Spring Statement Summary

Yesterday Chancellor Philip Hammond issued his Spring Statement; as predicted this didn’t get as much media attention as normal due to the Prime Minister holding yet another vote on Brexit.

Highlights include:

The Chancellor described the economy as being “remarkably robust” and has “defied expectations”, supported by GDP growth rates of 1.2% this year.

Mr Hammond used the Spring Statement to acknowledge the uncertainty over the economy due to Brexit, stating “The most urgent task is to lift uncertainty.”

He also warned in the case of a no deal – a sharp and sudden spike in inflation is expected, due to the economy operating close to full capacity and the impact of higher prices for imports. He went on to state that if a Brexit deal is reached, the government will hold a full spending review in the summer to set departmental budgets, including three-year budgets for resource spending, shaping priorities for the Autumn Budget.

Business & Enterprise:
Mr Hammond announced a £37 billion productivity fund, focusing on improving skills throughout the workforce, saying that he wanted to “build on the UK’s fundamental strengths”

Housing & Environment:
Mr Hammond devoted a significant part of his speech to housing and the environment, announcing £3 billion for the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, to support the delivery of approximately 30,000 affordable homes.

In addition, £717 million of funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund is to support the construction of homes in West London, Cheshire, Didcot and Cambridge. 

To conclude:
There were no major changes to highlight with the focus of the government clearly on Brexit.

R&D tax claims hit new high. Are you missing out?

The number of businesses claiming tax relief on Research and Development (R&D) has increased significantly, with the latest figures indicating a 24% rise in claims since last year.

The big question is, could you be eligible to make a claim?

The scope for identifying R&D is huge – in fact, it exists in every single sector and the HMRC R&D criteria is broad and far-reaching. In general, if you have spent money developing new products, processes or services; or enhancing existing ones, you could be eligible for R&D tax relief.

It’s easy to overlook the idea of R&D claims, thinking they are only applicable to large businesses or businesses investing significant sums.

However, many businesses may in fact be eligible to claim – especially since the original minimum R&D expenditure of £10,000 was removed in April 2012. This has opened the door for SMEs to claim back vital funds, and with the average SME claim in the UK coming in at £53,876 (2016-17), what are you waiting for?

Although many companies claim to be able to help with R&D claims, few actually have the knowledge and expertise.

The team at Stafford & Co have achieved great success for clients. One of our happy clients is Ben Griffiths of Clever IT, who we helped to reclaim over £8,000:

“Before speaking to Stafford & Co, I was unaware of R&D tax relief. However, they quickly explained how and why I would be eligible for this and efficiently put the claim together for me and submitted it to HMRC. I was over the moon, to find out that our claim had been successful, and I was reimbursed over £8,000. Thanks again Stafford & Co”.

So, if you’re looking to get 2019 off to a great start, we can’t think of a better way than to talk to us about making an R&D claim. Contact us on 01204 368 550 or email info@staffordandcompany.test.

An alarming number of businesses are still unaware of Making Tax Digital

Despite a great deal of discussion amongst the accountancy industry, recent research has suggested that a worrying number of businesses themselves don’t know about the forthcoming Making Tax Digital (MTD) changes. The research, by the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), suggests over 40% of small firms soon to be mandatorily included in the UK Government’s MTD initiative remain unaware of the project.

This is obviously a concerning statistic – the ideal scenario for small businesses is for them to begin using new accounting software well in advance of the 1st April deadline so they can get used to the new methods.

But what exactly are the changes, who will they affect and what action do you need to take?

All UK VAT registered businesses above the £85,000 sales threshold will be required to make digital records and file VAT returns directly via MTD-approved software from 1st April 2019. Businesses must instead use ‘functional compatible software’ (digital records) that can connect to HMRC’s system via its API link to file their UK VAT returns.

This means that as of 1st April 2019, any business that applies VAT to its sales will no longer be legally allowed to keep manual records for accounting purposes. This includes paper records and applies to both sales and purchases for which VAT is claimed.

The process of manually keying-in VAT return data from spreadsheets into HMRC’s online portal must also cease as of the 1st April.

A further requirement for the new rule will require digital links to be maintained between any accounting package or spreadsheet through to HMRC’s new filing API.

This is the first stage of the UK’s MTD initiative to digitise tax records and submissions, and MTD is likely to extend to other taxes from 2020.

Compliance with the new requirements will require fundamental changes to the existing processes and systems of many businesses. At Stafford & Co, we’ve been in the process of educating our clients about MTD for several months and working with those clients that will be affected by the 1st April deadline to ensure they will be ready.

