Strategy, Legal & Operations

How to avoid red tape

Red tape is seen as the overly bureaucratic and at times nonsensical madness of form filling for the sake of form filling. In large organisations there are teams and departments whose sole job is to plough through this morass of tangled tape, but for smaller businesses it usually falls upon the owner/manager to deal with these demands invariably taking them away from the real reason they’re running a business.

Can you avoid red tape?

Not easily is the answer, if you want to avoid all the forms related to employing staff i.e. P45, P46, P6. P9, P11, P35, P11D, P60 as well as RTI, SSP, SMP etc., then you would have to avoid employing staff! That’s not entirely practical if you want to grow your business so you’re then left with the question of what to do about the red tape? rather than how do I avoid it?

What to do about the red tape?

I’ve highlighted employment bureaucracy as it is one of the most common areas that most small businesses are likely to face with one of the largest proliferations of form filling, with forms giving rise to more forms like a row of dominos.

One thing to remember about all red tape is that it follows a process, a series of preset steps that are repeated with very little variation each time the form is filled. The detail of the information is different e.g. a person’s name, NI number etc, but the overall class of information is the same e.g. a name, an NI number etc.

How software can help

Using technology can take the pain out of form filling as software can simply merge the information required from a database into the correct fields on the required forms.

Software doesn’t get bored at the number of times it has to enter the same name in different places on different forms and software can communicate with HMRC’s software transferring the relevant information back and forth so you don’t have to sit on hold in a queue listing to elevator music.

Using payroll software such as Payroll Essentials, not only takes the pain out of the red tape, but used correctly can take away the paperwork as well, with emailed payroll forms (payslips, P45’s & P60’s for employees).

Instead of filling in forms, the information is transferred directly to HMRC and incoming information is applied correctly, all with a couple of clicks.

As with any software, it’s only as accurate as the information you enter but at least you only have to enter the information into the system once, akin to filling in one form at the beginning.

Similar solutions are available for almost all HMRC forms, with accounting software recording, calculating and submitting VAT returns and EC Sales Lists etc.

How your accountant can help

The only way to really avoid red tape is to pass it onto someone else, again not really avoiding it, but making it someone else’s problem, such as your accountant. Dealing with red tape is our bread and butter and we have invested heavily in software systems that can deal with the repetitive form filling for us.

If you use your accountant, you’ll just need to approve the forms before they submit them for you, even there we use web based technology so you can approve the forms online with a couple of clicks of a mouse. Leaving you to get on with what you set up your business for in the first place.

Even if you don’t want to pass it all over to your accountant, ask them for advice on how you can limit the disruption it causes you.

Red tape has been with us from the early 16th century, so you can expect it to be around for a long time to come. You can’t really avoid red tape but with the help of the right software you can get on with running your business.