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Struggling with Finances? Here’s How Accountants Can Help

Running a small business can be an extremely stressful and challenging time, as with so much to juggle all the responsibilities lie with you. Many small business owners are reported to be working seven days a week, including early morning starts and busy evenings, which can of course put a great strain on your work life balance. You will probably find yourself having to manage recruitment, family time, sales, school runs, business development, marketing, strategic planning, time for your partner, bank accounts, health and safety and many, many more tasks … the list of commitments is endless and seems ever growing.

It is therefore no surprise that business finances take a back seat and drop down the list of your priorities. With so much time needed to manage your finances correctly, it is easy to let invoices and receipts pile up, expenses and bank reconciliations lay untouched for months and the real financial status of the business to be left an unknown quantity. Unfortunately, this only aims to stunt the business’ future growth as it becomes impossible to know if you can afford to invest in new equipment or resources.

But don’t worry, by reaching out to an accountancy company in Peterborough, or one local to yourself, you will be provided with the assistance you need as accountants will provide a wide range of services to help with both personal and business finances. Therefore, helping to take the lion’s share of financial demands and responsibilities of your shoulders.

From a business perspective, they will initially advise on the most beneficial structure for your company. This will help ensure you are trading in the correct way as a limited company, partnership or sole trader and taking advantage of the best tax options available. They will also offer information on the latest financial software packages to use and help you decide which is the best fit for the size and function of your business. By choosing the right software, you will get back ownership and speed up the transactions of simple day to day financial tasks, such as recording your expense receipts.

Accountants will also cover all the standard financial reporting procedures which are integral to the business, but which would take your valuable time if you planned to do these alone. These include the quarterly business reporting and reconciling along with the annual task of completing and submitting tax returns.  On top of this, your accountant will of course be tracking your expenses, supplier accounts and will be able to flag when you need to revise your contracts or renegotiate the prices you pay. They will also offer advice on more complex financial planning, setting future financial forecasts or targets and monitor any strategic investment decisions. Accountants will also be available to help with any audits, and if the time ever comes to sell your business, they will provide advice and resources to both value the business and assist with all the financial aspects of the sale.

Having an accountant by your side will help you to focus on the all-important growth of your business and help you aim for that work life balance.

divorcing parents

Couples Should be Encouraged to Divorce Amicably

Political Parties Urged to Commit to No Fault Divorces

Politicians across all parties are being lobbied to embrace no-fault divorces in their manifestos for the forthcoming General Election.

Research conducted by family law body Resolution has found that the vast majority of family law practitioners believe the time has come to modernise divorce law. The findings echo those of a YouGov poll conducted earlier in the year, in which more than two thirds of people feel that no-fault divorce should be available to all.

With more than 40 percent of marriages ending in divorce, the sentiment will certainly find agreement with anyone looking to find a family law firm in London, who will already be going through one of the most difficult experiences imaginable. The current need to play the “blame game” on top of everything else is seen by most as an unnecessary requirement that simply adds to the stress and worries for all concerned.

The current rules

Unless couples have been apart for more than two years, it is necessary to cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour, such as physical or verbal abuse, drug-taking or refusing to contribute financially to the household, as a reason for divorce.

Yet all this really achieves is a blame culture that exacerbates conflict between the parties and makes it less likely for them to part amicably and reach a mutual understanding regarding important aspects such as finances and childcare.

The no-blame divorce

The concept of a no-blame divorce is not a new one, and is enshrined in the family law of many countries, including The Netherlands, Spain, Australia and certain states in the USA.

It makes sense, as there is overwhelming research evidence that the majority of divorces do not come about as a result of adultery or “unreasonable behaviour,” as defined in the current statutes. This leaves the divorcing parties with the choice of either waiting till they have been apart for two years so that they can cite “desertion” or coming up with a reason along the lines of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, purely for the purposes of getting the divorce application in.

Whichever way you look at it, the system is clearly not fit for purpose as it currently stands.

Separation rules

Some argue that the “two year separation” rule has sound logic behind it, as a reverse application of the “marry in haste, repent at leisure” proverb. However, even they generally advocate a change to the current rules.

Resolution’s proposal is to provide the option for a no-fault divorce if either party gives formal notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and remains of the same view six months later.

Reducing the two year timeframe in this way could certainly be a solution that works better for everyone.

A “half way house” would be to follow the model adopted in Scotland, where couples can mutually agree to divorce after 12 month of separation. The effect of this has been that family lawyers now actively encourage parties to wait for the specified period instead of citing unreasonable behaviour or adultery, resulting in a more amicable divorce process for all concerned.

What route the political parties will take is yet to be seen, but there can be little doubt that divorce law is long overdue an overhaul. Now is the perfect time to get it to the top of the political agenda.

