By Max Clarke

Free tools to help SMEs get their business records ship shape were launched today by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The four new products are suitable for the self employed, sole traders and small businesses. They have been produced in advance of the launch of HMRC’s new Business Record Checks programme later this year, which will impose penalties for significant record-keeping failures.

Brian Redford, HMRC’s Acting Director, Business Customer Unit, said:

“In these tough times, keeping good records makes sound business sense.

“It may seem like a challenge, particularly when you’re starting out, but keeping good records will bring real advantages to your business. Get a proper system in place and you’ll not only be confident that you are paying the right tax, but you’ll keep up-to-date with how much you owe suppliers and how much you are owed.

Over the next four years HMRC intends to target 150,000 businesses, punishing any with missing or incomplete records and expecting to raise millions in the process. The move has been received as hypocrisy by the Forum for Private Business and by members of the UK200Group of lawyers and accountants, as the government is removing barriers to business in order to foster the private sector recovery, at the same time as announcing their decision to punish all minor errors in bookkeeping.

“Later this year, HMRC will start a programme of Business Records Checks that will look at the adequacy and accuracy of business records in SMEs to bring about a major improvement in the standard of record-keeping. Now is the time to invest a bit of effort to make sure your business records are perfect.”

There is something for everyone — from basic factsheets to online tools:

* Keeping records for business:
What you need to know: a basic guide with a helpful list of where to get more information.

* A general guide to keeping records for your tax return:
Detailed guidance on record-keeping covering what type of records you may have to keep, common problems and examples for different types of business.

* Set-up a basic record-keeping system:
With examples of spreadsheets and information about setting up a record-keeping system.

* Find out what records you should be keeping:
Looks at the records you need to keep and assesses how well you are keeping them. If you are thinking of starting business the tool provides you with a checklist. If you are established it will give feedback and advice on improvements you may need to make.