Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Milk round: Record keeping


Why record-keeping is important

It is essential that you keep very good records of all your business transactions. This is important for several reasons:

  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) requires you to keep certain records for inspection for six years and may check your records from time to time as part of their compliance procedures. There is an HMRC guide to business record keeping for the self-employed on the Gov.uk website. The guide explains which records you have to keep, how long you have to keep them, and what to do if they get lost or destroyed
  • if HMRC decides to investigate the business it will be of real assistance to your accountant if you have kept good records, not only of your sales and purchases, but also of wastage, theft and other losses and any discounts and promotions you offer
  • you need to know how the business is doing at any time - well kept records will tell you
  • you need to keep very good records of all your customers so that you deliver what they want, charge them the right amount and know if they have or haven't paid. A variety of suppliers offer computerised milk round systems with handheld terminals. As well as providing a very good record-keeping system they also save a lot of time

Make sure that you note down all income the business receives, and all the money that is spent, even if it is only small amounts. You should be able to show from your records how all income received by the business can be traced through until it is either spent or banked. Ask yourself if you would be satisfied that the records would reveal any dishonesty if they were written up by an employee.

If you take any goods from the business for your own personal use you should keep a record of these to give to your accountant.

Your accountant will be able to give you advice on how best to keep records. If you choose a computerised system this will help your accountant at the your accounts at the end of the year. Don't forget that under HMRC's Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative you'll need to keep your VAT records digitally if your taxable turnover is above the VAT registration threshold. You can find out more about MTD on the Gov.uk website.