Friday, June 21, 2013

Guide to HMRC deadlines for businesses

There’s no reason why your business should be one of the many who waste money on fines because they miss HMRC deadlines. These fines are a cost that’s entirely avoidable with a little planning and preparation.

To help you plan ahead, we’ve put together a list of some important dates you need to remember. Write them onto a calendar now, or put them into an online calendar and schedule reminders in advance.

If you use an accountant to make your returns, there’s no harm in reminding them of the deadlines. You’ll be responsible for any fines if they submit late.

Monthly deadlines

22nd of each month - PAYE and NIC payments

If you run a payroll, the payment for PAYE and NICs must be in the HMRC bank account by the 22nd. Leaving three working days for the online payment to clear means you should make the payment by the 19th of the month. Or even earlier, if there are weekend days or bank holidays on or immediately before the 22nd.

If you pay late, you can be charged a penalty and interest.

Quarterly deadlines

Once per quarter for VAT returns and payments

VAT registered businesses on the standard scheme must complete an online VAT return once every three months. Your firm’s deadline is set by HMRC.

It’s important to keep a record of the submission receipt reference number, in case there’s any doubt about whether the VAT return was processed correctly in the HMRC system.

Copies of old online VAT returns can be accessed up to 15 months after they have been submitted.
VAT payments must be made online by the date on your VAT return, or you can agree to a Direct Debit. If you do this, HMRC will take the money three days after your VAT return due date.

Your deadlines may be different if you use one of the special VAT schemes or have other arrangements with HMRC.

If you submit your VAT return or payment late, you may have to pay a surcharge. You can request an email reminder of an impending VAT deadline, through the VAT online system.

Annual deadlines

31 January for online income tax returns

There’s an initial fixed penalty of £100 if you miss this deadline, even if you owe no tax. The later you are, the higher the penalty becomes.

The tax returns will relate to the year ended the previous 5 April. (This means online returns for the tax year ended 5 April 2013 must be made by 31 January 2014.)

31 January for paying tax

Whether you submit your returns online or on paper, you must pay the income tax due for the previous tax year by 31 January. The tax due for the year ended 5 April 2013 must be paid by 31 January 2014.

You may also be required to make the first of two payments on account, towards your next tax bill. HMRC will tell you if this is required. A payment on account in January will be for the current tax year.

22 July for Class 1A NICs

These National Insurance Contributions are paid by employers on benefits in kind and calculated from P11Ds. If you’re not sure whether these apply to your business, speak to your accountant or whoever handles your payroll.

31 July

This is the deadline for making a second payment of income tax on account, if you have been asked to by HMRC. This will be for the tax year ended the previous April.

31 October for paper tax returns

If you’re still completing paper tax returns, they need to be with HMRC by midnight on 31 October. You can extend this deadline to 31 January if you send in your return online.

The penalties are the same as for late online returns, which are due on 31 January. The tax returns will relate to the year ended the previous April. (So paper returns for the tax year ended 5 April 2013 must be made by 31 October 2013.)

Corporation tax

For most small firms, with taxable profits under £1.5 million, corporation tax is usually due nine months after the end of your financial year. So if your year end is 31 March 2013, the corporation tax should be paid by 31 December 2013.

Businesses with taxable profits over £1.5 million usually pay corporation tax in instalments, which will be agreed with HMRC.

Your corporation tax return is due 12 months after your financial year end. This means that the tax needs to be paid before you are legally required to submit your corporation tax return.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jane's Eye Bus proves just the ticket

Among the many small and often quite unusual businesses in Dorset, the Eye Bus is particularly distinctive.

It’s unique in the county, and one of only two across the whole country. More significantly, the Eye Bus provides a practical service to people in rural areas who had been getting by without regular checks on the health of their eyes.

The brains behind the Eye Bus, and the driver behind the wheel, and the optician peering through the lenses, is optometrist Jane Fisher.

For years, Jane worked in opticians of all sizes and when she came to Dorset seven years ago, with her husband, Steven, she wanted to start a practice of her own. She soon spotted that with its large rural community and patchy public transport network, the county was full of people delaying booking eye tests in urban opticians, often for years.

The answer to this threat to eye-health seemed to be a mobile solution. Having worked in some very small spaces in the past, Jane knew that squeezing all the testing equipment into a large vehicle was possible, so that’s exactly what she did.

