

By 2011, equity crowdfunding became available for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs to raise capital. Here’s everything you need to know about raising money for business through crowdfunding, and how to begin the process.

How does equity crowdfunding work?

In this context, we’re talking about equity crowdfunding. Start-up businesses can raise capital through equity crowdfunding by selling shares through a platform regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They give private investors at all levels the chance to invest and starting stakes can be as low as £10.

In the UK, there are three major crowdfunding platforms: Syndicate Room, Crowdcube and Seedrs. All of these platforms are regulated and offer similar services.

Equity crowdfunding has been in existence in the UK since 2011 and has grown so fast that many experts see it as a mainstream channel for fundraising. While some dispute this, there is no arguing with the figures. The total raised across crowdfunding platforms between 2011 and 2018 is estimated at between £600 million and £800 million.

Which platform works best?

If you’re deciding between platforms, there is no single site that is ‘better’ than the others. Crowdcube is bigger than Seedrs, and it has been running longer. However, Seedrs offers different packages and include relatively thorough due diligence.

Syndicate Room, on the other hand, is generally for more high-level investors and technology-based businesses. If this is your area, then it’s a good option. It requires a lead investor and is more formal in terms of structure and running your campaign.

You are charged by the platforms for successful campaigns only. The costs range from between 4% and 8% of the total money raised on the platform, and while you can spend more, the beauty of crowdfunding is that it’s a cheaper way for start-ups to gain capital. The biggest costs usually lie in the pitch and video, which costs around £5,000 on average.

There is also the time you need to put into creating the campaign and running it. This can be tricky for start-ups that need to focus on running their business. Some businesses choose to employ a specialist consultant to run the campaign and give it the best chance of success.

How do the equity crowdfunding platforms make money?

The crowdfunding platforms make money by taking commission on the amount raised from a successful campaign. Should the campaign fail to reach its target, then all investments are scrapped, and no funding reaches the company. It’s worth noting that a campaign that fails to secure more than 30% of its target during the first few weeks, rarely makes it to the finish line.

If you want to raise money for your business through crowdfunding, it’s important to clearly state why you want the funding. Investors expect to be told exactly where their money will go, and how this will push the company towards more profitability. Investors are interested in one thing – return on investment (ROI) – and you must be able to demonstrate how they will get this.

Create a thorough business plan, that includes details of where the money is going, and how this will elevate your business to the next level. You should include realistic, demonstrable projections. When you have completed this vital step, choose the right crowdfunding platform and apply.

Requirements and eligibility

Some crowdfunding platforms stipulate that you must have at least 20% already in your campaign, before they will launch it to the public. The campaign will therefore usually launch in a private mode. This allows you to gain enough funding to hit their threshold from existing contacts, and then hopefully collect the rest from the platform’s audience.

Your pitch deck and business plan video should be tailored to the platform of your choice. The pitch should be succinct, compelling, realistic and believable, and the video three minutes long. Remember that this kind of fundraising needs a different approach to angel investment and should be tailored accordingly.

Campaigns generally last between 30 and 60 days, depending on the platform. It can take up to eight weeks to prepare the pitch to the platform’s specifications and go through the requisite due diligence. It’s best to give yourself 12 weeks running up to launch.

How does equity crowdfunding work?

Equity crowdfunding is available as an option to any limited company. Having said that, it’s best suited to new businesses that are less than seven years old, or start-ups. It’s also only viable for businesses that plan for exit in order to ensure investors get their ROI.

It’s difficult to get exact figures of how many campaigns have been successful, but estimates show more than 1,200 funded companies. These numbers are increasing every year, as equity crowdfunding becomes more mainstream.

Each platform will usually have between 20 and 30 live campaigns going, and around two-thirds of these won’t make it. The most common reasons for crowdfunding to fail include poor quality presentations, a poor idea that can’t be scaled, overvaluation of the company, selecting the wrong platform and failing to secure the minimum threshold before launch.

While equity crowdfunding is regulated in this country by the FCA, there are high risks for investors. However, it does give them the opportunity to get involved with start-ups at the beginning of their journey. They choose to invest based on an educated estimate of the chances of getting ROI, but some also invest smaller amounts based on the rewards offered.

