Have you ever walked into a store and noticed its wallpaper hanging off as you filter through the endless clothing rails in the hope of finding some inspiration? Having spent precious time trying to work out whether the shirt you’ve picked up is navy blue or black thanks to the poor choice in lighting, you find yourself walking out empty handed.
Does the way a store looks and feels really affect whether we choose to make a purchase? Does its choice in décor determine whether we return in the future?
2018 was the year shops, both big and small, made a conscious effort to overhaul the way heir establishments were presented. In the same year, Liberis provided UK businesses with a whopping £19 million to give their premises a new look and feel – making up 20% of all Liberis’ funding last year for refurbishment.
No matter what type of building you are in, whether its shiny and modern or traditional and steeped in history, staying on top of your business aesthetics is important. Having the right look and feel will ensure your customers continue to return to your store.
We recently ran a customer insight survey, which asked a variety of questions around what aesthetics are most important when choosing where to shop, revealing that most consumers want to shop in a unit that is in a modern building with good clear signage.
Our research also found that lighting, temperature and decoration are the three most important factors for consumers when shopping in-store.
Consumers want natural daylight where possible to be able to see products easier. Shopping in a store with low light, where it is difficult to determine colour, quality and sometimes sizing, was by far the least popular.
The climate of a store came in second, with most shoppers preferring a comfortable room temperature for their visit. Interestingly, more than a third said they would prefer a business unit to be on the warmer side! This was favoured by those in Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Southampton.
Completing the top three must-haves for stores was decoration. If applicable, cultural references in décor were favoured the most by shoppers, followed by retro decoration, quirky features and neon feature lights.
Surprisingly, at the bottom of the list was wall colour and music. Despite a firm overall favourite of clean crisp white, those in Belfast, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Sheffield yearned after a store with more personality and colour.
Situated in a fully-refurbished basement space in an iconic Grade II-listed building in Leeds, we visited Assembly Underground (a hub for craft beer and independent street food) to talk all things refurbishments. Check out what Richard Sweet (Assembly Owner) and James Tabor (General Manager and Owner of Slap and Pickle) had to say.
Have you ever searched for a store on Instagram and wanted to visit purely because of how aesthetically pleasing it is?
With the rise in the “Instagrammable shop front” trend – especially with establishments in London like The Ivy Chelsea Garden and Peggy Porschen Cakes, which make up part of the top ten – it’s easy to believe that our research found almost 10 million Brits would visit a business purely to get pictures for social media.
The most popular age group taking part in this are the 25-34-year-olds, followed by 35-44-year-olds and finally the 18-24-year-olds. In addition, our research show that , men are more likely to do this than women.
“We usually associate cafes with good memories of times with people who make us feel good, so eye-catching pics of cafes fire off endorphins (those feel-good hormones) in us and we want to share the endorphin hit around… We also love to be told how great our photos are!” – Julia Bramble, Founder of social media consultancy Bramble Buzz.
Our research found that a whopping 83% of consumers would return to a store if it has been recently refurbished and is aesthetically pleasing – and from those people, 41% admitted they would be more likely to repeat their custom too.
When it comes to refurbishments, there are plenty of aspects to consider. Overall our research showed that the benefits of giving your store a makeover could do your business the world of good, improving customer retention and potentially boosting your social media presence!
With that in mind, maybe it’s time to give your business a new lease of life? Keeping on top of your décor can be a huge benefit to your business – even simply refreshing your paint can add a fresh new look to your store. Want to go further? Why not look into a complete refurb of your establishment? We have an array of small business finance options available to help you get started.
2018, what a year it’s been. And we couldn’t be prouder to have spent it doing what we do best: funding more small businesses than ever before!
To do this we’ve not only continued to develop our products and pricing, but even taken our first steps overseas to offer our Business Cash Advance to small businesses in the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.
Check out our infographic below for a full lookback on the growth of our customers, products and impact on the economy this year!
