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Find answers to our most frequently asked questions about accountancy and bookkeeping.

If we still haven’t answered your question, get in touch, we’d love to help.


I’m starting a business – Do I need a business plan?

Absolutely – business plans aren’t only essential for when you’re just setting out, but should also guide your efforts over the coming months and years. This document is also critical when you’re seeking financing from investors, banks or from other means.

Bells Inc. Hamilton Stewart Accountants in Surrey have a useful template business plan to help – we can send this via email. Should you need free guidance during these first fledgling steps, simply come to see us in person.

I’m starting a business – Do I need finance?

Depending on your business type, and the cash requirements of your business model, you may or may not need to seek finance. We can help provide the advice you need to understand whether you need finance. If so, we can additionally advise as to how much, and we can even put you in touch with finance providers.

We frequently assist our clients from that first lightbulb moment, onto applying for finance and throughout the growth of their business.

We’re also able to provide advice in relation to grants – as you may be eligible for funds free from the need to repay.

I’m starting a business – Do I need a separate business bank account?

Should you choose to set up a limited company you will be legally required to have a separate bank account. Whilst this is optional for sole traders, we always recommend a separate account – this can be a real help when separating business and personal finances.

I’m starting a business – What business type should I choose?

There are many differing forms of business structure, including: Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company, Community Interest Company and Limited Liability Partnership. Which will be best suited to your venture will depend on many different criteria – we can provide the advice that you need in order to make the right choice based upon the advantages and disadvantages of each.


How is self-employment defined?

A person who is self-employed receives income from a business or trade that is not taxed by either an employer or agency. This then means that the income needs to be declared to HMRC, which is completed through an annual self-assessment tax return.

Bells Inc. Hamilton Stewart can help guide you through this process – from registering as self-employed, to completing your first self-assessment. But beyond the figures (and the advice to ensure that you claim the tax deductions that you’re entitled to) we can be here for the guidance you need for growth – for every month and year onwards.

How does the ‘tax year’ work?

The tax year begins on the 6th April and finishes on the 5th April each year.

When is my tax return due?

Your tax return is due on the 31st January

What am I able to claim for as a self-employed individual?

The expenses that you’ll be able to claim for will depend on your industry. As an example, a consultant couldn’t claim for the types of items that an electrician would, however both individuals could claim for items such as internet costs and petrol. Bells Inc. Hamilton Stewart can offer either general advice, or put together a tailored list based upon your exact line of business – just get in touch if you’d like us to create this for you.

How do I make my national insurance contributions?

The most convenient and straightforward way to pay your NI is via a monthly direct debit (this compares to paying a lump sum at the end of the tax year). We can quickly and painlessly help set this up on your behalf.


Are there benefits to becoming a Limited Company?

Becoming a Limited Company means that you pay a flat, fixed rate of corporation tax on profits up to £300,000. This compares to the taxes that sole traders face, which hits 40% as soon as you’ve earned over £32,001, with national insurance class 4 contributions to also be considered at 9%.

Are there drawbacks to becoming a Limited Company?

The fees involved with Limited Company accountancy are higher as the processes are more demanding. Limited Companies also require more administration. However we’ll always put you in the complete picture as to whether going Limited would make sense for you – explaining the pros, cons and how much tax you’ll save versus the fees and extra processes involved when dealing with a Limited Company.

What deadlines apply for a Limited Company?

As the owner of a Limited Company, you can choose the dates of your own financial year. Typically this is twelve months following the setup of the business. Limited Companies then have a full 9 months after their financial year end to file their accounts, and a full 12 months to file their corporation tax return and accounts with HMRC.

What expenses can a Limited Company claim?

The expenses that you’ll be able to claim for will depend on your industry. As an example, a consultant couldn’t claim for the types of items that an electrician would, however both individuals could claim for items such as internet costs and petrol. Bells Inc. Hamilton Stewart can offer either general advice, or put together a tailored list based upon your exact line of business – just get in touch if you’d like us to create this for you.

How does VAT work?

As a Limited Company, each year you’ll total the Standard VAT you’ve charged on your products or services (this will be 20% added to your net fees); from this figure you’ll then deduct all of the VAT you’ve paid to suppliers – with the difference then paid to HMRC. These figures are typically reported to HMRC each quarter via a VAT return.

There are a number of schemes (such as the flat rate scheme) that can help you in decreasing your VAT costs – speak with us about your options and we can help you in understanding exactly what is best suited to your business.

How do I know whether I need to register for VAT?

If your revenue as a Limited Company or Sole Trader is over £83,000 over the course of 12 months you’ll then need to register for VAT the following month thereafter. Should you need advice on this we can guide you from registration onto the ongoing management.

Most importantly, we can also help you to choose the right scheme that can save you money – and discuss whether voluntarily registering for VAT may make sense by way of the VAT you can claim back.

What are the VAT exemptions?

Whilst there are some exemptions from VAT the rules and guidance from HMRC can be confusing for the average layman. It’s vital you take care to fully understand VAT exemptions by reading the guidance from HMRC and seeking advice from ourselves – getting this wrong could well result in significant fines from HMRC.

Read the Gov.UK Guide to VAT Registration

Do I need a payroll scheme?

If you pay others in your line of business, and they fall under HMRC’s guidance as to what signifies ‘employment’ instead of ‘self-employment’ then you will need to run a payroll scheme to ensure the correct tax contributions are being made. Failing to do so can mean that you’re later back-taxed.

Our team can help guide you as to whether you need a payroll, and if so can advise on how you should implement it.

Read the Gov.UK Guide to Employing staff for the first time

Can I pay someone through means that don’t require PAYE?

You may be able to pay certain employees on a self-employed basis – which places the responsibility of paying tax and NI on the employee. We can help guide your through this process and explain who, if any, of your employees would meet the criteria for being self-employed.

Read the Gov.UK Guide to PAYE and payroll for employers

Where can I find further helpful sources of information?

The HMRC website is a rich resource of information for those in business – and of course, our team are always happy to provide jargon-free help, even if you simply require pointing in the right direction on the HMRC website.

Read the Gov.UK Guide to HMRC

Do I need an accountant or bookkeeper?

It’s not legally required to have an accountant or bookkeeper, however there are many compelling benefits when you do decide to use an accountant or bookkeeper (and you choose the right provider). Bells Inc. Hamilton Stewart Accountants can help you in:

  • Identifying your strengths and helping you hone in on what makes you money.
  • Appreciating your limitations in knowledge and how this could cost you money.
  • Ensuring that you claim back your accountancy fees as tax deductible.

How can I work successfully with my bookkeeper or accountant?

Here are our top tips for making the most of your bookkeeper or accountant:

  • Choose an accountant you feel comfortable talking to.
  • Prepare for meetings with an agenda or notes.
  • Organise your paperwork for a quicker service.
  • Ask questions – and feel free to ask further questions until you’re completely clear on the topic at hand.
  • Keep in touch with your plans and aspirations – any good accountant or bookkeeper should become your business advisor (not merely your rock to rely on for number crunching!).
  • Make the most of free consultations.