  • Do you submit a group tax return?
  • Is your accountancy software compliant for MTD?
  • Do you submit a consolidated return for all your divisions/departments?
  • Use to submitting using Excel? Have you got the correct API in place to be able to continue to submit in this way?
The answers to these questions are key to ensuring you’re ready for MTD. Planning in advance is vital to minimise cost and ensure returns can be submitted on time.  Ask the Stafford & Co team about MTD so we can help you prepare in advance.
For more information on how we can help your business get ready for MTD, contact a member of the team on 01204 368 550 or email info@staffordandcompany.test

Get into the competitive spirit

We are proud of our team members who recently completed the Rossendale Triathlon on Sunday 27th May. The triathlon was made up of a 400m swim, 21km bike ride and 5km run and we entered 2 teams that were made up of Emma, Nick & Alex who completed the course in 1hour 33mins and Molly, Peter & Jess who completed the course in 1hour 49mins. Last but not least a huge congratulations to Rob who entered the triathlon as an individual and completed the course in just 1hour 45mins, what an achievement!

This was a great challenge for all involved and we would like to congratulate everyone else that took part and we look forward to our next team challenge.

Welcome to our new Director

Stafford & Co welcome a new Director to their growing team whilst they continue to invest in local young talent from across the region. The growing firm, based in Bolton, has appointed Dominic Grimes as Operations Director to help assist with the next stage of its growth.

Never one to shy from hard work, Dominic, who is from Bolton, left school at 16 years old and qualified as an AAT accountant aged just 18, becoming a Chartered Accountant by the age of 21.  Dominic is a well-known figure in the strong community of financial professionals in Bolton having worked for another local accountancy firm for the last 13 years; building up an extensive portfolio of clients in the region and beyond.

Joining the practice in the new role of Operations Director, Dominic will focus on advisory work, whilst also helping to run the company’s operations on a day to day basis.

Commenting on his new role, Dominic said:

“Stafford & Co are known as a forward-thinking and well-established accountancy firm. I wanted to join Rob to be part of the team and most importantly the plans for the future. I have a brilliant business partner in Rob and we’re looking forward to continuing to deliver a quality service to the firm’s clients.  We both enjoy working closely with business owners to help them really understand their financial position and potential and working actively with them to help achieve their growth ambitions”. 

Rob Stafford, Managing Director at Stafford & Co said:

Having known Dominic for many years, I’m confident that he is the right person to help me take the firm forward again and offer great support and advice to our expanding client base. Dominic adds great experience to the talented team at Stafford & Co and I’m sure he will take an active role helping further develop our people.  We’re supporting more young people to become accountants, many of whom are following a similar journey to Dominic, so his help will be extremely valuable. Overall, it’s been a good year for the firm, as the Stafford & Co team has welcomed both a new Payroll Manager and another Graduate Trainee Accountant. This has been a real positive step and I believe we have the right team in place to continue to deliver a high-quality service to our clients and we are excited for the year ahead.


Lifetime Financial Responsibility – New Year

The business owners amongst us know that January means one thing – it’s tax return time!

Let’s face it, few of us relish the process of completing our annual tax return, even if you’ve got a friendly accountant to help out (did we mention that we know one or two?!)

However, if it’s got to be done, you might as well use the process as a force for good. That’s what we think anyway and that’s why we encourage our clients to take ‘tax return time’ as an opportunity not only to look back over the past year but also to look forward. This might involve making plans for the year ahead, or even further into the future.

It’s all too easy to find yourself caught up in the ‘everyday’ matters involved with running a business – from staff issues to marketing plans. Yet you probably didn’t start your business with this intention and when it comes to the time when you want to retire, you’ll be keen to reap some rewards from all your hard work!

As we’ve been discussing in some of our blogs last year, taking an interest and planning for your lifetime finances isn’t something that you can afford to leave on the side-lines. However, as the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top and for some business Directors, knowing they should be planning for their future and finding the impetus to do so are two different things.

That’s why Stafford & Co launched BoardView.  Working with owner-managed businesses throughout the year, BoardView provides companies that have a small number of Directors with the facility to hold regular board meetings to discuss strategy. In our experience, when smaller businesses start holding board meetings they immediately start thinking like, acting like and achieving like their bigger and more successful counterparts.

Whatever role you want us to play as part of BoardView, be that silent observer, finance director, independent sounding board, chairman or minute taker, we can contribute our experience to help you achieve your goals – personally and professionally.

As we provide an impartial presence at board meetings, it means we can rise above office politics and smaller day-to-day operational issues to focus on the really important matters.

Ensuring your business and personal finances are in the best possible shape is a job for now – not later. None of us know what the future has in store and it’s better to be prepared than find yourself faced with an unexpected life event and desperately trying to find a work around.

At Stafford & Co, we take it as our responsibility to prepare our clients for any eventuality. For help getting your financial future on track, contact Stafford & Co. We’re not just Accountants, we can work with you to put together a structured personal balance sheet and profit & loss to help ensure you are managing your lifetime finances and help ensure you’re fully prepared for those all-important life events – big and small.

Take An Interest – Reasons for starting a business

There are many reasons people decide to set up their own business. What were yours?

Every now and then, it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about the reasons you decided to take the plunge and set up your own business. What were your aspirations? Are they the same now as they were then? Where do you want to end up and are you confident that you’re on the right path to get there?

For most business owners, their company is their main source of income, how they manage the day to day is one thing, but many get absorbed running a business and don’t take the time to think about their long-term finances.  What are the things that keep you awake at night? Do you have a plan to manage your finances throughout your lifetime to be able to provide for the people and things that are most important to you?

