At Claimer, we want to help all start-ups grow and thrive. When you’re just starting out, the amount of information out there about what you should be doing can be overwhelming. As such, we’ve boiled down 7 top tips to get you started as an early-stage start-up in the UK.
1 – Create your company yourself
There are many companies and accountants that will charge you hundreds of pounds to create a limited company. However, in the UK, you can set up a limited company yourself for as little as £12 directly with Companies House. To create your company, go to Companies House and follow the instructions.
Claimer’s handy tip – When setting the ‘share capital’ of your new company, make sure it’s a low amount, typically £1. This is because to make shareholdings in your company official, you need to pay the company for the full value of the shares (see point 2).
2 – Get business-banking as soon as possible
We recommend setting up a business-only bank account straight after you set up your limited company. This will ensure all your business transactions are separated from your personal transactions, which makes it much easier to manage your business finances.
If you’re OK with only one of your team having full access to the account, then a ‘challenger bank’ is the quickest way to get started. The popular choices are Tide, Starling, Revolut, and Monzo - at Claimer we’ve tried all of them and have found Starling to be the best of the bunch for startup businesses.
However if you need multiple user access, we recommend using a more traditional bank like Metro, HSBC, Natwest, Barclays, Lloyds, or Royal Bank of Scotland.
Claimer’s handy tip – If you are a non EU/UK Citizen, setting up a UK bank account can take weeks. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to set one up.
3 – Be wise, use TransferWise
If you need to make occasional foreign currency transactions, we recommend using TransferWise. It’s usually the cheapest and simplest way to send money overseas for one-off transactions.
Claimer’s handy tip – Don’t make regular foreign transactions with traditional banks. This costs you a lot of money compared to TransferWise.
4 – Set up your accountancy software
Keeping track of your business finances can be difficult. We recommend using a combination of Xero and Receipt Bank to keep you informed.
Use Xero to find out how your business is performing financially. You can raise invoices, track your transactions from bank feeds, file your staff’s monthly payroll and pensions and submit your companies VAT returns. It’s quite easy to use and Xero provides lots of free training resources.
Receipt Bank is a handy platform that keeps digital copies of invoices. What’s more, they use clever software to enter invoices and receipts into your accounting systems automatically, saving your accountant bags of time. The app lets you take photos of invoices and receipts on your phone.
Claimer’s handy tip – If you’re using a service like Receipt Bank, you don’t need to keep paper copies of invoices. Once a receipt or invoice has been processed by Receipt Bank, you can throw it away.
5 – Claim back your VAT
After registering for VAT, you can claim back the VAT you pay on expenses, including contractor companies, rent, business trips and computers.
When you should actually register is a big enough subject for another article, but generally if your startup is business-to-business (B2B), and you start spending a significant amount on any of the above expenses, it’s a good idea to register as soon as you can. For business-to-consumer startups it’s a trade-off between being able to reclaim VAT on your expenses, and adding 20% to the pricing of your product(s), and usually it’s better to wait.
You can register for VAT before you start making sales at https://www.gov.uk/vat-registration/how-to-register.
Claimer’s handy tip – You can claim back VAT up to 4 years before your registration date for goods and six months for services. You can even claim back VAT on things you brought personally if you sell them to your business.
6 – Share your shares
Giving shares to co-founders and team members can create significant tax charges. If you give shares to employees, directors or close family, they could be taxed on the difference between what they pay for the shares and their market value.
To reduce this tax charge, you can transfer the shares when they’re worth very little (i.e. pre-investment). In the future, when your company is more established, you may want to set up a tax-advantaged share scheme such as an EMI scheme.
Claimer’s handy tip – Plan ahead with shares. The longer you leave it, the more likely that someone is going to have to pay a large tax bill.
7 – Claim your R&D costs back
Under the R&D scheme, you can claim up to 33% of certain costs related to innovative activities your business has undertaken. What counts as innovative is generally pretty broad, you don’t need to own the IP, and in some cases replicating what your competitors are doing counts.
You can claim on salaries, contractor fees, software and materials that have been used as part of R&D. According to the latest figures, the average claim a company gets back is over £55,000 in cash. This can be a real boost to an early stage start-up. Many R&D specialists have minimum expenditure levels to take on claims, which often precludes early stage start-ups from claiming. But that’s where Claimer is a bit different - we’re set up to help early stage startups as we have no minimum spend and you can complete your claim in as little as 45 minutes.
The Claimer process starts with an eligibility quiz, to help work out if you qualify. You can then sign up to our platform, where we’ve created a simple process to make your claim. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know anything about accounting or R&D tax credits to use it.
If you have any questions, feel free to send us a message on the live chat (bottom right), or send us an email.
If your startup is thinking about making a claim, you can sign-up for free here.