Adventures in micro-business: Company cars provide fuel for thought

Each month Professor Russell Smith answers your queries, and profiles a small business facing a big challenge

Q My small business provides me with a company car. Is it advantageous for me to have all fuel paid for by the business as well?

A From 6 April 2008, the cost of providing fuel free of charge for company cars goes up by more than 17 per cent. However, you should speak with your accountant about what would be best, since that advice must take into account you as the employee together with you as the business owner.

Q I started my own business last year. When do I need to start thinking about pension schemes?

A Immediately! Start by learning more about pension schemes and benefits from the Government's Pension Service website ("> Then speak with an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) – your accountant will be able to suggest one local to you. IFAs are not linked to schemes from one supplier and can therefore recommend the right one for your specific needs. It would also be sensible to look at insurance options at the same time. Many small business owners are under-insured: remember that an accident or an illness could prevent you from working and hence generating revenue from your business. In addition, "Key Person" insurance could provide money for your business if you were unable to work – money that could be used to hire a temporary replacement for you. Your accountant will be able to advise on these issues and recommend a good insurance broker.

Q I have just turned 50 and have always wanted to run my own business. Have I left it too late?

A Absolutely not. An increasing number of people in your age group are starting businesses, partly for lifestyle reasons and partly to generate additional income to supplement pensions. PRIME is a registered charity that runs a national scheme designed to help anyone over 50 to start a business. Download the "Working for yourself" booklet from their website as a good starting point ( In addition, visit their business club website ( for more information about how people in the same situation as you have started businesses. PRIME also runs seminars around the country that are well worth attending – call their helpline number (0800 783 1904) for further details.

Q I work as a part-time employee in my daughter's business but my son would like me to become a director of his new company. Can I be an employee and a director at the same time?

A There is nothing to stop you holding both positions. Assuming that your son intends to pay you as a director then you will need to decide which employer – your daughter or your son – represents your "main source" of employment and let your tax office know. It would be sensible to have this dealt with by the accountant acting for your daughter's business since she is your current employer.