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How much should you put aside for your tax bill each month?

If you are self- employed then no-one is deducting tax from your income every month as they would be if you were employed, so you need to discipline yourself to put money aside yourself for your tax bill.

But how much should that be?

The general rule is that as the basic rate of income tax is 20%, and the NI that the self-employed pay (class 4 NIC) is 9%, then putting aside 25-30% of your income to cover your tax bill makes sense.  And in a lot of cases this is true.  If you end up having put too much aside, then happy days – you have some unexpected cash!

But in some situations the 30% guide may not work:

If your income isn’t that high:

Everyone has a personal allowance which is the amount of income that you can earn before you start to pay tax.  This year the personal allowance is £12,570 so if your total earnings are around this amount, then you will only have a small amount of national insurance to pay and putting 30% aside would be excessive.  It might mean that your business has been short of cash during the year as you have been frantically saving more than you needed to and you could have put the money to good use in your business.

If you have other income outside your self-employment:

If you have other income of around £50k in the year, then any profit from your self-employment is going to be taxed at 40% rather than 20%.  You may also need to make a payment on account of your tax bill during the year- so you should probably be putting aside 50-60% of your earnings each month to cover your tax bill.

If you have just started trading:

If you have just started trading and your business is generating decent profits from the start, then you could be straight into payments on account (see other blogs for more details about these.)  This could mean that your first tax bill in January is increased by 50% to cover your first payment on account, and you also need to put an additional amount aside to cover this.

 

So in general it is definitely sensibly to put money aside each month to cover your tax bill.  Don’t think that you can cover your tax bill from money that you will earn in the future – this last 18 months has definitely shown that we never know what the future will bring!

Also remember that you pay tax on your profits and not your sales figure.  So having an idea of what your profit is each month will help in determining how much you should be setting aside.  Using accounting software will give you this information and help you manage your cashflow and save for tax.

These figures are for general guidance only and it is always best to get personal tailored advice.
For any further information or help with your personal tax returns, then please contact Rosie Forsyth.

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The 5th SEISS Grant – available to claim soon

The 5th and final grant for the self-employed, worth up to £7,500, and covering 1 May to 30 September, will be open to claims from “late July”.  As with earlier grants, HMRC will contact you in mid-July to tell you when you can make your claim.

The criteria for claiming this grant is different to the first 4, so it will be important to have your numbers to hand to work out if you are eligible to claim.

How Much Can I Claim?

The value of this grant will be determined by two things:

  • a turnover test comparing the year April 2020 to April 2021 with the pre-pandemic period, and
  • your average monthly profits

If your turnover has fallen by more than 30%  you will be able to claim the full grant worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500.

However, if your turnover has fallen by less than 30%, you will only claim 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850.

More information on the “turnover test” is expected to be provide by HMRC before the end of June, but you are going to have to know what your figures for last year are to determine how much grant you may be able to claim.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible you must:

  • Have traded in 19/20 and submitted your 19/20 tax return by 2 March 2021
  • Have traded in 20/21 and intend to continue trading
  • Make a declaration that you reasonably believe that there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits due to reduced business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to coronavirus from May to September
  • Earn at least 50% of your total income from self-employment
  • Have average trading profit of under £50k per year – initially based on your 19/20 tax return. If you don’t qualify in 19/20 HMRC will look back over the last 4 years returns to work out your average profit over those years.

If you meet these criteria then you will be able to claim the grant once HMRC contact you.  As with the previous grants, the grant is taxable and will need to be declared on your 21/22 tax return.

If you need more information or help with your self-employed accounts and tax, then please get in touch with Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & C0.

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Taxes Made Easy Guide 21/22- your essential Summer reading!

In these difficult economic times, it is important to ensure that you are not paying more tax than you need to.

I am delighted to offer you the chance to download a copy of my tax planning guide for 2021/22.

This guide suggests many ways in which you can save money on your tax bill by taking full advantage of the tax system. It highlights tax planning opportunities as well as some of the pitfalls you should avoid.

