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.

The flexible working ‘movement’: where are we with it?

Today’s complex working landscape presents businesses with the challenge of meeting the demands of people with very different values, expectations and needs. Yet, they all seem to share a desire for flexible working.

It’s little wonder, then, that the flexible working movement has gained such momentum in the last decade. Employers have recognised that the traditional workplace is no longer fit for purpose. But we’re yet to reach a point where flexible working is ‘the norm’, even four years on from the introduction of laws by the UK government which gave everyone the legal right to request flexible working.

 

To use the ‘right to request’ or not

People are still unsure whether or not to use their right to request flexible working, for fear it could be perceived as a sign that they are less than dedicated to their job. In a study conducted by social media training experts Digital Mums last year, more than half (51%) of UK employees believed that asking for flexible working hours would be viewed negatively by their employer and a further 42% thought it would have a negative impact on their career.

Millennials, who are one of the key drivers of the movement, were particularly wary of not wanting to upset their employer, with two-fifths (40%) saying they’d be too nervous or worried to ask for flexible working hours, despite eight in ten (77%) wanting this way of working.

Those fears might very well be legitimate. According to a new joint report from flexible working experts Timewise and consultants Deloitte, more than 30% of workers who opt for flexible hours feel they have less status and importance as a result. A quarter of the 2,000 people surveyed also thought they had missed professional opportunities because of this.

For freelancers and contractors, there aren’t the same lingering fears, although they might have some concerns about whether working remotely could impact on the relationship with the client, if there is an expectation to be on site every day.

 

Remove the need to request

As we revealed in our previous blog on the pros and cons of flexible working, however, any concerns employers might have about what flexible working could do for business are often shown to be ill-founded.

Ask anybody who works flexibly whether they work harder and more productively now than they did when they were in a more structured setting and the answer would be unequivocally ‘yes’. Flexible workers often say they feel like they owe it to their company to go beyond the call of duty every day. While that brings up another issue entirely around work/life balance – another main driver of the movement – it goes to show how much staff value flexible working.

In a recent piece of research by SmallBusinessPrices.co.uk, more than a quarter (28%) of respondents said they value additional holiday days, sabbaticals and flexible working hours as employee benefits, over receiving a pay rise.

By promoting flexible working – rather than making employees request it – employers could find themselves with a line of new talent at the door, while holding onto the existing talent they already have in the building.

It could even help end gender discrimination in the workplace. According to the Timewise/Deloitte report, one of the biggest barriers to gender equality and pay parity is employers’ continued refusal to accept non-traditional working practices.

Timewise chief executive Karen Mattison stresses that the family structure in which one person stayed at home and another went out to work is “no longer the case for the majority of UK households” and employers need to react by changing their flexible working practices.

With the technology available today to facilitate flexible working, it’s never been a better time for individuals to dictate how long, where and when they work. More and more people are taking the plunge and ‘going it alone’ as either a contractor or a freelancer.

Of course, with Intouch Accounting by your side, you’re never alone. We are here to support you by answering any questions you may have, from assessing whether it’s the right time for you to contract or freelance, to helping you set up a Limited Company.

 

 

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.

Flexible working: Pros and cons

There’s no doubt that we’re now living in the era of flexible working. Of course, for contractors and freelancers, this trend of choosing how long, where and when you work is nothing new, but now it’s not just the self-employed who are empowered to manage their schedules.

In the UK, nearly-two thirds (64%) of employees now work flexibly, according to the ‘2017 Flexible Working Survey’ by Ten2Two. However, it seems that employers are still a little reticent to fully embrace the flexible working revolution, with Timewise’s 2017 report revealing that less than one in ten jobs paying over £20,000 are advertised as being open to flexible working.

So, why is it that firms are somewhat unsure about whether or not to promote flexible working to staff? Like anything, flexible working has its pros and cons. We’ll start with the cons:

 

1. Could hinder productivity

Organisations are concerned that giving everybody a degree of freedom in deciding how work is completed will result in reduced productivity for both individuals and teams. Even if employees are just 5% less productive working remotely, it’s going to start adding up once you think about it collectively. Meanwhile, for those who are self-employed, a day of distractions at home could mean that you have to play catch up at the weekend.

 

2. Feelings of isolation

Flexible working sounds good in practice for individuals, but the reality can be very different. For some people, too many consecutive days working solo can lead to feelings of isolation, particularly if communication with the ‘outside world’ is lacking. A good support network is essential so that individuals don’t feel like they have nowhere to turn should they need to. Meanwhile, from an employer’s perspective, a lack of collaboration between colleagues could limit the cohesiveness of teams and the sharing of ideas.

 

3. Work intensification

Flexible working often blurs the line between work and home, to the point where individuals struggle to switch off at the end of the day – an issue all contractors and freelancers who work remotely wrangle with. For the sake of work/life balance and productivity, individuals need to feel like they can pack work away for the day and not like they owe it to their company to go beyond the call of duty every day.

