Q&A

Q. What can I do to get better or cheaper deals on office equipment?

A.It’s a good idea to consider swapping unwanted stock with other companies’ goods, services, or advertising space: things for which both sides would usually expect cash. This transaction is called corporate trade or corporate barter.

There are now a number of corporate trade businesses that facilitate the trade of advertising space and other services in exchange for excess office supplies. If your business product is something you can offer in exchange for the equipment you need, you can call up a corporate trade company and see if they are interested in swapping goods. Companies like Active International and Astus UK provide corporate trade services.

Avvy Virdi, media executive at Active International, says: “Corporate trade companies can fund office moves and journeys or provide hotel rooms, plane flights, office stationery... There are many possibilities.” Typically, a corporate trade company will buy your unwanted stock with “trade credits” at a higher value than you would get if you resold it in cash. You can then spend your trade credits on other products available from the corporate trade company such as furniture.

Corporate trade companies accept many different types of goods and services. It’s likely that whatever your company produces can be traded for office equipment. As Virdi adds: ”We are happy to look into any type of business provided they have media expenses.”

There are other easy ways to help you get better deals on equipment. Calling retailers at 5pm when most salesmen need to reach their daily sales target is a noteworthy tip. And if all else fails, Google remains your best friend for searching out the cheapest online deals. If you don’t mind secondhand goods, www.wantdontwant.com sells cheap furniture and www.freecycle.org lets you request items and accept offers from others for free.

Q. Are there any tax breaks I can claim if I can prove that I have bought office equipment?

A.You can claim tax allowances on what is called “plant and machinery.” This includes items like furniture, machines, and office equipment like printers and computers. Most businesses can claim an annual investment allowance (AIA) for company expenditures less than £50,000 on purchases made between the beginning and the end of the annual tax year. If your expenditures are over £50,000, you can claim tax allowances with a standard rate of 20 per cent.

There are also different rates for certain types of equipment: thermal insulation, electrical systems, lifts and other long-term assets can qualify for a tax allowance of 10 per cent a year.

Tax allowances can be claimed through your income or corporate tax returns. Note that you must make separate claims for each accounting period of your business and that there is no obligation to claim for the full amount of an allowance. You can also claim back the VAT you are charged on goods relating to your business activities from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).