 

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Smaller investors also get their money back through tax breaks and through the perks offered at different stages of investment. Good start-ups and businesses that are raising money this way will always include investors in the ongoing success and growth of the company.

“This is definitely a viable way to raise funds if you are a start-up owner looking for backing. However, you must have a watertight business plan, and evidence to show investors that they will get their ROI at some point. Any company that doesn’t plan ahead effectively before crowdfunding is likely to fail to reach their target. And as this does require some time and money invested upfront, it’s worthwhile taking advice from an expert in equity crowdfunding before you go down this route.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

A comprehensive guide to small business taxes

Small business tax can seem complicated and is certainly not one of the most exciting aspects of launching a new business. However, it’s important to understand what you need to do to comply with your tax obligations.

We’ve collected details on the main small business taxes that apply in the UK. You’ll find links to official information and guidelines too.

The specific taxes you need to pay as a small business owner depends on a number of factors, including the structure of the company, the services and products on offer, and how it’s performing.

Small business taxes – Income Tax

Income Tax is payable on certain sources of your income, including:

  • Earnings from employment.
  • Profits from self-employment. This includes money made from any services sold through apps or websites.
  • Some state issued benefits.
  • Most pensions.
  • Any rental income you earn. This doesn’t apply if you are a live-in landlord and earn less than the limit set by the rent-a-room guidelines.
  • Benefits from your work.
  • Any income from trusts.
  • Interest on any savings you have if it exceeds your allowance.

There is some Income Tax relief on offer. For example, you don’t pay tax on the first £1,000 of the income you make if you’re self-employed. This is called the ‘trading allowance’. The Government’s page on Income Tax has all the relevant information on any allowances or tax relief.

You’ll generally pay through self-assessment, which means you must file a tax return with the HMRC every year. Make sure you’re claiming all possible expenses when you file your Self-Assessment tax return. The deadline for online tax returns is 31 January every year, and for paper tax returns it’s 31 October. The UK tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April the next year, and you’ll always be filing for the previous year.

The deadline for payment is 31 January, and 31 July for the second payment on account, which was introduced by the Government to help people spread the cost of their tax bills.

It’s always worth engaging a tax specialist to ensure you’re covering all bases and filling out your return correctly. Check out the official tax help page for more information.

Corporation Tax

Corporation Tax is levied on business profits from limited companies, foreign companies with a UK office or branch, and any co-operative, club or incorporated association.

There are no bills issued for this tax, so it’s up to you as the business owner to ensure you pay. Register on the gov.uk website as a first step. Then go to the relevant page titled ‘Pay Your Corporation Tax Bill’. This page is packed with information, and it also directs you to the Government Gateway page. This is where you log in and pay the Corporation Tax.

The deadline for your company tax return is 12 months after the end of your business accounting period. There is a separate payment deadline, which is nine months, 1 day after the end of the accounting period. Usually, a company accounting period adheres to the financial year, but you can have two accounting periods in the first year of business.

As you will receive no bill or prompt from the Government, it’s a good idea to appoint a professional to keep on top of your obligations.

How does VAT work for businesses?

If your company sells services and/or products, then you may have to charge customers value added tax (VAT). You are then liable to pay VAT due to Government and submit returns.

Standard VAT is 20%, but some services and products are reduced, with some exempt. A business can be registered for VAT at any time, but if you are turning over more than £85,000 and it’s VAT taxable, then you must register immediately.

You pay VAT online, and it’s your responsibility to make sure it gets to HMRC on time. If it doesn’t, you may incur a surcharge. In the majority of cases, the VAT return deadline and payment deadline are the same – that is one calendar month, seven days following the end of the accounting period.

Employees and PAYE

If your small business employs people, then you also need to ensure you’re up to date with PAYE, which can include Income Tax deductions for employees, Class 1 and 1B National Insurance, student loan repayments, Apprenticeship Levy payments and Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) deductions.

The deadline if you pay monthly is the 22nd of the following tax month, and if you pay quarterly it’s the 22nd after the end of the next quarter.

How does National Insurance work for different business types?

National Insurance Contributions (NICs) go towards certain Government benefits and a State Pension. NI responsibilities vary between business types, and whether you employ people or are self-employed.

Limited company directors must pay Class 1 NICs through PAYE, while sole traders pay Class 2 and Class 4 NICs through self-assessment. If you employ people, you pay NICs through their salaries.

