Urban Ledgers – advice featured in the Financial Times

May 26th, 2011 in Articles, In the Press, Industry & market news

Check out our advice featured in the FT under ‘Which VAT rate do we charge?’.

We’re famous!

FT article

Urban Ledgers joins the Cloud Computing debate

October 21st, 2010 in Articles, In the Press, Industry & market news

As seen in Accountancy Age and Financial Director magazines on 7 October 2010.

How you can avoid bookkeeping horror stories – as seen on SMEweb

October 7th, 2010 in Articles

Published on 24 Sep 2010

Running a business these days is tough enough without having to stress about your accounts. Increasingly, thanks to the recession, this is one business function that has enjoyed recent recognition and appreciation of its criticality.

But what happens if your books have suffered in the hands of an incompetent bookkeeper or accountant, or your books have simply been neglected?

The bad news is that the consequences can be dire. As an example, under the Companies Act 2006, late filing of accounts or annual returns can incur a fine ranging from £150 to £7500, and, even worse, it can lead to a criminal offence for the directors.

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Incorrect tax returns arising from accounting errors can lead to immense, unbudgeted tax liabilities which could potentially cripple your business.

Poor internal controls around your accounting processes could give rise to incorrect financial statements, inaccurate cash flow reporting, overpayment of tax, missing of critical filing deadlines or, the most dreaded consequence of all, undetected and prolonged fraud. The number of different ways that devastating errors could be made is countless. Sadly, in this current economic climate, it can be a recipe for insolvency.

So what preventative steps can you take to ensure your business doesn’t become the next victim of poor bookkeeping and/or accounting?

1. Recognise and accept when it’s time to get help.

Not only is it a legal requirement to keep your books up to date, but most importantly it is critical for the success of your business to have (at least) monthly reporting showing you your business’s financial position. It is vital that your books are done by a professional with an accounting or bookkeeping background. Ultimately, this could be the difference between failure and success for your business.

2. Ensure you partner with the right bookkeeper.

Selecting a trustworthy and competent bookkeeper can be tricky, but here’s a few tips to help. Firstly, ensure they’ve qualified with, and have a practice licence from, an appropriate professional body such as the ICB, AIB or AAT. Secondly, check their professional indemnity insurance is valid and is of a suitable level (£1m – £2m). Thirdly, make sure you have a back-up plan for cover when your bookkeeper is sick or on holidays so you’re not left high and dry.

3. Seek the support of an Accountant.

Whilst the bookkeeper will perform your day to day transaction processing, a qualified accountant will produce management accounts and commentary to add value to your business. Most importantly, the accountant should also check the integrity of the bookkeeper’s work and ensure that adequate and effective internal controls are in place around your bookkeeping processes for your complete peace of mind.

4. Invest time to understand your monthly management accounts – and take action.

The days of producing accounts once a year are gone. In today’s economic climate, it is imperative to have up-to-date financial data at your fingertips to make business critical decisions. Have your accountant produce monthly management accounts and have them explain exactly what all those statements actually mean, in plain English. Decide together what steps need to be taken to better your business’s financial position and, most importantly, take action.

Catherine Davis is a Chartered Accountant and Managing Director of bookkeeping practice Urban Ledgers Limited.

Our latest Real Business article: What lessons should your business have learned from the Recession?

September 13th, 2010 in Articles

By Catherine Davis

If the travails of the past two years have taught you anything, it’s that cashflow is the lifeblood of your business. Here are four lessons learned.

1. Cashflow is king (even more so than before)

Smart businesses always knew that cashflow is king, but now all business have had to adopt this mantra. Action taken by sensible businesses has ranged from tightening credit terms on sales to negotiating (and lengthening) payment terms to suppliers and re-examining margins. The effective management of cash can be the saviour for your business. Bank reconciliations should ideally be performed daily to give you a snapshot of your cash position each day. Aged debtors should be reviewed preferably weekly and an active credit control policy should be in place to follow up outstanding monies. If you’re too timid or time-poor to chase your debtors, then outsource it. Don’t underestimate the power of good business cash flow.

2. Keeping your books up-to-date is no longer a “nice-to-have”

Gone are the days when business owners visited their accountants once a year to have them produce their out-of date accounts for the previous year. Businesses have realised they need accurate financial data at their fingertips daily. When applying for credit, the majority of lenders now insist on recent management accounts. In any case, is it extremely good practice for any business to have management accounts prepared, analysed and reviewed at least monthly.

3. Constantly review processes

Just because you’ve done something the same way for five or ten years, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. The recession has forced businesses to look long and hard at each step of their procedures and reassess them for efficiency and effectiveness.

4. Review your controls

Controls? What are they? Well, they’re the often-neglected checks that prevent costly mistakes caused by human error, procedural deficiencies, lack of training or experience, IT failings, or even fraud. Undetected issues can cost your business thousands or even millions each year. Take action now. Put controls in place to make sure your business doesn’t face the unthinkable – insolvency.

Catherine Davis is a chartered accountant and managing director of bookkeeping practice Urban Ledgers.

Ever wondered what the difference between a Bookkeeper and Accountant is, but been too embarrassed to ask?

July 19th, 2010 in Articles

Don’t worry – it’s a surprisingly common question.  Here we’ll briefly explain the main differences in plain English.

Bookkeeping is a very task-oriented function, in which the day-to-day financial transactions of your business are routinely and systematically recorded.  These regular transactions include (but are not limited to) entering invoices to be paid, producing and entering invoices to send to your clients, entering bank transactions and performing bank and other reconciliations.

Accountants deal with the bigger picture.  They can help you choose the best accounting system to use, design the overall structure for reporting your financial information and perform the decision making around the financial entries posted by the bookkeeper.  Accountants are trained to analyse and interpret financial reports and are in a good position to forewarn you of any potential issues or upcoming cashflow problems.  They can also recognise process deficiencies and implement controls within your accounts function.

Working together, a Bookkeeper and Accountant make a very powerful team.  Your financial data is kept up-to-date and accurate, plus you have the benefit of understanding exactly what your numbers mean and where your business is heading financially. We strongly believe that timely, meaningful financial reporting and analysis is imperative in the current climate and for the future success of your business.  We have a funny feeling you may agree.

Why SME’s are outsourcing their Accounts Function

June 14th, 2010 in Articles

It’s simple really.  In effect, your company will receive specialist expertise in return for a reduced cost base.  Let’s investigate further.

1. You’re partnering with experts

We have over 20 years experience in bookkeeping and accounting, which we like to think makes us experts.  It leaves you to stop fretting about your lack of internal expertise or going out to the market to recruit.

2. Your cost base reduces thanks to economies of scale

No longer do you have to worry about directly recruiting staff for your Accounts Function.  There are so many hidden costs of direct employment that, frankly, can leave you scratching your head when you see your P & L.  For example, consider annual leave, sick leave, employer’s NI payments, bonuses, benefits…and the list goes on.  Outsourcing takes away all of these costs and provides you with an expert service in its stead.

3. Leaves you to focus on your core business.

Self explanatory really.  Finally, you’ll have more time to focus on growing your business.

4. Increased flexiblity

If your business suddenly grows quickly, or has regular troughs and peaks, your outsource provider can offer more flexibility that if you had an in-house team.

5. Best practice assured

You don’t need to worry about keeping up to date with all the various regulations and standards.  That’s our job to provide you with best practice service.

6. Easy access to innovation

We have our ear constantly to the ground and are well placed to suggest alternative or new technology or processes to manage your Accounts Function even more cost effectively.

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