From record stores to restaurants, cinemas to gyms, there’s an array of independent retailers in cities and towns across the UK. For those seeking one-of-a-kind cuisine and obscure music, these local businesses offer something different to the typical high street names.
As the season of gift-giving is fast-approaching, it’s time to start thinking of the presents we can buy and where we can buy them from. If you’re thinking of supporting local independent businesses this Christmas, it’s worth knowing where they are.
Here at Liberis, we can help you do just that, as we’ve looked into where you can find the UK’s most “independent” cities. It’s time to head to the independent hotspots and show our support for shopping local.
Using company information research sources, looking at a selection of SIC codes in isolation, Glasgow tops our list when it comes to having plentiful independent businesses. The Scottish city triumphed in several categories, coming first for the highest number of independent pubs and newsagents/off licenses. It also came second in the food and restaurants categories, showcasing a diverse selection of one-off eateries.
Leicester came second on our list, closely followed by Manchester. Perhaps surprisingly, our fair capital only came in at number five, with London coming in just behind Birmingham. Scotland’s capital, meanwhile, was at number 10 on the list.
Where are you most likely to shop? Have you always tried to support local or are you only recently making the switch?
Our research suggests that over 8 million Brits always opt to shop at small independents and actively refuse to spend their money at big chains. In comparison, 31.6 million admitted that they regularly shop at the big chains and spend at local businesses every now and then.
Our research also found that women are more likely than men to swap out the well-known names for one-off stores. This pattern changes when it comes to the big Christmas food shop though, as women are heading to the big names for their turkey with all the trimmings.
Interestingly, younger people are more likely to embrace independent retailers, with the 25 to 34-year-olds spending their cash with local, one-off stores. They also continue this trend during the festive season, purchasing presents and doing their food shop at independents.
In contrast, the over 65s are spending their money at the names they know. Years of brand awareness for them means they’re keeping to the labels they’ve always shopped with.
According to our findings, Scousers are most likely to shop at independents, with Liverpudlian females aged between 25 and 34 being the biggest supporters of local businesses (statistically, at least). Meanwhile, male Bristolians aged over 65 are statistically the demographic that are shopping at big chains instead.
This all changes at Christmastime, however, as Bristol residents are most likely to buy their food from independent shops. Those in Norwich, however, stick to getting their mince pies from high street brands.
When it comes to Christmas gift buying, independent retailers in Belfast see the biggest spend, while Geordies are most likely to buy all of their presents from the big brands.
So, how are we shopping at Christmas overall? Almost 6 million of us (5,858,160) are planning on doing our food shopping at independent retailers this year. The majority of people (41%) plan to use a mixture of local businesses and the big chains. When it comes to gifts, these numbers shoot up to 7.5 million of us supporting local.
Are you planning on shopping local this festive season? What will you be buying and what independents are your must-visit for Christmas gifts?
Did you know that every £1 of Liberis funding increases spending in the economy by over £1.50? And that we’ve grown the funding we provide by over 50% each year since 2014?
Liberis’ purpose is to provide simple, flexible funding to help businesses thrive and achieve their ambitions. Thanks to the smart innovation of our product and the hard work of our expert team, we’ve made great strides towards this goal over the past 11 years and have hit some milestones that we’re really proud of. To highlight just a few:
Looking at the finance space as a whole, it is no secret that the mainstream banking has retreated from funding small businesses in recent years.
Despite the lack of funding, this sector continues to grow and to create vital jobs that our economy needs and Liberis is incredibly proud to be a part of this continued development. With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with John Gathergood, Professor of Economics at the University of Nottingham, to build a report that documents Liberis’ total impact on the UK economy. There are some surprising stats in there, and some inspiring stories from the business owners we work with too.
You can download the full report here.
For many business owners, securing funding is absolutely essential. After all, this is what equips a business with the resources it needs to grow, thrive and succeed – as we found in our research earlier this year, where almost two thirds (62%) of surveyed businesses said they needed funding to help them grow and expand.
