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Auto Enrolment: what does it mean for you?

Automatic enrolment (or auto enrolment) is government legislation that requires all UK employers to enrol certain staff into a workplace pension scheme and make contributions, starting on their staging date.

With an ageing population, the Government is implementing this legislation to help more people save for retirement. However, this means employers now have the responsibility to enrol certain employees in pension schemes and administer them on their behalf.

With UK Payroll in Xero coming soon we thought this was a good time to share some details on Auto Enrolment and how it will work in Xero.

When will auto enrolment affect you?

Your business must comply with the auto enrolment legislation by your staging date. You can find out the staging date for your company using The Pension Regulator’s staging date tool.

Staging dates are being phased in over a six-year period, and have been set based on the size of employer’s PAYE Scheme on 1 April 2012. Companies with a large number of employees had the earliest staging dates (e.g. those with 120,000+ employees staged in October 2012), and smaller businesses will start between now and 2018.

Modified staging dates

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has stated that businesses can now change their staging date. You can bring forward your date by notifying TPR, or you can also move your staging date back to a later date if you:

  • had fewer than 50 staff on 1 April 2012; and
  • had, or were part of, a PAYE scheme that has more than 50 people in it.

The original staging dates for small employers who had fewer than 30 employees were set as soon as June 2015. The modified staging dates indicate that those who were originally set to stage at March 2015 or later, can now stage in April 2017 (or later, if you are an employer who set up after 1 April 2012).

Original staging date Date you can choose to move to
1 October 2012 and 1 November 2012 1 August 2015
1 January 2013 and 1 February 2013 1 October 2015
1 March 2013 and 1 April 2013 1 January 2016
1 May 2013 and 1 June 2013 1 February 2016
1 July 2013 and 1 August 2013 1 March 2016
1 September 2013 and 1 October 2013 1 April 2016
1 November 2013 and 1 January 2014 1 May 2016
1 February 2014 and 1 April 2014 1 July 2016
1 May 2014 and 1 July 2014 1 September 2016
1 August 2014 and 1 October 2014 1 November 2016
1 November 2014 and 1 January 2015 1 February 2017
1 March 2015 and 1 April 2015 1 April 2017

Modified staging dates for some small employers from The Pensions Regulator

TPR has issued modified staging dates, and for the vast majority of small businesses this means they don’t have to comply until 2017, and have no legal requirement to even notify The Pensions Regulator that they have moved their staging date.

Continue reading ›


Six tips to strengthen client relationships (part 1/2)

The relationship between an accountant and their SMB-owner clients is a very special one. It’s built on mutual trust and respect. The accountant can provide the best advice when they see the full picture of business and personal affairs. So clients share information that is often private and very sensitive with their accountant. It’s important that they feel that their secrets will be respected.

After many years as an accountant to SMB-owners, a lot of these clients became my friends. The business relationship becomes more fulfilling, beneficial and rewarding for everyone as it strengthens. The client gets better advice and better service. For the accountant, client churn can be greatly reduced and the lifetime value of that client can increase.

Here are the first three of six ways you can improve client relationships. Check back next week for the rest of the tips.

1. First impressions

It is better to be feared than loved, according to Nicollo Machiavelli, 16th century politician and philosopher. Five hundred years ago, Machiavelli identified what 21st century psychologists have confirmed – fearsomeness and lovability are the two dominant dimensions we use in social judgement. These are also the principal characteristics we evaluate when we form impressions of others.

This can be applied to accountant-client relationships. In the 21st century the characteristic of fearsomeness is displayed as technical competence, personal influence, positional power, inner strength and intensity. Lovability is displayed as personal warmth, approachability, trustworthiness and being nonjudgmental. Studies show that when people form first impressions they make judgements about agreeableness faster than they do about fearsomeness. So for any professional, a prospective client will ‘feel’ your warmth (or lack of it) before they pick up on your technical competence.

2. The two most important attributes for accountants

Recently, I did some research to find the most important attributes for accountants. I found that both clients and accountants value the same attributes. Both groups regard agreeableness (lovability) and technical competence (fearsomeness) as the most important attributes for accountants. Both groups also put a higher value on agreeableness than on technical competence.

