Tax & admin · 8 August 2017

Six steps to getting your business books in shape by the end of summer

Close-up of hands searching in a file cabinet
Now is the time to write off any invoices that you’re sure will never be paid, and to chase up those customers who havent paid yet
Here, Emily Coltman, Business Advice expert and chief accountant to cloud accounting provider FreeAgent, gives readers her top tips for getting your business books in order by the end of the summer and making life easier in the months ahead.

The end of summer is not far off, which means you may be thinking of having a last-minute holiday or finishing a long overdue DIY project before the days get much shorter.

But, the holidays could also be the ideal time to take a look at your business books, and start preparing your company for autumn and the busy Christmas period.

  1. Check your cash

Do you know exactly how much has your business earned or how much cash it has on hand? If your business? cash harvest is poor, then it may starve, so it’s important to make sure that you know how much cash your business has in its bank account.

If you’re not already doing so, check whether you can set up an automatic feed to pull this data from your bank straight into your accounting software in order to minimise data entry errors.

Then make sure you check at least weekly, if not daily, to make sure that your bank balance is correct in your accounts and that all your transactions have been recorded.

And remember, if your bank balance in your accounts doesnt match what’s in your bank, youll have to look back and find the difference it won’t go away.

  1. Send out your invoices

If your business issues invoices to customers, take advantage of any summer downtime to check through your records and make sure you’ve sent invoices for all the work you have done to date. Your customers cannot pay you if you don’t invoice them.

You should also check your list of open invoices because sometimes there might be some invoices that havent been paid because the customer’s just forgotten about them and you havent followed them up.

There may also be old invoices in your accounts that havent been paid and won’t be, perhaps because your customer’s gone out of business. Take some time now to write off any invoices that you’re sure will never be paid, and to chase up those customers who havent paid yet.

  1. Check your out-of-pocket expenses…

Out-of-pocket expenses are business costs that you paid for personally, for example if you went to the post office and bought a book of stamps to send business letters, but paid with your own cash.

As long as these are bona fide business costs, you can put these into your business accounts too, and they reduce the amount of profit you pay tax on, so it’s worthwhile keeping track of all of them.

Go through your wallet and look for stray receipts and make sure that you’ve included any of them which are business costs in your accounts.

And, if you keep a big box of receipts that you usually only look at when your tax return is due, use this time to go through these and record all of them in your accounts. It will save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

  1. …and review how your costs are categorised

When you’re putting your business costs into your accounts – whether they were paid for from your business bank account or whether you paid for them personally – make sure that the costs are in the right categories.

For example, a pack of envelopes would be best categorised as “stationery”, while a bill from your office landlord would be “rent”. This helps you make sure that you’re claiming the right amount of tax relief on your costs, and means you can track where you’re spending money in your business.

Be aware of the categories that contain potential tax pitfalls (for example, sundries, subscriptions and lease payments) and make sure that any costs you put in these categories are correct. If you have any doubts, consult your accountant who should be able to advise you.

  1. Check when your tax is due



Emily Coltman is chief accountant to FreeAgent, provider of cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro businesses and accountants. She is passionate about helping the owners of small and growing businesses to escape their ?fear of the numbers? and she translates small business finance and tax into practical common sense speak.