These last two months have been the craziest weeks of my entire career. They have also been the most rewarding in anything I have ever done in my working life. I have been humbled and it has been an absolute honour to help people make sense of this time. This is WHY I became an accountant and I just hope yours is helping you too.
You run a business or you’re self employed. You employ the services of an accountant. What can you expect from that service during this unprecedented pandemic?
We know you need your accountant right now
In my experience talking to new potential clients or those in desperate need of emergency advice over the last few weeks, there have been two very different levels of service. People are either loving the support they’re getting from their accountant or there may as well be tumbleweeds in terms of communication.
I am very proud of the feedback we have had from our existing clients (and allow me a moment to indulge and share this with you) but our clients have fed back that they feel so supported. They don’t need to try and decipher the support that is ever changing from the government, they have us to do that for them. They feel able to focus on their business and for some it is pivoting the business instead of trying to work out the support and how to claim.
We have been sending many voice notes as the advice and support has changed. We keep in touch with our clients using WhatsApp and in the beginning it was daily, but now we are looking at a few messages a week. Sometimes that is keeping in touch and making sure they’re OK, other times it might be about COVID-19 updates with HMRC and explaining the support they are entitled to.
Our full time job – and we have found it a challenge
We are trained finance professionals and this is our full time job understanding legislation so for your average business owner we have not been surprised this has been overwhelming.
We have been involved in communicating with other accountancy professionals over the last six weeks and utilising a collaborative hive mind approach in unpicking the rules and guidelines around claiming business support.
Getting feedback from your accountant
I am not here to bash any other accountants. This is a difficult time and some firms may be struggling themselves. However, I feel this is a time in our history as a sector that we should be helping people.
I have ended up helping a client’s partner who thought he was not eligible for a business grant from the council. He had not been contacted by his accountant and asked me in passing when I was communicating with his partner. I reassured him that he was eligible and he’s received a grant for £10,000 which is a huge amount of money to miss out on! He wrongly thought that because his business is not in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector that he did not qualify.
If you are a business owner and you haven’t watched every daily briefing and read all the .gov website then it is understandable where information gets missed or misunderstood.
Are you eligible?
Please contact your accountant regardless of the sector your business is in to see if you are eligible for some support in the form of a government grant.
This is based on business rateable value and even if your business rates (set by the council) are £0 (100% relief) or you have rural relief rates you may still be eligible. You need to check your business rateable value not the rent. This is a common mistake that has been happening for business owners at this time.
- If your business property has a rateable value £0 – £15,000 your business is eligible for a £10,000 grant (small business grant)
- If your business property has a rateable value £15,001 – £51,000 your business is eligible for a £25,000 grant (retail, hospitality and leisure grant)
What many businesses are not aware of is that there is a Small Business Grant for £10,000 available for any business with a rateable value of £0-£15,000. Speak to your accountant if you are unsure if you can make a claim.
Do you know how to claim?
Whether it is the furlough portal or applying for a grant, do you know what to do and how to claim? This will not be around forever so please don’t delay in submitting your claims to the relevant HMRC portal or your local authority to get your claims in. If you haven’t heard from your accountant you could make a call to your local authority yourself to check you are on the list.
If you are self employed the Self Employed Income Support Scheme opened this week. To make a claim for a grant you must meet the following minimum criteria;
- You submitted a Self Assessment tax return in 2018-19
- You continued to trade in 2019/20 and you’re planning to continue to trade in 2020/21 as a sole trader or partnership
- Your business has been adversely affected by COVID-19
There are also two other factors to consider:
- Your trading profits have been below £50,000 over the last three years
- Your profits have made up at least 50% of your income
If you are eligible, HMRC will have contacted you by text or letter. You will have been given a date and time from which to apply for the grant. The process takes less than three minutes online and you can expect the money into your bank account within six working days. If you are unsure of you are eligible or not, contact your accountant who will be able to help determine your eligibility and the amount you can expect to receive.
Helping you to understand
Accountants have been instructed to support their clients through this time. HMRC are contacting us direct and asking us to support businesses of all sizes and the self employed through this ever changing support being offered by the Government.
In my own personal opinion, as accountants, we have a duty in this time to be of service. That is regardless of whether that is a service that is paid for in full now or later. We have been helping people in conversation and answering queries to help make sense of the support. We are in a service industry, and I am a believer that we offer a service on our clients’ terms. I left traditional accountancy because my soul felt destroyed just going through the motions and it being a tick box exercise. I always wanted to be passionate, proactive and be a proper part of our client’s business success and growth. I know how valuable our services are as accountants to help businesses and business owners see their potential and not just the pounds.
I am not here to slate other accountants (that would be a waste of my precious energy) so what I am here to say is… are you being supported?
YOU are paying for a service with your accountant. That service should never ever be limited to them just sifting through a box of receipts at the end of the year. Your accountant has expertise and knowledge that should be shared and shared for the greater good. I could go on and get even more passionate but I’ll save that for a session over a G&T with friends!
The bottom line is this… you have a choice who you employ as your accountant and if your business has not been supported by them in what has been the worst global crisis since WW2 then choose someone else!
Helen Crapper is the founder of Insight Finance Solutions. Helen and the team specialise in accountancy advice at every stage of business and help make finances stress free for clients. Helen is also a coach and uses money mindset coaching to help business people remove their personal blocks and limiting beliefs to grow as people while growing their businesses.
To have a chat about your business finances and how Insight Finance Solutions can help you, get in touch.