Agreeableness is the pipeline of influence. It helps strengthen relationships and helps build trust. Displays of agreeableness and warmth can strengthen the connection with clients through clearer understanding of goals and desired outcomes.

Accountants can use this knowledge to help strengthen their relationships with clients by building on the clients’ natural desire to affiliate, to be listened to and to be understood. A conscious effort should be made to build rapport and to empathise with the client whenever you are meeting with them. Trying to impress them with your technical knowledge should wait until rapport has been built. Displaying technical competence before warmth can lead to a lack of trust and failure to commit, so it is important to show warmth (lovability) before competence (fearsomeness).

3. How to display warmth

So just how can accountants (or any business person, for that matter) project warmth and agreeability?

  • One way to project warmth is by lowering the pitch and volume of your voice. Lowering your tone suggests that you are sharing confidences, which shows you trust the listener.
  • Sharing personal stories can be another way of projecting warmth. Perhaps you could talk about some of your own experiences as an SMB owner. Again this demonstrates your openness and sets a tone of equality in the relationship.
  • Demonstrate a shared world view through something that you can agree on. It doesn’t really matter what the subject of the agreement is; it could be how great the economy is at the moment, the worries of managing employees or the successes of the the local football team. Many accountants and their clients have a lot of common ground upon which to build rapport through each being SMBs. Sharing experiences will help build empathy.
  • A genuine smile projects warmth. It is always easier to do this when you are in a good mood. People with high emotional intelligence (EQ) have the skill to raise their mood level when required. One effective way of doing this is to spend time immediately prior to your meeting actively recalling some happy memories.
  • Good body language helps you maintain your positive feelings. An open posture will be relaxing and welcoming. Ensure your hands are open rather than curled or closed into fists. Keep your chin up or ensure that your body is turned toward your client.


Getting ready for New Zealand Payroll in Xero

We’re getting ready to bring New Zealand Payroll in Xero to life! Soon we’ll be offering a seamless online payroll and accounting experience for our New Zealand customers.

Changing payroll software is a big decision, so we want to share details on what you should expect. This will make it easier than ever for you to process your payroll, stay compliant, pay your employees and report to the Inland Revenue.

Integrated accounting and payroll

With New Zealand Payroll in Xero, information from payroll seamlessly flows into your accounts – eliminating manual data entry and processing. In short, it’s designed to help make running your business easy.

We’ve built beautiful, smart payroll that’s easy to implement and can be used from anywhere. We’ve designed the experiences for businesses with less than twenty employees. If you work with your accountant or bookkeeper they can be invited in to manage payroll for you. Or you can invite someone in to manage payroll without seeing the rest of the business financials.


New Zealand payroll overview


New Zealand Payroll in Xero features

New Zealand payroll supports Small & Large employers for Inland Revenue reporting & filing obligations. You can also:

  • Save time and increase productivity when payroll and accounting software work as one. You’ll decrease the amount of time spent on data entry. Payroll journals are automatically created on the general ledger when posting the payroll.
  • Relax with the peace of mind that Xero automatically looks after tax calculations for you. Built-in Tax, ACC, Student Loan, Payroll Giving & ESCT calculations. Updates to New Zealand payroll regulations and tax rate changes are handled automatically so you don’t have to worry about staying compliant.
  • Manage KiwiSaver details including employee eligibility, employee & employer contribution rates, opting out and contributions holidays.
  • Electronically report your payroll information with the Inland Revenue. Your reports are created, pre-populated for downloading and upload to the Inland Revenue with ir-File including KiwiSaver, Additional & Voluntary Student Loans and Child Support.
  • Create unlimited and flexible earnings, deductions, including Payroll Giving, and reimbursement types to meet the needs of any business. No limits on the number of pay calendars you can create so you can easily have multiple pay frequencies to suit your business needs.
  • Manage Statutory Deductions for Child Support, Court Fines, MSD Repayments and Inland Revenue Arrears.
  • Download your bank’s payment file for ease of upload into online banking to pay your employees. Email your employees their payslips to give them instant access to their pay details.
  • Easily and accurately accrue and record employee holidays and leave accruals including managing leave entitlements for individual employees. Manage statutory leave types including Holiday Pay (8%) and unpaid parental leave types.
  • Invite employees to access pay history, payslips, view leave requests and request new leave via the employee app without seeing the business or payroll financials. Available online via the web on release along with iOS and Android phones shortly afterwards.
  • Collaborate with your accountant or bookkeeper on payroll. Allow them to manage payroll on your behalf by giving them the Payroll Administrator user role.

