All you need to know about submitting your Self Assessment tax return

Many people don’t like to hear the ‘C’ word mentioned until at least December. However, if you’re self-employed, now’s the time to start thinking about the festive period, particularly with regards to submitting your Self-Assessment tax return (SATR). Here’s all you need to know:

 

What is a SATR?

Self Assessment tax return or SATR is the system by which HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) collect tax on your income.
Whereas tax is typically deducted automatically from wages, savings and pensions, if you’re self-employed, it’s your responsibility to declare taxable income and to notify HMRC that you need a tax return form. Fail to complete a return when necessary and you’ll receive a penalty.

 

Who needs to complete one?

If you can say yes to one or more of the below criteria for the last tax year (6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018), it’s highly likely you’ll need to complete a SATR:

You were self-employed and your income was over £1,000
You received over £2,500 from renting out property
You’re a partner in a partnership. The Partnership will have to file a return, too
You’re a company director
Your annual income was £100,000 or more
Your annual income was £50,000 or more, and you or your partner was in receipt of child benefit
You received over £2,500 in other untaxed income, such as commission or tips
You needed to claim expenses or reliefs, or you’re a trustee
You had Capital Gains Tax to pay, for instance if you sold shares or a second home
You had £10,000 or more in dividends or from other investments
You had income from abroad you needed to pay tax on

If HMRC send you a return to complete but you find none of the above apply to you, you should get in contact with HMRC as it may be an error.

 

What are the deadlines this year?

You have to submit returns for tax years, not calendar years. Meaning, this return will be to declare tax on income and gains from 6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018. The deadlines for submitting the returns are as follows.

5 October 2018 for registering for Self Assessment if you have never submitted a return before
31 October 2018 for submitting a paper tax return
31 January 2019 for submitting an online tax return (you need to submit your online return by 30 December 2018 if you want HMRC to automatically collect tax owed from your wages and pensions, however you must be eligible)
31 January 2019 for paying all of the tax you owe

 

What are the penalties?

If you need to file a return but it’s up to three months late, you’ll receive a penalty of £100, with this sum increasing the longer you leave it. If a partnership tax return is late, all partners will have to pay a penalty.

 

What if you make a mistake?

If you realise that you’ve made a mistake on your tax return, don’t fret – you’re able to make amendments after you’ve filed it. But the deadlines are as follows:

31 January 2019 for the 2016-17 tax year
31 January 2020 for the 2017-18 tax year

 

Partnering with Intouch

If you’re one of our clients, your dedicated Personal Accountant will have already been in touch to guide you through the process and make sure you know exactly what needs to be submitted.

We offer complimentary completion of a SATR for one employee as part of our comprehensive monthly services for contractors. If you want to find out about the many other features of this plan, or about the benefits of partnering with Intouch, call 01202 375758 today.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Financial Services for Contractors

Planning your personal finances as a contractor

Contracting offers many opportunities in terms of earnings potential and flexibility but also potential financial pitfalls. You’ll no longer have access to a company employee benefits package and optimising your earnings and savings can be more complex when you’re a contractor. When it comes to mortgages, you won’t necessarily ‘fit’ the lenders’ standard criteria which can make it hard to find a good deal.

It’s important to take specialist advice on how to manage and plan your personal finances as well as those of your business. Once your accountant has advised you on how to take the most tax-efficient blend of salary and dividends out of your company, how do you make the most of your ‘personal’ money? Most contractor accountants will advise you to speak to a financial advisor, but some, like Intouch can offer a specialist service to their contracting clients

Intouch clients get all the financial support they need to overcome the specific challenges facing contractors. That’s because as part of the wider Brookson Group, we offer our clients access to expert financial advice and products that have been designed with the contractor in mind.

 

Specialist contractor financial advice

Brookson Financial have been offering expert advice and support for contractors and self-employed professionals for over 20 years, developing a deep understanding of how independent professionals work and what their financial needs are.

They are a specialist team of Financial Advisers that pride themselves in understanding the unique opportunities and challenges self-employment brings. As an Intouch client, you are able to access this specially designed range of contractor financial advice and services:

  • Competitive, contractor-specific mortgages
  • Pension advice
  • ISAs
  • Retirement Advice & Review
  • Investment & Saving
  • Retirement Forecasting and Planning
  • Illness & Life Cover
  • Business Insurance

Free Financial Health Check

The foundation of sound advice is a clear picture of your personal and corporate position combined with an understanding of your short, medium and long-term objectives. That’s why every Intouch client is entitled to a free Financial Health Check. Following a short phone call, you’ll receive a personalised report covering your current and future financial well-being and highlighting any areas of need.

