I can’t believe that I find myself in the same position this year as last year; except this time without deluding myself that I’ve made more progress than I have. I’m talking about the task freelancers seldom prioritise; doing the books. So the picture above represents the current state of affairs for 2012-13; yes a random box of receipts. Last year I was absolutely convinced that I had begun the task, I went through the shelves looking for the lever arch file marked ‘FM Consultancy 2011-12’ and continued searching the hard drive for the spreadsheet I was adamant I had started. To no avail because of course I had only done the exercise in my head!
Now I can’t pretend that the quantum of income and expenditure for an average FM Consultancy year is anything significant. In fact last year it was half what it was 5-6 years ago; sadly the international work I used to do for the British Council and Council of Europe dried up some time ago. In the context of transparency in the public sector the reality is it depends on who you know in the commissioning organisation; we all seek to do business with people we know and trust – I guess this is a form of risk management plus the added bonus of being able to work with ones friends (who largely work unsupervised).
Attempting to multitask (and justify having lunch in Starbucks) both Ruby (and looking down) and I have a little dusting of flour as it is impossible not to breathe when biting into a Panini! (And at 230pm ones in built vibrate mode is just limbering up – a perfect time to finish of a Victoria Sponge with icing sugar). Exhaling (whilst eating)therefore becomes a form of decoration akin to an unintentional Jackson Pollock. Oh the downside of a fulsome bosom; said appendages also hamper performance, when having to bend double over Ruby, when my brother (currently working in China) dials me up on Skype! Having a conversation in a public place is far from ideal especially without headphones hence leaning close to the screen to hear what he’s saying. The internet speed wasn’t quite sufficient to support the video call so I happily turned that function off as frankly he didn’t need quite to be forced into such a close examination of my less than perfect front teeth! Yes I know I should floss more frequently!
Tackling the drawer of till receipts I recalled why it was so full given that business is a little quiet at present; yes I had decided to be a responsible adult and tick the transactions off the bank/credit card statements. Momentarily I toyed with only doing the most recent ones but concluded that as I had to separate out the ones I needed from the rest, plus I had bothered to collect them, I should complete the exercise! Goodbye to 3-4 hours of my life I’ll never see again; and I know if I took the next logic step of stopping paper statements being delivered I’d no doubt use this as a further reason not to keep track of expenditure! This I know to be true as there were of course no slips for on line purchases.
Colleagues who are freelancers buy into a service that includes them sending in an envelope of receipts every month for the accountancy service to deal with. Whilst I don’t doubt this is attractive I don’t feel I can justify paying someone else to do this given the diminutive entity I laughingly call a business but as we know size is not everything and we, the little people, contribute disproportionately to the economy. Previously I have written how I pay more in tax than I receive in Disability Living Allowance apropos the government crack down on ‘scammers’; sadly I suspect I will be unable to continue occupying this moral high ground for much longer – through no fault of my own I hasten to add Mr Osbourne. However unencumbered one is by a private income via a trust fund I not intend to humiliate myself quite yet by applying for income (or rather lack of) related benefits. Living in a small town I am suspicious of being assessed by local employment service people when everyone does know everyone else both directly and indirectly.
When cajoled into seeing if I might be eligible for a disabled facilities grant for a downstairs loo I did approach the Council. During a conversation with a member of staff about my income over the last few years it was gobsmacking to receive the response of ‘you mean all that’s for you’ after revealing my accounts. Shocking for a single childless woman to be actually be generating that scale of income! OK that was in the good years but even so I wasn’t getting anywhere need triggering the VAT threshold (c£52-57,000 at the time). The conversation was needless to say terminated fairly swiftly after that revelation as we both concluded there was little point applying for assistance.
On the matter of VAT there was one year when I did have a turnover just in excess of the threshold on account of holding a client’s money which was paid to sub contractors. Unbeknownst to me Customs and Excise had been trying to contact me for months even apparently coming to the house before they finally got hold of my accountant via HMRC. Curiously tax correspondence had been received but nothing from Customs and Excise; because the letters (and attendant officers) had been sent to the house next door! I was frankly intrigued and a little appalled that FM Consultancy merited such disproportionate investigation; I guess in some cases size does matter especially when you add in a potential ‘scammer’ into the mix!
My business focuses on strategic and other forms of planning, the benefits and rewards thereof so why do I seem to have a blind spot in terms of keeping on top of my books? When at my parents’ house recently my Dad gave me an envelope of papers and certificates including some old school reports. Perhaps there were clues as to this underlying behaviour? A shocking lack of attention to detail per chance..of which more later!
A teaser to whet your appetite..