This is my story

How I got started

Over 2 years ago I made the decision to start my own Accountancy Firm in Lisburn called MC Business Accounts.  How did I get into Accountancy?  Well, many years ago, I found I had a passion for Mathematics, I really enjoyed solving problems. I pursued my dream to go to University & later on study for my Accountancy Exams.

My Career of 17 years led me to Senior roles in companies such as Daewoo Electronics & Target Dry Ltd, a clothing manufacturing company in Belfast.

My next role was to be my final role in Employment.  I was the Company Accountant for a ladies Fashion Brand, Aria Clothing Ltd, which I loved.  After being there only 3 years, I was made redundant.

Well, this is when my life really began.  I was so excited about the prospect of working for myself that 1st July 2015 MC Business Accounts was born.  For me, it just felt right.  I knew I could not go back to work for anyone.  I was buzzing with ideas of what I was going to do & how I was going to do it. I quickly learned how to market my business & about the importance of branding.

A Real Success

For me, my business was never going to fail.  I never considered it would. Not even once.  Was I scared, YES.  I was terrified & excited at exactly the same time.  I felt like I was stepping off the edge of a mountain without the support of a safety net.  I felt exactly the same way when I did my first parachute jump when I was 20.  I was terrified but I knew I wanted to do it.

Life Begins at 40!

When I turned 40 I decided I need a new challenge.  So I made the decision to walk The Camino in the north of Spain.  I had wanted to do this walk for quite some time but knew it would be a huge challenge for me.  I was terrified that I would fail.  So, last year in September I decided to go for it. And I did it! I walked 125km in 5 Days!  I was so proud of myself.  It was the hardest & best thing I had ever done! I even wrote a blog about it comparing the similarities to doing the walk to becoming an Entrepreneur.


Fear is a scary thing.  It can almost paralyse us into NOT doing the things that we really want to do for fear of failing.  It’s must easier for us to stay in our comfort zone rather than to do something that drives us & gets us out of bed in the morning.

A few years ago I came across the book “Feel the Fear but do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. I was so interested in this book that I took a workshop as I wanted to see why we are fearful of life & why it stops us from taking control of our own lives.  It was empowering to know that I can take control of my own life just by believing that I could. I often flick through this book for inspiration.


Is there a right time?

For me, on paper, starting my own business when I did was totally the wrong time.  I had been made redundant, I had become a single mother overnight & I was trying to buy my own home.  Did I make excuses? NO.  Did I believe this would work, YES?  There was only one option for me, and that was to have a successful business!

On Day 1 of my business I had one client! My previous employers.  Not exactly what you would call an empire! But I was determined.  I joined WIB & Lisburn Council & a few other organisations.  I went to every event they were running.  Soon I started to gain clients.  I developed my digital marketing skills & took many training courses.

Now I attend conferences with inspirational speakers who inspire me to take my business to the next level.  I am extremely interested in Business Psychology & would like to develop my understanding of this a lot more.

Law of Attraction

I am very interested in the Law of Attraction and believe that our thoughts become our reality.  I made big changes in my life & started to really think big & believe that I can achieve anything I put my mind to.  Suddenly opportunities where opening up out of nowhere & I was attracting larger clients & delving into new areas of business that I had always wanted to get into.

I had the pleasure of becoming a Mentor with WIB last year which I love.  I get a lot out of helping people & seeing their business grow to the next level.

I also had the privilege of working with Sarah Travers from Bespoke Communications to aid in their quest to bring more Business women’s voices into the Media where this area is currently more male dominated.  This had led to a few Radio Ulster interviews on topical business issues.

I quickly learned that I am the biggest asset to my business & in order to grow my business I need to grow & learn as an individual. The success of my business completely depends on how I see it.

I am very excited for the future & have a lot of plans in the pipeline which I hope to be able to announce to you very soon.

Self assessment – what you need to know

Many more of us (and not just those who are self employed or running a business) are having to fill in self assessment tax forms every year. These forms detail all of your sources of income, including PAYE, self employment and property ownership, dividends etc and works out how much tax you should have paid for the year. What you have already paid is taken off and the result is your tax bill.


Although HMRC have worked hard to make sure that the Self Assessment form is relatively simple, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you have all the details you need to fill it in successfully on time and that you do not overpay or underpay your tax.