Deadlines depend on your company structure, but sole traders pay through Self-Assessment, which means the deadline of 31 January applies.

How business rates work

If your business is housed in a non-domestic property, then you will be liable for business rates. Properties that are taxed under business rates include offices, pubs, shops, factories, warehouses and holiday rentals.

In England, you get a bill from your local council by March every year, which tells you what to pay for the upcoming tax year. Be aware that business rates are administered differently in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Deadlines will be specified on your bill.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “As you can see, small businesses have a number of tax liabilities and obligations, some of which are not immediately obvious without external advice. While the Government website does have a lot of information, and this is the obvious place to start when working out your liabilities, I would also recommend working with a professional to ensure that you are covering all bases.”

“Taxes are something that can pile up unnoticed in the background, particularly when you’re busy launching a small business. Getting your business and personal tax affairs straight from the outset will ensure your business runs smoothly down the line. Remember that not all of your liabilities are prompted by the Government, and the responsibility lies with you as a small business owner to make sure everything is in place.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

The importance of getting terms and conditions right

In the rush to cover everything needed to launch a small business, certain aspects can be neglected. For example, many underestimate the importance of terms and conditions for small businesses.

Ensuring terms and conditions are prominent, accessible, easily understood and legally correct is vital for small businesses to avoid potentially expensive legal action. Customers are legally entitled to information that shows exactly what they’re buying and what your business terms are. This is particularly important if your business operates online.

Terms and conditions for small businesses

Terms and conditions (T&Cs) for small businesses are those contract clauses that spell out the obligations, rights and legalities pertaining to both parties entering a contract. Businesses that hide their T&Cs or attempt to blur boundaries with wording or accessibility, are still liable.

A mistake some businesses make is believing that, if they hide pertinent T&Cs in the small print and a customer signs the contract, the customers is still bound by them. In the eyes of the law, this is not the case.

Legal precedent for T&Cs

In 1940, there was a landmark legal court case regarding a local authority’s T&Cs. It centred on whether the local authority could legally rely on a disclaimer against personal injury, which was on the reverse of a ticket given to a person who hired a deckchair from them.

The courts said that this kind of disclaimer must be clearly and obviously brought to the attention of the customer when the contract was being made. Therefore, the local authority should have spelled it out at the same time the customer bought the ticket. However, in this case, the customer received the ticket (with the information printed on the back) after he had paid the money to the local authority. Therefore, the court ruled the disclaimer was not valid as the customer had had no opportunity to refuse the contract based on the actuality of the terms.

Legally, the same applies to T&Cs. They must be clearly brought to the customer’s attention before contracts are signed. The only sure way to do this is to make sure that they are easily visible, clearly written and highlighted. Often, this is where the tick box comes in when you buy something online. The text accompanying the tick box says something along the lines of: “I the undersigned have read the terms and conditions and am happy to proceed.”

 Clarity is key for small business T&Cs

Small businesses should leave no room for ambiguity when it comes to T&Cs. If they are poorly drafted and rendered unclear, then customers might interpret them incorrectly. Ensure that there is absolutely no room for misunderstandings, by drafting succinct and exact T&Cs.

Simple terminology and an absence of legal jargon are best, as most people don’t have a thorough understanding of complex legal language. The more complex the wording used is, the less likely a customer is to read it. This could put them off the transaction. Some terms are more general. These include limiting liability, disclaimers and IP (intellectual property). In these cases, it’s acceptable to use pre-written clauses. More specific T&Cs for your business should be written from scratch.

If a client or customer says they were unaware of your terms and conditions but ticked the box complying with them, they do not have much recourse. Exceptions to this include if a term included in the T&Cs could be construed as ‘unreasonable’ or is legally unenforceable. If the customer wants to pursue the case despite this, the onus is on them to show clear evidence that the T&Cs are unenforceable. This is why small businesses should always include a tick box online before a customer signs a contract.

Every small business should include an easily accessible complaints procedure online. If a customer does pursue a complaint through this, it is always in the company’s best interest to try and resolve it immediately.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Small businesses should engage the services of a professional to ensure their T&Cs are working in their best interests. It’s not always clear whether a certain term is enforceable or legal, and specialist advice should be sought.”