This is just the beginning. You’ll see constant enhancements, improvements and features being made available as we get your feedback and strive to make it smarter and more powerful. If you’re using the current ‘Pay Run’ feature you’ll be able to continue using this if you wish. Any new businesses will not have this option available to them from Wednesday 4 March.

And if Payroll in Xero does not meet the needs of your business we recommend selecting one of our payroll partners from the Add-on Marketplace.

Continue reading ›


Reflections on Xerocon, desktop data amnesty

Apparently the true measure of any conference that claims to be worth its salt these days can be quickly discerned by weighing both the quantity and colour of the social media chatter the following day. Indeed, judging from the large number of “Post Xerocon Blues” tweets that peppered my timeline twenty-four hours after Xerocon London 2015 had closed its doors, our UK conference seemed to have very much hit the spot for a good many of our 800 attendees this year.

In barely more than two years, Xerocon London has grown to become what I believe is now the UK’s largest gathering of its kind, eclipsing the mainstream accounting industry bodies’ annual conference circuits, nevermind those of the accounting software industry.

Alongside some great guest speakers, forty-odd exhibitors and sneak previews of coming product updates to Xero, the bigger news items that featured this Xerocon were the UK launch of our new Payroll in Xero, the accelerating pace with which the UK banking community is now attaching itself to our platform with news of our new technical partnership with Metrobank, our desire to support our UK Partner community in telling the cloud story and the growing incidence of Sage and Quickbooks customers choosing to migrate to the cloud with Xero.

Continue reading ›


Capture billable hours with Time Tracker by eBillity

Tracking hours for clients and projects image00is a critical function of any business. Service based companies need to track hours for purposes of invoicing. Product based companies need to track employee hours to ensure payroll accuracy. The right time tracking software will help you maximize your client billings and reduce administration time in the payroll process. This will result in higher profits for your business. Time tracking software can also give you insight into your staff by measuring employee productivity and profitability.

Time Tracker by eBillity is a mobile time tracking solution designed specifically for teams. It offers a workflow where employees login to Time Tracker to record time for clients and projects. Time entries are submitted to you (the admin) for approval. Once approved time entries can be converted into branded invoices and emailed to your clients.

Time Tracker offers many apps to help your team track time. For office staff, time entries can be made from the office via the web app, desktop widget or Outlook add-in. For staff on the go, time entries can be made from the mobile app that is available for iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone.

Time Tracker also supports the Stripe payment gateway to help you get paid faster. Easily export invoices and payment information to Xero. Most importantly, Time Tracker helps you measure the success of everything you do with productivity and profitability reports for employees, clients and projects.

Who is it for?

Time Tracker is designed for professionals looking for a mobile and flexible time tracking solution. Attorneys, Engineers, Architects, Accountants and Business Consultants, in particular, have found Time Tracker an excellent way to manage billable hours.

How Time Tracker works with Xero

Time Tracker allows admins to connect to their Xero account. Once connected to Xero, the admin can sync contacts and inventory items. Employees then log time against contacts and inventory items inside of Time Tracker. Invoices can be generated from time entries and exported to Xero. Payments, credit/debit adjustments, refunds and finance charges captured in Time Tracker are also exported to Xero.

Where you can use Time Tracker

Time Tracker is available globally and with several plan options.

Sign up to try Time Tracker

Xero small business customers receive a 30 day free trial and Xero Partners receive a 1 year free trial.