So whilst focusing on everyday operations and short-term profit is important, it is also vital to think on a lifetime basis. For example, we help clients by taking an interest in some of life’s big questions:

  • How should you plan for growth/exit / sale?
  • Will you have enough money for a comfortable retirement?
  • What’s the best way to fund your children’s education?
  • How will you pay for the cost of kids going to uni?
  • Will you need to help your children buy their first house?
  • Do you have elderly parents you need to care for?

It may seem like these things are a long way off, but we all know that time flies; they’ll be here before you know it!

Take an Interest: managing your lifetime finances

Although running your business as it is can seem a daunting enough task without taking on board the added pressure of planning for the future, the last thing you want is to find yourself working years past your planned retirement age to ensure you can afford the lifestyle you had hoped to achieve when you first set out in business. One thing you most certainly did not start your business to do was to end up being a slave to it!

The good news is that there is help on hand. The team at Stafford & Co specialise in working with owner managed businesses and have helped many business owners to reset their focus to work towards their aspirations. We care about our clients and their dreams and we’re well-placed to help them to get there.

Free consultation: Personal Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss

For help getting your finances on track, contact a Director at Stafford & Co. We’re not just accountants, we can work with you to put together a structured personal balance sheet and profit & loss to help ensure you are managing your lifetime finances & fully prepared for those all-important life events – big and small.

Get in touch with one of our experts, for help, advice or for specific advice in relation to planning a business sale or exit strategy.

Take An Interest – Managing your Lifetime Finances

We’d all like to lay claim to being good with managing our finances; some of us may even convince ourselves that we are. But in reality, is ‘good’ good enough?

Most of us know the steps we should be taking steps to be more financially responsible. Steps such as paying into a pension. Saving into an ISA each year. Making regular overpayments on our mortgage.

The problem is, there always seems to be something to pay for in the here and now…

After all, taxes are rising. The cost of living is increasing at a pace. Take home pay in real terms is decreasing.

Here are a few facts & figures…

  • The lifetime cost of having a child is typically £218,000.
  • For the average family with two children, this cost can double.
  • Low-interest rates have decimated interest income from savings.
  • Students are having to pay a minimum of £27,000 for university tuition fees and parents often need to contribute up to £30,000 to university living costs.
  • Average first-time buyers must find £30,000 – with 78% needing help from their parents.
  • People are living longer, yet state pension provisions are getting worse.

It doesn’t paint a very positive picture, does it? No matter how good you may think you are with your personal and family finances, you are going to feel the squeeze over the coming years.

There’s only one way to try and prevent falling into the financial doldrums and that is to take control. Control of your current expenditure. Control of your future financial planning.

Taking financial control may involve making changes and there may even be certain sacrifices you have to make. But what’s the alternative? Rely on the older generation for an inheritance, meaning your parents can’t fully enjoy their own retirement? Have to work well into your 60s (or even 70s) to build yourself a half-decent retirement fund? Or be rendered unable to provide your family with all of the help and support you want to?

The irrefutable fact of the matter is there is only one person who can pave the way to future financial security for you and your family. And that’s you. And you need to act now.

Free consultation: Personal Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss

For help getting your finances on track, contact a Director at Stafford & Co. We’re not just accountants, we can work with you to put together a structured personal balance sheet and profit & loss to help ensure you are managing your lifetime finances & fully prepared for those all-important life events – big and small.

We believed we could do it and now we’re delighted to let you know we’ve achieved Xero Gold Partner status!

Lots of clients tell us that Xero has helped to transform their business, from reducing cost and admin time to giving them easy access to the key numbers driving their business. Tracking performance using Xero is easy and can even be fun!  As an accredited Xero Gold Partner we have 6 Xero-certified staff, this makes us experts in using and implementing Xero. It is the implementation that most clients are worried about; the hassle and difficulty of transferring from one system to another without making costly mistakes and without losing vital financial control and information in the transition period.  This is where the Stafford & Co team really add value in helping you change to Xero.

Top Benefits of Xero for forward thinking businesses:

  • Use unrivalled timely management information to help make informed decisions.
  • Daily automatic updates, so you always know how much money you have in the bank.
  • See at a glance who you owe money to & who owes you, plus know your tax liabilities.
  • Integrate with other apps, transfer information accurately & at low cost.
  • All your data is secure & backed-up in the cloud.
  • Access all your accounting information, 24/7, wherever you are in the world.
We helped Wyatt Logistics transfer to Xero, and this is what they said:
“Stafford&Co introduced us to Xero and managed the implementation. They fully explained the software to us, provided training and are always on hand to answer any questions we may have, they have been great. There are many benefits of using Xero, for us the online system makes it easy to access all our information and the automatic calculations minimise human errors.”
Free Xero Workshop for you and your team:
We are hosting a series of Xero workshops over the coming months that are free for everyone to attend.  If you would like to book a place or for more information about Xero and how it can benefit your business, please contact Gillian today.