Nowadays, it’s important to not only secure funding but also to make sure you’re securing the right kind of funding. To do this you’ll need to consider a range of factors and do your research so that you can secure the best option for your business!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Assess your situation
Before you even begin looking at funding options, it’s important to assess your situation and the general health of your business. You should be looking at things like your business’ cash flow, your incoming funds, and all of your expenses and outgoings. Once you have this all recorded in one place, you can take stock of your current situation and decide how much funding you need and what exactly you want to achieve.
Manage your credit score
Obviously, you’ll always be on the lookout for the best rates and offers but what about if you or your business doesn’t have the best credit score? Fortunately, there are a few ways you can try and build this up so that you can improve your eligibility for funding – and perhaps get better deals too.
Some of the ways you can work on improving your credit score include checking your credit score regularly and making sure all the information is correct and up to date. You can also do things such as signing up to the electoral roll which shows that you have a stable and verified postal address. If your business uses credit cards or currently has any loans then paying back the right amount on time will also help show potential providers that you’re reliable.
Another thing to bear in mind is that when applying for credit, often a search will be carried out against your business and show up as a mark against your credit score. Therefore try and avoid making lots of applications in a short amount of time and always double check the criteria section to see if you’re likely to be approved.
Know at your funding options
When looking at your options, you’ll want to make sure that you really do your research. This won’t only involve looking at lenders but also looking at your own market and the kind of funding that your competitors are getting. You could also look at what schemes are available to you and whether you’re eligible to apply.
Or how about looking at alternative and more flexible options such as Liberis’ Business Cash Advance? Get in touch for a personalised, no obligation quote that won’t affect your credit score!
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution so take your time to ensure you’re choosing an option that’s most beneficial for you and the growth of your business.
Present your case
Many providers will ask you to present your business case which will include things like background information about your business, how you started it, the reasons for starting it, how you built it up and what your plans are for the future. You should be able to present all of this information in a concise and articulate way and be prepared to answer questions along the way. You may also be asked to provide supporting documents and additional information so always make sure you have everything organised and ready to go.
Build your network
Having a network around you is really valuable when you are trying to secure funding. People in your network could include potential investors, mentors and advisors, influential people from your industry, and brand advocates. These are the people that will get to know your business, give you advice, and hopefully invest funds one day. To build your network, you could go to networking events, get involved in your local business community, reach out to connections on LinkedIn, and get introductions from your neighbours!
Whatever your situation right now, there are always a host of options available which means you can watch your business grow from strength to strength – good luck!
The FIFA World Cup final is almost upon us. And although England may be out, it looks like machine learning and statistical scores are in . . Liberis Data Scientist Ed Gent tells us how!
Differing from the usual company sweepstakes, for this year’s FIFA World Cup, Liberis ran a score prediction competition instead; 5 points for correctly guessing the exact result, 2 points for the correct goal difference, or just 1 point if all you managed was to choose the winning team. It was a fun competition for us to all get involved with – but, more importantly, it was a way to prove Superior Football Knowledge.
One week before the tournament kicked off, I decided to put my reputation on the line and use maths to take on the punters by creating a model to go up against everyone else’s unautomated (but probably much less time-consuming) guesses. The wider team don’t always get to see the performance of the credit risk models we build at Liberis, so the stakes were high and I knew I would be judged by the results of my score predictor.
The Highs, The Lows
We had some benchmarks thrown into the score predictions to judge our efforts against; notably a Random Number Generator (limited to a maximum score of 4) and the Bookmaker’s predictions. Football scores are often surprising, which is partly what makes the World Cup such an exciting tournament, so I was interested to see how the Random Number Generator performed. Bookmakers make money by being better at predicting results than bettors, and professional bettors make money by making even better predictions than the bookmakers, so I didn’t fancy my chances there.
I made a slow but steady start, working my way up the rankings during the group-stage matches and hovering around 8th place (out of 34) for the most part. By match 25 – Brazil vs Croatia – my model had overtaken the Random Number Generator (finally!) but I was nowhere near to some of my colleagues and continued to lag behind the Bookies who were consistently in the top 5.
