Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community
Retail » Money talk

Money Talk: Being limited... part two

When you trade as a sole trader or as part of a partnership, strictly speaking you do not have to prepare or send a copy of your business accounts anywhere! That may surprise some operators who've always assumed that they were paying their accountants to do just that, and we'd be the last people to recommend trying to run a business without preparing annual accounts (at the very least). However, the accounts are only used to establish the owner's income. Obviously if HMRC questions the income that is declared by an individual, it is useful (to say the least) to have a proper set of accounts to support what you're telling them.

Money Talk: Limited knowledge of running a company

As accountants specialising in several retail sectors (forecourt, convenience, hospitality and even opticians' practices) we're involved in a great many new business start-ups. In recent years, a large proportion of these new businesses have come under the generic heading of franchises, and it's quite routine for franchise-type businesses to be operated through limited companies. Naturally, many people taking such franchises have already been running small businesses of their own for some time usually as sole traders. But we find that there's a considerable amount of confusion, and many misapprehensions, concerning the practical differences between working as a sole trader (or in partnership), and suddenly being a 'director' of their own company. So if you're in the position of considering a 'franchise'-type operation, or are about to start trading in a limited company set up, here are some of the basic distinctions to be aware of:

Money Talk: A very thin line between trading and disaster

Readers who occasionally watch any of the documentary channels on TV might be familiar with the warnings that our highly-automated and interlinked society is really rather fragile. One large solar flare or a heavy ice-storm, and power supplies and communications links suddenly fail, bringing normal activities to a grinding halt. It doesn't necessarily take a global catastrophe to prove just how much we rely on technology for things to work smoothly, the lack of immediate alternative fall-back positions and the consequent chaos if the technology fails. A recent incident at one client's place was far less dramatic, but still provides a small-scale illustration.

Money Talk: Whatever happened to our 'flexible friend'?

Every retailer reading Jac Roper's page in last month's issue should have been horrified by the prospect of a major electronic funds transfer (EFT) processor changing their debit card handling fees from a 'per transaction' cost to a percentage of turnover. That's because this was an attack on one of the few payment options available to fuel retailers which wasn't subject to the punitive 'turnover tax' based on pump prices levied by the card companies, or the high costs of cash-handling charged by the High Street banks.

Money Talk: Budget 2013: did you even notice it?

After what went down in history as the 'omnishambles Budget' of 2012, the contents of which had been leaked in advance all over the media only to be embarrassingly reversed in the following few weeks, this year's effort was at least kept pretty closely guarded right up to March 20. According to some of the more cynical commentators, the reason why there was little advance disclosure this time around was really quite straightforward even the Chancellor himself had no idea what he was going to be able to put into Budget 2013, since his economic options were so limited. With that background, perhaps it was not surprising that the March 2013 Budget speech was one of the shortest in memory, and provided relatively little real news for the next day's papers. However, in case you missed it, or have forgotten it already, here are a few of the main points that might affect you and your business.

Money Talk: Outstanding campaign from the VAT office

It sounds almost friendly doesn't it? No hint of a threat of any big investigation into your financial affairs, or any penalties. But don't be complacent about it. For all of the soft PR in which this campaign's been cloaked, there's still an iron fist within the velvet glove, and if your VAT accounting isn't up to date, you could find yourself in big trouble.

Money Talk: Pantomime season is extended to September

At almost the last minute, the government cancelled this month's intended rise in fuel duty. The pressure groups and special interest lobbies claimed a victory; George Osborne looks like a politician who's listening to 'the people'; the petrol retail industry avoids another rise in costs; and consumers avoid another hammering that they could barely afford. Everyone's a winner. It was the right result, so why does it still feel like a ridiculous way to deal with something as important as the price of a basic commodity that is essential to a 21st century economy? Perhaps it's because we've now seen this pantomime several times a year recently and, according to the official timetable, we're due for yet another performance in the run-up to the next scheduled duty rise on September 1.

Money Talk: Forecourt pay rates rose 1.1% to September 2012

There are several ways of trying to establish 'average' pay rates in an industry or area. You can ask employers what they pay their staff or you can ask employees what they receive. Or you can do what we've been doing every year since 1998 examine the payroll data that PAYEPeople process on behalf of hundreds of forecourt operators across the UK and work out the real hourly pay rates that were being paid to thousands of individual employees.

