Friday 3 June 2011

Help for the clergy

Being married to a parish priest, I have first-hand experience of the daily working lives of the clergy. It's not uncommon to find that the person who has been "trained and ordained" to be a pastoral support, a liturgical leader, a preacher and a carer of souls is also, by default, required to be an accountant, administrator, legal advisor and business manager. If none of those roles has ever featured in their professional lives before, the pressure can be enormous, and the help of an organiser and declutterer can be of great benefit.

I was thrilled to receive this testimonial from one such client that I worked with some months ago.

I have benefitted greatly from the advice and support you gave during your stay here. Further to the work we did together I have reordered my study by taking out some surplus shelves, moved the desks and created a sitting area which is calm and restful – perfect for seeing people for conversation, saying the Office or reading.

There have been periods when the paperwork has looked menacing, but now I am beginning to learn that if you allow a little time for the new system to do its work, the volume is broken down into manageable chunks. It also reveals when there is simply too much asking to be done – far better to acknowledge this and do what one can than harbour an unrealistic expectation that somehow it can be done.

All of this has happened since you came – change which is both physical and psychological, so thank you.

And better still, a more recent email confirms that things are still on track:

Life is good here – incredibly busy at the moment, but working on helping people share responsibility so it bodes well for the long term.

I was privileged to be given the opportunity to help in this way.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Tax - a nasty surprise?

I was so sad today to catch up with some local news. Our small sub-post office (tiny area, nine villages, 1,400-population) had been experiencing difficult times; and sadly the postmaster has been jailed for mis-appropriating funds from the business.

One of the personal bills quoted as causing him difficulty was his tax bill. We all know how nasty these can be. When I first worked for myself, 'way back in 1997, I had a highly unpleasant time dealing with my first tax bill: I simply hadn't understood the whole setup and what I would be required to pay (including the need to pay in advance to cover the next bill). Having got through that by the skin of my teeth, I swore never to get caught out like that again - and I haven't.

We all have unexpected bills to deal with. The car breaks down at the most inconvenient time; petrol costs escalate; oil prices go through the roof; the computer dies. None of these can be predicted. However, the tax bill can and should be predictable; and anybody who has income that is not covered by PAYE needs to get that prediction right.

It isn't rocket science. Put simply, any business, small or large, has income. It has expenditure. The first sum minus the second shows the profit (or loss) of that business. You're allowed to earn a certain amount before you are taxed on it. The rest is taxed. That's pretty much it.

After that nasty shock, back in 1997, I set up a spreadsheet for myself. I entered all my client income, all business-specific expenditure (e.g. rail fares), and a pro-rata calculation for expenses that were part personal, part business (e.g. mobile phone). With a couple of automatic sums, I can see at any time how much money I should have stashed away ready for the next tax bill; and for the last few years, I've always been prepared within a few pounds of the actual total.

You might be having kittens at the very thought. If book-keeping isn't your thing, then hire a book-keeper. If you can't bear to touch your accounts at all, you need a fully-fledged accountant. However, if you think you could do it yourself, but don't know how, get me or some other similar business to show you.

But never, never let that 'scary' bill be scary again. Life throws enough unknowns at us; give yourself a better chance of dealing with those by being in control of the known quantities.

Please. Do it for you. And if you need my help, contact me today.