“Every small business should have unambiguous, well-written, clear and accessible terms and conditions. They should be drafted to fit in with the specific needs of the business and should be considered legally enforceable and reasonable. This must be made clear to the customer before they sign a contract or buy a product or service. The rules are simple, but they are absolutely vital for small businesses who want to avoid possible legal headaches further down the line. T&Cs should also be periodically checked and redrafted if necessary, to comply with changing legislation or to better suit the company.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Will Open Banking help small businesses grow?

Open Banking is here, and it is potentially the most seismic change for financial services in a generation. Since reforms were introduced in January 2018 regarding financial data sharing, Open Banking has transformed the financial services market. Access to innovative, disruptive, easy-access financial services will profoundly change the way banks and their customers work together.

For small businesses, it means that for the first time more options are available to them to manage their finances. Instead of being restricted to a select few services provided by high street banks, small businesses can use tailor-made, specifically honed financial assistance in the form of apps, products, alternative lending and new tech platforms.

How will Open Banking affect small businesses?

We’re currently seeing the transition from traditional business banking to Open Banking. And while it is still early days, it will deliver a profound sea-change in financial management, on a personal and business level.

Most UK small businesses are yet to grasp the opportunity available to them, but research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) indicates a steadily increasing willingness to use Open Banking. At the moment, 40% of small business owners are happy to share their financial data for Open Banking purposes. By 2022, this will increase to 72% as SME owners grow their understanding of the benefits available to them. This means that by 2022, 4.8 million small businesses and 32.7 million consumers will be utilising Open Banking to manage their finances.

The propositions that will be created and offered by Open Banking to small businesses include:

  1. Bespoke, tailored lending based on an analysis of the SME’s account data.
  2. Improved cash flow management.
  3. Integrated tax and accounting services.

Transformative financial management

Open Banking is the term used for a set of reforms implemented in January 2018, following calls for reform from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It essentially forces UK regulated banks to allow customers to share financial data with other providers that offer apps or banking.

This is subject to the provider being authorised, and the consumer or small business giving permission. It’s hoped that this will end the monopoly of the traditional banking sector and improve financial management services for both consumers and businesses. The authorised parties are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are on the FCA Register or the Open Banking Directory.

Opening up the market will improve small business finances

In 2018, there were 5.4 million small businesses registered in the UK, making up 96% of the total businesses in the country. This is a huge number of small businesses forming the very backbone of the UK economy.

Challenges faced by microbusinesses and SMEs include access to financial management, services and products. With few staff and fewer resources, often time is just not available for financial analysis. This can lead to small businesses missing out on assistance, loans, information and general financial help that could be critical for survival.

Statistics show that almost half of small businesses that failed to secure the full amount they wanted from a business loan simply gave up, cancelled growth plans or put their business on hold. More than two-thirds are willing to give up growth plans rather than borrow money.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “The general reluctance to access financial management assistance is one of the reasons behind the introduction of Open Banking. Small businesses will benefit from more competitive products and services within the financial sector. Open Banking is becoming a very exciting opportunity that could help to boost the country’s position on the world stage”.

“However, it can seem low priority for small business owners who are dealing with the day to day immediacy of running a business. They will begin to see more products and services opening up, even if they are not aware of the changes in the background. This can help small businesses in many ways, from speeding up access to cash, funding and loans, to assisting with realistic plans for growth. From expenses tracking to tax assistance, there are already loads of apps and services available that small businesses and sole traders should be aware of. These innovations are specifically designed to help real-life problems faced by small businesses and are provided by Fintech innovators”.

“Fintech and Open Banking have the power to give small business owners full control of their financial future. We are in the early days of this transformative time within the financial sector, but through adoption of innovative solutions, small businesses will be able to further support the country’s economy and thrive.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Why small businesses should be cautious with AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more than just a tech buzzword. Along with automation, AI is very much here to stay, and is currently revolutionising the way we live and work. But when, and how, should small businesses jump on the AI bandwagon?

For small business owners, the question shouldn’t be whether to get involved with AI, but rather when to take the leap.

AI in small businesses inevitable

AI strategist Daniel Faggella says that it is inevitable that AI will be implemented across every business sector. However, in an Emerj article, he warns against proceeding without caution. And small businesses, in particular, should be wary of investing in this area too soon.

