No-one really enjoys filing their Self Assessment. It’s that unwanted chore that you put off until the last minute, before flying into a mad January panic when you realise time’s almost up. Our friends at Crunch, the online accounting specialists, take us through a few hints to help freelancers get through it.
It might not surprise you to know that, historically, Self Assessment deadline day (31st January each year) is an extremely busy day at the offices of HMRC. It also might not come as a surprise that they rake in millions from late-filing penalties every year.
Getting your documents together and filing early are the safest ways to avoid a Self Assessment headache. With that in mind, here are three ways you can get yourself ready for the Self Assessment deadline.
Make sure you’re registered
The most important part of getting ready for the deadline is letting HMRC know you need to meet it in the first place. You’ll need to register with HMRC by the 5th October after the end of the tax year you’re looking to file a return for (e.g. when you file for the 2017/18 tax year, you should have registered by 5th October 2018 – if you haven’t yet done so then you need to register as soon as possible to avoid possible penalties).
You can register online, by post or by phone. You’ll need your National Insurance number and your personal and business details.
Once you’re registered, HRMC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number in the post, which you can use to register for their online services. This process will become far easier when HMRC rolls out online tax services, but for now, you’re in the hands of Royal Mail.
If the deadline has passed you by, check out our “Self Assessment: What happens if I miss the deadline?” article for more information.
Keep comprehensive records
One of the most important things you’ll need to do to file an accurate Self Assessment is to keep comprehensive records. The sorts of things you’ll need to keep records of include:
- Evidence of all your income, such as income from employment, self-employment, pension income, rental income, dividends, interest, and any government benefits you’ve received (including child benefit for a higher income household)
- Evidence of any expenses or tax relief you intend to claim
- If you work as a sole trader, your profit and loss account or your business records.
You can find a complete list of records in our “How to complete your first Self Assessment” article. If you’re ever in doubt of what you need to keep a record of, it’s better to err on the side of caution, it’s usually a minimum of five years after the Self Assessment deadline, or at least six years from the end of the last company financial year they relate to, if you’re running a limited company. Of course, the best advice we can give you is ask them what best suits your business.
Evidence of relief
If you’re planning on claiming any expenses or tax relief, you’ll need to be able to prove it to HMRC when you file your Self Assessment. Some of the things you can claim back as an expense include:
- Business mileage
- Charitable donations
- General office/work purchases
- Telephone and broadband expenses
- Travel and subsistence.
Again, if you’re ever in any doubt over what you can and can’t claim for as a business expense, your best bet is always to check in with a specialist. You can also check out our articles on expenses you can claim as a sole trader and as a limited company.
More help for Self Assessment
Thankfully for those who do need some support, help is at hand. We recently held a Self Assessment webinar, covering everything you need to know about Self Assessments. Whether you’re a Self Assessment novice or a seasoned pro, our webinar has all the tips and advice you need to make this year’s submission the easiest yet. Check it out here!
We’ve also got a range of helpful Self Assessment articles, including “Do I need to complete a Self Assessment?” and a handy jargon-free Self Assessment business guide. If we still haven’t convinced you to get that Self Assessment in early, you can find seven reasons to file early here.
As a freelancer using Crunch, managing your work finances becomes quick and easy. You’ll get access to our simple online accounting software, expert accountants and thanks to our partnership with ProductionBase, all PB members receive an exclusive 10% discount on limited accountancy packages for the first year.
Contact Crunch today for a free consultation.