By Daniel Hunter

Despite the looming deadline of financial year-end, more than one in four small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) (27%) admit they do not set aside the money they need to cover tax liabilities, according to new research commissioned by British Gas.

One in five SMEs (19%) say they have lost out financially at year-end by not properly preparing, with many businesses citing a lack of affordable and simple support as a barrier to properly closing their books.

The research reveals that:

· More than half (54%) of SMEs think the support available for financial year-end is confusing and expensive
· Nearly a third of SMEs (30%) say they are concerned about incurring unexpected debt by not properly preparing for year-end
· Two in five (40%) SMEs say they are worried about being fined for not meeting their obligations
· More than a quarter (27%) say they are concerned that not being prepared for financial year-end could lead to them going out of business

In response, British Gas is have announced a unique partnership combining its experience as the largest supplier of energy to UK SMEs with the financial expertise of Business Debtline and the business growth advice of Enterprise Nation. Together, they have created a free online toolkit to support businesses with advice on topics including closing a financial year, creating a business plan and tips on how to reduce energy costs.

Stephen Beynon, Managing Director at British Gas, said: “SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and their success will play a crucial role in creating the UK’s future jobs and growth.

“However, from listening to the concerns of our small business customers we know that many feel it hard to find and access help to help them meet their financial and legal obligations. By working with Enterprise Nation and Business Debtline, we are confident that we can help small businesses across Britain cut unnecessary costs, time and stress spent on the admin involved in running a business, giving them more time to focus on the things that will help them grow.”

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation, said: "The best performing businesses are those that achieve financial fitness by innovating to increase sales, managing costs and keeping on top of the books so amounts to pay at year-end don't come as an unwelcome surprise.

“There is help on hand from accountants and software packages, but there's more to be done in bringing this support to the attention of small business owners. This is what we're looking to achieve with British Gas. This partnership will provide businesses with the tools and advice they need to keep their business running smoothly throughout the year, meaning their energies can be focused on success and growth, rather than rushing to close their books at year-end."

Nicola Connop, from Business Debtline said: “Getting a young business into a sustainable financial position requires not only skills of the trade, but also business skills. In tough times when many people are looking to turn their trade skills into small business success, or just trying to ensure a steady income, the value of real business acumen cannot be understated.

“Simply mastering the basics such as preparing for financial year end can be the difference between a business surviving and failing. The good news is that help is available, even for those in serious difficulty. Business Debtline offers free, impartial advice that can help your business get back on the road to success.”

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