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We all know planning is important! What tax-planning can you still do before the tax year end?

With the tax year ending soon have you been as tax efficient as you could have been this tax year?

What can you still do before the year end to maximise your tax efficiency?

Here are a few of my tips for tax efficiency:

  • Use your personal allowance – everyone has a personal allowance of £12,500 for this tax year.  Consider family members who have no other income and if their allowance can be utilised.
  • If you have a new limited company, have you taken a salary this year?  Low levels of salary may be able to be processed without the need to set up a PAYE scheme with HMRC, but generally you will need to register as an employer with HMRC to be able to pay yourself a salary from the company – you just about have time to do this before 5 April.
  • If you have a limited company –have you paid dividends this year?  The dividend allowance is still £2,000, so the first £2,000 of dividend received in a tax year is tax-free, and then for basic rate taxpayers, the rate of tax on dividends is 7.5%.  Dividends must be paid out of available reserves and are payable per share -so if you have more than one shareholder in the company, you need to get the maths right!
  • Check you and your partner’s total income for the year if you receive child benefit payments.  If you have the ability to determine your income for the year, by varying the level of dividend paid, keeping the higher earner’s income below £50,000 will ensure you retain your child benefit.  If one of you has earned more than £50,000 this year, be aware you will need to pay back some or all of your child benefit and may need to complete a tax return to do this.
  • If you are considering buying capital equipment for your business, doing if before the end of the tax year will give you the tax deduction this year rather than next
  • Pension contributions – very tax efficient for the company to contribute to your personal pension.  Review any payments made in the year and take advice from an IFA.
  • Also think about contributing up to £3,600 into a pension scheme for a spouse, civil partner or a child, even if they have no earnings of their own, to obtain basic rate tax relief on the contributions
  • If you have taxable income over £100,000, you will start to lose your personal allowance, and will receive no personal allowance once your income is over £125,000 – this makes your marginal tax rate 60% on this part of your income.  Consider making additional pension contributions or gift aid donations which may restore your personal tax allowance
  • Use your allowance for tax free ISA saving; that’s up to £20,000 in this tax year. Under 18s can save £4,386 in a Junior ISA.  Also consider LISA’s to help your children get on the housing ladder.

Often simple steps can be taken to minimise your tax bill.  You should always however take professional advice to ensure the best tax saving strategy for you and your business.

Please contact us at Wilkins & Co if we can help you ensure that you and your business and operating as tax efficiently as possible.

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Last Minute Tax Return Help?

If you have yet to file your personal tax return, you probably have a rising sense of panic as you now have less than 3 weeks to get it in!

There is an automatic £100 fine for your return being late, whether you owe any tax or not, and although you can appeal with the fine with an excuse, you are very unlikely to get it overturned!

I have put together a summary of blogs I have done over the last year to hopefully help you with the most frequently asked questions for a sole trader trying to prepare their accounts and tax return.  I hope you may find them useful.

  1. Who needs to file a tax return?
  2. How you work out the amount you can claim for working from home
  3. What you can claim for using your personal mobile phone for work
  4. The rules around working in coffee shops!
  5. Payments on account – this was written in the Summer for the July payment on account, but the explanation of payments on account applies to January as well!

I’ll leave my blog about being organised and getting it done early in the year for another time!!

Good luck, and if you decide its all too much and this is the year you are going to do it differently and be organised – you know where I am (next year!)

 

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Are you missing out on tax-free childcare?

Recent statistics show that the take-up of the new scheme has been low, not helped by widely-reported technical issues soon after the scheme was launched.

So what does the scheme offer – and can you take advantage of it?

Under the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, for every 80p you put into your online account, the government will add 20p.

In total you can use the scheme to help pay for up to £10,000 of childcare per child each year – giving you an extra £2,000 per child (up to £4,000 if your child has disabilities).

