Can networking really help my business?

business community, networking, event

Back in October of last year, we welcomed over 200 business owners to Carlisle Racecourse for our local business event, BITE 2018. We watched as these entrepreneurs rubbed shoulders, talked shop, and shared their biggest business challenges. The room buzzed with industry and excitement.

So, when anyone asks if networking can help their business, we always answer with an unequivocal “Yes!” because we’ve seen it first-hand.

Here are some of the benefits of networking we’ve observed over the years:

The five greatest benefits of business networking

1. Profile

Marketing and branding are fundamentally important for any small business. But sometimes, getting out there into the real world, shaking some hands, and chatting with other business owners can make all the difference. Raising your profile within your local business community can keep you front of mind should anyone in that network require your expertise.

You also have an opportunity to build a strong reputation as someone who knows their stuff, who’s supportive and reliable, and who’s willing to offer guidance and advice. Visibility is key to the success of any growing business.

2. Referrals

Perhaps the biggest benefit in this list, earning referrals is the reason why many business owners join networking groups in the first place. Even in the age of digital marketing and social media, word-of-mouth is here to stay.

And the best thing about these leads is that they’re often pre-qualified. That’s because you have the chance to discuss the ins and outs of the opportunity with the very people referring you.

3. Confidence

Launching a business requires many different skills, and chief among them is communication. Networking pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to meet and interact with different people. And in the long run, this can only benefit your confidence.

You’ll need to learn to sell yourself and your company every time you meet someone new – what some call the “elevator pitch”. This helps you get to the heart of your idea, and hones your proposition. And the more confident you feel about your business and your abilities, the more confident you’ll appear to prospective investors, employees, and stakeholders.

4. Connections

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And if you want your business to survive and thrive, you need to build a network of strong and reliable connections. If you need advice, or an introduction to a key decision maker, it pays to have that network at your fingertips.

Use your local networking events to connect with the most influential people in your business community. You never know when they might come in handy!

5. Advice

Running a business can be a lonely affair for the first few years. Particularly if you’re a sole trader. Getting up and out from behind your desk once in a while can make all the difference to your mental health, and the health of your business.

Instead of running into problems with no solution and nowhere to turn, you can grab a coffee and kick around ideas with like-minded people. And perhaps you’ll even overcome your latest business challenge with a little help from someone who’s been in your shoes before.

Try it for yourself

If you’re local to the North (or you fancy travelling), you can join us for BITE 2019 and try business networking for yourself. Join the waiting list today!

Brexit: March 29 is fast approaching

Brexit, Eu Employees, No Deal, March 2019

The UK is set to leave the EU on the 29th of March, 2019.

We think. Maybe.

You see, at the time of writing this blog post, another twist has emerged. The Prime Minister has requested a 3-month extension which, if accepted, would put the leave date back to June 30th. And what happens then is anyone’s guess.

Still, whether it’s 3 months or one week, the fact remains that nothing has changed where your business is concerned. You still need to prepare for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. It’s the only sensible thing to do amidst the uncertainty.

Your mission: Leave no rock unturned

We’ve been pulling together resources over the last few months to help you plan and prepare for a difficult EU exit.

First thing’s first, we recommend you read our post about the 3 most important areas to consider where a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is concerned. You can find that here.

Next, review our ‘No Deal’ Brexit Planning Checklist. This six-page document covers:

● Movement of Goods;
● Supply Chain Analysis;
● Product Standards and Compliance;
● Contracts with EU Companies;
● EU Employees in the UK and Post Brexit Planning; and
● A few other matters you may have overlooked.

If you currently import from, or export to the EU, read this blog post to learn more about the Economic Operator and Registration Identification (EORI) number and why you need it.

And finally, take this GOV.UK questionnaire to identify anything else you need to do for your business before Brexit occurs.

Deal or No Deal – Be Prepared

Saint & Co. has been helping businesses and individuals manage their finances since 1884. In that time we’ve seen our fair share of political and economic upheaval. And the only way to make it through is to be prepared.

Contact us today if you’re concerned about the tax or business implications of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. One of our friendly team members will be happy to answer your questions.

Consider Other Tax Efficient Investments

Enterprise Investment Scheme, Capital Gains tax

If you are looking for investment opportunities, have you considered the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)? These investments in certain qualifying companies allow you to set off of 30% of the amount invested against your income tax bill as well as the ability to defer Capital Gains Tax (CGT) until the shares are sold.

