How to get organised for your Self Assessment

December 27th, 2017

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There’s no getting away from it – the Self Assessment deadline of January 31st 2018 suddenly doesn’t seem too far away!

If you currently find yourself with a bundle of receipts, an eye on the calendar and a creeping feeling that you should really be getting organised, you’re not alone. Put the kettle on and we’ll run through the steps you can take to gear up for a stress-free Self Assessment submission.

Gather your paperwork

First things first – you should dig out everything you’re going to need before you tackle the actual tax return. This might take a bit of rummaging, but think of it as good motivation for implementing an easier filing solution next year!

Here are the documents and information from the 2016/17 tax year that you should have to hand as a priority:

  • your P60
  • interest from your bank account
  • your business’s income and expenses (if you are a sole trader or in a partnership)
  • the value of any dividends you’ve received on shares that you own

Know what you’ve earned this tax year

If you’re a sole trader and you’re preparing your business’s accounts to match the tax year end, the next step is to add up all your income from 6th April 2016 to 5th April 2017. This includes any sales that you completed the work for between these dates (even if you hadn’t invoiced the customer or been paid for the work before 5th April 2017), unless you’re using the cash basis of accounting.

If you’re using the cash basis of accounting (meaning that you work out your business’s profit based on when money comes in and is paid out, rather than on when income is earned and costs are incurred) you should calculate your income by adding up the payments that you received from customers during the tax year.

Collect up your expenses

Now that you know your income, it’s time to dig out those receipts! You’re looking for any costs that you incurred as part of running your business. All of these costs will reduce your accounting profit, and some will also reduce your ‘taxable profit’, which also lowers your tax bill. When you record a cost that reduces your taxable profit, it’s often called ‘claiming’ a cost or expense.

Knowing what expenses you can and can’t claim for is sometimes a bit complicated – for example, you can only claim the cost of food and drink while you’re out and about and even then, only in certain circumstances. Don’t forget that if you work from home then you can include some of your home running costs as part of your business costs. You can check your proposed expenses against the info on HMRC’s website or our A-Z of business expenses checklist.

Even when you’re done with your receipts, don’t chuck them! Hard or soft copies of your receipts need to be kept until 31 January 2022. If you use FreeAgent then it’s easy to capture your receipts – you can take a snap it on your smartphone, upload the image to your FreeAgent expense entry,  and be safe in the knowledge that the cost will show the next time you log in.

Get filling in that form!

Once you’ve collected up everything you need, it’s time to start filling in the return! For more detailed help with filling and filing your tax return, download our Self Assessment checklist, which takes you through each stage of the process and provides lots of additional hints and tips.

Finally, visit HMRC’s website and work your way through the tax return section by section, reading all the instructions carefully and taking care to avoid mistakes. If you’d prefer not to go it alone, take a look at how using FreeAgent can help you file your Self Assessment return easily and take the fear out of tax time in the future. Best of luck – the end is in sight!

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Emily Coltman is chief accountant at FreeAgent, the online accounting software specifically designed for freelancers, contractors and micro-businesses, covering everything from invoicing to tax.

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