Top Tax Tips for Start-Ups

  • Pay your tax on time. This way you avoid any unnecessary interest and penalties.
  • If your spouse helps in the business you can pay them a salary, getting full use of the tax band.
  • Pay your teenage child as a summer job. If it’s full-time there will be no PRSI cost.
  • Claim an element of your household expenditure (phone, internet, light & heat) as an expense.
  • Make sure to claim all relevant tax credits. Click here to view the current list of credits.
  • Invest in a pension. There are significant tax incentives on offer here. The value of your pension also grows tax-free.
  • Rent out a room in your home up to €12,000 tax-free.
  • If trading through a limited company use your own car and charge mileage to the company. Benefit in kind (BIK) on personal use of company cars can be extremely high.
  • If you are over 55 years of age you may qualify for Retirement Relief if selling your business.
  • Always use a qualified accountant or tax adviser. They will ensure that tax is calculated correctly and submitted on time.
  • Make sure to register for VAT where appropriate.
  • If you’re a sole trader, pay your income tax by way of monthly direct debit. This will help with cash flow management.
  • Pay your VAT liability by monthly direct debit. Again, this will help with business cash flow management.
  • Remember, client entertainment expenses are not allowable as a business expense.
  • Membership of your local gym or gold club, paid through your company, will be liable to BIK.
  • Permanent Health Scheme contributions are tax deductible.
  • As a start-up you may be exempt from income tax if you have been previously unemployed.
  • Does your company carry out any element of ‘Research & Development’? There are great tax credits available here.
  • As a start-up your company may be exempt from tax on its profits (Corporation Tax).
  • Why not invest in the bike-to-work scheme? Keeps you healthy and can be claimed through the company.
  • If you’re paying maintenance to a former spouse (not your children) you may qualify for a tax credit on any payments made.
  • Instead of paying costly bonuses to key employees, why not give them shares in the business using the ‘Employee Share Options’?
  • VAT can be claimed on the purchase of a commercial vehicle.
  • Don’t forget the single gift allowance of €3,000. You can receive this amount tax-free every year from any number of (generous) people.
  • If your business is looking for investment, look at the great tax incentives available through the EIIS Scheme.
  • Look at reclaiming tax at 41% through SURE (Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs).
  • As a growing business, why not hire outside contractors instead of in-house staff? This way you can avoid costly employers’ PRSI costs.
  • If you want to incorporate your sole trade to a Limited Company you may qualify for relief from CGT (Capital Gains Tax) if you transfer all of the assets.
  • You may also qualify for the reduced 10% CGT Entrepreneur Relief. For more details please click here.
  • If you discover a tax problem it’s always advisable to hold up your hands with Revenue. They will look on your case far more favorably than if you try to hide the issue.
  • As a start-up, do not invest large sums into your company as share capital and then use this money to pay your wages. Instead loan the money to the company and take it back (tax-free) when funds allow.
  • Remember, as a proprietory director (i.e. owning more than 15% of the shares) you are obliged to submit an annual income tax return to Revenue every October.
  • If you are carrying on an exempt activity (food and drink, books and booklets, children’s clothes & footwear) you can still register for VAT. This way you can reclaim any VAT on your purchases.
  • If you supply both goods and services (i.e. photographer) you will be taxed to VAT under the two- thirds rule.
  • Be careful: not all business purchases automatically qualify for a VAT deduction (e.g. car hire, petrol, hotel costs).
  • If your customer is a government agency be sure to retain your Form F45 in order to claim professional services withholding tax (PSWT).
  • If you’re an artist you may be exempt from income tax.

Market Research Tips

  • Construct a potential customer profile – who will buy our product?
  • Make sure the target group fits the above profile.
  • Be very clear about your objectives.
  • Decide how many people will be involved (Aim for a large sample as a small sample has less meaning).
  • Decide on the type of data you want to collect.
  • Provide a section for qualitative research questions.
  • Watch for unsolicited feedback i.e. details provided without having asked for them. This can be very valuable information.
  • Record interviews or groups so you can review and analyze the discussions later.
  • Don’t ignore criticism – constructive criticism is like gold dust in market research.
  • Make sure you are neutral and not leading the questions.
  • Get an expert to design (and undertake) the survey.
  • Put yourself in your customers shoes when writing your questions.
  • Keep your mind open to any potential new opportunities.
  • Thank everyone who took the time to complete your survey or helped with your research.