An even more generous tax break is available for investment in a qualifying Seed EIS company where income tax relief at 50 per cent is available and in addition it is possible to obtain relief against your 2018/19 capital gains. Both EIS and Seed EIS also provide a CGT exemption when the shares themselves are sold after 3 years.  Note however that qualifying EIS and Seed EIS companies tend to be risky investments so professional investment advice should be taken.

A 30% income tax break is also available by investing in a Venture Capital Trust.


‘No Deal’ Brexit: 3 Important Areas to Consider

Movement of goods, product compliance, March 2019, Transitional Simplified Procedures

With so much uncertainty around what Brexit will mean, planning for a “No Deal” scenario seems sensible right now.

Businesses that buy and sell from the EU should have contingency plans in place which need to be flexible to cope with a variety of possible outcomes.

If a ‘No Deal’ happens after March 2019, here are some of the areas you should consider:

  1. Movement of goods

Customs declarations will need to be made and the UK is implementing a new electronic customs declaration system for businesses, so check if your systems and processes are up to scratch. UK businesses will need a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, and you can find the forms on the GOV.UK website, Brexit section:

You may also need an agent to help with import/export declarations as you would for trading outside the EU. Check whether you need additional information from your carrier. Importers can register for Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP), deferring declarations and paying duty at the border. There is HMRC guidance on the new electronic customs system in the Brexit section on the GOV.UK website (link as above).

An essential exercise for all businesses is Supply Chain Mapping – knowing where inputs come from and what product category they fall into can help assess potential tariffs. For businesses that only export to the EU this will be new and could be time-consuming. Further guidance can be found in the “Trade Topics” section of the World Trade Organization (WTO) website:

The EU Tariffs can be found at –

  1. Product compliance

UK product standards and regulations will be aligned to the EU at the point of exit, however in the event of “No Deal”, UK assessment and certification arrangements could cease to be recognised by the EU. See the Brexit section of the GOV.UK  website for further guidance.

  1. Business contracts and employees

If you have contracts with EU companies these may need to be redrafted to clarify the terms for trade, including VAT changes. If your business employs EU nationals then they should register for settled status. You will need to track the nationality status of employees going forward to ensure compliance with immigration rules and regulations.


Whether there is a “No Deal”, a brief delay in the UK’s departure and a “deal”, or a longer period of transition, we advise all businesses to research every scenario and “plan for the worst and hope for the best”.

For more information, please read our “No Deal” Brexit Planning Checklist.

Have You Used Your 2018/19 ISA Allowance?

Investment, ISA

Your maximum annual investment in ISAs for 2018/19 is £20,000.  Your investment needs to be made before 6 April 2019.  In addition, have you thought about investing for your children or grandchildren by setting up a Junior ISA? In the 2018/19 tax year, you can invest £4,260 into a Junior ISA for any child under 18.

Watch Out For Changes To Capital Allowances

finance bill, HMRC

The Good News: A New Structures and Building Allowance

From 29 October 2018 HMRC has reintroduced a tax relief for the construction costs of structures and buildings called the Structures and Buildings Allowance (SBA). The relief is available on new non-residential structures and buildings or renovations/conversions of existing buildings. The relief will be at an annual rate of two percent on a straight-line basis i.e. you will be able to deduct the cost of such buildings against your profits over 50 years.

It will apply to any structures and buildings where a contract for the construction works was entered into on or after 29th October 2018.

Unfortunately, the detailed rules are not straightforward.  The Chartered Institute of Taxation is appealing to the Government to consider simplifying these.

The Bad News: Reduction to Special Rate Pool Capital Allowances

Special rate pool assets writing down allowance is being reduced from 8% to 6% effective from 1 April 2019 for companies (6th April 2019 for businesses within the charge to income tax). A Hybrid rate will be used where a business’ chargeable period spans 1 April (or 6 April).

HMRC publish updated benchmark scale rates for employees worldwide travel expenses from 6 April 2019

Benchmark, travel reimbursement

Employers can reimburse employees who travel abroad for business purposes for their accommodation and subsistence expenses by making scale rate payments.

The tables cover a wide range of countries and regions within countries.  These were last updated in 2014

What the tables contain

For most countries, there are benchmark rates for the larger cities as well as an “elsewhere” rate. Employers wishing to use the published rates must ensure that they refer to the table entry for the city where the employee stayed, or the elsewhere rate, as appropriate. Rates are quoted in the relevant foreign currency, US$ or Euros.