Small businesses typically have limited cashflow, resources and, often, data science knowledge. While AI is becoming more common, it is still highly complex, and there is little direct evidence of return on investment (ROI) yet.

AI is not yet diverse or flexible enough to easily solve problems for small businesses. The talent pool of people able to understand, build and follow up on an automated or AI application is still small. It takes time, talent and money to develop and implement. Many small businesses do not have any of these in the amount necessary to take the leap into AI development.

AI not yet necessary for profitability

AI tech also needs a tech infrastructure and data management system that is simply beyond what most small businesses are happy to invest in. Faggella says that no business should move into AI without a very clear objective and aim. He says in his article for Emerj, titled Is Artificial Intelligence for Small Businesses? Factors to Consider for Technology Adoption: “99.9% of small businesses don’t actually need AI right now to become profitable.”

As this field becomes cheaper, easier to use and has improved businesses uses, we will see AI move into the small business sector. It’s not that it should be ruled out completely, rather that right now it is costly, risky and not necessary. However, Faggella does recommend looking for applications and tech that use AI, so that small businesses can incorporate it in user-friendly formats. It’s possible to buy ready-made ‘off the shelf’ AI products for use in small businesses.

Caution is the watchword for small businesses

While it is possible to invest in AI products, or even to employ data science employees to develop in-house products, caution is the watchword. AI should never be considered anything other than a new way to solve a problem. In other words, it shouldn’t be implemented just because it’s a new, fashionable tech.

It’s important not to be swept into using AI applications simply because of what they are, rather than considering what they are doing to the company’s bottom line. AI is not guaranteed to solve any business problems, and needs an enormous amount of resources, money and high-levels skills to build from the ground-up.

Any technology should be chosen by small business owners based on what they can deliver to the business, and not because they use automation or AI.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “The business world is currently on the cusp of widespread adoption of AI applications, technology and automated products. There will undoubtedly come a time, in the not too distant future, when small businesses will use AI every day.

“It is likely that AI will become as user-friendly, widely accepted and easily installed as any other software. Until utilising AI makes a positive difference to your bottom line, and gives a guaranteed ROI, it’s just not yet necessary for small businesses to use. However, you should be focusing on ensuring all customer data is properly stored, which is already necessary, both to comply with guidelines but also to enable you to prepare for AI.

“As a small business owner you should ensure that you’re managing, governing and storing data in the most effective way to help you prepare for the advent of mainstream AI applications. That time may not be right now, but it’s unlikely to be too far into the future.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Small businesses in the UK demand more tax support from HMRC

Many businesses across the UK think the tax system in this country is fundamentally unfair, according to new research from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). A report released in April 2019 from the BCC indicates that not only do businesses report its intrinsic unfairness, but they also want more support to ensure compliance.

The BCC survey talked to more than 1,000 businesses across the UK, 96% of which are SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises with fewer than 250 employees). Almost 60% of respondents say the tax system is weighted against them and is unfair to their type of business.

More than two-thirds of businesses say that HMRC applies tax rules unfairly across every size of business. The report shows a lack of trust from a sample of small businesses in HMRC’s practices in general.

Stats from the report show that microbusinesses are more likely to have this opinion than larger businesses. However, the latter comes in at more than 55%. Almost two-thirds of UK businesses do not think that the HMRC fairly applies tax rules across different domiciles (small businesses 67%, larger businesses 59%).

Small businesses would like more support

Around half of businesses feel inadequately supported by HMRC in ensuring tax compliance. Slightly more than 50% of micro-businesses and 42% of larger businesses report wanting more support directly from HMRC.

A large percentage of businesses perceive that HMRC underestimates the time and financial burden imposed on SMEs to comply with changing regulations – and they are frustrated by it. Changes to business rates, and the expense of being forced to comply with the ‘Making Tax Digital’ initiative has increased pressure on UK SMEs. The cost of the changes made to auto-enrolment is also affecting small businesses and fuelling worries over the entire UK tax regime.

Chamber calls for improvements

The sense of unfairness from a proportion of the business community regarding the UK tax system has prompted the BCC to ask for improvements in the way HMRC manages business taxes.

