Post office scandal

January always seems to be a busy month in the world of business, as we enter a new year, pick up from the Christmas period and get back to it after a well-earned break. With the self-assessment tax return deadline just around the corner too, more than ever it drives home how important it is to keep your business accounts up to date.

Alongside new year’s resolutions to do with your business, January also sees us spending much more time at home, probably participating in dry January, cooking healthy meals after the Christmas binge and keeping warm as the temperatures continue to drop.

Luckily, January also usually means there are some great things on TV for when you need to wind down for the evening after a busy day. With new reality TV shows and dramas to catch up on, you’re spoilt for choice whether you’re a faithful fan of The Traitors or you’re a Harlan Coben binger.

One current drama which has sparked a huge debate and demands for justice is ITV’s latest offering – Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

Centred in the heart of the story is alleged false accounting and how glitchy accounting software went on to ruin so many lives. Accounting software has come a long way since the early 2000’s, but it’s worth delving into this and showing just how different things are now we’re in the Making Tax Digital era.

One of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice

For those unsure of the story behind the latest TV drama, the scandal surrounded the wrongful conviction of hundreds of Post Office workers due to faulty software. The Post Office accused almost 3,500 postal workers for alleged false accounting, theft and fraud. Many were wrongly prosecuted or convicted between 1999 and 2015, all because of a glitchy software system that incorrectly showed money missing from accounts.

Some served jail time and others went bankrupt. Some lost everything including their livelihoods, homes and marriages and some Postmasters and Postmistresses even died before their names could even be cleared.

Much like the accountants that you trust with your finances, Post Office managers were often at the heart of the community, trusted with people’s savings and pensions. Instead, their names were dragged through the mud and their lives were turned upside down.

An independent inquiry as well as a police investigation are still ongoing, and top business executives and former ministers are in the firing line.

The Post Office maintained for years that data from their Horizon computer accounting system, developed by Fujitsu, was reliable, while accusing branch managers of theft.

However, the system would incorrectly show shortfalls in the accounts of branches and made reports of this to the Post Office from the early 2000s. This continued for over a decade until Computer Weekly reported claims of a flaw in Horizon.

Due to mounting pressure, mainly from the media, the Post Office began an investigation into the reports but in 2015, its boss Paula Vennells told a Parliamentary committee that there had been no evidence of any miscarriage of justice.

This week, former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has handed back her CBE with immediate effect.

Using a Business Accountant & Accounting Software

As ever when an issue is raised in such an impactful way, via a TV drama, a news story or a petition, false accounting and accounting software has been propelled into the limelight. When looking at the way you do your business accounts, making sure your finances are in order as a small business owner is crucial. To do this, using a business accountant is important, but it’s even more important to choose an accountant that you trust.

Making sure your business accounts are accurate and up-to-date doesn’t have to be difficult when you work with a business accountant who can provide a comprehensive accounting service for small businesses just like yours.

At Gorilla Accounting, we work with businesses, freelancers, contractors, and landlords to name just a few. We know the ins and outs of accounting, so you don’t have to. And we provide a service that is not only first class, but trustworthy too. We were once a small business just like you, and that will always be at the heart of what we do.

We know that no two small businesses are the same and your own dedicated accountant at Gorilla will provide a personalised approach to your accounts, getting to know the ins and outs of your business and how you work.

Your dedicated accountant will provide the support needed to help you navigate the complex world of accounting, business taxes, tax returns and day to day finances, so you have the time and space to focus on growing your business whilst we take care of your numbers.

Our service will always be tailored to you and your specific needs, all for one fixed monthly fee so there are never any surprises. Our all-inclusive limited company accountancy package is just £110 + VAT per month. For sole traders, our accountancy packages is just £50 + VAT per month.

Accounting Software & Making Tax Digital

Every accountant at Gorilla is forward-thinking and tech-savvy, with vast experience working with businesses in a diverse range of industries and sectors.

Recent research by the Government showed that people are still confused over the purpose, meaning and implications of MTD (Making Tax Digital), and in light of the recent talk around accounting software, there are probably even more questions to address.

The key challenges and information gaps included:

  • Confusion about the meaning and implications of MTD at the awareness stage.
  • Feeling overwhelmed when trying to filter software options.
  • A lack of confidence in software choice.
  • Frustration, after using software, that they had made an inappropriate software choice for the needs of their business.

When selecting MTD-compatible software, the main considerations that people are making include:

  • Cost, including upfront and ongoing costs of software.
  • Whether MTD-compatible software was easier or as easy as their current record keeping system.
  • Recommendations from agents and peers.
  • Features, including compatibility with existing systems and accessibility.
  • Security and reliability, including data security, customer support and updates.
  • Familiarity, including previous experience with software.

When you sign up to Gorilla, we can help to eradicate some of these considerations as we work closely with FreeAgent, an MTD-compliant cloud-based accounting software that we trust. The benefits of FreeAgent go way beyond just ensuring MTD-compliance. It allows you and your accountant to access your financial records whenever you need to.

We provide FreeAgent to all our clients inclusive as part of our accounting service.

As well as having peace of mind that your bookkeeping and accounting is MTD-compliant, there are so many benefits to using FreeAgent as its features, functionality and inbuilt automation simplify and streamline time-consuming admin and bookkeeping tasks.

Other benefits include:

  • Your self-assessment tax returns and VAT returns can be automatically prepared and electronically submitted to HMRC.
  • You can create and send branded invoices and payment reminders.
  • Use the app to upload receipts and manage your expenses on the go.
  • Get insightful real-time reports.
  • Bank feeds upload transactions from your bank account daily and automatically reconcile and categorise them.

Working with a Business Accountant that you trust

There are many advantages to running a small business and being your own boss is extremely rewarding, but it also brings its own distinct challenges. Small business owners are faced with increasingly complex levels of regulation and compliance, making managing your accounts and tax affairs more complicated and time-consuming.

Whether your business is a new start-up or well established, our small business accountancy services are designed and tailored for businesses like yours. Appointing Gorilla will take away some of the pressure that you’re facing when it comes to your finances, and we can help you achieve the work/life balance that you deserve, helping to save you money by maximising tax-efficiency, cash flow and business planning. From there, you can run your business successfully with the peace of mind that your finances are taken care of.

If you want to start the New Year off strong, we’d love to hear from you. Simply fill in our online form here and a member of our new business team will be in touch to begin a partnership that can help you flourish in 2024.