Ultimate Website Design Tips

  • Make sure each page is easy to navigate.
  • Add explanatory videos to the site – adds a personal touch.
  • Think local and write global.
  • Make your content original and specific to you.
  • Make sure you follow up with all customer queries and beware of spam e-mails.
  • Choose a sensible and easy-to-remember name.
  • Use appropriate colours – what do your colours symbolise?
  • Use small images on the site – larger images will slow your pages.
  • Content should be engaging to the reader.
  • Make sure currencies, measurements, dates & times are accurate and clear.
  • Incorrect spelling is never acceptable.

Ultimate Incorporation Checklist

  • Leased assets (motor or equipment) to be transferred to new company.
  • Ownership of motor vehicles to be transferred?
  • Any maintenance contracts on equipment to be transferred.
  • Write to all customers informing them of changeover – company name, company number and new tax number.
  • Write to all suppliers regarding the change and that all future invoices and statements should now be to the company. Make sure to monitor this.
  • Update any contracts with both suppliers and customers.
  • New bank account opened in the company name.
  • Old sole trade bank account to be closed.
  • Bank security letters will need to be updated where necessary.
  • New letters of offer for loans and overdrafts will need to be updated.
  • Forward new BIC & IBAN (bank account details) to all customers.
  • Change all signage – premises, van etc.
  • As insurance cover is not assignable, arrangements should be made in advance to make sure cover is in name of new company.
  • Change all stationery :
    • Van dockets
    • E-mail
    • Compliment slips
    • Website
    • Cash sale book
    • Letterheads
    • Delivery dockets
    • Fax sheets
    • Statements
    • Invoices
  • Change all utilities:
    • ESB
    • Bord Gais
    • Telephone
    • Council Rates
  • Inform Revenue of transfer of employment for yourself as a director of the company.
  • Inform all employees of the changeover.
  • Employees are provided with new contracts of employment.
  • Inform Revenue that employees are changing to new company and get new tax credit certificates.
  • Provide all employees with a P.45 from the old sole trade.
  • Change computer software to amend for new company name.
  • Inform computer software manufacturer as name on contract will need to be updated.
  • Re-issue credit of petrol cards in company name.
  • Register company for all relevant taxes.
  • Inform landlord of the changeover. They may be reluctant to change the lease to the company so it will remain in your name.
  • Don’t forget you are now a company director and you will have common law and statutory duties.
  • Look at completing a shareholders agreement if you plan on selling shares in your company.

Work/Life Balance Tips

  • Set goals, plan and prioritize. Having clear goals makes life much easier as you know where you are going and how you will get there. Decide what is important and then write it down. By writing it down you are far more likely to achieve that goal.
  • Work life balance is all about flexibility, but to have flexibility, you will need to have a solid structure around you. Structure is important as it brings certainty; you know what’s going to happen and why. Without structure your life seems chaotic, (that’s easy for me to say being an accountant).
  • When you are planning your week ahead, make sure to include some ‘me time’. Schedule time with friends and family and activities that help you to recharge.
  • I can’t stress enough the importance of eating well. Try and avoid fatty processed foods during the day as they will make you lethargic. Snack on fruit, nuts, seeds and water. These will all give you a much needed boost of energy.
  • Try to get the right amount of sleep. In the evening try to switch off your brain if possible. Do not use your laptop or watch TV in bed. Your mind will not switch off fully. Try to avoid caffeine based drinks in the evening.
  • Get some exercise. It can be hard to make time to exercise when you have a jam packed schedule, but it will ultimately help you to get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate. I exercise 4 times a week – once before work, once at lunchtime, one evening after work and a long run or swim at the weekend. Stop making excuses
    and make the time!
  • Take a long weekend – either a Friday or a Monday off. This will freshen your outlook and you will come back buzzing. Try to leave your phone off if at all possible.
  • Make sure to reward yourself. This is important. If you reach that goal you set for yourself – take the reward. It’s important to celebrate even small successes.
  • Stay positive and enthusiastic. Try to mix with positive people and don’t accept negativity. The world can be full of negativity; do your best to find a positive spin on a negative situation. Avoid people who spend their time constantly venting and gossiping – they’ll bring you down.
  • Learn to enjoy your life. Enjoy the journey each and every day. Take control of your own life – it is yours and you only have the one. Try to focus on constant personal development.