Overcoming the challenges of doing something differently

Converting a traditionally static business into a mobile alternative raised interesting problems. The selected vehicle was a retired small bus, being used for spare parts. All the specialist equipment Jane required had to be built into the space available and secured to prevent damage during travel.

In each of the rural communities Jane wanted to visit, parking space had to be found. The bus doesn’t fit into a regular parking bay, and it had to be possible for customers to come in and out safely. Fortunately, such was the enthusiasm to have the Eye Bus visit their village that local people helped locate suitable stopping places.

Another challenge was bureaucracy. It took many months to secure the NHS contract, which underpins most opticians’ businesses, allowing them to provide free eye tests to many of those who need it most.

A distinctively Dorset service

In her work for the big firms of opticians, Jane could sometimes be seeing 22 patients a day. Now she’s her own boss, that’s down to around eight each day, meaning she can give them the time required to really understand their needs.

Currently Jane visits eight communities, meaning she gets to each one every two weeks. She’s well received everywhere she goes and regularly receives requests to extend the area she visits. The next big question now is whether to grow her business, and the service she supplies, by investing in a second bus.

To find out more about the Eye Bus in Dorset, visit their website. You can also follow Jane on Twitter, where she tweets as @TheEyeBus.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rob and Michelle infuse a passion for tea

Blend a tea lover, a tea sceptic and personal tasting on a Darjeeling tea estate. Leave to brew for several years in Brussels and the result is another Dorset business served with passion and commitment.

Comins Tea House in Sturminster Newton has been sourcing and blending the finest teas for a couple of years. Rob and Michelle, the husband and wife team behind Comins, have spent a long time developing the eye and the taste for a beverage that offers huge variety and complexity, that’s missed by most of us when we dunk a tea bag in a mug.

Realising that setting and mood are essential ingredients in the best tea experiences, this year they opened a real Comins Tea House. Here you can choose your black, white, green or oolong tea and enjoy a contemporary take on the traditional ceremony associated with its serving.

Making time for tea

“Tea becomes a personal journey,” said Michelle, who from her childhood learned the importance of the tea ceremony in bringing people together. “People come into the tea shop saying they want to stay for ten minutes and they’re still here an hour and a half later.”

Michelle and Rob want to share their enthusiasm for tea with their customers, by serving it themselves. The tea shop is only open four days a week, giving them time to run their importing and blending business, and to allow space in their busy lives for their young family.

Recently the tea house hosted a visit by Jane Pettigrew, tea specialist and historian who has helped Rob and Michelle find their way around the fascinating world of tea. An author of several books on tea preparation and culture, Jane’s visit included a presentation on tea to an enthusiastic audience. The event was extremely popular and with demand for places so high, they hope to run it again.

Allowing everyone to discover the secrets of tea

The tea served in the tea house is personally sourced from single estates. It’s served in exclusive tea ware designed by Comins and made by British craftspeople. If you choose, the tea can be accompanied by delicious locally sourced food.

“There are exclusive tea houses in London,” said Michelle, “but they can be very intimidating. We want to make tea accessible.”

And they’re doing just that. Customers are making the effort to seek out Sturminster Newton, and the Georgian building that is home to the tea house. Rob and Michelle’s recipe for a successful business based on a product they love is working.

Discover more about Comins Tea House by visiting their website, or you may spot their stand at one of the many festivals held around the area.

By Andrew Knowles

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Weymouth BID - you voted YES!

Weymouth businesses have voted YES for the Weymouth BID (Business Improvement District) to go ahead.

Over 500 businesses were eligible to vote in the BID Ballot which closed on 31 May. All businesses with a rateable value of £6,000 and above within the Weymouth BID area were entitled to vote.

The BID achieved a 69% (189) YES vote on a turnout of 46% (274).

Nigel Reed, Chair of the Weymouth BID, said: “This is excellent news for Weymouth and a big thank you to those that supported the vote. We have made it happen and particular thanks go to the Steering Group, Council and all those businesses that helped in the process.”

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council Economic Development brief holder Cllr Ian Munro-Price said: “It is fantastic news that businesses of Weymouth have voted ‘yes’ to becoming to a BID town. I would like to congratulate everyone involved for their hard work. Businesses working together as part of a BID will be a good step forward to further improving the town centre and to encourage more visitors to the town and people to shop locally and keep money in the town.

I wish the BID every success for the future in developing and delivering their business plan for the borough and the council look forward to working closely with them.”