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Over the past few weeks we have been looking into how we can have an influence over issues that we are concerned about and how we can actually do something to change things around. This week we will look at some financial and administrative issues that may concern us. 

I suspect that one major issue of concern for most business owners is the VAT. Value Added Tax has been introduced into the country a few years ago and has been a contentious issue ever since. While VAT was first applicable to companies with a certain minimum turn-over per year, the Tax & Revenue Authority is working hard to bring all businesses, large, medium or small, under the regulation. To extend control and to make sure companies comply with their VAT payments without delay, a digital system has been installed that connects the point of transaction with the authority. The registered seller is to provide the buyer with a VAT receipt, which is printed from an approved device, in which the details of the sales are entered. The same information is transmitted directly to the authority. So far so good. As with any system, mistakes can be made and it is not uncommon for the sales agent to punch wrong keys while entering the data into the machine. While writing this article I have been correcting spelling errors numerous times for example. Until recently, mistakes could be filled out on a form and submitted the next day to the authority and the error would be corrected. I have been informed that this has changed however and reported errors are now forwarded to a committee, which will take its time to assess whether to correct the mistake or not. This may take time, while the business owner is not sure whether the correction will be made at all, leave alone the refund. Imagine if you sold something at 60.00 Birr but punched 60,000 Birr instead. The point I am trying to make is that it is human to make mistakes and that common errors should not be punished but corrected instead. The system should therefore facilitate, rather than complicate. Also, business owners should be confident in their relation with the authorities and not live in fear to make mistakes. Now, what influence can we extend over this issue of concern and turn things around? To begin with, business owners must continue to comply with the rules and regulations while supporting their workers and staff to develop the required capacity to carry out their work as effectively as possible. Next, business owners will do well to be member of the Chambers of Commerce or an association , where there is one in the sector they are operating in. These are organizations that are in a better position to bring issues of concern of their members to the attention of the authorities then individual businesses.

There are more financial issues of concern though. In fact, money is one of the two greatest causes of stress in the USA and I suspect this is no less so in this country, considering the rate of inflation we have been experiencing over the past few years. The costs of living do not only affect the peace of mind, it has a negative effect on the productivity of workers as well because they must get more money to pay the bills than they will actually receive with their monthly paycheque. How do people react to such situations? It should be no surprise, that many workers will be tempted to take advantage of their access to money and materials at their work place and use it for their own purpose, not to speak of taking advantage of their position. Enter the issue of corruption. A better strategy  would be to cut down on expenses and review the budget, whether the personal, family or business budget. Choices need to be made between the essentials and non essentials. This classification may become more blurred however as we move on. What to do? It is sometimes said that we are busy buying things we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. Money touches every aspect of life and when people don’t handle their finances well it causes huge problems. Consider the following three truths about money:

Money will not make you happy. Some people believe indeed that money will bring them happiness. Not so. Divorce rates and depression are even higher amongst those who are better paid and can afford all sorts of luxuries. The Roman philosopher Seneca said nearly two thousand years ago: “Money has yet to make anyone rich.” And the carmaker Henry Ford concluded that ”Money doesn’t change men, it merely unmasks them. If a man is naturally selfish or arrogant or greedy, the money brings it out, that’s all.” You are what you are, no matter how much or little money you have.

Debt will make you unhappy. Having money may not make people happy but owing money is sure to make them miserable. Novelist Samuel Butler, who satirized Victorian life in England, wrote: “All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every living organism to live beyond its income.” Yet, the truth is that if your outgo exceeds your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall. In the old testament, King Solomon summed up the condition of anyone in debt when he said in Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”

Having a financial margin gives you options. The bottom line is that money is nothing but a tool. It is good for helping us to achieve goals, but the goal of getting money for its own sake is ultimately hollow. If you have little money, you have fewer options. It is therefore important to know what your financial margins are and to decide on the priorities you can afford within them.

Now that we have uncovered some financial issues of concern, next week we will see what more we can do to  manage our finances effectively.