The booklet is a clear and concise guide to the taxes that you, your business and your family may pay.  I hope that it will give you practical tips on how you can save tax – or at least areas where there may be scope for action and that you will contact me for help and advice.

You can download your copy by clicking on the link below:

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What should you do if you’ve claimed a SEISS grant and you’re not sure you should have?

Unsurprisingly, HMRC has announced how they will be cracking down on incorrect self-employed Covid grant claims. Due to the speed and urgency that claims were made and issued, there are likely to be a number of innocently miscalculated grants.  Claims were made by individuals, often without any involvement from their accountants, or with little up to date financial information.

HMRC is requesting that businesses double-check their calculations and repay HMRC within 90 days of receiving any grants if they were claimed in error.  Keeping a grant that you knew at the time you should not have had, could result in a 100% penalty (ie repaying the full grant – and the same again in fines!)  However, if when you do your 20-21 tax return you then determine that you were not eligible for a grant, as long as the amount is repaid by 31 Jan 2022, no penalty should be due.

If you are self employed, then by now you could potentially have claimed 4 SEISS grants.  The amounts you received have to be separately identified on your tax return, and are included in the tax year in which the grant was received.

To claim the first 2 grants your business had to have been “adversely affected” by Covid in the relevant period.

It may be the case that your business was adversely affected earlier on, but then your trading patterns resumed as normal, so although you claimed the first or second grant you might not have been eligible for the third or fourth grant.

The third grant covered the period 1 November 2020 to 29 January 2021 and for this grant the conditions were different.

To qualify, your business had to have suffered reduced activity, capacity or demand AND as a result, you must have reasonably believed that you would have suffered a “significant reduction” in trading profits for the relevant basis period (this is generally your full financial year, not just this 3 month period.)

There was no requirement for trading profits to be reduced by a certain fixed amount or percentage, but the reduction must be ‘significant’. HMRC say you need to consider your individual and wider business circumstances to determine what is significant!

The conditions for the fourth grant are the same, but cover the period 1 February to 30 April 2021.

So if claimed a grant and then on review, you don’t think you should have – what should you do?

You need to let HMRC know and repay the grant within 90 days of receiving it.  You can do this online.

If you do not do this and you knew that you should have not received the grant at the time of receipt, then HMRC may charge you a penalty, potentially of 100% of the grant received.  However, if you did not realise until later that you should not have received the grant, as long as the grant is repaid by 31 Jan 2022, there should be no additionally penalty incurred.

In any situation it is always better to tell HMRC that you have made an error and the grant needs to be repaid, than let HMRC discover that you were not eligible and raise the assessment themselves.  In this situation, penalties will almost certainly be higher.  Find out more about potential penalties here.

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

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What tax do I pay if I am self-employed?

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing – remember HMRC telling you that?

That’s all well and good if you know what you are doing, but tax is pretty daunting when you are setting up on your own or running a small business and would much rather just be getting on with running your business!

However, you do need to at least have an understanding of what tax you will pay and when, so it doesn’t come as a total surprise when you or your accountant come to submit your tax return.

As a self employed person operating as a sole trader then you have to think about both income tax and National Insurance (NIC).

Most people know they have to pay tax at 20% (of something!)  but often the NIC comes as a bit of a shock when they realize this is due as well.

So what is due when you are self-employed?

Income Tax

Income tax is due at 20% of your profit for the year.  Profit is essentially your sales less your costs.  Everyone has a personal allowance of £12,570 in this tax year, so you will not pay tax on the first £12,570 of your income, but after that you pay tax at 20%, up to the basic rate tax threshold (this year £50,270.)  If your income goes over this amount, then your income tax rate goes up to 40%.

National Insurance

Being self employed you pay 2 types of NIC – class 2 and class 4.

Class 2 is a flat rate per week of £3.05 per week (£158.60 per year.)  Although this is calculated as a weekly amount, it is actually paid once a year along with your self-assessment tax bill.  Class 2 NIC gives you an entitlement to state benefits and a state pension when you retire.

If your profits are low (under £6,515 this year), you are exempt from paying class 2 NIC, but you have the option to pay it voluntarily.  This is often a good idea to do, given the entitlement to benefits that it gives you, for a relatively low cost.