Ultimate Monthly Checklist

  • Monthly bookkeeping completed.
  • All bank accounts reconciled.
  • Review till reports & reconcile to bank lodgements.
  • Review costs and expenses.
  • Diary any upcoming Revenue and CRO deadline (Click here for details).
  • Ensure all business licences are current and up to date.
  • Obtain tax clearance if necessary.
  • Complete, submit and pay VAT.
  • Complete, submit and pay P30 (PAYE/PRSI/USC) details.
  • Add new employees to payroll system.
  • Provide any employees that are leaving with a P45.
  • Were there any HR issues during previous period (sick / late / absent / Bonus/ Commissions)
  • Review employment needs for last period – do we need to hire or let go?
  • Ensure all sales invoices have been sent to credit customers.
  • Invoice for an ongoing WIP (work-in-progress). Similar to stage payments.
  • Compare sales to previous month, previous quarter and same month last year.
  • Review your aged debtors listing (i.e. customers who owe you money). Act on any overdue accounts.
  • Investigate any negative balances.
  • Review your aged creditors listing. Query any overdue accounts.
  • Review your stock levels. Are they adequate for the week/month ahead?

Essential Sales Tips

  • Try to get inside the head of your ‘perfect’ customer. Figure out what they want and go about providing it.
  • Where possible, try and visit your top customers. It helps when trying to build a relationship.
  • Listen more than you speak. This feedback can be invaluable but make sure to act on it.
  • Offer FREE samples or a free trial period for your product. This ‘loss leader’ will hopefully get you in the door.
  • Drive traffic to your website. Once they land on the site you must ‘up-sell’ and ‘cross-sell’ with other offerings.
  • Make sure that your website looks great, is easy to navigate and VERY easy to pay. Keep the content fresh and current with blogs and articles.
  • Get the most out of your social media. Remember, education is the objective not selling. Build relationships!
  • Make sure to respond to customers as quickly as possible. Let them know when to expect their product/service or quote.
  • As a startup make sure to take any work that comes your way. It may not always be profitable but you never know where it may lead.
  • Try to think beyond the initial first sale. Recurring income is afr more valuable . However, this will take time.
  • It is important that you look the part so dress to impress. Always look smart, clean and professional.
  • Get out and network. Visit events, courses and trade shows in your area. Remember to bring plenty of business cards.
  • Try to reward your loyal customers. Look at giving discounts for bulk buying or early payment. Would a loyalty card work in your business?
  • Make a video. Keep it short, snappy, entertaining and to the point. You never know, it might go viral.
  • Build your sales knowledge through books and courses. Checkout our shop for some great reads!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for business. The worst people can say is no.
  • My favorite – under promise and over deliver!