  • A normal tax year runs from 6th April until the 5th April the following year. If you are filling out your self assessment on paper you should file it by 31st October, if doing it online it must be completed and submitted by 31st January. You will be expected to pay any tax owed on 31st January too.
  • You should fill in a self assessment if you are a sole trader, in a partnership or run a limited company.
  • To file online you need to register with HMRC and get their Government Gateway ID. This will allow you to create an account that you can use each year.
  • You need to work out all of your income for the financial year including all paid invoices, sales finished but not yet paid for, private sales relating to your business and any other sources of income. Keep records of all of these income payments.
  • Take note of interest payments and income from property separately – you’ll need this later. Find P60s and P11D forms from any paid employment you did.
  • Work out your expenses. You can check the HMRC site for what is allowable, but generally it includes anything work related such as travel, software, accountancy fees, memberships and use of home. You need evidence of these expenses such as invoices, receipts and bank account statements. You can include capital expenditure (such as computers or vehicles) separately.
  • Now you have all this information together you are ready to file. You can do this online or use the written form. Once complete the system will automatically generate your result and tell you what you need to pay. You must pay this, plus an amount on account on the 31st January – minus any payments on account already made.
  • If you fail to file on time you will be fined £100.

Your checklist


  • Work out if you need to file a Self Assessment and take note of the filing dates
  • Register for the online system and set up your account
  • Add up all of your income for the financial year
  • Keep a record of all of this income
  • Add up all of your expenses for the year
  • Declare any large purchases or capital expenditure
  • Keep copies of all receipts, statements and invoices – these can be scanned
  • Collect together any employment records and forms
  • Find any bank interest certificates
  • Add up other income from property or shares
  • File using the method you prefer – or ask your accountant to do it for you
  • File and submit
  • Pay your tax bill


If you have been careful to keep good records throughout the year (using software designed for this purpose will really help) this should be no more than a days work to pull together. However, you can always ask for the help of your accountant to complete your self assessment and have the peace of mind that you are paying no more than you need to.

The importance of keeping good business records

Any small business or sole trader will be aware that they should keep good records of their income and expenditure. But do we really understand why we are doing all this paperwork and filling in these spreadsheets? Is it really necessary and what would happen if we decided to just do the basics?


You can keep records in all kinds of ways, but digital records or software packages really are the easiest these days. This means that you can keep a daily track of your incomings and outgoings and have an idea of where your business stands at any point. Of course, if you still prefer the old ledger style of accounting, there’s nothing wrong with that – just be consistent and do it regularly.


Read on for a list of very good reasons why keeping financial records is not only essential, but it could improve and save your business.

Marketing your business


Good records should always include information about your customers including their email address and preferences if possible. That way you can target them when you want to improve your turnover. If you know how much they usually spend, you can offer them good deals and individualised offers. As a side benefit of invoicing, this is a fantastic way of keeping track of your customers and suppliers.


The dreaded tax return


You will be fined £100 if you fail to file your tax returns on time, so having a good record of your income and expenditure is essential. You need these figures at your fingertips to allow you to keep track of how your business is looking across the year and that your tax savings are on target. The time it takes to fill out your tax return can be halved if you have kept a running total of your income throughout the year.


Audit time


Every now and then HMRC might decide to send you for an audit. They will expect to see a detailed system of records of your business transactions and that these tally with what you have filed in your tax return. If you claim expenses, you need to show receipts and prove they are allowable. If these is all carefully prepared, you’ll be ready any time they come knocking. Usually HMRC will expect to see 7 years worth of records for your business.

Growing your business


If you want to get a loan or mortgage for your business, you will need to show that it is financially healthy. So having more than just your tax returns to show could give you a headstart. This will show you have worked out what you want to do with the money and how it will be carefully spent. You can also easily prepare a business plan based on your current figures – one that is accurate and detailed.


Also, knowing the state of your business on more than a yearly basis will help you to plan for expansion. You can ensure that you are meeting goals and targets and that you are building your business the way you hoped. You will also be able to catch any downturn quickly before it has made a huge dent in your profits.


Saves your accountant time


….and you, money. If you are able to hand over clear financial records to your accountant, they can easily prepare your accounts and they will be able to charge you for less time. No accountant wants to wade through pages and pages of handwritten records – so having a good system is vital to ensure accuracy for the accountant and for yourself.


Its the law


Even if none of the above have convinced you, the fact that good record keeping is a legal requirement under the rules of self assessment should keep you on your toes. If this is the only reason why you do it – then that is enough.

Making Tax Digital (MTD)






Whether your business is big or small, it is likely that you already complete some or all of your tax returns online (or your accountants does it on your behalf). It is often quicker and easier to complete tax returns online and a record of the returns is easy to find and easier to submit. For those of us who haven’t quite made the switch, HMRC has decided to make using some digital taxation systems mandatory by 2019 – something that might sound scary, but really doesn’t have to be.

Why does the government want to make tax digital?


Using information more effectively – HMRC will hold all kinds of information about us including bank details, employer details and benefits information. MTD will allow them to combine this information and tailor it to suit the needs of each of their customers. Plus we can see all of the information that HMRC holds in one place.