Tax-Free Childcare is open to all qualifying parents, unlike the old Childcare Vouchers scheme offered by some companies.  It is open to all working parents, including those who are self-employed, with children up to the age of 11 (or 17 if your children have disabilities)

You can get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as 30 hours free childcare if you are eligible for both.  However, you won’t be able to get the tax-free childcare if you already get Universal Credits.

To qualify, you and your partner, need to be working and earning a minimum of £131 a week, and a maximum of £100,000 a year.  If one of you does not work, then you are not able to claim.

Tax-Free Childcare can be used to pay for activities by any regulated childcare provider who has registered with the Scheme, and this may include holiday and after-school clubs as well as the more obvious nurseries etc, so it is worth checking who is covered in your local area.

If you are eligible for the scheme, then you need to create an online childcare account via the Government Tax-Free Childcare site. You then pay the money into this account, and transfer funds from there to pay your childcare provider.

So even if you do not regularly use childcare, it is worth checking if any provider that you do use is signed up to the scheme, and if you could be saving money by setting up an account.

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

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It’s time to party (tax-efficiently of course!!)

As we approach the Christmas period, the question is always – what can we claim for a staff Christmas party?

Christmas Party

If you have a limited company, you can claim your festive or annual party as a deductible expense, subject to the limits below. As long as all of your employees are invited to attend, the whole event will not be taxable, even if you are the sole director/staff member. You cannot claim annual event expenses if you also entertain clients and associates.

You have £150 (including VAT) to spend per head, and you can also spend this on your “plus ones”. The £150 is an all-inclusive figure, so you need to add up the total costs of the evening (incl transport, accommodation, drinks) and divide it by the number of attendees. The total cost has to be under £150, – if it comes out to be £151 per head, the whole lot is taxable, so be careful!

An exemption, not an allowance

The £150 spend is an exemption, not an allowance. You will have to actually spend the money in order to claim the deduction.
If it is not used, the exemption will be lost.

Gifting employees/directors

Small gifts given to employees (and directors) can be exempt from tax as trivial benefits providing the following conditions are met:

  • The cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50 (including VAT).
  • The benefit is not cash or a voucher that can be exchanged for cash
  • The employee is not entitled to the benefit as part of any contractual obligation.
  • The benefit is not provided in recognition of a particular service.

However, if the cost of providing the benefit exceeds £50, the full amount is taxable, not just the excess over £50.

Gifts to Clients?

Your gifts will only get tax relief, and you can only reclaim the VAT if they are:

  • NOT food, drink, tobacco or a voucher AND
  • Carry a conspicuous advert for your business AND
  • The cost of that gift, and any other to that person in the year is under £50

So no excuses not to have that Christmas party!

Please note that these rules are for limited companies – unfortunately sole traders do not benefit from the same exemptions!

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

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Going self-employed? 5 things you need to do

Setting up a new business can be daunting and the To Do list endless.  Here are 5 things that you need to do to get the financial side of your business up and running:

  1. Register with HMRC

    You need to tell HMRC that you have become self employed.  You can do this online here.  You will receive your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) in the post within about 2 weeks from HMRC.  This is a 10 digit number which you need to keep safe, as you need this to be able to file your tax return.

    You should register with HMRC as soon as possible after you start trading, and by 5 October following the end of the tax year in which you started self-employment at the latest.

  2. Set up a Separate Bank account

    It is always a good idea to have a separate bank account that you just use for your business.  Not only does it make preparing your year end accounts easier, it makes sure that you account for all your business expenses, gives you a clearer idea of how your business is doing, and if HMRC were ever to enquire into your affairs, gives them less scope to start asking other questions!

    As a sole trader, you don’t need to set up a “business” bank account.  You just need to have an account in your name that you use solely for business purposes.  If you have any business related DD’s (mobile phone/subscriptions) move them over to this account.

  3. Set your prices

    Presumably you want to make money out of your business, so you do need to think about what you are going to charge people for your services.  I’m not going to cover various pricing strategies here, but it is important to have think about all the different types of costs that are going to be involved with running your business, and to make sure that your prices will generate enough income to cover them.