How To Create A Winning Legal Team

team building gps huntBoost Efficiency In Your Law Firm By Encouraging Team Collaboration

Do you need to boost your bottom line? Your organisation is nothing without the dedication of your employees, so invest in them by booking a team building day.

Most companies experience employees who need a bit of a boost at one time or another. Even those who are performing well could find room for improvement. When a workforce is happy in the office, morale and engagement are both high which has a knock-on effect in terms of productivity. A 2015 study conducted by Gallup shows a strong link between engaged leaders and the productivity rates of their employees. Concerningly, 1 in 2 out of the 7,272 adults surveyed had left a job at some point in their career in order to get away from a manager. Less than a third felt engaged in their jobs in any given year.

Boost Your Legal Team

These are disheartening statistics for any employer to read – but there is an increasingly popular solution that can transform the outlook of a team – from the managerial level downwards. Team building activities are gaining in popularity due to their ability to create trust, increase communication and enhance collaboration between team members. Ultimately, if you can get your team to work together more successfully and trust in their leadership, then morale will be high, your employees will feel motivated and that can only have a positive impact on your company bottom line.

But with such a range of team building events, how do you choose the right activity for your organisation?

Team Building Ideas

There are a multitude of corporate events to suit every type of company. First you should choose whether you’re interested in indoor or outdoor exercises. Indoor activities might involve anything from a Crystal Maze challenge or a cocktail masterclass to pub games or a choc box challenge. If you fancy getting your team outdoors, then you might be interested in a GPS treasure hunt adventure, sports day activities, iPad filming or a soap box derby. A reputable teambuilding management company will be able to advise you based on your location and the size of your organisation.

Avoid Overtly Corporate Goals

The best way to encourage your employees to open up and step outside of their comfort zones, is to have fun. By doing so, they will be able to apply themselves to new challenges and you may be surprised by the skills that they unknowingly demonstrate as part of the activity. Who knew that Sheila in Accounts was going to be such an excellent navigator during that treasure hunt? Or that Bob from HR was so quick to answer questions under pressure during a time trial? However, you won’t be able to gain as much from your employees if there is an overtly corporate tone to the structure of your event. If you’ve got them out of the office to have fun, then allow your staff to do just that. Avoid the obvious leadership tasks which they’ll be able to sniff out in seconds and instead use the day to let your staff work naturally towards a common goal.

Keep It Going

After the high of a successful team bonding day, there can be that disappointing anti-climax when you return to work the next day. In order to reap the benefits of your away day, make it a regular thing. Schedule frequent after work drinks or social events within the office premises to ensure that you get as many employees as possible to join in. You might organise a monthly bowling night, or cinema trip. The key is to keep it frequent, interesting and pick events that your employees will engage with. By doing so, you’ll create a team that loves to work both with you and for you.

Elderly couple forced to live apart

Elderly Couples Forced To Live Separately

Senior judge condemns practice of separating elderly couples

Thousands of older couples are being separated in order to have their care needs met – a situation a senior British judge has branded as ‘absolutely shocking’.

Recent reports have found that many elderly couples who require additional care and support are being separated against their wishes – a practice condemned as ‘inhumane’ by High Court judge, Sir James Munby.

According to Sir James, couples who have been together for decades are often refused shared accommodation and instead are split up into different care homes, or face a situation where one partner is housed in residential care, while the other remains at home alone.

This separation can have a profound impact on the mental health and well-being of the couples involved, causing trauma and exacerbating feelings of loneliness (already a common problem in Britain’s elderly population), as well as having a knock-on effect on people’s physical health.

In a speech to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Sir James said,

“We do know that people die of a broken heart. I have read of cases where one person died and then the other dies a couple of days later. How long do people last if they are uprooted? A very short time.”

He also branded the practice of separating couples as “a profound indictment of our society”, and suggested that forcing frail and elderly people to leave their homes and their partner is not always the best course of action as it can have a substantial negative impact their happiness.

In light of this, Sir James believes that alternative options should be explored and has urged social workers to do all they can to enable couples to remain together in later life.

Live in care

In order to avoid separation and being forced to leave their homes, many older couples are turning to live in care as a potential solution. A live in carer is an around-the-clock carer who lives in the client’s home and provides a package of personal care and household management services based on a personalised care plan.

By hiring a live in carer, couples are able to stay together in their own home whilst receiving a level of care and support that is tailored to their individual needs. Furthermore, hiring a carer to look after a couple can bring significant savings when compared to the costs of two separate residential care places.

Additional benefits

As well as helping couples to stay together, live in care also offers a number of other benefits. By the very nature of the role, a live in carer is on hand 24/7 to offer one-to-one care and support. This, unsurprisingly, has a positive impact on health and safety, with clients suffering a third fewer falls than those in residential care. Live in care also enables older people to hold on to their much valued independence and continue with their daily routine. Clients also benefit from remaining in familiar surroundings, something that’s particularly beneficial for people suffering from dementia.