Join Intouch Accounting, get so much more

Whether you’re looking to switch accountants or just starting out in contracting, with Intouch you get everything you need to run your Limited Company from an accounting and tax point of view for a fixed monthly fee. Your dedicated Contractor Accountant will handle everything for you, helping to maximise your income, while staying on the right side of the tax man. With unlimited IR35 advice and reviews and of cours access to contractor-specific financial services products, you’ll have everything you need for your contracting life.

So get in touch today

 

You might also like:

Contractor advice – mortgages made easy

How to get started as a contractor – infographic

How to switch to intouch – infographic

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Dividends and salary: getting the balance right

If you’re considering setting up your own contracting firm by trading under a Limited Company, then taking a mix of salary and dividends is the most tax-efficient way to take income from the business.

Due to the implications associated with drawing a £Nil salary, many contractors choose to pay themselves a modest salary, topped up with dividends.

For instance, you could pay yourself a basic salary up to the limit of when NI contributions become payable – the threshold for the current 2018/19 tax year is £8,424. Yet, while it’s your decision to do this, remuneration at the NI threshold is lower than the National Minimum Wage.

As of 1 April this year, the National Minimum Wage for people aged 25 and up is £7.83 per hour which, when full-time hours are considered, works out at approximately £14,250 per year. Taking a salary at this level may be a better alternative to taking one below the NI threshold, as it will demonstrate your intention to operate a genuine commercial, contracting business. There is no advantage to withdrawing a salary in excess of this figure however, except in ‘special’ circumstances.

 

Drawing a £Nil salary

So, you may be wondering: Can I take all my income as dividends and not pay myself a salary? The short answer is yes, you can; however, doing this has a number of implications you need to be aware of. These include:

 

The effect on future entitlements

Paying yourself a £Nil salary will mean you do not pay any National Insurance. However, not paying NI contributions could affect your entitlements later down the line, including the state pension and a number of other state benefits.

 

Investigations by HMRC

If you’re not taking any salary from your business, it’s possible that HMRC will argue that the dividends paid or declared incorrectly are in fact ‘salary in disguise.’ In this case, HMRC will seek to tax the dividends as salary.

 

Corporation Tax Relief

Any salary that your company pays to you will qualify for Corporation Tax relief. This means that if your company pays you £8,424 it will save £1,600 in Corporation Tax.

This combined with the fact that this income is tax free for you, as it’s within your personal allowance, makes a nominal salary very tax efficient.

 

Finding a balance that’s right for you

Of course, striking the right salary/dividend formula will be entirely dependent on your individual circumstances – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Many factors will need to be considered, such as:

  • Your age
  • Likely length of career
  • Projected income levels
  • Views of pensions planning and saving
  • Family status
  • Income from outside the business
  • IR35 risk status
  • Cash requirements to fund lifestyle

 

With all these factors to bear in mind, it can really help to turn to the professionals to help in your decision, like the team here at Intouch. We’ll help you get your business up and running and can advise on how best to withdraw income from your company. If you’d like to find out more, call our experts on 01202 375293. And, in the meantime, take a look at our new guide on combining salary with dividends.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

How to switch over to Intouch – Infographic

Are you thinking of switching over to Intouch from your current accountant? Then take a look at our infographic to see how easy it is…

 

Switching to Intouch

Contractor advice: mortgages made easy

Unless you’re an expert in the area, the world of mortgages can seem like a minefield. With so many providers, terms, rates and industry jargon to get your head around, identifying the best deal for your needs doesn’t come easy.

Things can get a little more perplexing if you’re a contractor. Being self-employed brings with it great freedom and flexibility, but also some uncertainty – and mortgages fall under this bracket.

Buying a property should be an exciting experience and as stress-free as possible. We hope reading this guide will help you in the process.

 

Why is it difficult for contractors to secure a mortgage?

Working as a contractor, your income is likely to vary from month to month. It’s this inconsistency that rings alarm bells with some providers, who factor it in when calculating your ability to sustain mortgage payments.