The tables provide:

  • a “room rate” per night
  • a “total residual rate” and individual rates for breakfast where it is not included in the room rate, lunch, dinner etc. The “total residual rate” figure is intended to cover the total cost of meals in a period of 24 hours, plus the cost of daily travel between the employee’s hotel and office
  • a “24-hour rate” – this is the sum of the “room rate” and the “total residual rate”
  • an “over 10-hour rate”, which is intended to cover subsistence expenses for any period of more than 10 but less than 24 hours
  • an “over 5-hour rate”, which is intended to cover subsistence expenses for any period of more than 5 but less than 10 hours
  • separate amounts for individual meals and other expenses incurred during the day – employers who wish to do so may use these rates instead of the “over 5”, “over 10” and “24-hour” rates

For some destinations, the table simply shows “ACTUALS + £4 PER DAY”. These are destinations for which no benchmark information is available. In such cases, employers may reimburse their employees’ actual accommodation and subsistence expenses, plus £4 per day to cover hotel-to-office travelling expenses.

Employers cannot choose to use rates from destinations to which their employees have not travelled as a substitute for destinations for which no benchmark rate is available. The rates can only be used as published.

What is not covered

The benchmark rates do not cover incidental, allowable expenses that employees may incur en-route – for example, the cost of a taxi to the airport in the UK, or necessary refreshments taken at the airport. Employers who wish to use the benchmark rates may reimburse those other expenses separately, in addition to paying the benchmark rates.

Advisory fuel rates from 1 March 2019


Company-owned vehicles

HM Revenue and Customs have announced revised tax-free advisory fuel rates from 1 March 2019 which may be paid for business journeys in a car owned by the business.   Rates for the previous quarter is shown in brackets.

Engine size Petrol Diesel LPG
1,400 cc or less 11p (12p) 7p (8p)
1,600 cc or less 10p (10p)
1,401 cc to 2,000 cc 14p (15p)  8p (10p)
1,601 cc to 2,000 cc 11p (12p)
Over 2,000 cc 21p (22p) 13p (14p)  13p (15p)

These rates may be used in the following circumstances: –

  1. Where employers reimburse for business travel in company cars.
  2. Where employers provide fuel for company cars but employees are required to reimburse the cost of fuel for private use.

Input VAT claims on mileage paid for company cars or employee-owned vehicles

HM Revenue & Customs will accept the above figures for claiming input VAT on fuel for company cars, provided a VAT receipt is available to cover the cost of the fuel.  They will also accept the use of the above rates by the employer when calculating input VAT on the fuel element for employees using their own vehicles and claiming mileage under the tax-free approved mileage rates for business travel of 45p for the first 10,000 miles and 25p thereafter.

If you have not already done so, remember to update any spreadsheets you may use.

If you have any queries regarding the above or require any further information please do not hesitate to contact us.

With CIS comes great responsibility

The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) has caused quite a bit of confusion since it was first introduced back in 1972.

It has taken on a number of names and forms over the last 40 years, and today exists as a means of deducting money at the source for tax payments related to certain types of construction work.

These deductions count as advance payments towards a subcontractor’s tax and National Insurance, and contractors must register for the scheme.

What does CIS cover?

Let’s have a quick refresh of what CIS does and does not cover.

According to HMRC, CIS covers most construction work to:

  • a permanent or temporary building or structure
  • civil engineering work like roads and bridges

Where CIS is concerned, this construction work can include:

  • preparing the site, eg laying foundations and providing access works
  • demolition and dismantling
  • building work
  • alterations, repairs and decorating
  • installing systems for heating, lighting, power, water and ventilation
  • cleaning the inside of buildings after construction work

However, you do not have to register for CIS if you only carry out certain types of jobs, such as:

  • architecture and surveying
  • scaffolding hire (with no labour)
  • carpet fitting
  • making materials used in construction including plant and machinery
  • delivering materials
  • work on construction sites that’s clearly not construction, eg running a canteen or site facilities

Here’s where it gets tricky

From a cash flow perspective, it’s far more beneficial as a subcontractor to be paid gross. This means the contractor is paying you in full, without deductions.

The onus is then on you to pay your own tax and National Insurance at the end of the tax year.

This allows you to maximise your take home and gives you more financial control – as opposed to having taxes deducted up front.

