Seven simple steps to a year of better finances

1. Take stock

Before ploughing ahead with business as usual, there is a lot to be said for using the start of the new tax year as an opportunity to review your performance, take stock of your finances and think about where you would like to be this time next year.

Creating a budget, outlining monthly income and expenditure, should be an important priority for the new tax year. But it's no good having a budget if you don't stick to it, so you should run regular reports to compare the actual figures with those you have planned - this will help you to avoid any cash flow problems further down the line.

2. Know the key dates

As a small business owner you need to be aware of a host of dates and deadlines throughout the year - including tax return submissions, corporation tax due dates, and VAT filing. Failure to comply with these regulations and timings may result in hefty fines, so small firms must be sure to keep these on their radar. The easily downloadble Intuit calendar will ensure you don't miss important dates.

3. Simplify payroll

Employees are one of your most important assets, but for many small business owners managing payroll can be a tiresome task. However an in-house system can help save time and reduce outsourcing costs.

Before you can pay your employees, you first have to be paid, so successfully managing your invoicing is a pre-requisite to financial growth. You should aim to automate elements of your invoicing process to save you time creating invoices, managing debtors and recording income. This is especially true as your customer base expands.

4. File your VAT - online

You should be aware that, as of 1 April, all companies are required to file their VAT returns online. This process should be very straightforward (read more here) and can be made much easier with financial management software that allows you to file online directly with HMRC.

5. Track your finances

Though perhaps not the most glamorous of tasks, sound book-keeping lays the foundation of your business accounts and tax returns and help you to understand the cash that is coming in and out of your company. To help keep on top of your finances, ensure you have a system to record all your income and expenses in one place so that you can get an accurate picture of how your business is performing.

6. Go mobile

For those on the move, why not harness mobile technology to help manage your finances? Simple apps are now available such as MyBizTracker, which allows you to keep track of your finances wherever you are.

7. Get help when you need it

Finally, it's always worth seeking advice from an accountant. There is no substitute for professional experience so if you haven't already got one, now could be a good time to hire one and get in shape for the next financial year.

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