Essential Cash Flow Management Tips

  • Ensure that you keep accurate and up to date management accounts (past) and cash flow projections (future).
  • Don’t be afraid to update your projections if new information comes to light. Remember, this is not an exact science.
  • Set targets with your cash flow projections. This is a good way to ensure it is given attention it deserves.
  • Agree payment terms from day one. If you don’t know when a payment is overdue, how will you manage cash flow?
  • Improve debtor management and ensure your credit control procedures are working properly.
  • Often, it can be a case of who shouts the loudest gets heard. Make sure that this is you.
  • Issue invoices promptly and follow up immediately, if payment is slow or not forthcoming.
  • Ask customers to make deposits when orders are made.
  • Make sure to perform due diligence on any new credit clients. Make sure that they pay in cash for at least 3 to 6 months first.
  • Get rid of old and obsolete stock for whatever value you can. Don’t tie up cash in high stock levels.
  • Offer discounts to your most loyal customers who always pay on time.
  • Get rid of ‘can’t pay, won’t pay’ customers. You are not running a charity.
  • Carefully manage your ‘payables’. Whenever you see expenses growing faster than sales, take out the magnifying glass to find out why.
  • Take full advantage of creditor payment terms. If a payment is due in 30 days don’t pay in 15 days.
  • Make payments online, on the last available day. That way, you are within your terms and will have the use of these funds as long as possible.
  • Always communicate with your suppliers, especially during tough financial times. If you ever need to delay a payment, they will understand.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop around for lower prices or better credit terms. But don’t always focus on lowest price. I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for!
  • Make sure to keep your bank on side. You never know when you might need that overdraft facility or short-term loan.
  • Banks are wary of borrowers who have to have money today. If you manage cashflow properly, you will foresee a possible shortfall in future months. It is at this time that you need to contact the bank or lender.
  • Proving accurate cash flows is more important to the bank that providing assets as security for repayments.
  • Make a list of 1. ‘Must pay’, 2. ‘Important to pay’, 3. ‘Flexible opportunities’. Don’t pay everything at once.
  • Do not use money due to Revenue Commissioners (VAT, PAYE & Income Tax) as your working capital.
  • Discipline yourself to pay on time. Set-up a standing order and spread the debts evenly over the year. This will also ensure you avoid any unnecessary interest and penalties.
  • Make sure to focus on cash flow and not profit. This is a common error of many businesses that fail. Remember, a profitable business can close-down if it runs out of cash!
  • Review internal policies such as expenses and travel policy.
  • Reduce employee overtime where necessary.
  • Review and scale back any non-essential activities and costs.

Top Tips for Tough Times

Tips when trading through tough times

  • Review Budgets and set targets.
  • Get rid of ‘can’t pay or won’t pay’ customers.
  • If possible, bill work in progress, at various stages (like stage payments for builders).
  • Chase debts relentlessly (assign someone other than you).
  • Offer existing (quality) debtors some discounts.
  • Agree extended credit terms with suppliers, if possible.
  • Putting an existing contract out to tender can result in substantially reducing costs.
  • Review bank facilities and discuss future needs.
  • Make sure you put in extra effort to make sure relationships are solid with your best customers.
  • Review all business processes and change or stop if not working efficiently (simplify).
  • Eliminate any unprofitable services / products.
  • Outsource certain aspects of your business to save both time and money.
  • Take financial and legal advice.

Top Tips when Pricing

  • Keep your price realistic after taking into account costs, resources and goods.
  • Ensure that you cover all costs.
  • Include the value of your time in your pricing.
  • Customers are not always looking for the lowest price.
  • Price low but smart. Remember, low price might signal low quality. It may also be difficult to increase price if customers become accustomed to the low price.
  • Use discounts with care. Handy to sell products with sell by date, seasonal or obsolescence items. As with pricing low, be careful as it may be difficult to recover from.
  • Know your U.S.P. (unique selling point). What makes you different? What makes you better?
  • Offer incentives – grab peoples’ attention. ‘’20% off, if purchased within the next hour’’
  • Offer 3 ranges on same product – basic, middle and premium.
  • Don’t forget about VAT. Remember, if you sell over a certain amount you will need to register and charge VAT on your product. Will you still be competitive?
  • Stay on your toes – costs, customers and competitors can change. Make sure that you are keeping up with the market.
  • Base your price on consumers’ perception of value not just costs. Good market research will help here.
  • Don’t use the same profit margin (%) across different product lines.
  • Don’t hold your prices at the same level for too long. It may become impossible to increase. Adapt to changing market conditions.
  • Don’t change your price without forecasting your competitors’ reaction. Do they have a better or inferior product? What are they likely to do?
  • Use a loss leader as a marketing tool. This is selling at below cost and making a loss to get customers into the shop.
  • Segment the market based on location e.g. charging more for a can of coke at a football match than you would in a supermarket.
  • Be opportunistic. Sometimes you can price a product with no relationship to its true value. Selling umbrellas at a premium if it rains on a summer’s day.