Class 4 NIC is based on your profits for the year.  The rate is 9% and you pay this on your profits over £9,569 and up to £50,270.  If your profits are more than this, the rate then falls to 2% on the higher profits.

Class 4 NIC is the one that tends to be forgotten, but at 9% of profit, it can add up.  You could be in a position where you have class 4 NIC due, but not any income tax, if your profits are between £9,569 and £12,500)

SEISS Grants

Just a reminder as well that any SEISS grants received are taxable, and NICable (love that word!) and do need to be included on your tax returns.  The grants are taxable when they are received, so the 4th grant due to be paid shortly will go on your 21/22 tax return, even though it related to Feb, March and April 21 (most of which is in the 20/21 tax year!)

There is a separate box on your tax return for 20/21 where you put the details of any SEISS grants received – presumably making it easier for HMRC to check your entitlement to it in the first place!

If you would like any further information or help with your tax return for 20/21, then please get in touch with Rosie Forsyth.

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Tax year end – use or lose your allowances!

Just a couple of weeks to go before we say goodbye to the 20/21 tax year.  Many allowances will roll over on 6 April 2021 and if you have not used them in this tax year, the opportunity will be lost.  Noted below are some of the key areas for you to review to ensure you have been tax efficient in the year. Taking action now will allow you to take advantage of any exemptions, remaining reliefs and allowances before they are lost for the year.

Income tax

Ensure if possible you have sufficient income to use your personal allowance. The allowance is £12,500 for 2020/21. If a family member has unused allowance consider if there are ways for this to be utilised.

If you have a limited company, ensure the £2,000 tax free dividend allowance has been utilised – assuming you have sufficient distributable profits to be able to declare a dividend.  Also remember that dividends are paid “per share” so have to be paid to everyone holding that class of share in accordance with their shareholding.

For married couples/civil partners that are eligible for the Married Couples Allowance, ensure this has been claimed.  If one partner has not used all their personal allowance, and the other is a basic rate taxpayer, then up to £1,250 of the personal allowance can be transferred, saving £250 as a couple.  This can also be backdated to tax years since 5 April 2016 if not claimed previously. The claim is simple and can be done here .

Consider ways to reduce your taxable income if you are within the £100,000 to £125,000 group to prevent a 60% effective charge. Pension contributions and charitable donations are two ways you can reduce your taxable income.

If your income will be over £50,000 also consider ways to reduce this if you have children and are claiming child benefit.  This is clawed back if the higher earning partner’s income is over £50,000, on a sliding scale, and all has to be paid back if your income is over £60,000 in a tax year.

Annual ISA subscriptions should be maximised. The limit for 2020/21 remains at £20,000. The investment return from ISAs is free from income tax and capital gains tax. Talk to an IFA to get advice on utilising your ISA allowance.

Pensions 

Most individuals can make contributions of up to 100% of their earnings, capped at £40,000 each tax year. Pension contributions are tax effective as tax relief is given at source for a personal contribution, but the contribution needs to be made before the end of the tax year for it to qualify.  Very high earners may be limited on the amount they can contribute and need to take individual advice.

If you do not use all your allowance in one year, you can carry it forward for up to three years. Any unused allowance for 2017/18 will be lost after 5 April 2021.

Even if you have no income, you can still make a net pension contribution of up to £2,880 and the government will add £720 basic rate tax relief, which can be a significant benefit.

Again take advice from an IFA as to your personal pension situation.

Inheritance Tax

Everyone has a £3,000 annual exemption to use each year. This is the amount individuals can give away without any inheritance tax implications.  Any unused exemption can be carried forward for one tax year only. This may be of use to the older generation wanting to help their families in these difficult times.

Small gifts of up to £250 made to an individual are also exempt each tax year.

If you would like any advice about your personal tax position then please do get in touch with Rosie Forsyth@wilkinsco.co.uk

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The 4th SEISS grant – look out for pre-verification checks

The Budget announced that there would be 4th and 5th grants available to help the self-employed that have been impacted by Covid.

