I never thought I’d find myself getting excited over a book about keeping accounts but James Smith’s Keeping It Simple: Small Business Bookkeeping, Self-Assessment & VAT is definitely a book to get excited about. Isn’t it funny how sometimes you find that exactly what you need lands on your lap at exactly the right moment? This is what has happened to me – this book is exactly what I was hoping the ‘Managing Your Finances’ course would be but sadly wasn’t. It explains in an incredibly easy to understand way the types of records you need to keep, how to fill out forms such as the Self-Assessment for self-employed, and makes tricky subjects such as VAT seem a lot less scary.
The first part of the book is mostly aimed at sole traders, though I still found the simple explanation of bookkeeping records extremely relevant to our business (which is a limited company). Then to make me even happier there is a section on ‘Accounting for Limited Companies’ which explains some of the additional records that a company needs to keep. I’ve never seen such a clear explanation of a director’s loan account! There is then a fairly extensive section on VAT with some excellent advice to help you decide whether you should register for VAT or not (it doesn’t just boil down to how much your turnover is). Finally, the book ends with some general advice on small business issues – accounting software, taking on an employee, and choosing a bookkeeper or accountant.
I suppose I should say that the book doesn’t cover absolutely everything, however it’s not setting out to. If it had it would have become overly complicated like a lot of other accounting books. Instead it sets out just enough to get you started and gives you pointers as to what else you may need to find out about. It is nice and clearly laid out, with lots of example spreadsheets and uses case studies to help explain different scenarios.
The book’s blurb starts with “This plain-English guide is essential reading for all small business owners” and I couldn’t agree more. I wish that I’d had a copy when I was first starting out, it would definitely have helped me get my accounts on a firm footing, but even a few years down the line it’s clarified some issues for me and given me an idea of how I can improve my accounts in a managing the business context rather than just essential records for tax purposes.