The American Dream is alive in small businesses

After completing a survey of small business entrepreneurs in the US, it seems the American Dream is alive and well. Almost three-quarters of US small business owners are optimistic about growth in 2015. What’s more, two-thirds of entrepreneurs are prioritizing customer growth and one third plan to invest in technology. This indicates that 2015 will be a year of continued economic recovery.

What do US small businesses value?

While hacking scandals and ethics controversies rock big businesses, small business owners are prioritizing honesty and respect as guiding business values. It’s no surprise then, that close to 20 percent of respondents aspire to be more like Ben & Jerry’s than tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft or Google. Only 1.6 percent named Uber as their role model – the least aspirational of all companies named.

Millennial’ small business owners quicker to adopt new trends

Leading the charge toward the optimistic and ethically conscious small business are the tech-savvy millennials. An overwhelming 90 percent of are optimistic about growth in the coming year, compared to 74 percent of total respondents.

Millennials also feel more comfortable with the cloud. Over half report at least 25 percent of their business runs in the cloud – compared to just 23.5 percent of all respondents. And the majority of millennials (80 percent) use Facebook for their business, with only 40.4 percent of total respondents claiming to lean on the social media giant.

When looking at all this data it’s quite clear where businesses see themselves in the very near future. Social media and the cloud are becoming the norm with younger business owners, and doing business fairly wins out over growth at the expense of ethics. Continue reading ›


Why my small business switched to Xero

Today’s guest author is small business and finance expert, and co-host of Sunrise, David Koch.

David Koch on online accounting for small businessI’m not a huge fan of the Super Bowl, but I love seeing the ads. They’re always the highlight of the whole event for a lot of people. This year there was a great ad by BMW that showed a clip of two TODAY show hosts from 1994 who were reading an email address out loud. It was obviously the first time they’d done so. They didn’t know how to pronounce an ‘@’. This led to the perplexed duo questioning “what is internet anyway?”

Today’s rapid outpouring of technology and innovation often leaves business owners wondering “what is this?” and “do I really need it?” In a lot of cases, perhaps not. Small businesses have enough on their plate without trying to educate themselves on every single new ‘life-changing’ product or service. But when it comes to online accounting, it truly is a revelation. And in the world of online accounting, Xero is at the leading edge.

Making the switch to online accounting

I’ve been a small business owner for over 25 years now and have employed teams from five people right up to 70. Bookkeeping used to mean shelves and shelves of folders and actual books. There were days on end spent reconciling accounts, and using a ruler to scroll down pages of transactions (yes, I’m old). At the time, it was just something we had to do. But now, with the beauty of hindsight, it was a nightmare.

After a lot of research into the market, my family business, Pinstripe Media, made the switch to Xero last year. This was because we’d heard so much hype from other business owners, and our accountants, about how easy and how enjoyable it was. I was sceptical at first. How on earth could anyone make small business accounting and bookkeeping enjoyable? Fortunately, I was convinced to give it a go.

Never looked back

Nine months later, and I can tell you without any embarrassment that I love logging on and checking the accounts. I’m a control freak, and Xero’s platform really is impressive. Everything is simple, intuitive, and easy to navigate. In just a few clicks, I can see how much money is owed to us compared to what we owe. I can get a P&L for any specified time period – and even just for individual jobs – to compare against other jobs. I can see  bank and credit card balances, and reconcile it all straight away. Our bank feeds come straight into the dashboard. I love the dashboard.

The best part about it is that I can do it all while sitting on the balcony at home. Because these days I’m trying to spend as little time in the office as possible. (That’s why you have kids, to take over the family business isn’t it?). With the footy season coming up and, a lot of trips to Adelaide and Melbourne, I can keep checking up on things from the road whenever I like. And that’s the real beauty of Xero – it gives me not just peace of mind, but the freedom to have peace of mind from anywhere at any time.

So if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, then give it a go and see for yourself how much it changes your life as a business owner. Because in a few years it won’t be “what is internet” jokes playing on Super Bowl ads, it’ll be “what is online accounting?” And when that day comes, you can sit back and be proud that you knew all about it. And you may even have your Xero dashboard open next to you.