    You also need to consider the amount of “admin” time that is involved in running a business.  Running that “hour workshop” won’t just take an hour of your time, you need to plan it, advertise it, deal with the finances of it, follow up etc so you need to build all this time into your pricing strategy.

  4. Keep your records

    You need to get this organised from the start.  Unless you are going to be raising only a handful of invoices and have very few expenses, I would definitely consider using a cloud based accounting package.  These are subscription based, so you need to take this cost into account, but packages start at under £10 a month, so are well worth the cost. At Wilkins & Co, we use Xero with our clients, but there are many others to take a look at as well.

    Make sure you are aware of the types of expenses that you can claim against your business and keep records of all these, as you will need them to prepare your accounts for HMRC, or to pass to your accountant.

  5. Put Money Aside for Tax

    Being self employed as opposed to employed, no-one pays your tax for you!

    It is your responsibility to pay HMRC your tax and NIC.  You will do this by preparing a set of accounts for your business and sending HMRC a tax return. Your accounts will generally be prepared to the end of the tax year (5 April), and then you have until the following 31 January to submit your tax return and pay your tax and NI.

    It is therefore a good idea to put money aside as you go along to pay your tax bill.  It is very easy to see money in your business bank account, and take it out and spend it – and then realise you have a tax bill to pay at 31 January that you have not budgeted for. How much you should put aside does depend on your personal situation, and what other income you may have in a tax year, but 20-30% of your profits put aside should cover your tax bill for the year.  Do check with an accountant though for personal advice on this.

  6. Did I say 5 things – oh well!

    No 6 could be the most important – talk to an accountant!!!  You can contact me at rosie@wilkinsco.co.uk.

 

 

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Can my business pay for my new “work outfit?”

“I’ve bought a new outfit that I’m only going to wear for work – this must be a business expense?”

I hear this all the time but unfortunately HMRC may not agree with you as to what constitutes “workwear”.

So what are the rules?

HMRC will not let you claim any clothing that has dual use – eg that could be worn both personally and for your business.  So you may live 24-7 in jeans, and buy one “work outfit” to go to client meetings and networking events in, but HMRC are not going to let you claim the cost of it through your business, as you could very easily also wear it outside work.  The fact you don’t is irrelevant.

Branded clothing

If your clothing is visibly and permanently branded with your company logo, then HMRC will accept that it is only worn for business purposes and let you claim the cost (think branded polo shirts/fleeces etc)

The branding does have to be both clearly visible and permanent – so a badge won’t work, nor will a tiny label sewn or written on areas not generally seen!! (yes I have had a client try this one)

Nor will buying a green jacket, just because your company colours are green!

Safety wear and protective clothing

If you need safety wear or protective clothing for your business, then you can claim this.  But we are talking high viz jackets, steel capped boots, hard hats etc.  Buying a super warm jacket because you work outside a lot may protect you from the cold, but HMRC would not consider it a business cost.  You are quite likely to wear this walking the dog as well, so it has dual use.

Uniform or costumes?

Police, nurses uniform etc – yes (assuming this is your profession 😊)

White shirt and navy skirt because that’s what you are expected to wear – no.

“Sensible” shoes is one that people like to try to claim – if you are on your feet all day you are going to want comfortable shoes, but HMRC are unlikely to let you claim these, as again they have dual use, even if you wouldn’t be seen dead in them outside work.

Another common one is gym kit for personal trainers, yoga instructors etc.  Although you will have to purchase more of this than the rest of us, it still has dual use and therefore can’t be claimed.

So there is generally very little scope to claim any “workwear” as a business cost, which I agree in some circumstances may seem unfair!

For any further information or help with your accounts, please contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co

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Summary of Useful Blogs for the self-employed

If you are starting up in business,  here’s my summary of useful blogs to help you with your accounts if you are self employed!

  1. Smile – 10 reasons to get your tax return done early
  2. Who needs to file a personal tax return
  3. What you can claim from your business for working from home
  4. Claiming the cost of your mobile phone
  5. Claiming travel and subsistence
  6. What are payments on account of tax
  7. How to budget for your personal tax bill
  8. Maternity Pay for the self-employed
  9. When do I register for VAT?
  10. Are you getting paid on time?