The 4th grant enables the newly self-employed to potentially claim the grant, as long as they had filed their 19/20 tax return by 2 March 2021.

Other than this the criteria remains the same as for the previous grants:

  • You must have traded in 19/20 and 20/21 and intend to continue to trade. You cannot claim if you plan to close your business
  • Your business must have suffered “a significant reduction in profits” in this claim period ( February to April 2021) and you need to make a declaration that this is the case.
  • More than 50% of your income must come from self employment
  • Average trading profit must be under £50,000
    For these 2 criteria, HMRC will look at your 19/20 return first to see if you qualify. If you don’t meet the criteria in this year, then they will look back at your average income from 16/17 – 19/20 to see if you then qualify

To make the declaration that your business has suffered, you need to be able to prove that you have had a significant reduction in profit in this claim period due to:

  1. Reduced demand, activity or capacity – this could be fewer customers or activity due to covid restrictions, contracts being cancelled or a supply chain shortage
    or
  2. Being unable to trade – either because you have had to close due to lockdown, have tested positive and been unable to work, or parental responsibilities have meant that you could not work

You are not able to claim it if the only reason your profits have fallen is due to increased costs ( eg additional PPE costs) – you need to be able to show that one of the two reasons above apply as well – and keep evidence of the fact.

The fall in profit must been in this claim period – if your business suffered last year but has not been impacted in this 3 month time frame then you can’t claim this time round.

As usual HMRC will contact you if they believe you may be able to claim -applications cannot be made until late April which has annoyed many, but as HMRC are including the 19/20 tax return info this time, they do need time to process the information they have been sent.

Pre-Verification Checks for the Newly -self employed:

This time, to protect the scheme from fraud, HMRC are writing to some taxpayers who became newly self-employed in 2019/20, asking them to complete pre-verification checks.

This will be a letter from HMRC, notifying you that HMRC will be calling you within 10 working days.  On that call HMRC will ask you to provide an email address and for you to agree to them sending you a link to a secure dropbox.  You then have 2 days to upload ID and 3 months worth of bank statements to confirm your business activities.  You need to be quick – the link will expire after 2 days.

They will try 3 times to call you, and then send a further letter if they cannot contact you.

If you receive the letter but do not complete the checks, you won’t be able to claim the grant!

You must therefore make sure that HMRC have the right phone number for you, and not just your agent’s number!  If you think this may need updating, contact HMRC on 0800 024 1222 ( this number is just for updating phone numbers!)

There is obvious concern that people may think this call is a scam, especially if the letter forewarning you of the call has been delayed in the post.  If you need to call HMRC only use the official numbers listed on their website, and take the necessary precautions about giving out any personal information over the phone.

For any further information then please get in touch with Rosie Forsyth.

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The Budget 2021

The Budget yesterday was full of announcements and there was a lot to take in.

The furlough scheme was extended and Restart Grants announced for retail businesses as well as hospitality, leisure and personal care businesses.

Although the self employed support scheme was extended to include those newly self-employed who filed a 19/20 tax return, there are still large groups of people who are not able to benefit from the scheme, and there was no help announced for limited company directors who pay themselves predominantly in dividends.

Freezing the personal allowances until 2025/26 will bring many more people into the tax paying regime over time, and more people will start to pay tax at the higher rate of 40%.

The hike in corporation tax to 25% from 1 April 2023 will hit companies with profits over £250,000.  The rate remains at 19% for small companies with profits under £50,000, and companies with profits in between the 2 thresholds will gain marginal relief so will end up with a tax rate somewhere in between 19% and 25%.

The temporary extension for loss relief may be a slightly technical point but means that for businesses that have made a loss, there is more scope to get a tax rebate on tax paid in the past.

So in conclusion – a real mixed bag!

For a detailed summary of what was announced please read my Budget report here:

Budget Summary 2021

As ever if you would like more detailed advice on any of the issues raised in the Budget then please do get in touch with Rosie Forsyth.

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5 ways to make your bookkeeping easier

The new tax year starts soon and although keeping your accounts in order may not be your favourite job, it needs to be done.  So what can you do next year to make your job easier?

