Fresh Threads: VAT inspections, vans, virtual PAs

  1. Ray Newman

    Ray Newman UKBF Regular Staff Member

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    Hi UKBFers,

    Welcome to Fresh Threads, our weekly roundup of the best comments and advice from the forums. 

    Here are my top picks from this week.

    Unexpected VAT inspections

    Apparently a routine visit, not triggered by any untoward returns or reports – my first in 10 years of trading!

    We use standard invoicing, bookkeeping and accounting software and follow standard practice, with all due diligence. We report, file, and pay on time. I am obsessive about doing things properly, but I am also fallible.

    Any advice on preparation for a VAT inspection please? Anything I should be justifiably paranoid about?

    Mr D: Be paranoid about who you are talking to. Make sure of his or her identity before discussing stuff that you don't normally about your business. VAT inspections are out to help you – not find fault with everything then slam your business into the ground. Making sure you are doing things the right way and with the right records helps them too – they can claim to proactively avoid VAT issues cropping up later.

    KM-Tiger: Have had two since being in business, if your records are in good order, then you have nothing to fear. Both inspectors were pleasant people. The only thing they ever found wrong was that I had not reclaimed enough VAT.

    Paul Norman: It’s not necessarily something to be worried about. However, ensure that (a) your records are up to date; (b) they can easily find what they need; (c) you answer their questions openly, factually, and concisely; and (d) you don't bother them with stuff you are not being asked for. They don't want that, and neither do you.

    SteLacca: Something that they are likely to be looking at now is compliance with the digital records requirement of MTD.

    Starting a new hygiene supply business

    I always wanted to go out on my own, so I'm starting a new business supplying hygiene products. My core targets will be schools, nursing homes, hotels, and so on. Any advice, good or bad, is welcome.

    Mark T Jones: It's hard to know what to advise without knowing what your relevant experience and knowledge is and what your perceived areas of weakness are. It's better to start with some specific questions and let things grow from there. My first question to you – what will be your USP?

    Socio South West: A lot of your core targets will have central purchasing functions, with recommended suppliers. If you can break into that and put up with the petty regulation and admin that goes with the territory you can do well, but you have to put the effort into getting the requisite conditions to become a supplier in place which may not be easy as a new business.

    Worrall: I'd say stick to the smaller type businesses that you will be able to approach directly and may get some success with, but you'll then be competing with the likes of AOS, who can supply all the general office supplies and hygiene products a business needs cheaply with free next day delivery.

    STDFR33: Don't sell too cheap as people will assume it's watered down crap. Some people like watered down crap because it's cheaper, so you'll need to offer different strength products. Offer something your competitors don't. Money can be made selling to the public at car boots, but have a Facebook page where people can leave reviews and see you are a proper business.

    Buying a decent van

    I’m currently looking to get a van for my construction company but have no idea which route to go down. I’m looking to spend around £10,000 but do not know whether I should take a loan, lease, contract purchase or just use my own money.

    I guess what I'm trying to ask is, if I use my money to buy a van outright, can I claim it back on my tax?

    Scalloway: You can set the whole cost against profits under the annual investment allowance (AIA) in the year of purchase. You can also claim AIA if you borrow money to buy the van, plus claim the interest on the loans.

    Gordon - Commercial Finance: I wouldn't recommend spending the cash, especially as you mentioned it could be put to good use elsewhere. Just be sure to do it in such a way that you actually own the thing at the end. Leasing is probably not the right method for what you describe and things like contract hire are a trap set by motor dealers to force you into coming back to them at the end of the term. HP would be what I would recommend, and as @Scalloway mentions you can still get the AIA, and relief from interest.

    MBE2017: The other way you could go is to rent the vehicle. Whilst it could be more costly, there can be huge advantages as well, such as changing the vehicle according to your requirements etc, walking away if you decide to change direction. I've always rented a van for a month or two before buying – it helps to find out what works and doesn’t work over a longer term test, rather than just a few hours of use.

    Chris Ashdown: Why a new van? would be my first question. If it's for show then two or three year-old vans that have been looked after all look the same as new to your customers. Presumably they're local customers so you don't need a vehicle for long journeys. A couple of quiet months and you will appreciate the spare money siting in your account – that rainy day often comes soon with new companies.

    Defining my business niche


    I am stuck on how to position my business – which category does it fit in and what label do I attach to it? I do event management, recruitment, research, event promotion, LinkedIn profiles, negotiation with suppliers, venue finding, e-book promotion and print book promotion. Yes, it’s a mixed bag, hence the dilemma.

    Do I fit in the ‘virtual assistant’ category? Or something else? My current business name is AskMyPA but does this reflect what I actually do and the level of support I provide? What does my business name say to you?

    Mr D: I'd say promote yourself primarily as a PA but mention you have these other skills.

    Mark T Jones: PA is too generic – there are millions of them. And the range of your expertise and specialisms is far too wide, for now. Start with one sector, perhaps where your contacts are strongest, or just which interests you most, and focus your outgoing strategy on that sector.

    fisicx: Each of the services you offer is independent of the other. If I need an event organiser I want someone who does just that. I'm not interested in your book promotion or recruitment skills. If I land on your website as a result of your marketing, all I want to see is event management. So you may need a number of websites all under the AskMyPA umbrella.

    tony84: Maybe rather than a PA it should be BA – business assistant. When I think of PAs, I think of people who will help with calls, administration and so on, not managing events, recruitment, negotiating suppliers or promoting books.

    That's all for this week – keep an eye out for the weekly UKBF newsletter on Friday.

  2. Furqan721

    Furqan721 UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    Thank You for sharing this stuff!
    Posted: May 16, 2018 By: Furqan721 Member since: Feb 26, 2018
    Chris The Dropshipper likes this.