The BCC is also reiterating a previous request that the Government promises to stop introducing new taxes and implementing significant new costs on businesses for the rest of the current term of parliament.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “The results from the BCC’s survey clearly show a level of concern regarding how the UK’s tax system works, how it is implemented and whether all businesses are treated fairly. Whatever the reality of the situation, there is a very strong impression from a sizeable percentage of businesses that the tax regime in this country is simply not fair, particularly to small companies.

“It is apparent that many small and medium sized businesses in the UK feel under constant threat of being penalised for non-compliance due to errors made in a continually changing system. There is a strong feeling of disappointment around the rising upfront tax costs of running a business in this country, against the backdrop of SMEs fighting to remain compliant and maintaining cashflow in a system that keeps taking more.

“If HMRC reduces the burden of compliance on small businesses and concentrates efforts on those who repeatedly fail to comply, it would be helpful. The Government could match the investment made into dealing with non-compliance with practical tax help for SMEs. More assistance up front would reduce the number of businesses failing to comply because they don’t understand the new rules. It would be great to see the Government curtail the escalating upfront costs expected so that SMEs can continue to concentrate on expansion and growth of their businesses which will ultimately result in greater tax receipts for the government as well.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Revenue fluctuations affecting small businesses in the UK

Research shows that small businesses in the UK often experience significant revenue fluctuations. Direct Line for Business finds that during certain months, it’s a normal experience for 1.6 million small businesses in this country to halve or double their revenue.

These kinds of fluctuations inevitably cause problems for small businesses in terms of maintaining appropriate staffing levels and being able to fulfil changing consumer demands.

How do revenue fluctuations affect small businesses?

As these revenue fluctuations are so significant in size, there are also challenges in maintaining and managing cash flow. Small businesses must be able to continually adapt to meet the challenges posed by wildly fluctuating revenue generation month by month.

More than a quarter of the 5.7 million small businesses in the UK are dealing with this fluctuation at any one time, showing the scale of the challenges facing the sector. And the way they manage varies.

How to manage revenue challenges

One way to deal with the changing income generated by a small business is to be flexible with employee numbers. Being able to quickly scale up or down as business dictates is a key part of small business success. For many there are periods of intense action, interspersed with slower months. This leads to the need for more or fewer staff to meet requirements.

Almost a quarter of small businesses have found themselves employing more people due to their rapid expansion. This can cause problems later down the line as demand drops, or the business needs change. As a result, the small businesses able to flexibly manage staffing levels, and understand the need for forward planning to predict the changing requirements from their consumers, are the ones that will succeed.

UK small business sector still growing

However, challenging these fluctuations can be, the UK SME industry is continuing on its upward trajectory. Over the past 12 months, more than half of small businesses report an increase in income, with 3% reporting revenue growth in excess of 50%.

There are now 2.7 million VAT registered SMEs in the UK, which represents a 23% growth. This is partly driven by the 25% increase in the launch of micro-businesses, which now number 2.4 million. Micro-businesses are defined as those employing fewer than ten people.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Small business operators and owners are some of the most adaptable, flexible and resilient business leaders in this country. Fluctuations in demand for services and in revenue are difficult challenges to overcome. However, UK SMEs continue to thrive, proving that these challenges are surmountable.

“If small businesses have the appropriate strategies, cover and policies in place, and are updating these as necessary, then they will be in a good position to deal with fluctuations. The ability to be flexible and adapt to changing conditions cannot be underestimated, particularly as the country awaits the outcome of Brexit.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

How much will Making Tax Digital cost small businesses in the UK?

Half of small businesses in the UK are not yet ready for the Government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) scheme, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). They’re urging the Government to underline its commitment to light-touch enforcement of the measures as research by the FSB shows 50% of small businesses cannot yet comply with the scheme, which will be enforced on 1 April 2019.

What is the Making Tax Digital scheme?

MTD is a major component of the Government’s plan to simplify the tax process for businesses and individuals. HMRC wants to become one of the most advanced tax administrative systems in the world, and digitising is a big part of this ambition.

The Government says that MTD will make tax administration more efficient, more effective and easier for people to get right. VAT-registered businesses with a turnover above the threshold must use the MTD service to submit their VAT returns from 1 April 2019, the start of the new financial year.

There are exceptions, including what the Government says is a “small minority” of VAT-registered businesses with complex needs. HMRC has committed to delaying the scheme for these specific customers until 1 October 2019. You can see more of the proposed timeline on its website.

