The FreeAgent Blog

Holidays are coming! 5 pieces of pre-Christmas admin to tick off for a stress-free break

Posted on 12 December 2018 by FreeAgent - Jump to comments

A pair of christmas socks are seen on a blue background

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The life of a small business owner can be demanding and a relaxing holiday season surrounded by friends and family could give you the breathing space you need after a hard year’s work. But before you take that well-deserved break, a little bit of pre-Christmas admin can go a long way! These five tips are designed to help you finish up 2018 in style and give your business a flying start in 2019.

1. Let clients know your availability if you're planning to take time off

If you want to have a proper holiday over the festive season, the last thing you need is a stream of emails and phone calls flying in while you’re trying to relax! Make sure you give your clients, suppliers and anyone else who may need to contact you plenty of warning before you down tools. Whether you set an out-of-office message on your email and phone or contact people individually, you’ll be far less likely to receive an unexpected call over your turkey dinner if you let everyone you work with know your availability.

2. Chase remaining invoices to get paid before Christmas!

If you’re planning on taking time off at Christmas, it’s highly likely that your clients will be doing so too - and that’s not great news if you’re still waiting to be paid! If clients are dashing to get everything done before the holidays start, they might overlook the outstanding invoice on their desk, which means that it could be well into the new year before they finally get round to paying you.

Start chasing these invoices now to make sure you get the money you’re owed before the festive break starts. If necessary, get on the phone and request payment in person but if you’re not comfortable having an awkward conversation about money at this time of year, FreeAgent’s invoice reminders which will automatically email clients and request payment for you! Find out more about invoicing in FreeAgent.

3. Set some goals for 2019

The run-up to Christmas isn’t just a great time to prepare for some much-needed downtime, it’s also a chance to get your business set for the year ahead. So, in addition to getting the last bits of work done before the holidays, why not carve some time out to set yourself a few 2019 goals?

Think about what you want to achieve once the new year gets underway. There might be a new business opportunity that you’ve always wanted to try, a new direction you’ve considered taking your business in, or you might just want to get more organised with your admin! Make a list now and start thinking about how you can turn those goals into realities when you return to work after the holidays.

4. Make a plan for January to get the new year off to a great start

If you really want to hit the ground running when you return to work, consider making a plan for January before you down tools in December. Unlike your aspirational goals for 2019, these should be specific tasks for you to complete when you’re back at your desk.

For example, you may want to get your tax affairs in order or tidy up all of those important documents you need to file. Or maybe you could finally set up that new business bank account you’ve been considering for the past few months? Whatever your plans are, write them down and leave them somewhere handy to give yourself a really productive return to work in January.

5. Make a start on your Self Assessment- or maybe even file it!

Even the most relaxing of festive breaks can be overshadowed by the looming spectre of Self Assessment season. So if you don’t fancy another stressful January where you’re racing against time to log your expenses, dig through your finances and get your tax return filed before the 31st January deadline, why not take some time now to get it out of the way?

Take a look at our Self Assessment guides to see what information you need and then make a start on gathering the data and filling out the necessary sections of your tax return. You might even find you can file it early! That way, you’ll be able to spend more time on your business once January gets underway.

A trio of trophies for FreeAgent!

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Kevin McCallum - Jump to comments

A bottle of champagne is popped open and laid out on a blue background.

The festive season is just starting, but here at FreeAgent Towers Christmas has come a little early this year. Over the past week or two we’ve been dusting off our posh frocks and joining in the revelry at some fairly prestigious parties - where we’ve scooped some shiny new trophies to deck our halls with!

Last week, FreeAgent was named “best new innovation in solving problems for small businesses using account aggregation” at the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) 2018 Open Banking Awards, which recognise the many innovative ways UK companies are using Open Banking to help their customers. Ever since we received our Account Information Services Provider (AISP) registration from the Financial Conduct Authority earlier this year, we’ve been working hard on bringing Open Banking into FreeAgent, so we were honoured to receive this recognition.

But that’s not all! We also had a successful night at the recent 2018 Computing Technology Product Awards in London, where we we were named Best Business Software Provider. And earlier this month, our co-founder Ed Molyneux was delighted to be crowned CEO of the Year at the Scottish Tech Startup Awards.

2019 is gearing up to be an even bigger year for FreeAgent - so watch this space! In the meantime, why not learn more about our award-winning accounting software

Seasonal Spotlight: Eva Koleli, Senior Software Engineer

Posted on 5 December 2018 by FreeAgent - Jump to comments

Eva, hard at work!

This festive season, we’re putting the spotlight on some of the members of the FreeAgent team to find out more about them and how they’ll be celebrating Christmas this year.

Hi Eva! What do you do at FreeAgent?

I’m a Senior Software Engineer on one of the product teams. My team takes care of the daily admin features in FreeAgent, like banking, invoicing, projects and estimates.

How long have you worked here?

I’ve been with FreeAgent for almost three years. I started off working in the Edinburgh office and then when I moved to London earlier this year, I became fully remote.

How did you get into engineering?

I studied Informatics as an undergraduate in Athens and then moved to Edinburgh to do a master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh.

What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into engineering?