Real time tax – Rather than waiting for the big shock of your tax bill at the end of the financial year, you can take a look at your tax bill at any time and know how much you owe. This will make it easier to save and get money back if you are owed.


One single account – All of your entitlements and liabilities are kept in one place, building a comprehensive picture of your financial affairs that you can access at any time.


Better interaction – HMRC will be able to contact customers via digital means such as messaging and email and offer support, prompts, reminders and other personalised information as and when necessary.

So how will MTD work?


Each of us will be issued with a Personal Tax Account where all of our taxation and employment detail are gathered together. You can register for new services and see tax owed in one place. At the moment all information is set up in separate stand alone systems and we have to work out for ourselves what the overall picture is. The aim of the Personal Tax Account is that different agents (such as your employer) will give information about you that will allow HMRC to complete tax forms such as Self Assessment on our behalf – saving us time and effort.


The MTD system will become mandatory from 2019, but then only for VAT businesses – the smaller businesses with lower turnovers will not need to complete their tax online. VAT has already been online since 2010, so this step is not a huge change.


However it is expected that many businesses will start to take advantage of the digital systems over the next few years on a voluntary basis, simply because it is easier and more simple. This slower approach is designed to make the transition easier for those businesses that still use more traditional methods. The voluntary approach is expected to remain in place until at least 2020.


So what should I do?


Keep an eye out for the HMRC pilot tests which are taking place for income tax and NICs. Pilots for VAT are expected to be underway in Spring 2018 and will take place for at least a year before it becomes compulsory. Once it is compulsory, you will be expected to give quarterly updates and keep all records digitally on their system. Your accountant can help you with this if you are unsure.


Beyond that, you can start to make plans to move all of your tax and business details across to digital methods if you have not already done so. This might mean moving to HMRC approved software or asking your accountant to show how they are ensuring you are digitally compliant.

Should I worry about security?


Having all of your tax affairs online may have some cyber security implications, but the government has addressed this issue and assures us that all records will be securely held and subject to data legislation. This is more about bringing together all of the information that they currently hold and providing us with easy updates on our affairs. It could be argued that having it all in one place is actually safer as Personal Tax Accounts will be subject to higher levels of security.


MTD may be moving slowly, but if you wish to start your digital taxation journey, your accountant will be able to help you get online and understand the system as it stands.



Self employment vs Limited company – which to choose?












It is one of the first questions anyone setting up in business is likely to ask themselves. Should I be a self employed sole trader or is it better to become a limited company? It is a question that I am often asked and my answer is almost always that it depends…


Understanding the positives and negatives of each option will help you to decide what might work best for you. But it is reassuring to know that there is no wrong answer here. It is perfectly legal and acceptable to choose either self employment or a limited company (if you are working for yourself) from a taxation and business set-up point of view.








Self employed/sole trader positives


  • Becoming self employed is as easy as deciding you would like to be. You do need to inform HMRC within 3 months of starting to earn money, but there are no restrictions on making that choice to start or what you decide to do.
  • The accounting processes are very simple and can involve nothing more than keeping track of money coming into and out of the business, keeping copies of invoices and bills and keeping track of your income and expenses. At the end of the financial year you will be required to fill in a Self Assessment, but it is straightforward if your accounting is kept up to date.
  • You can run your self employed business from your everyday bank account that you already have or you can choose to set up a business account and pay yourself from the business at a rate you choose. Your bank account doesn’t need to be fancy and can be set up easily.


Self employed/sole trader negatives


  • In most cases this is going to remain a small scale business as once you reach a turnover of more than a certain amount, you are required to become VAT registered and you may decide to be a Limited Company.
  • While your tax affairs are simple, they are also more costly. You are paying personal tax at a rate the same as if you were employed. So you are subject to the same increases in rates as your income increases.
  • Your income is likely to be up and down, with no clear pay day. Your money is paid into your bank account and you pay yourself as required – there is no set salary as such.








Limited company positives


  • Defining yourself as a limited company automatically makes your business seem more credible and long lasting. It hints at the expectation that you will soon be earning above the VAT threshold (if you are not already) and you can be traced by the Companies House registry, giving your clients extra peace of mind.
  • Your overall tax bill is likely to be lower as it is possible to pay yourself both as an employees and as a shareholder. These are taxed differently and may even be subject to some exemptions.
  • You will be able to pay yourself a regular set salary with a set amount of tax and NICs to pay. This allows you to leave money in the business for investment and to plan ahead. This also looks better for mortgage or loan applications. You can top this up with regular dividend payments that are due to you as a shareholder.
  • If you choose to, you can even sell shares in your company to raise finance – although you should note that this means you are selling some of the ownership of your company.
  • As a limited company you are not liable for any losses arising from the business – so you won’t lose your home or personal assets.