Costs of compliance

However, the FSB says that 27% of small businesses have not yet even started to prepare for MTD. A further 23% (one in five) have sought quotes for the required software but haven’t yet bought access to any. A very small percentage (3%) say they are part of the pilot MTD scheme.

Some small businesses say that installing MTD-compliant software will cost an average amount of £564. Fees for software come as either one-off amounts or annual subscriptions for varying amounts.

The larger the business, the higher the expected costs. Businesses with a turnover of more than £500,001 and less than £1million will land a bill of around £872 for software. Businesses with a turnover of more than £1m will need to pay an average of £1,019.

 Lack of understanding

While the Government maintains the system will make it easier for businesses to manage their tax, just 10% of firms believe that MTD will have a positive impact on their financial management. And around 36% say they think it will be negative.

The research also showcases how important offline accounting administrative methods are to small businesses. About 37% say they use paper invoices, and almost a third (29%) use bank statements and paper receipts to manage their finances. HMRC’s own research shows that 19% of small businesses, who must comply with MTD on 1 April, don’t know what it is, or what it will mean for them.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “We are extremely close to the roll out of MTD by HMRC now, and small businesses are not prepared for it in many cases. Either way, small businesses should not be punished for a rushed roll-out. It’s clear that some are in danger of not being able to comply with MTD in time, or worse, have little understanding of what it will mean for them.

“The Government says that MTD compliance will be affordable for small businesses, but some are now finding that they must pay hundreds of pounds. We are experiencing some lower levels of confidence for small businesses at the moment, and with rates rising, extra costs such as this are not helpful.

“The FSB also finds that the registration process is far from simple, adding to confusion for small business owners. It would be helpful to see a review of the rollout and for the Government to commit to helping small businesses reach compliance. A guarantee that it won’t be forced upon businesses below the threshold for VAT for a significant time period would also be welcome.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Small businesses beat larger rivals on inclusion and diversity

Diversity matters in business. Organisations perform better, make more money and attract superior talent when they have a culture of inclusivity and diversity. McKinsey & Co, one of the world’s foremost consultancies says that there is a distinct financial advantage in inclusivity and diversity.

And it seems that small businesses are beating larger companies on diversity and inclusivity.

Financial advantage for small businesses

The research by McKinsey & Co shows that businesses in the top 25% for gender diversity are around 21% more likely to perform better than those in the bottom 25%. It included 1,000 organisations across 12 countries and examined every benchmark for diversity. It shows that organisations in the top 25% for ethnic diversity are a third more likely to see higher than average profitability than those at the bottom.

Diversity most obviously impacts the financial performance of a company when it’s embedded in executive teams and managerial positions. This correlation exists across all countries in the research. However, ethnic minorities in particular, are still under-represented in executive teams around the world.

Small businesses generally more diverse

As financial performance is linked to diversity within managerial and executive teams, it’s logical that small businesses outperform larger companies in this area. A Marketing Week report backs this up. Its annual Career and Salary Survey suggests that UK small businesses do better than larger rivals in terms of diversity and inclusivity. Furthermore, organisations with a strong diversity culture are more attractive to potential new hires.

The survey, which was collated from 4,415 marketing professionals, also shows that some business sizes and industries are still under-representing diverse groups of employees. For example, religious groups are the most likely to be under-represented in medium sized businesses (those with 50-249 people) at 20.8%, followed by large companies (250+ employees) at 19.8%. The best result for inclusivity in this area is with small businesses at 11.5%.

Around 50% of respondents in the gambling and gaming sector report that ethnic minorities are under-represented, followed by media at 42.5% and the public sector at 42.5%. Overall, ethnic minorities are least likely to be under-represented in small businesses.

Stark contrast between large and small businesses

Medium sized companies (50-249 employees) employ fewer LGBT employees, with 18.9% saying they’re under-represented. Small businesses again score highest, with just 7.5% of respondents saying that they feel LGBT employees are under-represented within companies under ten employees.

Another stark contrast can be seen with employees with mental or physical disabilities. Almost 41% of respondents feel that they are under-represented in large businesses, but just 13.8% report the same for small businesses. Similar ratios can be seen with other categories, including single parents and older employees.

