Setting Up a Business: Knowing What Records to Keep

When setting up a business, it is important to know what records and accounts you need to keep from the very beginning. Starting up any business and dealing with the practicalities makes for a busy time, but neglecting your records can be costly and time-consuming. In the long run, staying on top of your records will ultimately help you to: keep track of your finances and cash flow; avoid penalties; hold accurate information about your business; plan for your business’ future.
The records you need to keep will depend on the type and size of your business, however all businesses must follow basic bookkeeping procedures.
All businesses
All businesses need to keep track of two areas: incomings and outgoings. For incomings, you will need to keep hold of any accounting records, till rolls, paying-in slips, sales invoices and bank statements acquired. Important outgoings records will be: receipts, cheque book records, purchase invoices and bank or credit card statements. These are basic essentials which any business must take care to record properly and keep safe.
Limited companies
If you are a starting up as a limited company (i.e not a sole trade), there are further records to keep. All limited companies must keep the following: dividend allocations and payments; articles of association; details of company share ownership.
Any company which is registered limited must also complete and return a number of documents each year. These include: Company Tax Return (with form CT600); statutory accounts; Corporation Tax; return to Companies House; a signed set of accounts to Companies House.
Depending on the nature of your company, there are number of other records which you may have, such as a register of members or directors.
Employers
All businesses employing workers will need to organise their documentation relating to employee payment. This is very important as it ensures that you are paying the right amount to your employees and allows you to keep track of these expenses. You are required by law to keep the following PAYE records: payments to employees; National Insurance, Tax and Student Loan payment deductions from wages; benefits and expenses paid to employees; statutory payments (sick or maternity leave).
VAT
All VAT registered businesses are required by law to keep the following records for at least 6 years: VAT sales and purchase invoices; a VAT account; all export and import documents.
VAT registered business will need to complete and return a VAT return form every quarter (4 times a year). This will include details of the following: what you owe or are owed by HMRC; what you have paid any supplier; what you have charged any customers.
Whatever kind of business you are setting up, getting to grips early on with your records can ensure that your first year of trade runs as smoothly as possible. With modern computing and accessible data programmes, it is easier than ever to produce a bookkeeping system which works for you and your business.