If you and your partner are looking for an alternative care solution, your local authority or social services should be able to offer help finding a live in carer, enabling you to remain safe, independent and, most importantly, together in your own home.

retired couple sitting in a garden

Can You Cash In A Pension?

Pension Reforms Provide Greater Freedom Than Ever

Many of those approaching retirement age are concerned about the performance of their pension fund. Take control and do something about it.

The pension crisis is a problem that will affect at least 11 million of us over the coming years, as one company after another reports pension deficits in the millions, and in some cases billions, of pounds.

It means that final salary schemes will fall well short, and millions will be left struggling to make ends meet, or will forced to continue working into retirement unless they do something about it now.

Doing something definitely sounds like the better option, but the question, of course, is what to do. Pension reforms that have come into effect over the past couple of years give investors far better control over their money, and the freedom to cash in a pension early and put the money to better use for a more prosperous retirement.

Is this something that you should consider? Let’s take a look at what is involved.

Can you cash in your pension?

In almost all cases, the answer is a resounding yes. However, this immediately leads on to the follow up question of whether you should. This depends on a number of factors, including your age, the amount you are planning to withdraw and what other savings and investments you have.

No two people’s circumstances are identical, which is why it is so important to get some professional, impartial advice. In general, however, the majority of people find that it makes far more financial sense to release at least a portion of their pension pot and put the money to more effective use.

What if you are under 55?

There is a popular misconception that you cannot cash in your pension if you are below the age of 55. This is simply not the case.

Even if you are under 55, there is still the possibility to release money from your pension. There are, however, additional factors to take into account, as you could face higher tax liabilities for doing so.

There are certain special circumstances in which you can release money from your pension before the age of 55 without incurring these costs, for example if you have a serious health condition or have permanently retired.

Whatever your situation, it still makes sense to weigh up your options and take some expert advice. It could be that the pros of cashing in your pension early outweigh the cons of the higher tax bill.

How can you spend it?

It is your money, so that is entirely up to you. Some people choose to reinvest it in alternative financial products, or even in property, where it will generate better returns. Others use it to pay off debts that are incurring far higher interest rates than the pension fund was generating.

You might even use the money to treat yourself to some home improvements, a new car or the holiday of a lifetime.

Is there a downside?

Of course, and money that you take now will no longer be available for you to withdraw as an income source after retirement. This is why cashing in a pension needs to be just one part of a broader investment strategy to make your money work better.

You should always take professional advice and look at all the angles, to decide what is best for you and your family.

Legal mistakes that new companies make

Starting entrepreneurs tend to focus most of their attention on marketing their products, services, growing their reputation and spreading their brand. In the heat of competition, it is easy to overlook the legal considerations of an operating business. This legal oversight may be what brings your business down. Here are some legal mistakes that starting companies make.

Not hiring an attorney

It’s common for small businesses and partnerships to believe they don’t have the same level of legal obligations as bigger enterprises do. It is a mistake to believe that the legal issues will only appear once you grow in scale. A good idea is to always get a lawyer before you launch and let him/her set you up correctly from the onset.

Not setting up the right business structure

Many legal problems could arise when you fail to identify the correct business structure of your company. There are differences between a sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporations. You should choose the right structure after studying the benefits and disadvantages of each, then you can determine the right one for you. If you set yourself as a sole proprietor, for example, you are legally considered “one “ with your business. If your business happens to be sued, your personal assets are also at risk.

Not having terms and conditions policies to which customers agree to be bound

 It is a good practice to have a “Terms and Conditions” agreement for customers to check when employing your services online. This policy should be in writing and published form, otherwise you are left in the open during possible legal suits by an eventual costumer in case of a problem.

Not having a legally-binding privacy policy

Every business should have a privacy policy that explains information about customers it does and does not share. You must notify your customers, for example, if you plan to share their emails with another company. This privacy policy must be made public.

Failure to follow business tax laws

You need to know what taxes you are subject to and when the income tax returns should be filed. The tax laws are complicated no matter where the business is located. A good idea is to include a business accountant or have an accounting software that keeps your records and files your taxes.

Inappropriate or incomplete contracts with outside vendors

When entering into an agreement with another company or service, be sure to have legally-binding agreements. For example, when purchasing raw materials from someone outside your business, you need complete contracts. The form of these contracts should be drafted by your attorney instead of free internet websites.

Not getting copyrights, patents, and trademarks

Without protecting your products and your intellectual property, you risk having others steal your name. The laws are different depending on the products, codes, and ideas. You need to know which protection to use depending on your company.

