Increasingly ICB bookkeepers are being called upon to provide a one-stop-shop for small business clients

Bookkeepers are the backbone of UK business; helping business owners navigate a changing legislative landscape to truly understand their finances in order to not only survive, but to thrive. Increasingly ICB bookkeepers are being called upon to provide a one-stop-shop for small business clients; carrying out bookkeeping, credit control, cashflow forecasting, software training, app advisory, financial reporting, final accounts, payroll, corporation tax and self-assessment tax returns.

With the major names in bookkeeping software - FreeAgent, QuickBooks, Sage and Xero offering add-on modules for practices wishing to expand their services, we look at what’s in it for the bookkeeper and the client alike.

Why clients don’t enjoy doing their own tax returns, year-end accounts and payroll:

  • Doing your own tax can be scary, time-consuming and boring
  • Errors are easily made and hard to spot
  • Legislation changes often and tax is complex

ICB bookkeeper Chrissie Aplin C.MICB PM.Dip says, ‘’Self-assessment, in particular, is a very highly desirable service bookkeepers can offer to their clients. I’ve had [clients] come to me saying that the thought of doing self-assessment sends them into a panic.”

Doing a tax return, for a lot of business owners, is a complex process that they often don’t have time for and dread doing. What’s more, getting it wrong risks unwanted attention from HMRC and all too often clients may lose out for being overly cautious when it comes to something like claiming for allowable expenses. Bookkeepers provide a perfect solution for small business clients and time-strapped sole traders and freelancers – and are able to offer a cost-effective, friendly and reliable self-assessment and corporation tax service.

ICB bookkeeper Paula Veysey-Smith C.FICB attests: “The client can get on with running their business and, the money they pay the bookkeeper, they can get back.”

Why clients trust their bookkeeper to do all the work including tax, accounts and payroll

  • Bookkeepers are easy to talk to and genuinely care
  • Bookkeepers have their finger on the pulse of a business’s financial information
  • Bookkeepers can spot trends and challenges and help clients prepare for year-end tax liabilities
  • Time is money and it takes time to find trustworthy professionals

Chrissie states, “You may have a sole trader who wants bookkeeping, but actually if you only offer bookkeeping services then they’ve got to go elsewhere to get their self-assessment done at year-end, are they going to want that disjointed approach or are they going to want someone who can do it all?”

Bookkeepers who offer Level 4 services like corporation tax, self-assessment tax, financial statements and business insight, are able to:

  • widen their level of expertise and confidence
  • make life easier for their clients and attract more clients
  • make more money for higher-value services
  • interact with clients more meaningfully

Offering additional services to an existing customer base could be more efficient than taking on new clients, but there is nothing to stop qualified bookkeepers from using a broader service offering to do both. Wherever a bookkeeping practice is based, offering Level 4 services could open up a huge market, and lead to practice growth and resilience.

Chrissie says, "It’s not just about getting a variety of clients, but also about offering a whole package to clients and saying, ‘I can do all of that for you.’’

Making Tax Digital

With Making Tax Digital for Income Tax on the horizon, SMEs and micro-businesses face greater reporting responsibilities. Things like self-assessment tax returns are going to become less appealing for sole traders to complete on their own. This means that the already high demand for self-assessment services is likely to grow even further. Both Chrissie and Paula believe that Making Tax Digital will lead to an increase in demand:

Chrissie: "It is going to become even more important when Making Tax Digital gets rolled out because the records must be there. That, again, will scare a lot of people because [they] don’t know where to start with accounting software. So, over the next couple of years, I think there is going to be even more demand for these services.’’

Paula: "Making Tax potentially going to add another level of complication. And what I say to clients is, ‘you really don’t want to be dealing with this.' ’’

ICB bookkeepers offering tax and financial statements services to clients must have achieved all relevant qualifications at Level 4 and can study with an ICB accredited training provider or a textbook

You can read the full interview with Chrissie here How to level up your practice

Businesses looking to hire a bookkeeper can use ICB’s free Find A Bookkeeper search or post a vacancy. Unless you employ your bookkeeper, they are legally required to hold a supervision licence and you should always insist on an ICB Certified bookkeeper – they are supervised, qualified and insured.