Here are my top tips to help with your bookkeeping:

  1. Use accounting software – unless you only have a handful of transactions a month, I would recommend investing in some kind of software.  There are so many online options available, some of which are free (but these may have limited functionality) but otherwise costs start from around £10 per month.  The time and stress saved by using an online package such as Xero or Freeagent will be well worth the money!
  2. Open a separate bank account for your business – although strictly only necessary for a limited company, having a bank account which you only use for your business will make your record keeping so much easier!  For a sole trader, just open another account in your name and only use it for your business.  Having business and personal transactions all mixed up together in one account will mean your accounts take much longer to sort out, and you may miss some transactions from your records.  Missing costs from your accounts results in a higher tax bill.
  3. Transfer money out of your business account for personal use once a month – although it is not treated in your accounts as a salary – think of it like one.  An employer does not pay you 2 or 3 times a week or “sub” you for your weekly shop, so don’t keep dipping into your business bank account to pay for small personal items.
  4. Keep a separate spreadsheet during the year of other costs that you incur partly for your business, but that are paid from a different bank account.  This could be, for example, because you already have the DD set up there such as your mobile phone bill, internet costs or annual subscriptions, possibly even your Amazon purchases.  I spend a lot of time asking clients what amounts paid to Amazon relate to, and whether they are for business and personal expenditure!
  5. Update your records regularly!  Book out 30 minutes a week in your diary to send your invoices out, chase payments, reconcile your bank account in your online accounting package, or update your manual spreadsheet.  It’s like many things – little and often pays off!!
    .

    Treat yourself to coffee and cake either while you do it, or once it’s done  – and you never know you may start looking forward to your weekly accounts session!

    For help with setting up an accounting system that works for you, contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co.

 

 

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Worried about paying your tax bill at 31 January 2021?

So here we go again.

News of the latest lockdown will only have increased people’s money worries.

Self-assessment tax bills are due at the end of the month, and although in an ideal world, you have put the money to one side for this- as we know, we are in far from an ideal world at the moment.

In addition to the January 2021 normal payment, many people deferred their July 2020 payment so this is also now falling due to be paid.

So what can you do if you are concerned about paying your tax bill by the end of the month?

  1. Review your payments on account.

    Payments on account are payments due at 31 Jan 21 and 31 July 21 on account of your 20/21 tax bill, and are automatically calculated at 50% of your 19/20 tax, based on the assumption that your profit for 2021 will be similar.

    Obviously the period since April 2020 has been a very different year for many businesses, and profits may well be much lower. It could therefore be possible to reduce your payment on accounts and base them on these lower figures.

    If you can provide your accountant with an estimate of your figures for the current tax year, they will be able to advise if you can reduce your payment on account and ask HMRC to do this for you.  If you do your own tax return, you can ask HMRC to reduce your payment on account by logging into your online account.

    You do need to include any SEISS income received when reviewing your 20/21 income levels, as this income is fully taxable.

  2. Set up a payment plan with HMRC

    Self-employed taxpayers can apply to pay their tax bill in instalments. HMRC are allowing you to pay your January bill over 12 months using the Time to Pay service. This can be set up online without the need to speak to HMRC.

    You need to have submitted your tax return for year before you apply, and have no other outstanding returns, tax debts or payment plans in place with HMRC.Your debt needs to be under £30,000 and you can decide how much you want to pay now and how much you want to spread over the year.  HMRC will still add interest to the amount outstanding but this does allow to manage your cashflow over the next 12 months.

    Click here to set up your time to pay.

If you don’t agree time to pay arrangements with HMRC and fail to pay your tax on time, interest and penalties will be charged.

The first penalty is 5% of the tax due is your payment is more than 30 days late, with a further 5% if the tax is still not paid after 6 months.  HMRC have not waived penalties due to COVID-19 or provided any extension to the filing deadline as yet.

Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand and do nothing.  As long as your return is filed, setting up a payment plan is simple and will enable you to manage your finances over the next 12 months.

For more information please contact rosieforsyth@wilkinsco.co.uk

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