As a Ltd Company contractor, it’s often more tax efficient to pay yourself a low salary and top it up using dividends, but this can also lead to issues securing a mortgage. A provider, for instance, may not take into account retained profit you already have in your contracting business – profit that proves you could afford a mortgage.

Of course, there are other factors that may see a mortgage application denied – poor credit history, career gaps and undisclosed credit are among these.

Essentially, when your salary isn’t fixed, providers consider it riskier to lend you money. This one-size-fits-all approach certainly doesn’t fall in a contractor’s favour, and it can seem extremely unfair.

Contractors also stand a high chance of being turned down for a mortgage even if they personally approach their own bank, which will only assess their earnings, and often conclude that they have failed the so-called affordability test.

 

How can contractors strengthen their application?

There are a number of things contractors can do to appear more ‘lendable’ to mortgage companies, but they’re not always practical or guaranteed to be successful. Some of these include:

  • Saving up a larger deposit, which from a provider’s perspective lowers ‘perceived risk’
  • Improving your credit score before you start house hunting
  • Obtaining evidence of ongoing agreements with companies to prove guaranteed future work, as well as renewed contracts
  • Limiting time off in the run up to buying a home, as providers may scrutinise you for being out of work for long periods

 

So, what’s the solution?

It may be more difficult to secure a mortgage as a contractor, but it’s certainly not impossible. And actually, with more and more people choosing to go it alone and become self-employed, there has been an increase in the number of bespoke mortgage deals tailored specifically to contractors and their unique needs.

For specialist mortgage deals, you need to turn to a specialist provider, such as Brookson Financial.

Brookson Financial’s in-depth knowledge of the contractor market has enabled them to work with lenders to develop unique products which take into account the distinct ways contractors work and earn money.

The company works with carefully-selected high street lenders to offer unique deals to people like you. You would be assigned your own, personal Mortgage Advisor, who would be responsible for liaising with lenders, estate agents and solicitors on your behalf to save you time. After all, we all know how precious time is when you’ve got your own business to run.

 

From one personal advisor to the next, if you’re looking to switch accountants or haven’t long started out in contracting, with Intouch, you’ll be paired with your own, dedicated Contractor Accountant. It’s their job to help your business run smoothly by taking control of time-consuming accounting tasks you would rather do without, while making sure that you stay on the right side of the tax man.

To find out about any of these services, call us on 01202 375879.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

How to get started as a contractor – Infographic

If you’d like to know what happens once you’ve joined Intouch as a Limited Company contractor, then take a look at our infographic to see how easy the steps are…

Onboarding for newbies infographic

A handy guide to contractor insurance

If you’re just starting out in contracting, you’ll no doubt have a long checklist of things you need to do before you can reach out to clients. One of these tasks will be taking out quality insurance for your new Limited Company.

We understand that the world of insurance can feel like a minefield, so let us help! The Intouch team has put together this simple guide explaining the types of cover you’re likely to need – but first, that all-important question…

 

Why exactly do you need insurance?

Like any other business owner, contractors need to protect themselves against a number of risks. Arguably the main risk for contractors is a third-party claim against your business – for instance, if a client accuses you of negligence or damage to their property.

Without cover, a single claim could tarnish your reputation and cost you thousands of pounds to put right. It could very well spell the end to your small contracting business.

But also, you’ll find that having insurance is an essential requirement in the contracts you have with agencies and companies. A quality insurance policy will protect you against the unexpected and give you peace of mind with each new contract you take on.

 

The types of insurance you’ll need

Cover comes in all shapes and sizes – here are the types of insurance you’ll need in order to fully protect your Limited Company:

 

• Professional indemnity

If a client believes you’ve done something wrong in your work, known as ‘professional negligence,’ this cover will protect you against the financial implications of them claiming against your company. For instance, it will pay out legal defence costs and damages awarded to the client.

 

• Public liability

As the name implies, this cover is needed if you deal with the public – for example, if your clients visit your office or you work at their premises. It offers protection in the event someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of your work.

 

• Employer’s liability

This protects you against claims made by employees. As you don’t have any employees, you might be wondering why you need it? However, you’ll find that many agencies and clients require you to have employer’s liability cover, alongside public liability and professional indemnity insurance.

 

• Directors’ and officers’ liability

As the director of your own business, you could be held accountable for a number of legislative breaches involving things like mismanagement, health and safety failure or failing to comply with company law. This insurance will cover the financial costs of a claim to make sure it doesn’t take a hit on your bottom line.

