Anna’s Simple Accounting Guides

Posted: 2nd December 2014

My aim is to empower small business owners so that they feel they can do something themselves rather than always passing their figure work to their accountant. Says Anna Goodwin from

I knew I wanted these guides to be easy to follow and therefore I bought a children’s book – Maths Made Easy – to give me some ideas.  I was disappointed to say the least!  The whole book was full of grey writing and formulae that couldn’t have been more off-putting.  The only saving grace was the page of gold star stickers at the front of the book!

I know from public speaking that a lot of small business owners still remember their maths lessons with horror.    I knew there wasn’t any point in writing a guide that reminded people of their old school text books so I left it for a while and waited for some ideas to come…

In the meantime, my friend, Shirley Harvey decided to emigrate to Canada for a few years.  Before she went she gave me a gift – a children’s book, Tear Up This Book, and that was it, my ideas for my bank reconciliation guide came fast and easily.  Coincidentally Shirley also became the illustrator of my guides.

My aim was to make my guides flow in a relaxed way as I know there is a lot of fear and bewilderment when people try something new, especially where figures are concerned.  Sometimes when I first meet a potential client I use diagrams to explain what I mean.  These are always understood far better than words.

So having started, literally, tearing up the book and picking up ideas, I decided to go for it.   When I started to write Accountants Don’t Bite, my first book, the first thing I did was to prepare a mind map but this didn’t feel right for this kind of book.  Hence, I got myself comfortable on the settee with my blanket and started to draw.  I used the pad of A3 paper and felt tip pens I share with my niece, Daisy.  It was fantastic fun!  I have always loved colour and being able to use it for work was great!  It’s always good for us, when we allow ourselves to play, isn’t it?

I have been an accountant for nearly 30 years – time flies! – and in that time I have prepared a few bank reconciliations .  I had to put myself in the shoes of someone who hadn’t prepared a bank reconciliation before or someone who was nervous of trying again after being previously unsuccessful the last time.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is always enlightening, don’t you think?

I knew that for me, when I first started training as an accountant, the colour of the pens were important as well as having a ruler.  So I included these straight away on the list of what you will need.  I am a great believer in taking regular tea breaks so that also went on the list.  Sometimes, even a couple of minutes away from something we’re struggling with will do the trick.  We then go back and tackle something with renewed vigour!

I made a start surrounded by bank statements, A3 paper and coloured pens.  What fun!

The result is a clear, easy to follow, step-by-step guide to producing a bank reconciliation.  But why do I need to do that, I hear you ask. Isn’t that what I pay my accountant to do?  To be honest, a lot of small businesses, sole-traders and directors of limited companies do this.  But if you don’t ever do one then you never have a good idea of exactly how much you can spend or how much your actual bank balance is.  If you don’t have an accurate figure then you can’t forecast in order to highlight the highs and lows of your cash flow.  Also if you don’t keep an eye on your bank account you will not know if the bank has made any mistakes – it does happen – and also you won’t have a good idea of which customers haven’t paid you.  Very important!

So, to summarise, a reconciled bank statement gives you:

  • A clear picture of how much of the bank statement balance you can pay out
  • Greater knowledge of the financial side of your business

Stress Free Tax Returns

So here I am back on the settee with my blanket and pad of A3 paper  and about to start writing my second guide – Stress Free tax Returns – Be better prepared for HMRC and know what to give your accountant and when.

I have been trading now for 10 years – I have sole-trader clients as well as limited companies, partnerships and charities.  The common theme for clients, that I have spotted, is that they struggle to know what to give their accountant.  They don’t know where to start!  Sound familiar?  I have noticed over the years that some very simple tips can make all the difference.

So I decided that I would write a guide on what it actually means when an accountant asks for your books.  When you put yourself in the shoes of someone who isn’t an accountant it’s an odd statement isn’t it?  What books are these – library books? Weird really!

By writing this guide, as an accountant , my aim is for you to have advice you can rely on rather than someone you’ve met down the pub!  I’ve lost count of the amount of times potential clients have come out with an outlandish  theory and I have asked why they think that’s the case and they say so and so told me down the pub.  Scary really that the gap is so wide between small businesses and HMRC that they would rather do this.  This guide aims to redress the balance.

Anyway I got myself settled and started to think about what you would need to do and how to make the process easier.  Of course it’s always easier with a system in place.  Separation of income and expenditure is useful so that’s where I started.  What do you need to give your accountant – in what format and what period.

I think we all like stories don’t we?  so I introduced Alan, a builder and Bert, a painter and decorator so that they can help us move forward and sort out the information needed.

This guide gives a clear, easy to follow, step-by-step guide to giving your accountant what they need or if you want to have a go yourself then this helps you see what you will need in clear words and pictures.

But why should  I do that, I hear you ask. Isn’t that what I pay my accountant to do?  Can’t I just continue to dump everything in a plastic bag (sometimes with no handle), in no order at all and pass it to my accountant as late as possible in January?  Of course you can and I’m sure there will always be people who chose to do this.

But what do you get from doing it this way?  It means it’s all rushed and you won’t have any idea what your profit or loss is until 10 months after you have finished trading.  Knowing the result of that year won’t be any use to you by then!  Also you will have no idea of what tax you need to pay.  I have had a client say to me in mid January but how can I find £6k to pay HMRC by the end of the month?!

So, to summarise, knowing what to give your accountant and by when will give you:

  • A clearer picture of what is included in your tax return
  • Less last minute rushing about
  • Advance warning of how much tax you have to pay

I have really enjoyed working on these guides and giving small business owners tools to use to move their business forward.

The first guides will be out later this month and I’m sure you’ll love them.

  • Stress Free Tax Returns – Be better prepared for HMRC and know what to give your accountant and when.
  • The Quick and Easy Guide to Bank Reconciliations – Get to grips with your cash flow and know what goes where and why.

Please keep up to date with the guides and what Alan and Bert are up to by liking my Facebook author page.

My next two guides are

  • Budgets:  Simple and easy to understand
  • Sole-trader or Limited company?  Which to choose, why and the pitfalls of both.

Are there any other aspects of finance you would like simplified?  If yes then please get in touch.