Hopefully there is something there to help you, if you need help and want to get in touch, please contact Rosie Forsyth here.

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Claiming the costs of your mobile phone

We can’t run our businesses without our mobile phones, but are you claiming the right amount from your business?

The rules for claiming the cost of your mobile phone from your business are different depending on whether you are a sole trader or a limited company.

For a sole trader – it’s relatively straight forward.

You can claim a percentage of your phone bill, or new phone, depending on the percentage that you use it for your business.  You don’t need to analyse all your calls, but it is a good idea to keep track of your business usage for 2-3 months, and then apply that percentage to the full year.  HMRC may ask you one day how you came to the percentage that you did, and you may find it hard to justify that you use your phone 90% for business, when you actually only work one day a week -so just be sensible!

For a limited company, as with most things, it’s more complicated.

If your phone contract is in your personal name, and the company pays the bill, or reimburses you for it, you have a benefit-in-kind – and this should be disclosed on a form called a P11D at the end of each tax year.  Both you and the company will have tax to pay on this amount.

The logic behind this, is that with contracts nowadays, we all get so many free minutes and texts etc, that there is actually no additional cost to you for using your phone for business.  You would be paying your phone bill anyway, and so getting the company to pay it, is really the same as paying yourself additional money from the company.  If you can separate additional business calls, eg they are overseas calls, then you can claim these from the business as a legitimate expense.

If you can put your phone contract in the company name, then HMRC will accept that private use of your “company” phone is minor, and the company can pay the whole bill, without any personal tax problems.

The same rules will apply for broadband costs in your home.

So if you have a limited company, you basically have a choice:

  • If your phone contract is in your personal name,  don’t put any of the cost through the business (unless you have costs over and above your standard package cost that you can identify as relating to the business – such as overseas calls.)
  • Put your contract into the limited company name – and then you can claim the full cost of your monthly bill ( but no prizes for guessing that a business contract is usually more expensive than a private one)

It’s a really common mistake to think that the company can just pay your personal mobile phone bill, as you use it for business, but get it wrong and you could land yourself and the company further unexpected tax bills!

For any further information, please contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co.

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5 things to check before the tax year end

The tax year end is rapidly approaching so it’s a good time to check your finances and make sure you have minimised any tax liabilities.  What should you be looking at?

Here are 5 things that may apply to you to help you save some tax before 5 April.

Dividend Allowance

If you run your business through a limited company, then you can extract funds via dividends, as long as the business has the reserves to be able to do so.  The dividend allowance for 18/19 is £2,000, so you will be able to extract this amount tax-free per shareholder.

Timing of Expenses

If your company or business year end is 31 March 19, then think about expenditure around the year end.  Money spent before 31 March 19 will be included in this year’s accounts, and reduce your profit this year, whereas delaying until April 19 will move those costs into next year (generally).  If your business is on the cusp of paying higher rate tax, then bringing forward planned expenditure could be tax efficient.

Pension Contributions

Pensions remain one of the most tax efficient ways to save. You receive a 20% top-up from the government on any contributions you make personally and you also extend your basic rate band for income tax purposes. Depending on your income, this can reduce the amount of tax you pay at higher rates.

Paying a pension contribution from your limited company is also tax efficient and is an allowable deduction for corporation tax.  Speak to an IFA if you are interested in contributing to your later years!

Child Benefit

If you or your partner’s adjusted taxable income is above £50,000 then you start to lose your child benefit for the year.  This is reduced on a sliding scale up to £60,000 when it is lost in full, and if you have received it in the year it will need to be repaid.  Consider making pension contributions, or gift aid donations to reduce your adjusted taxable income, and to keep your child benefit.

Marriage Allowance

So many people who are entitled to this are still not claiming it!