 

• Occupational personal accident cover

If you’re injured while working and your business grinds to a halt, it’s almost certain that you’ll be at a financial loss. This insurance pays out a regular sum of money whilst you get better, so that your finances don’t add to your worries.

 

Secure insurance through Intouch

Intouch Accounting has partnered with reputable insurance provider Kingsbridge, which specialises in comprehensive contractor policies. To make things easier, Kingsbridge offers an insurance package which includes professional indemnity cover, as well as public and employer’s liability. You can also boost protection with directors’ and officers’ liability and personal accident cover.

And if you’d like support getting your business off the ground, find out more about Intouch’s services by calling one of our experts on 01202 375293.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

The importance of personal service

We’ve all been there: we call our bank, a service provider or company with a minor query, only to be passed through multiple departments and asked the same questions over and over again. We feel like we’re just a name in a long line of callers – and we can’t help but feel fed up and frustrated when we put the phone down.

In these situations, there’s one important thing missing: the personal touch. And when you’re paying for a service – for instance, from a Contractor Accountant – personal service is something you truly deserve.

Personal service is important because:

• It shows respect. In our opinion, adding a personal touch is part and parcel of offering a quality customer experience. After all, when you entrust in a company to provide a service (and you’re paying for the privilege), you don’t expect to be treated like ‘just another customer.’ You want to feel special – and you deserve to.

• It enhances relationships. You’re far more likely to be satisfied with a company that treats you as an individual – a company that understands your unique circumstances, and offers quality solutions based on your needs.

• It reduces time-wasting. Time’s precious when you’re a freelancer or contractor running your own company. By pairing with an accountant who’s taken the time to understand your unique needs, you can expect to receive expert, accurate advice and support almost straight away, whenever you need it. Less time wasted means a more efficient partnership.

 

Contractor accounts: what to look out for

If you’re just about to set up a Limited Company, or have decided it’s time to switch accountants, ensuring you’ll receive a personal service throughout your professional relationship should be one of your top priorities.

When searching around, an important thing to look out for is if you’ll be dealing with call centres and Account Managers, or if you’ll be paired up with your own, Personal Accountant. In all cases, the latter option is best.

A qualified, expert Personal Accountant will take time to familiarise themselves with your accounts and learn what you want to achieve financially from your contractor pay. They’ll be on hand to offer tailored support, based on your goals, whenever you need it.

 

Intouch: personal, professional

The team at Intouch prides itself on our personal approach to contractor accounting. In fact, it’s the one thing we think really differentiates us from all the other accounting companies – it’s our USP, so to speak.

Choose Intouch and you’ll be partnered with a dedicated Personal Accountant the moment you become one of our valued customers. Their first job will be to get to know you on a personal and professional level, which, in our eyes, is a crucial step in providing a high-quality service.

As soon as your Personal Accountant feels comfortable with the nature of your business and what you want to achieve, they’ll explain how they will help you to reach your goals.

A monthly fee entitles you to unlimited advice from a dedicated Personal Accountant, 24/7 access to our portal for day-to-day accounting tasks, and assistance with duties such as quarterly VAT returns, year-end accounts, payroll returns and self-assessment tax return.

Ultimately, your Personal Accountant is responsible for supporting you with the financial duties owning your own company brings. This means your time will be freed to focus on attracting new customers and growing your flourishing business.

We’ve gained a reputation for our unrivalled service and industry knowledge, and as testament to this have been voted the UK’s Best Small/Medium-sized Contractor Accountant by Contractor UK readers. Start your journey with us today by calling 01202 375 293.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Working From Home – what can you claim for?

If you use part of your home as an office, you may be able to lower your overall cost of doing business. Here we outline some of the things you might need to know if you intend to claim expenses.

 

Claims

Firstly, you need to think about HMRC. Don’t worry, it’s unlikely to make any enquiries so long as the claim is reasonable and consistent with the type of business being operated. Be wary that not all local HMRC officers follow this approach, so it’s important that you’re prepared to back up your claim if they ask.

A dedicated room or workspace which is exclusively for business use is a must. If it has a dual purpose i.e. dining or kitchen table, then it’s not allowable as a tax deduction.

 

Two common ways of working out how much you can claim:

1. The flat rate method

This is the easiest to work out and doesn’t require any records to be kept or evidence of expenditure. HMRC publishes flat rates each year. The current ‘Home As Office’ allowance from April 2018/19 is £18 a month, making an annual claim worth £208. Not much, but better than nothing, and takes up no time or effort to calculate.