Not getting nondisclosure and non-compete agreements

 Everyone who works for you should be bound by a legally-binding nondisclosure agreement to protect your proprietary information. Depending on your company, set up nondisclosure agreements that legally binds your employees never to reveal your secret information. This may extend to client lists and customers, in case of creating a completing business.

Legal Tips for Small Businesses

From the onset, your business strategy should satisfy the legal requirements of your industry. It’s important that you always operate within the legal bounds of your particular industry or business. Giving the necessary time, attention an effort to the legal side can save you many hurdles down the road. Here are some tips to help you make the best out of your legal strategy:

You’ll need more than you expect

It is always easier to underestimate the various legal expenses. However, these legal fees have the tendency to add up and turn into a large unexpected upfront investment. You should take enough time and have enough buffer in your budget for any unexpected additional fees. A consultation with your attorney is recommended to work out an estimate of the legal fees from the start.

In addition to the legal fees, there are also license fees, bonds, license filling fees. It is a good idea to speak with other entrepreneurs to determine an estimate of these various costs. If you are not careful with your budgeting, you might end up dipping into funds best spent for other business objectives. As a rule of thumb, assume you’ll need twice as much as you previously anticipated.

Make sure you have the right attorney for each task. 

The attorney you work with should be specialized in the given field. To obtain patents, for example, work with a patent attorney. The in-depth knowledge of an attorney well-versed in the specific field will serve you well and save you time and money. You’ll spend more in the long run if you opt for a general practice lawyer, whose expertise is not directed to the field in question.

Make sure you are covered and not breaking the law. 

Not having your legal aspect in order will not only cost you financially, with all the eventual fines you’ll find yourself forced to pay, it will also cost you your reputation with customers. Keeping up with the competition should not lead you to overlook the legal aspect and risk squandering an damaging your image with customers. It’s important to work with trusted legal advisors to make sure you are always operating within legal bounds.

Run legal processes in parallel; don’t wait. 

You don’t have to wait for a legal process to be complete to start another. You can build areas of your business where legal clearance is not required, while you wait for the other areas to get the necessary clearance. If a state holds you back with a given regulation, you can launch your business in another state while waiting for the previous regulations to be cleared. It’s like a continuous switch and resume, making you use your time wisely and effectively. These steps will help you grow as quickly and as wisely as possible.

It’s important to remember, however, that just because a thing is legal it doesn’t mean it’s always right. You need to focus on the values of your business. These values and intents should be your primary drives, while still operating within legal bounds.

Types of Insurance You Need to Protect Your Business

From the start of a business, there are some risks that you are exposed to. Having the right insurance in place is important, even before hiring your first employee. Sometimes a single event or a lawsuit could be enough to end a small business before it had the chance to stand on firm grounds. Luckily, a wide range of insurance types is available to protect small business against these dangers. We have compiled a list of insurance types that a business should have in place as soon as possible.

Professional liability insurance.

Professional liability insurance, also known as error and emissions (E&O) insurance, covers your business against negligence claims due to harm resulting from mistakes or failure to perform. Each industry has its own concerns, there is no one-size-fits-all policy that covers all professional liability insurance.

Property insurance.

This insurance covers the equipment, inventory and furniture in event of fire, storm or theft. It must be noted that mass-destruction events such earthquakes and floods are usually not covered by a standard property insurance. You must inquire and check with your insurer for a separate pricing and policy, in case you live in area where these issues are common.

Workers’ compensation insurance.

 When you hire your first employee, workers’ compensation insurance must be added to your business’s insurance policy. This insurance covers accidents that results from working with your business. It includes medical treatment, disability and death benefits in case an employee is injured or dies. Some pricey claims could result even in a low-risk work, such as slip-and-fall injuries or tunnel syndrome.

Home-based businesses.

 Many professional businesses start as small home businessess at home. If your business is done out of your home, the common homeowner’s policies generally don’t cover home-based businesses in the same way property insurance does. Be sure to ask your insurer to cover the equipment and inventory of your home-based business using an additional insurance.

Product liability insurance.

Product liability insurance is requires in case your business manufactures products for sale on the general market. You can find yourself named in a lawsuit concerning damages caused by one of your products, even if you take all the required safety procedures. You need to protect yourself against such cases with product liability insurance that can be tailored according to your specific product type.

Vehicle insurance.

The vehicles that your company may use must be fully insured to protect your business against any liability in case of an accident. You should insure against any third-party injuries caused by your vehicles. You employee’s personal insurance will cover them if they are using their own vehicles for business, with the exceptions of goods and services delivered for a free.

Business interruption insurance.

A business’s operations will most likely be interrupted in case of a disaster or catastrophic event. You will suffer from the loss of income due to the inability of the staff to manufacture your product, and perform the necessary marketing and selling. This is usually the case for companies that require a physical location to operate.

Having the right insurance can save you major financial loss due to catastrophic events or lawsuits.