But my model finally came into its own at the end of the group stage, predicting 4 of the last 8 scores exactly. Colombia’s 1 – 0 win over Senegal snuck me into 1st place, 12 points ahead of the Bookies and beating my colleague Ray by 1 point at the end of the group stages.
Whilst Ray was dismayed that I had leapfrogged him, I was dismayed that I hadn’t been betting on my results. Since the groups, the model has moved further ahead of the competition, although Ray could still catch me if things go horribly wrong this weekend.
This isn’t a technical blog post, but I will explain a little about my approach and the magic behind the numbers.
The fundamentals are intuitive – what do you think the goal difference will be for Brazil vs Malta? 2-0? 4-0? And why do you think this? Some possible ideas:
To build a model, you need to generate statistics (or to use the technical name: features) for each team that reflect your hypotheses. Taking the examples above, we could use:
And plot these on one of the simplest models there is: the line of best fit, a.k.a. linear regression. Check it out below where I’ve plotted goal difference against the difference in FIFA ranking between two teams.
As expected, a large difference in FIFA ranking results in a higher goal difference (on average). However, you can see plenty of results where this is not the case (remember Germany losing 2-0 to Korea Republic?). This means that a model built on the FIFA ranking difference alone won’t do a great job.
So we need a more complex model, which can tease out what drives goal difference apart from the difference in FIFA ranking. In order to do this, we need data. I found two datasets online which I decided to use: 40,000 international football results (dating back to the 1800s!); and FIFA rankings dating back to 1993.
For every match in the dataset I created over 40 features – such as win rate in the last 2 years, average goals scored per match in the last 5 years, etc. Features like these could identify upwards or downwards trajectories; and the difference in features between teams, which can give clues about the type of game expected – e.g. an exciting bout between two offensive teams, or a defensive slog between low scoring teams.
I was surprised to find that the difference in win rate in the last 2 years between each team accounted for 90% of the model’s performance, outperforming the difference in FIFA ranking.
So, I had a model which did a decent job of predicting goal difference. But how to turn that into scores? I ended up taking a fairly boring, but statistically rigorous, approach of calculating the probability of each score combination. And then allocating the most common score to the goal difference predicted by the model.
I estimated that my model would score an average of 1.34 points per match (remember – 5 points for the exact score, 2 points for the correct goal difference, and 1 point for just getting win/loss correct) which seemed very low to me at the time, but it turns out predicting football scores is harder than it seems . . .
The model is currently on an average of 1.30 points per match with 2 matches remaining (recovering from 1.17 after 40) and would have made a return on investment of 20% if betting on exact score outcomes which is easy to say with hindsight 😉 There are no current plans for a Liberis syndicate.
The Final Predictions
The model is not patriotic so I won’t say what it predicts for England’s 3rd place playoff against Belgium, however justice may be served in the final with a predicted 1-0 for France over Croatia.
Did you know that over a third of UK small businesses say that chasing aged debt is affecting their cash flow?
This April we surveyed over 440 small businesses to find out just how much money they’re currently owed from customers and clients, and how this is impacting the day to day running of their business and future plans.
Headlining our insight, we found that small UK businesses are chasing an estimated £14.9bn in late payments, almost a 1bn increase compared to 6 months ago. Our research indicated that 58% of businesses are owed up to £10,000, and over 25% are owed more than £20,000. What’s more, when asked if outstanding debt has hindered them from investing in their business, 50% said it has.
Here we take a closer look at the effects of late payments, and who has been affected most.
What is aged debt?
Aged debt is a debt that is overdue by at least one or more given periods. Payment terms are normally 30 days long and all the information is often stored in a debtors report (“debtors” being individuals or companies who owe money). The report enables small businesses to keep track of the unpaid invoices and identify the overall amount they’re owed.
Our recent research has found that 30% of small UK businesses are owed money from debtors. These businesses said that they have or would consider taking out business finance to cover cash flow issues caused by late payments.