Government moves to increase gender diversity

While the statistics for small businesses are encouraging, the Government is working to, in particular, increase gender diversity. A majority of MPs recently backed a recommendation by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) to extend its ‘Women in Finance Charter’ across all businesses within the UK.

As it stands, the Charter suggests that firms within the financial services sector commit to four key actions:

  • Name a senior executive as accountable for gender inclusion and diversity.
  • Set targets internally for gender diversity within senior management.
  • Publish progress every year.
  • Make sure the senior executive team’s pay is linked to the delivery of gender diversity targets.

This was signed by 300 financial services businesses, and its impact is therefore confined to this sector. AAT wants to see it renamed ‘Women in Business Charter’ and cover all businesses.

While the financial sector has been making some progress, a report from the Tech Talent Charter shows that they’re falling behind. The report says that the UK’s tech sector is failing to include women into tech roles. The UK average number of women in technological roles is only 19%, despite the Charter’s launch in 2018 with the aim of being more proactive in terms of delivering better gender diversity in this sector.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Multiple reports show that small businesses in the UK are outperforming larger companies in terms of inclusivity and diversity. This is perhaps unsurprising given that small businesses are often disruptive, innovative and forward-thinking, while larger companies can become lost in years of tradition and old-fashioned thinking.

“Every measure of diversity inclusion is shown to be greater in small businesses than medium to large. It’s the same across every sector, as well as across multiple countries. It’s encouraging that small businesses are further ahead when it comes to delivering inclusivity expected in 2019.

“However, it’s also clear that there is still much to do across every sector to encourage diversity. The financial advantages are there for the taking, and it’s hoped that further Government measures will continue to encourage inclusivity across the UK.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

What small businesses will thrive after Brexit  

According to media reports, the UK Government is still trying to thrash out a deal for leaving the EU in 2019. While some accuse coverage of scaremongering, others are concerned about the increasing likelihood of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and what that could mean for the economy.

Whether the UK leaves with a deal or not, it seems that things will change for businesses and people investing in certain asset classes. For example, it’s likely that financial services businesses that rely on easy access to the European market will suffer. However, there will be winners too. Specifically, the opportunities presented by Brexit to small businesses.

SMEs could form the backbone of the economy post-Brexit, and the Government is certainly taking this stance. For those looking for financing, there are positive options such as the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). This is because we are witnessing a time in the market where businesses are looking for investors, and investors are seeking out opportunities, leading to a ‘sweet spot’

Investment opportunities

Small and growing businesses offer investors the kind of opportunities that will continue to appeal after Brexit. These are the businesses that will flourish when the UK has left the EU, for various reasons.

The first is that they often operate in niche areas, specialising in specific sectors or services. This gives a measure of protection against any Brexit fallout, as they will still have that niche afterwards. Small businesses are also agile, flexible and able to adapt quickly to changes. This is one of their standout advantages over corporate giants.

Smaller businesses have an ability to pivot quickly, if necessary. Should circumstances demand a change in product or service, they are better placed to do so without enduring major adverse effects on their bottom line.

Strong Government support

The final reason for small businesses’ strong position as the UK heads towards Brexit, is the Government’s support. There is a renewed vigour in the support for entrepreneurship and innovation since the Referendum. Ministers are increasingly keen to encourage small businesses to continue to innovate and exploit niche opportunities, and to expand into larger markets.

In the current market climate, smaller firms that are potentially disruptive are increasingly attractive to investors. Entrepreneurship is at the heart of growth businesses, and the opportunities for financing are stronger than ever right now. The support available is not limited to funding, as many investment funds are providing mentoring which can be just as important as the funding itself.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “These small, disruptive, niche businesses will form the economic backbone of the UK after Brexit. There is no doubt that the economy and market is experiencing a time of uncertainty as we wait to find out the Government’s final exit deal, but small businesses can mitigate the risks by securing funding and mentorship at the same time.

“SMEs must also retain their flexibility and ability to adapt to a potentially fast changing market. The reality is that no-one can yet forecast exactly what will happen to any business sector when the UK is out of the EU, but by focusing on being adaptable, agile and staying alert, small businesses can weather any potential storm.

“As we approach Brexit, investors should be turning more to these kinds of businesses, as they offer the best chances of thriving in the new, post-EU business landscape.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.