2. The apportionment method

Apportionment is when an expense is ‘split’ between business use and private use, on a basis intended to show the portion of time used for each activity. Apportionment is generally calculated according to the floor area of your home used for business purposes.

The apportionment method splits property costs into fixed and running costs; the amount that you can claim will be based on the portion of use that you have calculated as being applied to your business, and/or the actual cost of the business part of the expense.

For example, let’s say one room in a house with four rooms (bathrooms not included) is used as an office with the following monthly expenses:

Electricity – £60 

Gas – £20  

Council Tax – £100 

Insurance – £40 

Total = £220 

One quarter of the total could be claimed each month, i.e. £55.

(Note that phone calls need to be on a business line, or claimed on a personal line using an itemised bill.)

If you use apportionment, you’ll need to keep all your invoices and receipts as evidence of the costs incurred. By adopting a sensible and realistic approach reflecting your business circumstances, you should be able to successfully handle any HMRC enquiry.

 

Remember:

  • Decide whether the weekly flat rate of £4 or the more detailed apportionment method is best for you. If it’s the apportionment method, review this annually and maintain a record of costs.

 

  • If you only use a table top while your family watches TV, you are unable to claim use of home. However, If you set aside part of your home at specific times for business use, then you are able to claim.

 

These tips are for information purposes and are just a place to start. If you want to know more, we recommend you seek advice from a good specialist Contractor Accountant such as Intouch, who will review your specific situation and provide you with the right advice to make sure you’re claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to.

 

If you’d like more information on Working From Home – download your free guide here.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Working From Home – where do you start?

Why work from home?

Contracting and freelancing are fast becoming the choice career moves for more employees each year in the UK and it’s evident why. Being your own boss allows more flexibility and the chance for a better work/life balance. Choosing the jobs you want, and when and where you do them is also a great perk. Some might say that they choose to work from home because a relaxed atmosphere increases productivity and efficiency, while others just like to avoid office politics. There are a whole host of benefits to home working, particularly from a health and well-being point of view.

 

Making it work for you

Most contractors prefer a combination of remote and on-site working, to ensure some kind of visible presence, or because they enjoy the variety it brings. But for those wanting to ditch the office environment entirely, these are some things to consider:

 

Advantages

•Arranging your routine to suit you

•Freedom to spend time with friends and family

•Setting up your work space however you like

•No commuting saves time and money

•Less stressful environment

 

Disadvantages

•Distractions such as housework and people who share the same building

•Finding it harder to switch off

•Feeling isolated. If this is a concern, take a look at our infographic for tips on how to make those all-important connections.

 

Setting up a workspace

The beauty of home working is that you can set up your space to suit your needs. You can use a spare room, convenient corner or even under the stairs – technology means workspaces can be much smaller these days, so don’t build that garden office just yet!

Make sure the space is as comfortable and efficient as possible. Get suitable furniture such as a desk at the correct height and a chair, which is good for your posture. Try not to buy expensive equipment to start with – basics would be a computer, printer and scanner – you’ll soon find out what’s essential. It’s also useful to have a smartphone specifically for business, which you can set to voicemail after hours.

And think carefully about colour and decor, which affect your mood more than you might think.

 

Be professional about it

Communication is one of the most important aspects for making homeworking a success, so reliable broadband is a must, as is making yourself contactable and available to speak during working hours. Respond to clients promptly so they know you’re on the job – they’ll want to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth after all. And don’t be tempted to slob around in your dressing gown all day either! Clients will expect exactly the same standards as someone who is office based, and ‘getting ready’ for work will put you in the right frame of mind too.

 

Costs and claims

Due to virtually no set-up costs, working from home is one of the cheapest ways to start a business. If you’re intending to claim expenses through your Limited Company, your home office should be adequately arranged to indicate that it’s a genuine business and not part of your normal domestic arrangements i.e. working from a dining table the family eat at every evening.

It’s also not sufficient to spend a few minutes a week on admin, you actually need to be working at your home office and generating income to justify a claim.

We’ll discuss more about this particular topic in our next blog, but in the meantime a good Specialist Contractor Accountant like Intouch will be able to advise on Home Office Deductions.

 

If you’d like more information on Working From Home – download your free guide here.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.