What are the lasting effects of aged debt?
Half of the small businesses we surveyed said that unpaid invoices have prevented them from investing in their business and growing to their full potential. When asked what problems SMEs were encountering in particular, “not being able to buy new equipment”, “not being able to pay or hire staff”, and having to “put plans to expand their business on hold” ranked the most common.
In addition, 72% of all surveyed small businesses said they spend up to three days a month chasing money they are due. This is costing them, on average, £11,000 per year in time spent chasing late payments.
What role do small business owners play?
With all business disruption and lost money considered, are small business owners doing enough to get back the money they are owed?
Our research found that 40% of small business owners said they do not have a clear debt recovery procedure, which could be drawing out the process of debt consolidation. Add this to the fact that almost three quarters of those surveyed spend up to 3 days a month chasing invoices, and it’s apparent that many SMEs would be surviving on slim profit margins with a limited amount of time to dedicate to planning business growth.
If chasing late payments is holding small businesses back from investing in growing their business, one option is to seek a small business loan, and utilise this cash boost to fund their growth plans.
Which sectors are affected by aged debt the most?
21% of small retailers are affected by aged debt, which is almost three times as much as the second largest affected sector, IT and Technology businesses (7%).
Both of these sectors rely heavily on the performance of their technology, but with survey respondents highlighting that the money they’re owed affects investment in their equipment, it becomes clear that late payments are more than just a cash flow issue. Not having finance in the bank is stopping businesses from buying the stock and equipment they need to grow.
As we look ahead to the exciting ideas, events and plans for 2018, we thought we’d take some time to reflect on the year gone by.
2017 saw us embark on new partnerships with SagePay and JustEat, launch our own customer portal myLiberis, and turn 10 years old! Not to mention, we’ve funded more small UK businesses than ever before. We’ve learnt a lot in the last year, and we can’t wait for what 2018 will bring.
Thank you for being a part of our incredible journey!
When it comes to seasonality, some businesses will be more familiar with the peaks and troughs of it than others. One example of this is garden centres. With more than 2,500 garden centres currently operating across the UK, surviving those footfall fluctuations means that businesses would benefit from having a plan in place.
Worryingly, this hasn’t always been the case as according to reports, “two out of three UK businesses are affected by seasonality, yet more than a quarter of these fail to make any business plan to protect their bottom line during quieter times. Smaller companies are the least likely to have a strategy.”
Here are a few tips, including some guidance from business owners themselves, on how you can succeed in a seasonal business:
Forecast Business and Stay On Top Of Cash Flow
It’s easy to forget about cash flow forecasting when things are on the up. But having a detailed cash flow projection in place can be beneficial regardless of the season. It’s a good idea to plan this out for a 3-4 month period and map out all the cash you have going in and going out of your business.
You can then use previous sales data to pinpoint any date ranges that you think will be particularly slow and work out how you will financially cover yourself for this period. Taking a look at this on a weekly basis and making sure you’re always planning for the next 3-4 months means you can stay on track and keep on top of your cash flow before it becomes a problem.
David Moore, owner of canal boat hire company Valley Cruises, says “it is a seasonal business, and we do peak in the summer when people go for their holidays – but we can do a few things to smooth the change. We can take payment over the year, so if a customer books the boat for July, August, or September, we can take 25% or so of the payment earlier on, perhaps in December or January when people plan their holidays. It’s important to predict and plan for the highs and lows, so we can to be sustainable with our cash flow when we know it’s going to be tight.”
Cover Your Costs In Advance
One of the trickier problems that seasonal businesses often have to deal with is getting enough stock for their busy periods. Garden centres usually experience spikes during spring, summer and bank holidays and will therefore be ordering the majority of their stock between those times. However, without a high turnover of profits coming in during the rest of the year, you won’t always have the funds you need to do this.
If this is the case then there are several options, including borrowing money from friends and family or taking out a Business Cash Advance, that can help you smooth over cashflow. Making sure you manage your stock rotations means that it’ll be easier to order your stock in advance without causing too much financial strain.