Gaining Gross Payment Status

To gain Gross Payment Status (GPS), you must:

  • Demonstrate that you’re completely up-to-date with any and all tax liabilities and filings;
  • And have a business bank account.

You must also pass a turnover test. HMRC will check to ensure your labour-only turnover exceeds:

  • £30,000 for Sole Traders
  • £30,000 per partner or £100,000 for the whole Partnership
  • £30,000 per director or £100,000 for the whole Limited Company

Losing Gross Payment Status

But once you’ve gained GPS, unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. You can also just as quickly lose it.

At least once during a 12-month period, HMRC will undertake a scheduled review to make sure that the business continues to qualify for GPS. And the business can lose its status if, during the 12-month period:

  • Contractor returns have been received late on four or more occasions;
  • One contractor return is more than 28 days late;
  • PAYE or CIS payments have been late on four or more occasions;
  • PAYE or CIS payment is more than 14 days late;
  • Self-assessment payment is more than 28 days late;

Furthermore, GPS is likely to be cancelled if the following is overdue:

  • P35;
  • self-assessment return; or
  • a payment of £100 or more.

Note: Should HMRC withdraw your gross payment status, you can appeal, however, you must do so within 30 days of receiving the notice.

Have any other questions about CIS? Call us on 01228 534 371 to chat with one of our friendly advisors.

From ‘Xero Worries’ to ‘Zero Worries’: How we helped Coomara overcome cloud accounting apprehension

Xero worries to Zero worries

For many business owners, cloud accounting plays an essential part in their day-to-day. Both short and long-term plans are confidently put into action, underpinned by real-time, accurate, and up-to-date numbers.

But for some, the idea of switching to the cloud is, well, clouded by trepidation.

They just can’t overcome their concerns regarding security, usability, or accessibility, and sometimes there’s a reluctance to abandon a familiar (if outdated) spreadsheet or desktop accounting system.

As newly crowned Xero Platinum Partners, we see it as our duty to lead the way when it comes to cloud accounting, helping those apprehensive to make the switch see the light. And that’s precisely what we did for Pete Denston of Coomara Veterinary Practice.

About Coomara

A small, independent vet practice specialising in small and large animal care, Coomara is the quintessential family business, led by husband and wife team Pete and Charlotte Denston and their team of vets and support staff. They cover Carlisle and the surrounding areas and have done so since 1989. However, Pete and Charlotte first became involved with, and bought, the practice in 2013, which is when our working relationship with Coomara began.

Pete approached us and two other accountancy firms for advice prior to purchasing the business. We quickly spotted the viability and, backed by careful analysis and cash flow forecasts, this information encouraged Pete and Charlotte to take the leap.

A Major Challenge

Coomara is a well-established and well-liked business in Carlisle (one glance at their reviews will attest to this). But even the most successful of businesses will encounter tricky challenges sooner or later. For Pete, Charlotte and Coomara, this came in the shape of financial admin and internal accounting processes.

They needed help with bookkeeping, balancing records, and VAT returns, among others, and were in desperate need of a simple, easy-to-use accounting system. We were only too happy to help.

The Solution? Enter: Xero

Pete required an accounting system that provided access to real-time, up-to-date numbers, and gave him an accurate picture of his practice’s financial wellbeing at the drop of a hat. For us, there was only one solution: Xero.

It’s known as the world’s most beautiful cloud accounting software for a reason, and after demoing the platform and taking Pete through its various capabilities, he was on board.

We took the lead with regards to set up and training, and now offer ongoing support to Pete and his team as they continue to use Xero to run and grow Coomara.

The result? Life is less stressful, there’s more time to run the business rather than getting bogged down in admin, and the access to real-time numbers has helped significantly improve decision making.

“Helpful and supportive…”

We continue to work closely with Pete, Charlotte and their team to ensure they’re making the most of Xero, its core features, and its wide range of add-ons.

Here’s what a far less apprehensive Pete had to say about his introduction to Xero and the cloud:

“The team at Saint has been very helpful and supportive in the running of my business. If I ever have a problem with Xero, I know that they’ll be able to either help resolve the problem or advise me on how best to sort it out myself if needed.”

Find Out How Xero Can Help Your Business

If you’d like to experience the benefits of Xero and cloud accounting, just like Pete and Coomara, we can help. Our team of Xero Champions are ready to show you the ropes. You’ll be saving time and money before you know it!

Simply click the link to Get Started with Xero, or call us on 01228 534371 to chat with one of our friendly advisors.