As a side note, in case the sceptics are wondering, I did pay for my Xero accounting package. We made our decision to switch without contacting them.

David Koch is the owner of Pinstripe Media. He also hosts Kochie’s Business Builders, co-hosts Sunrise, and chairs the Port Adelaide Football Club. Connect with him on Twitter @kochie_online.


Five tips to create sales quotes that get accepted

Small businesses win work by using sales quotes (also known as price quotes). Yet they often don’t realise that how they prepare and create quotes can cost them business. Many lose revenue by not following up on quotes or turning quotes around fast enough.

According to a recent US survey, the number one financial challenge of small businesses is cashflow and getting paid.* Getting on top of the quoting process can reduce the number of days to acceptance, which reduces the number of days to getting paid and improves your cashflow.

So, getting on top of your quotes make a real difference. Xero’s Head of Accounting, James Solomons, offers the following tips to help you prepare and create quotes that get accepted:

Continue reading ›


Kitchen table entrepreneurs – turning your hobby into a business

From cupcake-crazy home bakers to fitness addicts and artistic dreamers, more and more entrepreneurial Britons are turning passions and pastimes into money-making enterprises. In fact, latest studies show there are 600,000 more micro businesses in the UK today than there were during the onset of the financial crisis in 2008*.

emma lomax

A separate report by the Office for National Statistics also found that self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began 40 years ago. However, one of the big differences between being self-employed and turning your hobby into a business, where you’ve had no formal training, is that you’ll have to work even harder to get a grip on market and customer demand.

Do your homework

Before taking the plunge, homework and research are key to deciding whether or not it’s just a pipe dream. This needn’t break the bank – depending on the business and what you want to find out, you could try face-to-face focus groups in your local community, as well as free online polling tools such as

Social networks give fast feedback and are a good place to find other people in your industry – and discover what your customers are saying about you. Or why not delve into big data? Google Trends and Google consumer surveys show the types of terms people are looking for online, which can assist in optimising your website copy using SEO (search engine optimisation).

Create a business plan

As with any new venture, creating a business plan and working out costs is also hugely important, especially when it comes to figuring out prices, profit and securing investment. That’s not to say it’ll be easy – many small businesses fail in their early years because owners make mistakes, misread the market, or fall victim to other external factors.

Get it right and you’ll end up wishing you’d done it sooner: “I used to teach textiles and was always sewing between classes,” says SewLomax founder and creative director, Emma Lomax. “Starting my own business meant moving to the next step. It was no longer about embroidery; it was about making something people wanted.”

* Data from Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce/Etsy.



Adopting cloud technology: eat or be eaten


Cloud technology adoption

Over the past couple of decades, The Chasm Model has been the centrepiece of nearly every conversation I’ve had about launching new technology.

While its merits are many, lately I’ve been wondering how applicable it is in business-to-business markets. Sure there are early adopters. Perhaps even an early majority. It’s the late majority that seems to be in trouble.

Having sat around harvesting revenue from their customer base, the late majority wake up one day to face a revenue precipice. In short, the early adopters and majority reach a tipping point and start acquiring their customer base en-masse. Powered by the economics of the cloud (not just technology but also business) these new players scale at speed – achieving continuous growth rates in the high double and even triple digits.

We see a couple of shifts driving the acceleration of the new players. For instance, cloud technology and business models on the supply side, and then mobile on the demand side. Entrepreneurs emerge from both sides presenting the late majority with an impossible force to counter – and their brand advantage and customer relationships are quickly weakened.

Look at what happened to booksellers, record stores, and others. We are seeing the same in accounting where new disruptive value propositions are being built on cloud platforms like ours. What’s important is that these new players aren’t just using new technology – they are reshaping their brands, service offerings, price points and more.

The message is clear. Rather than wait for the late majority, fuel the high-growth early adopters and watch them grow. Who would you rather be (or be backing)? The eater or the eaten?