Use Quiet Periods to Make Plans and Observe The Competition
Quiet periods in business can be inevitable, but you can make the most of this downtime by using it to strategize. Take a look at what stock is selling and what’s not, and most importantly what products customers are requesting. This could include things such as outdoor furniture, barbeques, sheds and local produce. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of an ‘off-season’ spike such as Christmas where you can pick up trade by selling Christmas trees and decorations.
It may also be worth checking out the competition. Many garden centres expand their offering to help provide a boost during those off-peak times, for instance as lots opening a restaurant or cafe, or beginning to sell fresh local produce to keep business up – conducting market research on these ideas, could help you develop your own business!
While for many businesses, seasonality can mean changeable and sometimes uncertain times, adopting a few precautionary steps can help make the experience just that little bit easier.
Rating Manual Vol 5, Revaluation 2017, Garden Centres – Valuation Office Agency
Due to the drop in the pound since the start of 2016 many businesses in the UK have been forced to increase their prices due to higher input costs. According to secured bank lender Borro, slow bank lending is restricting small business growth during this time. Alternative finance lenders can provide funding in a fraction of the time banks typically take, but lack of awareness and confidence that this service exists means businesses still believe that banks are the best, or only, option.
According to the latest preliminary data, UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have increased by only 0.3% over the last quarter (Jan to March 2017), which is the slowest rate of growth since Quarter 1, 2016. This is largely due to reduced growth in the restaurant, retail and accommodation industries, which had to increase prices when the pound dropped after the EU referendum.
During challenging times like these, businesses commonly seek funding to help them cover costs and continue to grow. However, Borro’s CEO Paul Aitken has expressed concern that businesses are being negatively impacted by slow bank lending, saying “Bank lending speeds have remained static despite improvements in technology, consumer credit checks and a steadier market.
If the industry is serious about supporting business growth in the UK, it’s critical lending speeds are improved. We know business owners are missing out on opportunities to expand purely due to lack of available cash.”
The latest Bridging Trends data shows that the average bridging completion time for UK loans is 50 days. Given that these types of loans are meant to be short term solutions designed to “bridge” gaps in debt or cash flow during pressing circumstances, this is inconvenient for business owners. Fortunately, there are options other than banks available.
Alternative Sources of Funding For Small Businesses
Slow bank lending shouldn’t impact business growth, and the reality is that it doesn’t have to. There are alternative sources of funds for businesses which are specially designed to accommodate their needs. In fact, the Association of Alternative Business Finance (AABF) was formed earlier this year to increase knowledge and awareness of the industry. Its aim is to inform businesses in the UK so they know they have a choice in funding, and that banks aren’t the only option.
As one of seven founding members, Liberis is focused on providing small businesses with the short term funding they need to enable growth. They’re understanding of how small businesses operate and know that speed is important, which is why in many cases, they can give businesses a decision in 24 hours. With 30% of businesses valuing alternative finance for its speed and simplicity, it’s evidently a favourable solution for providing businesses with funding when they need it most.
Our recent survey of consumers’ attitudes towards small businesses has found 8 out of 10 consumers are planning to use more independent businesses this year; highlighting how SMEs are continuing to drive consumer spend.
Top reasons why consumers shop small or use independent businesses
When over 200 consumers were asked for the reasons they shop small, 58% of respondents said it was for convenience, with the second highest reason being to support local business and boost the economy. Despite respondents admitting they find smaller businesses more expensive, these findings showcase how an increasing number of consumers are turning away from larger stores to provide support and encourage growth locally.
With 41% of those surveyed saying they already shop at a small business at least once a week, a lot of our respondents are actively supporting their local highstreets already.
With initiatives like Small Business Saturday and reports of record numbers of private sector small businesses at the start of 2016, consumers have a greater choice than ever when looking to shop outside of the larger chain stores.