The Marriage allowance lets you transfer 10% of your personal allowance to your spouse/civil partner if you have not used it.  This can save you £237 as a couple.  To qualify your spouse must be a basic rate taxpayer, and your income under £11,850.

For any more information, please contact Rosie Forsyth atWilkins & Co

 

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How to Budget for your personal tax bill

Was your tax bill in January a shock?  Were you scrabbling around to find the money to pay it – or not able to pay it all in one go?  This blog sets out how to budget for your personal tax bill so you are prepared next January.

The best way to budget is to pretend that you are employed. One of the big advantages of employment is that your income tax is taken out of your pay via PAYE before you receive it. You don’t have to worry about putting money aside, as it is done for you.

Putting a chunk of money aside each month from your self employment income is important to save for your tax bill.

The big questions is how much do you need to put aside? This will depend on your personal circumstances but there are some general steps to follow to work out how much to save:

 

1: Allocate your Personal Allowance

We all have a Personal Allowance – this is the amount we can earn before we pay income tax.  In 18/19, this amount is £11,850 and for 19/20 it will be £12,500.  If you are employed as well as being self-employed, your personal allowance is used against this income first, and anything left is used against your self-employment.  So, if you have employed income of £8,000 per year, you won’t pay tax on this, as you have used £8,000 of your personal allowance against it, leaving £3,850 this year to set against your self-employment.

If you are only self-employed, then you have the whole personal allowance to use against business profit.

 

2: Estimate your profit

You pay tax on your business profit – not your sales.  So you need to have an idea what your profit is, to be able to estimate your tax bill.  This is one of the reasons cloud-based accounting packages are useful, as you can see at any time the profitability of your business in real time.

If you not using an accounting package, then you need to estimate your profit by taking into account the costs of the business.  It doesn’t need to be 100% accurate at this stage, as you are only using it for guidance.

 

3: How much to put aside?

You have 2 amounts to pay on your profit.

  1. Income tax – currently at 20%
  2. National insurance. Being self employed you pay a flat rate of £146 for this year (class 2 NIC), but then you also pay class 4 NIC of 9% of your profit over £8060.  This often gets forgotten and can be a reason why your tax bill is higher than expected at the year end.

So in broad terms, you pay 29% in tax and NI of your business profit, after fully utilising your personal allowance.  For some, putting aside 30% of estimated profit is a good way of ensuring their tax bill is covered.

 

If this is your first year of self-employment, or you have earned more profit this year than last,  then you do need to think about payments on account of tax.

I have explained these in more detail in another blog (https://wilkinsco.co.uk/payments-account-tax) but in basic terms, self-assessment works on a system where we pay tax during the tax year on account of the current tax year.  We make payments in January and July on account of the tax year we are in.  If your first year of self-employment is coming to an end at 5 April 2019, you will calculate your profit and pay the tax due on that profit at 31 Jan 2020.

BUT at that time, you will also pay your first payment on account of your 19/20 tax bill, and that is calculated as half your tax bill for 18/19.  So at 31 Jan 2020, you have a double whammy and pay 150% of the tax you thought you were going to pay.   This is where you can be caught out if you haven’t budgeted as you go along!

 

Top Tips for Budgeting for your tax bill

  1. Get into the mind set that even though it’s in your bank account, it’s not all your money.
  2. Have a separate bank account for your every day business transactions (a good idea for SO many reasons!)
  3. Have a separate bank account where you save for your tax bill (any bank account will do)
  4. Put something aside each month – putting 25-30% aside is generally sufficient,but think about payments on account in your first year of business. Remember- putting anything aside is better than nothing!
  5. Once you have put it aside – forget about it. Don’t dip into just because it’s there – you won’t thank yourself in January!
  6. Use cloud accounting – not only will this help you estimate your tax bill, it makes your bookkeeping during the year so much easier
  7. Get your tax return done early. Doing it as soon as you can after the end of the tax year (5 April) will mean you know what you are going to owe the following January.  And your accountant will love you!

For more information, or for help with your sole trader accounts and your tax return, contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co.

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