Tax authorities are often relaxed about the need for small business to prepare and produce formal accounting records. Often the requirement is simply that each business retains sufficient financial records to support the accounts submitted.
Such advice from tax authorities places a burden upon small business in that the vast majority are honest hard working people who are meticulous about keeping accounting records of sales made during the financial year. Unfortunately many small businesses are not so meticulous about keeping financial records of business expenses in their accounts.
A typical taxi driver may for instance keep a diary and record the daily receipts from his fares. If those recorded receipts are accurate then the total sales turnover for the year will show the correct total. The same may not be true of expenses and the accounts thereby overstated.
The total business expenses of the taxi driver would mainly include the fuel receipts plus the other running costs of the business. Typically a receipt for fuel will be obtained and kept in a file or shoe box. Some may get mislaid and lost and be missing from the final accounts preparation.
Other receipts for miscellaneous items may not even be retained as forgotten, lost or not thought of at the time of purchase. Examples may be purchase of the diary in which sales records are kept, business cards, other stationery, and cash payments for a whole variety of miscellaneous items.
The same practise is also often applicable to not just taxi drivers but many small businesses. A small business owner may visit a supermarket for groceries and also buy an item of stationery for business use the cost of which is lost when the grocery receipt is discarded. If close attention is paid then the stationery item could have been obtained on a separate receipt and the cost of the journey to purchase it also included in the business expenses.
The stationery item is just one example which could be multiplied hundreds of times with hundreds of different items during the financial year. While each item missed and unrecorded may not be significant the total could well be sufficient to significantly reduce the year end tax burden by lowering the net taxable accounting profit.
Having retained a separate receipt for everything it is useful if the receipts are filed and the bookkeeping system employed updated at least once a month and preferably each week. By updating the accounting records on a regular basis more expenses will be recorded as the memory will remember recent expenses more clearly and accurately.
Another useful method to ensure all business expenses are maximised is to keep a daily diary of all expenses incurred. Use the entries in the diary when updating the bookkeeping records to ensure nothing has been missed in the accounts.
The essential message is to be meticulous about keeping receipts for everything, no matter how small, and recording both income and expenditure on a regular basis so that items are not lost or forgotten and included in the bookkeeping records. By also keeping a diary of financial records even if a receipt has been mislaid the amount should still be included in the accounts. It could be disallowed later if the tax records are enquired into but that is a matter of negotiation with the tax authority from a standpoint where the financial records are correct.
In addition all small business should take some time to review all potential expenditure which can be claimed under the tax rules. Many valid expense items can be missed having been dismissed as ordinary expenses which may be business related and therefore claimable in the financial accounts.
|Terry Cartwright, accountant and CEO at DIY Accounting, designs accounting software http://www.diyaccounting.co.uk/smallbusinessaccounting.htm on excel spreadsheets providing complete single and double entry bookkeeping systems http://www.diyaccounting.co.uk/bookkeeping.htm|