Customer service makes small businesses thrive
For 28% of respondents, the primary reason why they are continuing to shop with small businesses derives from high product standards and service offerings. This was closely followed by 27% saying customer service was extremely important to them, which underpins the long-standing notion that smaller businesses can provide a better service as they can build stronger relationships with individuals.
The superior quality of customer service provided in smaller outlets certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by consumers. 51% of those polled said there is a substantial difference between the customer service offered in small businesses compared to larger stores. One respondent revealed “smaller stores seem more genuine and go out their way to help you” and another explained “at smaller stores the service is more personal”; indicating smaller businesses must continue to provide a memorable and tailored customer service to stay competitive against bigger brands.
Limited product selections and higher prices are a challenge
We also asked consumers whether they feel shopping small has its downsides. 50% cited that limited product selection was the main disadvantage while almost half (48%) also said smaller stores tend to be more expensive.
Interestingly, very few respondents considered having an online offering, being a household name or peer recommendations as an influential factor in their decision to support a small business. However, when asked why consumers shop at larger stores, price was the number one reason, as stated by 47% of respondents.
Although limited products, a smaller service offering and price being potentially discerning factors for consumers choosing a smaller business over a larger competitor, this data supports the idea that consumers will shop locally or independently to obtain unique products and feel more valued for their custom. Overall, these are key takeaways for any small business that wants to be successful.
Part One: Understanding Your Taxes
Part Two: Tax Tips
Marking the beginning of the new tax year, the 6th April 2017 brings about a number of government changes to UK tax laws. These may have an impact on the taxes you’re used to paying as a small business owner, so it’s important that you’re aware of the updates and how to keep on top of them all.
Obligation to paying these types of small business taxes are dependent on the registered nature of your business, and the profits you make. Stay in the know this tax year with Liberis’ Tax Guide for Small Businesses, and our top tips on how to handle them too.
Please note that this guide has been created for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. For qualified professional guidance in these areas, please consult your own accounting advisors before you make any decisions.
All the regulations listed in this article are correct for the tax year 2017/18.
If you’re the only owner of your business and there is no legal distinction between you and your business, you are a sole trader. This is the simplest way to run a business, and means you are entitled to keep all profits from your business after tax has been paid. However, whilst cashing in on your profits, as a sole trader you are also liable for all losses which can make it a risky option for businesses that require a lot of investment.
To set up as a sole trader you will need to register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within three months of beginning trading. Following this application, HMRC will communicate with you about registering for VAT too.
You can also set up your business to run as a private limited company, which means that it is separate from the people who run it. Limited company taxes are different to the taxes you pay on your own salary or personal income so, differing to being a sole trader, it is best to consider you and your business as two separate entities in this case.
To register as a limited company, you will need to complete the incorporation forms online with Companies House.
Which taxes should you be paying?
Both sole traders and salaried individuals/employees at limited companies must pay income tax. As a sole trader, you won’t have to start paying this straight away and will only begin making income tax payments on your business’ profit once it surpasses the personal allowance – which has risen to £11,500 for the 2017/18 tax year.
If you are the business owner of a limited company, you will have to pay income tax on any salary you take from the business. This amount will depend on how much you choose to take, and will be deducted from your salary under the HMRC’s Self-Assessment system. Income tax for limited companies will only apply to your salary if it is over £11,500 you’re under 75 and you have no other income.
If you take a divident from an investment, you only pay tax above the £5,000 Dividend Allowance for the tax year, this is regardless of any non-dividend income. Above this allowance, the tax you pay will be dependent on which income band you fall in to; and you will have to notify HMRC and ask them to change your tax code, or note the details on your Self-Assessment tax return.
Every employee and employer will have a National Insurance number. This is to ensure that all of your National Insurance contributions and tax is recorded against your name only. Your number can be found on your payslip, on your P60, or on letters about your tax, pensions, or benefits. If you have lost your National Insurance number, you can find it here.
