For many self-employed, January has become the dreaded month – the last minute chaos as paperwork and accounts are pulled together in an attempt to meet the self-assessment taxation deadlines of 31 January.
Sound all too familiar? Then read on and see how our Self-Assessment Checklist could make sure that January 2024 doesn’t follow the same pattern as this year.
Getting your return in ASAP is key. Submitting your return into an overwhelmed system at the last minute, could result in your return being registered past the deadline of midnight on the 31st of January. This could prove costly, resulting in a fine, even if no tax is owing.
It makes much more sense to stay consistently on top of your tax liabilities by keeping your records and accounts as current as you can. For self-employed business owners, the benefits of doing this mean you will have a better understanding of the financial standing of your business at any, and every, point in time. It also means no ‘nasty surprises’ in January when it comes to calculating your end of year tax liability.
Tax returns are not voluntary and have to be completed no matter what. However, it needn’t always be the stress and challenge that it has become. We’ve pulled together this helpful ‘Checklist’ to help you face January head on and avoid that last minute rush by getting your tax return over the line and submitted on time.
Here’s our checklist to help you balance your books and be ready for your Self-Assessment Tax Return
1. Create a system and organise everything
The size of your business will probably determine how you want to organise your financial admin. There are many different free and paid for accounting software options out there, but you might be happy with a simple Excel spreadsheet. The main thing is that everything is organised and you are filing your invoices, bank statements, and receipts in a structured and systematic way to keep them in good order.
2. Use cloud based accounting software
Have you considered using cloud based accounting software to help? If not check out some of the best accounting software in the market. Xero and QuickBooks are well established providers that are suitable for the self-employed and their accounting solution will enable you to easily manage your finances regardless of location. Whether from your laptop or smart phone, you can snap a copy of your receipts, create invoices, track your mileage and much more whilst you are on the go.
There are also other helpful online apps that can make easy work of some of the more time consuming tasks, for example why not try DEXT to help with the management of expense receipts – simply scan your receipts and automatically upload and keep them safely online for ease of access at a future date.
3. Know your dates
It is prudent to know how long to keep your financial records for – the recommendation is for at least five years after the Self-Assessment deadline. But more importantly is knowing the key submission and payment due dates throughout the year. Meeting these deadlines will invariably avoid last minute and time consuming collation of paperwork and late night stressful submissions!
4. Register for VAT
If you are a VAT registered company you have a duty to charge VAT on all goods and services you supply. You must also keep digital records which must include, for each supply, the time of supply (tax point), the value of the supply (net excluding VAT) and the rate of VAT charged. You will have signed up for Making Tax Digital for VAT with HMRC and are submitting quarterly returns via compatible software on the system.
Now might be the right time to introduce cloud software into your business as HMRC are very clear that you must register for VAT if:
- your total VAT taxable turnover for the last 12 months was over £85,000 (the VAT threshold)
- you expect your turnover to go over £85,000 in the next 30 days
If you currently do not pay VAT but expect to hit the threshold in the coming months you must register if you believe that your annual total VAT taxable turnover is going to go over the £85,000 threshold in the next 30 days; be aware that you have to register by the end of that 30-day period. The important date is that your effective date of registration is the date you are deemed to have reasonably believed, not the date your turnover actually goes over the threshold. If you register late, you must pay VAT on any sales you’ve made since the date you should have registered.
5. Hire a bookkeeper
This may seem like an added cost burden but the benefits really do add value. A good bookkeeper will keep an accurate record of business costs and expenses including processing invoices, reviewing bank statements and chasing up any unpaid invoices.
Outsourcing bookkeeping and accounts offer the following benefits:
- Your bookwork is done regularly and accurately
- You will always have a point in time view of the financial position and tax liabilities
- You gain back time to spend on other aspects of your business
When it comes to filing your tax return as part of the Self-Assessment process each year it means you have all your paperwork readily to hand.
6. Budget for your tax bill
It can be tricky to know how much tax you’ll owe HMRC by the time the Self-Assessment deadline comes around on 31 January, but it’s important you’ve budgeted enough money to pay the bill. Remember, the 31st of January is a deadline for both completing your self-assessment form, and for receipt by HMRC of tax owing. A financial penalty applies if your return is submitted after midnight on the 31st of January or there is a delay in making payment on your liability so don’t forget to pay!
How we can help
At First Call Financials we can help you be prepared for your self assessment deadline and make January less stressful. Whether you want help setting up cloud-based accounting systems, want to outsource your bookkeeping and accounting or need help with budgeting and planning our friendly team can help.
Just get in touch for a no obligation chat.
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This post was written by Tarah