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Archives for September 2017

Last Minute tax return? Don’t forget to include a cost for working from home

One of the most common questions I get from sole traders is about allocating a cost to the business for working from home. If you are in a panic trying to get your tax return done before the end of the month, you might forget to include a cost for this in your accounts, but this would result in you paying more tax than necessary – so take 5 minutes and think about what you might be able to claim.

If you are self-employed and work at least partly from home then you are entitled to include part of the running costs of your home in your accounts.  But how much is a reasonable amount?

You have 2 options as to how to work out how much you can claim.

1  Flat Rate Method

If your sales are under the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) and you are self-employed then you can use this method. You simply work out how many hours a month you spend on average running your business from home and then include a fixed amount in your accounts, as follows:

25-50 hours: £10 per month

51-100 hours: £18 per month

101 hours or more: £26 per month

The flat rate covers the running costs of your home; you can also claim a proportion of the fixed costs and your phone/broadband as per option 2.

2  Actual Costs

 This method requires a little more effort, but it may give you a higher figure and therefore save you more tax.  Under this method, you need to apportion the running costs of your home on a “fair and reasonable” basis between those that are personal and those that relate to the business.

This is usually done by reference to the number of rooms you have in your house and the amount of time you use them for business.  There is no laid out formula though and therefore how you allocate costs will vary from business to business.  Keep any workings you have done so you can back up your figures to HMRC if necessary.

The costs you can actually claim can be spilt into fixed costs, running costs and phone/broadband.

Fixed Costs

  • Mortgage interest (not capital) or rent
  • Council tax
  • Insurance
  • Water rates

Running costs

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Cleaning

For example, assume you work from your sitting room 8 hours per day 4 days per week.  Your total fixed costs are £6,600 per year and your running costs £1,500.  You have 6 rooms in your house. A reasonable allocation of the fixed costs would be £6600 x 1/6 x 4/7 x 8/24 = £210.

An allocation of the running costs could be £1500 x 1/6 x 4/7 x 8/12 (as gas etc not used during the night) = £96

The phone and broadband is claimed on a usage basis only, so if you use your internet 50% business, 50% private you can claim 50% of the cost, including line rental.

If a property repair works solely to the area that you use for business, you can include the full cost in your accounts – for example, your office roof needs repairing.  If the repair is to the whole house – then claim in proportion as above.

So claiming costs of working from home is not as simple as it sounds.  The flat rate method will give you a quick answer, but the actual costs option may give you a higher figure.  If you need any further help then please contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co.

Note – these rules only apply to the self-employed and not to owners of limited companies.


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It’s not You – it’s Me! How to trade in your current accountant for a better model

Apparently more people change their husbands than their bank accounts, even when they do nothing but complain about the poor service they receive (from their bank that is!)

The same is often true of accountants, so why – when customer satisfaction is low, are people reluctant to change?

It’s often due to the perceived hassle factor, and not wanting to upset anyone (apart from yourself at accounts time)

This blog sets out how easy it is to make the switch and the process that makes it happen.  Any reputable accountant will follow the clear procedures laid out below by their governing bodies and will act quickly to ensure a smooth transition.

  1. Give notice to your current accountant in writing (email is fine). You should make clear which services are being transferred and from which date.  You should also tell them who you are going to be using in the future.
  2. Your new accountant will then write to your old accountant to gain “professional clearance”. This is a standard courtesy letter between accountants to highlight any issues of concern the outgoing accountant feels the new accountant should know about.  Concerns are rare and are not of the “you always need to chase him 3 times for info” type – anything highlighted would be more about concerns over the honesty/integrity of the client.  I don’t think I have ever had any concerns highlighted to me from another accountant.
  3. At this stage it’s usual to ask for information as well- eg a copy of last year’s accounts/ tax return etc and back up for the figures. Most accountants are fairly quick at sending this over, you do get the occasional firm who like to drag out the process – but it really doesn’t benefit anyone!If you owe your outgoing accountant money they may well insist these debts are cleared before information is handed over, which I guess is fair enough.
  4. Due diligence  – all accountants operating under a professional body will conduct due diligence on new clients as part of their responsibility to combat fraud and money laundering. You will need to prove your identity and address- usually by providing your passport and a utility bill.  You will also be asked to sign an Engagement letter with your new accountant setting out your respective responsibilities.
  5. You will also be asked to sign the “Authorising your Agent” form. This tells HMRC that you have appointed a new accountant and gives them permission to deal with them if necessary.  It also lets your accountant see your account with HMRC, and file information on your behalf.
  6. You might be asked to sign a “Disengagement letter” with your old accountant and I do use them with most of my clients. It just confirms the services that your old accountant has provided and what they are not going to provide in the future for the avoidance of doubt.  eg – “the last VAT return that we are responsible for was 31 March 17 and we will not be preparing any future returns”

The whole process should not take more than a couple of weeks, and most of it happens behind the scenes.  It is most sensible to make the move at a convenient time in your business (eg just after a vat quarter) and certainly not in the last couple of weeks of January if you are expecting your tax return to be filed on time!

Accountancy firms will not in general charge to provide handover information, and will want to make the handover as smooth as possible.

So if you have been thinking of changing accountants, but have put it off as you can’t be bothered will the hassle – I hope this has shown you that it really isn’t a painful process – and if you aren’t happy, the do consider looking around and move to someone who better fits your current needs.

For more information please contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co.

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