How to manage your accounts as a small business

John Hoskin presents what you need to know about your financials in the early stages of business.

How to manage your accounts as a small business

It truly is refreshing to see that the number of small businesses in the UK is steadily rising, with numbers almost reaching 4.5 million.

Over the past five years this number has grown – especially since the recession, where more people have been made redundant or have found themselves struggling professionally – a situation which has lead many to become self-employed.

But even though setting up a business is an exciting new chapter in life, the first and most important step is to get the basics right.

Getting it right from the get-go sets the tone for any business meaning that earnings can be a lot higher and success can become a constant.

The fist place to start putting things into place is the financials. If a business’s numbers aren’t managed properly, it may have a number of issues.

You don’t really need to be a maths wiz to successfully run a small business, all you need is a basic understanding of bookkeeping and finance.


It takes time to get this right but if done correctly your business will be in a great position.

There is always a choice, so bookkeeping can be done manually or using modern accounting software online.

Various tasks like dealing with invoices, recording expenses, monitoring outgoings and paying employees can be very time consuming.

If you haven’t got the time to do it all yourself, just find someone, or a service, to do it for you.

Taking money out of your limited business

Annual accounts

The yearly financial performance of your business must be presented in a formal record and in a prescribed format – this includes sales, costs, assets (things like stock or machinery or equipment) and amounts owed.

The due date for submitting accounts depends on whether you operate as a sole trader or a limited company.

You can choose when your accounting year is to end, but since taxable income for sole traders is calculated on an 6 April to 5 April basis – and accounts are needed to back up the tax return – it makes sense for sole traders (and partnerships) to have an accounting year that runs from 1 April to 31 March.

The relevant accounts need to be completed before the following 31st January, to be used when completing your self-assessment tax return due on that date.

For limited companies you can more or less choose your accounting year to suit yourself and your business but you still need to complete and file accounts every year with Companies House.

Corporation tax

All UK limited companies pay this, and it is currently charged at 20 per cent on any profit generated within the year up to £300,000 – it is slightly higher for companies with profits above this mark.

A corporation tax return must be completed, with tax due for payment to HMRC within nine months of the accounting period.

Self-assessment income tax

To calculate your personal income tax on all your income for the year (6 April to 5 April) you must unfortunately fill out another form.

This form must be completed, filed and any tax paid no later than the 31 January following the previous 5 April tax-year.

Income tax rates

A tax-free personal allowance of £9,440 (until April 2014) is available to everyone, and approximately the next £32,000 of ‘basic rate’ income above this personal allowance is taxed at 20 per cent.

Any income above this falls into the ‘higher rate’ band, and is currently taxed at 40 per cent, which then goes up to 45 per cent for earnings above £150,000.

Anyone earning over £100,000 also starts to lose their personal allowance.

Additionally, out of employment (salary and wages) income comes national insurance, which is payable at various rates and thresholds. In the case of a limited company, dividend income is taxed at lower rates and there is no national insurance to be paid.


Irrespective of your business structure, you must register for VAT if your annual turnover (sales) is £79,000 or more – registration is optional if turnover is below that.

You will charge your customers at the standard 20 per cent rate of VAT, which means that you must add 20 per cent to your sales invoice values and then keep this amount aside from what your customers pay you.

You will then be able to reclaim any VAT you have paid on business-related purchases and expenses and you must pay the net amount of the two – VAT on sales less VAT on expenses – over to HMRC. VAT returns and payments are due on a quarterly basis.


Income tax and national insurance needs to be calculated, deducted from the gross wages and salaries of your staff and paid over to HMRC on their behalf.

This is a monthly payment that’s deducted from your employee’s gross salaries, meaning that there’s no cost to your business.

National Insurance is deducted at a rate of 12 per cent for employees, although both income tax and NI only kick in once a certain earnings limit is reached.

Employer’s national insurance is also charged at a rate of 13.8 per cent on the gross salary, again within certain thresholds – this is not deducted from their salaries and so it represents a real, additional tax cost to your business.

What next?

With all the information above, it is probably be apparent by now what course of action suits you best when it comes to bookkeeping and basic accounting – you have the choice to either manage it yourself or just outsource it to an expert.

No matter what you choose to do, you should aim to decide ASAP and stick to your decision. What you should avoid is spending hours trying to get it done on your own and then giving up and handing it over to someone that can do it better.

Unfortunately starting a business comes with time-consuming and distracting, yet unavoidable admin – bookkeeping, tax and accounting – which can be frustrating.

However, these things are crucial, both in terms of keeping you safe and compliant in the eyes of the tax man and in providing valuable information on which to run your business.

Over time, the money that coming in will increase and things will be different than what they were on day one.

As the profits grow, it’s smart to have absolute control and visibility of your business, making sure that it’s set up in a tax-efficient way and you can make sound management decisions based on accurate, timely figures.

Further reading on accounts


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