Three into Two Won’t Go

Wednesday 24th December

For us Accountants this is a torrid time of year.  There just isn’t enough money around.  What?  But surely it is Christmas and everyone is spending like mad.  True, but even though sales may be a bit higher cash-flow is still always bad at this time of year.

For one thing quarterly rents are due on 25th December.  This goes back to some dim and distant time when amazingly a lot of financial transactions actually took place on Christmas Day.  Now, of course it is a Bank Holiday, so the landlords are champing at the bit and requesting being paid early.  Then there are the suppliers, who know only too well how bereft offices are for the week after Christmas, so they are all busy phoning up for monthly payments for the week ahead.  Wages are also a problem – everyone wants to be paid before Christmas, even if they are normally paid in the last few days of the month.  Then there are bonuses, and bosses want to reward good people even if the cash ain’t there to pay them.

But the worst problem, by far – is the banks.  They will be shut on Christmas and Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.  Quite right you might think – the staff need the time off too.  But here is the rub.  Most transactions, including payment of Visa and Amex receipts (already held up for three working days and eight in the case of Amex) are electronic and automatic and require no staff to process them.  But even these payments are held up even longer.  So, between Christmas and New Year companies have to wait four, then five, then six working days for the receipts to reach their bank accounts.  Trying to forecast daily revenues, hard enough at any time, over this period becomes almost impossible.  Add to this that I want to be away for the week after Christmas too and will therefore have to pre-schedule both supplier payments and rent payments with only a rough guestimate as to what the likely daily bank balance will be means a monumental headache.  It all comes right by the second week in January, and the only consolation is that I will be unavailable in France when it inevitably goes tits-up.