If you’re interested in engineering I’d recommend going to meetups! Lots of people volunteer and they will help you get started at organisations like Code Bar and Women Who Code. You can also find small introductory sessions or even completely free tutorials online. Don’t feel like you need to wait until university to make a start; there are lots of things you can do in your free time. I think the best way to learn is to find something you’re interested in and Google your way through building it! It’s a great way to experience both the frustrations and the excitement of engineering.

What are some of your favourite things about working at FreeAgent?

There are so many great things about working at FreeAgent, but I think the best thing is the people.

I’m lucky because I worked in the office for a long time before going remote, so I know the team pretty well. I can still talk to everyone on Slack and I can come back for the summer barbeque, hack days and the Christmas party, which is nice. FreeAgent is very inclusive and remote friendly so it wasn’t a very difficult transition.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Most of the time, I just meet my friends and go out for dinner or nice coffee. I still really enjoy going to meetups and I think they’re a great way to learn about different workplaces and cultures. Then you can bring what you have learnt into your way of working. Meetups are also a great way to learn about cool new technologies.

Finally - the big day is almost upon us! Do you have any Christmas traditions or special festive celebrations?

I usually spend Christmas in Athens with my family, although last year we travelled to the north of Greece together. This is a bit more of a New Year tradition, but every December my mum and I make a Greek cake called Vasilopita. You bake a coin into the cake and if you find the coin in your slice it means you have a lucky year ahead of you!

Vasilopita cake - photo credit www.icookgreek.com

In the Christmas spirit? Then check out our digital advent calendar for 25 days of festive FreeAgent fun! It includes competitions, surprises, an invite to our virtual Christmas party for freelancers and more!

Will Santa be sleighed by tax this year?

Posted on 3 December 2018 by Emily Coltman - Jump to comments

Santa is seen riding his sleigh on the backdrop of a starry night

December is finally upon us, which means that it won’t be long before Santa Claus comes to town for another year. But before good old Saint Nick gets Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer ready for their annual sleigh ride, are there any tax issues that he needs to consider?

Mileage for the sleigh

When you’re travelling on business in your own vehicle, you can usually claim tax relief on the cost of that travel at HMRC’s approved rates. However, these rates only apply to cars and vans, motorcycles or bicycles, and HMRC specifically excludes any other kind of vehicle, such as a horse-drawn cart (or a reindeer-drawn sleigh!) from the rules about claiming business mileage.

If Santa Claus wants to try and claim his mileage, he should probably use the rate for a bicycle because it is the nearest equivalent - a vehicle propelled by a human rather than by fuel - and he should be prepared to discuss this with an HMRC inspector!

Food and shelter for the reindeers

The reindeer who pull the sleigh are working animals rather than pets, so the cost of buying them would go into Santa’s accounts as assets. This would also mean that their food, drink, shelter and any vets’ fees would be tax deductible.

Rudolph and co aren’t being kept for what they produce (e.g as a breeding herd or for their meat) so the question of whether they should go into Santa’s books as stock doesn’t arise. As working animals, they are definitely assets.

Wages for the elves

Santa Claus would be lost without all those elves making the toys he delivers! So he must make sure that he pays them at least the minimum wage and that he files all the relevant forms with HMRC.

Santa might want to look into whether he could claim the Employment Allowance for the employer's National Insurance he might have to pay on the elves' wages - although if he is classed as a public sector employer, he won't be able to claim.

He would also need to make sure he has a good internet connection at the North Pole in order to make sure he files his payroll correctly and on time with HMRC. The good news is that he’d be able to claim this cost when he uses the internet for business! Take a look at our A-Z of expenses to find out more.

Would he register for VAT?

Santa Claus is not making sales, he’s giving gifts! He would never have to register for VAT because he doesn’t earn any money. But as he would need to buy materials to make the gifts, it might be beneficial for him to register for VAT voluntarily so that he can reclaim the VAT he pays on the materials.

If he did register, he wouldn’t then have to charge VAT on the presents he brings, so long as they cost under £50 per person in a 12-month period. Santa Claus only gives his gifts once a year but he’d need to prepare his accounts carefully and make sure he doesn’t give gifts worth more than £50 to any one child if he wants to avoid charging VAT!

What about the mince pies?

Lots of families have a tradition of leaving out a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. Would these be a taxable benefit?

Santa would have to be an employee of all the families he delivers to for this to be the case but if he were, then yes, these would be a taxable benefit and the families would have to pay National Insurance on the value of the mince pie and carrot.

Is Santa trading?

When thinking about Santa’s potential tax considerations, a very important query arises: is he actually in business and trading at all?

Assuming Santa doesn’t take money for the gifts he delivers he’s never going to make a profit and nobody is paying him. He will always make a loss because he has to feed and shelter the reindeer, pay the elves and buy materials to make the toys but he will never earn anything. If he’s lucky, HMRC will look upon him as a very kind philanthropist - not a business owner - and therefore won’t subject him to tax rules.

However, if Santa receives money from any parents in order to purchase or make presents for their children, he would need to analyse his operations to see whether they meet HMRC’s ‘badges of trade’ - and he should be prepared to explain his case if he is challenged on his tax affairs!

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