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

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.

Contractor networking for introverts

Sharing, talking and mingling drains you of energy.

Most of the time you’d rather just focus on your work.

You’re a private person, so sharing feels awkward.

If the above describes you then you may be a bit of an introvert, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s common for introversion and shyness to get confused, when actually they’re completely separate. Broadly speaking those of us with introverted tendencies are inclined to feel drained from being around people for long periods of time, especially large crowds. Whereas shyness is the fear of negative judgement. Extroverts on the other hand, gain energy from socialising – their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone.

This makes promoting yourself quite difficult for those with introverted characteristics – but you’ve decided that contracting is the life for you – so unless your skills are so niche and in demand that you’re highly sought after, it’s something you’re going to have to do. To put yourself out there, you’ll need to sell your skills to agencies and clients in phone conversations and interviews, network with those in similar fields and generally big yourself up! So how can you do all this without it being too overwhelming? Here’s a few ways to get over the hurdles of self-promotion:

 

1. Remember that many feel the same way as you do
Just because some people appear confident on the outside, it doesn’t mean they’re not a wreck on the inside. Maybe they’re just better at hiding it than you are, or they may have gone one step further and practiced managing their anxiety. Next time you’re in a situation you feel uncomfortable with, breath deeply and consciously take it in your stride. Nothing bad is going to happen – after all, thousands of nervous contractors and freelancers deal with it successfully every day.

2. Bond with others
Rather than viewing people as competitors, see them as a potential support network. If you look at it from this angle it may help to ease the difficulty of socialising. Building good relationships with people may create new work and contracts, as well as offer welcome support and advice, or even forge friendships by seeing you as an ally. It’s a natural human trait to want to connect and share, so don’t miss out by declining too many opportunities.

3. Use social media
There’s a certain amount of anonymity to be had from communicating online, plus you have the freedom to choose when and where to do it, so this form of communication is ideal for fitting around your requirements. Connecting, chatting and posting your opinions on a platform such as LinkedIn (the main one for businesses), means you can secure and build up valuable contacts without even leaving the house.

4. Attend networking events
Social media can be a brilliant tool for self-promotion, but it’s still quite impersonal. Nothing can replace a real-life, friendly smile and one of the best places to find those is at networking events. The thought of a crowded room might make some people shudder, but a way to overcome this is instead of focusing on the quantity of people you meet or conversations you have, find one or two people that you can devote your focus and attention to and enjoy those meaningful connections. Then give yourself plenty of alone-time afterwards to recharge.

5. Boost your self-motivation
You might think it’s all well and good doing all the above, but how do you get motivated in the first place?
•Keep a positive attitude – You can never fully control your circumstances, but you can certainly choose your attitude towards them.
•See the good in bad – When encountering obstacles, you want to be in the habit of finding what works in order to get over them.

 

Being more of an introvert just means you have the same talents and skills as everyone else, but just find promoting them a tricky area to master. Do what you’re capable of, keep the momentum going, and if you’re genuinely interested in other people and their needs and stay true to yourself and your work, then you’ve pretty much nailed it.

 

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.

 

Public bodies urged to use IT freelancers

When is the best time to set up an IT contracting business? This is an almost impossible question to answer, as it largely depends on your individual circumstances. But if you’ve assessed your current situation and decided that you’re ready to become a contractor, then as far as the industry is concerned, 2018 could prove to be a stellar year.

 

Research from TechMarketView, discussed in a Contractor UK article, has urged the public sector to make more use of freelance consultants this year, in a bid to address the persisting digital skills gap. The market analysis firm said that public organisations will have to think of ‘more creative ways’ to gain the skills they need, ‘including the use of public freelance marketplaces.’

 

TechMarketView acknowledged that taxpayer-funded bodies may find it difficult to conduct business efficiently ‘without looking beyond their own four walls.’ This news comes after an IR35 update last year and its ‘off-payroll rules,’ which many believe has dissuaded freelancers from providing their services to the sector.

 

‘Fled in droves’

Mike Gibson, Managing Director at Ethical Consulting, who has been petitioning against IR35, argued the above point to the government’s business department, after it published a strategy on IT provision to its staff, ‘and the people and businesses we serve.’ This strategy is, in Gibson’s words, “[beautifully] written and composed, professionally created and ultimately pointless.

Delivery will be dependent on a veritable army of flexible and temporary resource – who have fled the UK [public sector] in their droves as a result of IR35 changes in April 2017.”

 

Options available

Gibson said that for the government department to achieve its aim – which is, to ‘make the best use of digital, data and technology (DDat) in our everyday work’ – then either one of two things need to happen:

The first option is for the body to pay 22% more to PSC contractors who possess the necessary skills, to counteract the hike in tax the IR35 reforms result in. Alternatively, it must accept that DDat-related work will be carried out by ‘inside IR35’ consultants willing to take a 22% cut to their wages. But, referring to the latter, Gibson said, “I don’t see the top-drawer [DDaT] people doing that when they don’t need to.”

It will be interesting to see how the next few months pan out and if any proactive steps are taken by the sector to address the continuing IT skills shortage. In the meantime, if you’re thinking of contracting and want to know how IR35 legislation affects you, contact the experts at Intouch Accounting now…

 

Sources:

TechMarketView – Public Sector Predictions 2018 – New Research

ContractorUK – Get IT Freelancers in for 2018, public bodies told

GOV.UK – BEIS digital data and technology (DDat) strategy

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intouch Accounting celebrate National Freelancers’ Day

Happy National Freelancers Day!

If you’re one of the five million freelancers currently working within the UK, then today is all about you. Here at Intouch Accounting we recognise the invaluable contribution freelancers make to the UK economy and so we are helping celebrate by having a ‘freelancer day’ at the Intouch office.

 

Whilst the Intouch team are blissfully happy looking after the needs of our clients, we wanted to have a bit of fun and celebrate today in our own way. So we put our heads together and decided to come in dressed as the freelancer we’d be if we weren’t accountants!

 

Take a look below to see if you can guess what each person would be:

 

National Freelancers' Day

 

 

Every year NFD is celebrated and hosted by IPSE and this year’s event will be held at the exclusive Hospital Club in Covent Garden to showcase and celebrate the UK’s most ambitious, exciting and aspiring freelancers. IPSE will be awarding 15 of the best self-employed individuals and crowning one winner in particular.

 

There’s also a separate award for under 23s (the Aspire Award) and one for the veteran freelancers (the Inspire Award). The winner of the Aspire award will win £3,000 along with a technology bundle and the winner of the Inspire Award will win £5,000!

 

From all of us here at Intouch Accounting we’d like to offer our best wishes for all who are taking part and many congratulations to the winners and runners up. Have a fantastic night everyone!

 

If you’re considering freelancing or have already taken the leap, ensuring that you maximise your take home pay whilst remaining compliant will be at the top of your priority list. If you’re struggling with doing your accounts by yourself, or are currently using an Umbrella company that’s leaving you out of pocket, call our team today on 01202 375 562 to discuss your options.

 

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.