If you are a sole trader you will need to pay two types of National Insurance (NI), Class 2 and Class 4. Class 2 NI is set at a flat rate of £2.85 a week, and is payable by anyone earning more than £6,025 a year from self-employment. If you are earning less than this, you can still pay Class 2 NI voluntarily under the Small Profits Threshold; this will aid in protecting your entitlement to State Pension and other benefits such as Maternity/Paternity Leave.
You will have to start paying Class 4 National Insurance once your business profits go over £8,164. The amount you pay will be worked out as a percentage of your business’ profits – which is 9% of all earnings between £8,164 and £45,000, and 2% on earnings above that.
If you are the director of a limited company and you provide a service to the business, then you are considered an employee as you are taking a salary from the business. This means you are liable to pay Class 1 National Insurance as a typical employee would, which is again dependant on how much you earn. You will pay a tax of 12% of your salary if it is between £157 and £866 a week; and 2% if you are earning any higher. Class 1 NI is paid through the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) scheme. PAYE is not a tax on its own, but simply the method by which HMRC use to collect certain taxes; you can register for the PAYE scheme here.
You will stop paying Class 1 NT on your salary when you reach the State Pension age, which is the earliest age you can start receiving your State Pension. This may be different to the age you can claim your workplace or personal pension.
All limited companies must pay corporation tax, which is due on any profit the business makes. The first step here is to register for corporation tax within three months of beginning business, or restarting a dormant business – if you are a sole trader you will not have to pay corporation tax at all.
The rate of corporation tax can change from year to year, so it’s important to keep up with which figures apply each tax yea. From 2017/18, the corporation tax rate for company profits has fallen from 20% to 19%; so, to calculate the cost of your corporation tax, you can multiply your business’ profits for the tax year by 19%. For example, if your profits were £35,000, you would multiply that figure by 19% and find that your corporation liability is £6,650. Unlike income tax, there is no personal allowance with corporation tax.
Corporation tax is payable nine months and one day after the end of your financial year; and then you’ll have to complete a corporation tax return with the HMRC within 12 months of your year end too. If your business has earnt more than £1.5 million in this time, you will have to pay in instalments. Keep in mind that the tax payment is due before the return is!
Value Added Tax (VAT)
If your business is making more than £85,000 in VAT taxable sales – which are the sales of most products and services in the UK – then you should register your business for VAT. This applies to both sole traders and limited companies. Once registered, your business can charge VAT on these products and services, and you can also reclaim any VAT you’ve paid on business related supplies too.
The standard rate of VAT is 20%, but this may be reduced depending on the product. For instance, a reduced rate of 5% typically applies to goods such as children’s car seats; and a zero rate applies to most food and children’s clothing. Even at 0%, a zero-rate sale is still VAT-able, so you are able to reclaim the VAT on the costs you incurred in making those sales. But if your products are entirely exempt from VAT then you cannot claim these.
Business rates are a little more particular than the other taxes for small businesses. They work like council tax, but for company property instead. Different businesses will be charged different rates because the tax depends on the type of company you run and where it is located. These rates are based upon the rateable value of your property, and will usually apply if you operate your business from dedicated premises, such as having a permanent shop of running your company from an office space.
Alternatively, if you run your business from your home and you don’t have visiting customers or staff, and you haven’t converted any part of your home for dedicated business activity either, then you will most likely not have to pay any business rates.
Do check – and double check – your liability for business taxes regularly, as this will be specific to your business and you don’t want to get caught out by not paying the correct fees!
If you are paying business rates on your company, there are a lot of business tax relief schemes and grants available that you should be aware of too. For instance, from April 2017, you can get small business rate relief if your property’s rateable value is less than £15,000; or if your business only uses one property – you may still be able to get relief if you use more.
Liberis do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This guide has been created for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. The information included in this guide is based upon existing legislation for the 2017/18 tax year; however, it is not all inclusive, and should not be relied upon as being all inclusive.
Every effort has been taken to compile the contents of this guide as accurately and carefully as possible. However, Liberis cannot accept any responsibility or liability to any person in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in in reliance, partly or wholly, on any part of this guide.
To make smart financial decisions for your business, you should consult your own accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.