Money Talk: Beware hype, spin and selective statistics

You've read the headlines: 'Fuel sales plummet by 500 million litres' and the like, based on figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Naturally these headlines have prompted the inevitable cries of doom from the usual suspects, to the effect that it's all down to fuel pricing in general and fuel duty in particular, and Something Must Be Done!

Money Talk: Don't expect the OFT to solve all your problems

No doubt many of you will have been pleased by two recent pieces of news the Office of Fair Trading's announcement of another investigation into UK retail fuel pricing, and the Energy Minister's pledge to refer the workings of the international fuel price mechanisms to the Financial Services Authority.

Money Talk: Find out why you spend so much time in the red

This subject just won't go away it's a discussion that takes place on so many forecourts when dealers receive their latest management accounts: "You're telling me that my business is profitable, but I never have any cash, and my bank account is always overdrawn. One of us must be getting something wrong." The reality is, of course, that neither is wrong. It's entirely possible for a business to operate with normal levels of profit, but suffer from poor cash flow.

Money Talk: Making business bank accounts work for you

The banks have taken quite a kicking in the past few years but one has to feel sympathy for the hard-pressed customer-facing staff working in the High Street branches. Their numbers culled annually in the cause of 'efficiency', they've had to take the brunt of customer complaints about policies and practices that were devised by the directors who pocketed annual salaries and bonuses 50, 100, or 500 times their salaries. The people, for example, who had to work weekends when one of the largest banks in the UK effectively 'froze' the accounts of thousands of customers for a week or two because their IT department forgot the basic rules of any upgrade to business-critical systems.

Lonesome George and the fuel duty Balls-up...

Throughout June there was endless speculation in the media over whether the government would stick with its planned fuel duty increase on August 1. At the same time, with crude oil prices having fallen from a peak of around $130 a barrel earlier in the year to around $90, pump prices had fallen steadily to a point where 'mainstream' retail sites in some areas had started selling unleaded petrol at below 130ppl. It seemed pretty obvious that the lower commodity price gave the perfect cover for a tax rise. And, since the Chancellor had already performed so many U-turns reversing Budget announcements that he must be feeling dizzy, surely this was one tax increase that would go ahead, regardless of unpopularity?

Eggs, baskets and book-keeping systems...

The panic in the lady's voice was hard to miss. She had a VAT return to complete and file with HMRC in a matter of days, but all of her book-keeping data had 'gone'. Gone as in completely un-recoverable from a laptop PC that had been left sitting on a coffee table at her home when the property was flooded in a flash flood. Fortunately she'd left the original paperwork back in the office at her site. The monthly 'Z' reports were easily obtainable from the POS system. And the purchase invoices for the last few months were still sitting in the office, waiting to be filed. A few days' work and she would be able to compile a reasonably correct VAT return, albeit one that would be missing some of the detailed information from petty-cash transactions that had been recorded on the PC. Immediate panic over, but more headaches and hard work to follow.

Time for an 'OfPet'?

The recent fuel-crisis-that-never-was proved interesting for a number of reasons. Government ministers advising consumers to buy jerry cans and hoard petrol at home was merely the most amusing but at least it served to highlight just how important the petroleum retail industry is to the normal functioning of everyday life. Important is too mild a word 'essential' or 'vital' are more appropriate adjectives. In a society and economy like ours, the continuing availability of motor fuel is hardly any less important than the continued supply of water, gas, electricity and telecommunications links. Sever any of these for more than a few hours and watch life as we know it start to disintegrate.

Forecourt stores are still really hooked on tobacco

Every retailer has been aware for many months of the impending ban on tobacco displays in 'large' stores those over 280sq m or 3,000sq ft which comes into effect on April 6 in England, and on October 6 in Northern Ireland. At the time of writing it was still unclear precisely when the ban would be applied in Scotland or Wales.

Paper-less trail

== EFT payments bunch up - what's your experience? ==

My Account

You are not logged in.
  • Weekly
    Retail
  • Weekly
    wholesale
  • Daily
    Average
Weekly retail fuel prices: 2 October 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East120.5363.90127.17119.00
East Midlands120.03127.76118.80
London120.3757.90128.81118.85
North East119.80129.71118.46
North West120.19127.87118.63
Northern Ireland119.22125.23117.53
Scotland120.2463.80126.78118.50
South East120.7259.90129.39119.48
South West120.39128.00119.02
Wales120.0459.90126.47118.61
West Midlands120.0865.90128.12118.84
Yorkshire & Humber119.73127.02118.57

Most read

As many forecourt operators continue their quest for expansion - driving up forecourt prices - could you be tempted to sell your business?