Limited company negatives


  • You will be expected to pay corporation tax on your profits which is set at around 19% currently. However this is still likely to be less than your taxation burden as a sole trader.
  • There are a number of compliance issues that you will need to take into considerations such as filing returns, being correctly registered, deciding on a company secretary and directors and your registered address.
  • In order to be compliant with tax rules you will need to submit VAT returns, regular accounts and an annual return. You may want to employ an accountant to complete these for you. This is more complicated than a self assessment.


While these few differences may have pushed you towards one or the other – it is always worth talking this decision over with your accountant as they will understand your current and future business expectations and will help you decide which is the right choice for you.




Radio Ulster Interview on Gender Equality

Listen to my exciting BBC Radio Ulster Interview with Mark Davenport discussing my views relating to Gender Equality in light of the first female Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker.

Listen to how myself & Sinead Sharkey-Steenson, Director of Generation Women, discuss how important it is that women show the way forward with taking on lead roles on TV, in science & business. These ladies are role models for our future children & we go on to discuss that gender is irrelevant for any role, the most important being qualifications & desire to do the best job possible.

Simply click on the link below to hear the full interview.

sign camino

The Camino Pilgrimage, An Entrepreneur’s Lesson

sign camino


What makes a successful entrepreneur? What are those elusive character traits that spell the difference between success and being one of the 50% who fail in the first five years?

You’ve heard of needing determination, passion and adaptability, but what does this look like on the ground?


The Camino de Santiago de Compestela

An ancient pilgrimage that draws on the same entrepreneurial skills of the modern business person, and demonstrates entrepreneurial success in action, is the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (link:, or The Way of St James. The pilgrimage, dating back to the 9th Century, converges at the tomb of St James in North West Spain.


Entrepreneur v Pilgrim

The similarities between a pilgrim on the Camino and a successful entrepreneur allow us to understand those much needed character traits in action.


Your Attitude to Failure: If you start, fail, and don’t dust yourself off and start again, you’ll get nowhere. As entrepreneur Richard Branson said: “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” To be a successful entrepreneur you must not only face your fears, but address them head on.


Seek Personal Growth and Strength: No one embarks upon the Camino as a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll to while away time. Its intended purpose is to achieve personal and spiritual growth and strength. Likewise, the successful entrepreneur will realise that their venture must be a journey of discovery and growth, ultimately building the strength needed for success. Your personal development is crucial to your business success.


Don’t Set Boundaries: The Camino is in fact a network of paths from across Europe, gradually wending their way towards Spain and converging. There is no individual set path. The same is true for the successful entrepreneur. Don’t set boundaries or limitations, or you limit your scope for success.


The Journey Matters: Whilst the tomb of St James is the ultimate destination, few set out with this as the sole purpose of the pilgrimage. Rather, it’s the journey, the personal growth and development, the challenge, and importantly the people encountered along the way that make the Camino what it is. A successful entrepreneur will know the benefit of networking, meeting interesting people along the way, and always asking advice. Like the Camino, everyone, including you, has their own personal story to share, and their own reasons for the journey they walk.


Know Your Limitations and Combat Them: You’re unlikely to get far on the Camino without a little training, some long distance hiking skills, fitness, and a determination to learn. Likewise in business you need the honesty to identify your weaknesses and limitations and strive to acquire the skills you need and to recognise when training or mentoring is required.


Determination to Succeed: What marks a successful entrepreneur out from the many who stumble and fail is an absolute, resolute determination to succeed. Those who reach the tomb of St James have the stamina to overcome difficulties. It’s the same for the entrepreneur: stamina to keep going when times are tough. Whilst on the Camino this might mean fighting through the pain of blisters, on the entrepreneurial journey it might mean facing investor knock backs or the naysayers.


Entrepreneurial Mountainous Ups and Downs

Whilst large sections of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela are largely flat, don’t let that deceive you that it is an easy walk. As two wanderers from The Lonely Planet state: “You’ll be jealous, petty, hungry, thirsty, furious, ecstatic, joyful, silly, sick, stupid, inane and perfect.  You’ll be intensely involved with the intricate workings and changes in your own body and you’ll be thrown up against a wide variety of people from all over the world.  You’ll essentially be given a crash course in what it means to be human. Enjoy the hell out of it.” (link:


The same is true for the successful entrepreneur. You will see others succeeding when you fail – resolve to try harder, and again. You will get furious in one moment and ecstatic in another. You’ll wonder if you have the intelligence, wit and drive to be one of the few who makes it. You’ll meet people who inspire and others who bring you down. You’ll realise the journey is what is going to spell the difference between success and failure, and shape you in to the person you are going to become. You’ll stand astounded as you push through limitations and recognise the personal development, growth and strength you’ve gained.


You will have walked the Camino of Entrepreneurship and reached your goal.