 

However, few would doubt that the pros of flexible working far outweigh the cons. In Ten2Two’s survey, 83% of employers agreed that flexible working had benefited their business. Here are the main arguments for adopting the trend:

 

1. Work anywhere remotely

Perhaps the benefit you most associate with flexible working is the ability to work remotely, away from the traditional office environment; be it at home, in a cafe, library, shared space, or even in a foreign country. Find the environment that brings out the best in you – if that’s at home, make sure you ‘craft’ in a way that means you can get stuff done.

 

2. Less stress + fewer sick days = increased productivity

Workplace politics can be a real problem if they are rooted in manipulation or gossip. Flexible working can help to minimise office politics, so the potential for conflict and any resulting occupational stress decreases. As stress decreases, so will the number of sick days employees take in the working year. This has obvious benefits to employers in terms of greater productivity, but it’s also valuable for freelancers and contractors who might have to forfeit a day or two’s work if they’re too sick to get out of bed.

 

3. Greater convenience for life priorities

Everybody has different priorities in life. For some people, their children will be the priority; for others, it might be sports and keeping fit. Flexible working gives us a better chance of being successful at what matters most to us. For example, having a flexible schedule means you can take an hour out to pick up the kids from school and do the food shopping.

Ultimately, flexible working works for some people, but others may need a bit more structure.

If you’re considering a flexible approach to work and think contracting is for you, Intouch Accounting are here for support by answering any questions you may have, from assessing whether it’s the right time, to helping set up a Limited Company.

 

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.

If you contract from home, you’ll want to read this…

6 ways to beat loneliness when working alone

Contracting from home can be great; you get to design your perfect working space, what radio station you listen to and enjoy endless cups of tea whilst wearing your slippers (should you wish to). But whilst it can sound like the perfect working environment for many, loneliness can creep in – especially if you have minimal client contact and few other contracting colleagues to talk to.

 

Even introverts can feel lonely, so if you enjoy working alone and think this blog isn’t for you – read on anyway. You might just discover a new tip that will improve your productivity when contracting from home.

 

1.What fuels your professional fire?

It could be an early morning 5K before breakfast, a lunchtime catch up with an old friend, or even jumping on the contracting forums to share your thoughts on what’s currently affecting the contracting community.

 

Whatever it may be, ensure you have a few options that you can call on when you feel your fire burning low. Your professional productivity will thank you!

 

2. Speak to your suppliers

Your Personal Accountant isn’t just there to answer your accountancy and tax questions, they can also give you advice on all the areas that surround self employment. The same can be said for your business insurance provider or financial adviser for example, should you enlist their services.

 

They speak to individuals just like you every day about a whole host of topics, so why not give them a call? Or better yet, schedule a monthly call with them to discuss your career and how they can help you achieve your goals for the month. They may have just launched a new product or service that could make your contracting life easier.

 

3. Ban your home office as your meeting location

It’s all too easy to update your client from the comfort of your home office, or liaise with prospective clients from behind your computer screen. But doing it too often can lead to feelings of isolation, which isn’t good for you or your client.

 

Remember the good old days when people actually enjoyed meeting face-to-face? Why not bring it back! The next time you have a planned meeting, go to your client or prospective client’s office and actually meet with them. Not only will they get to see who you are as an individual and get a taste for your personality, you’ll also have more of a sense of purpose by actually getting ready and leaving your home office.

 

And remember, as a Limited Company contractor you can claim your travel and subsistence expenses, so there really is no excuse not to!

 

4. The legend of the invisible contractor

As a group of professionals, the UK’s micro business community (those with 1-9 employees) currently stands at an impressive 5.25 million*, so as a Limited Company contractor you are certainly not alone.

 

Whilst you may feel as though your contribution to the UK’s economy as a one-person band is minimal, collectively you’re a force to be reckoned with! So why not reach out to your contracting colleagues to find out their thoughts on being a contractor, what trends they’re seeing for desirable skills or even if they have any contacts that could be of use to you? With such a large community, there’s no reason to feel alone.

 

5. Be strict with your time

As a contractor your time is just that, yours – so ensure your work does not encroach on your personal life. After a hard day of working it’s too easy to swap plans with friends or family for a quiet night in. Once in a while it is a great way to recharge your batteries, but do it too often and you’ll cut yourself off.

 

Set yourself a daily schedule, stick to it and don’t let work be the reason why your personal life is put on hold.

 

6. Get moving

A little exercise now and then is the perfect way to blast away any loneliness. Was there a sport you loved to do as a child that you’d like to try as an adult, or local sports team whose social events sound as much fun as the actual sport itself?

 

Healthy body = healthy mind, so get out there and start having some fun!

 

Final thoughts

It can be tempting and easy to fall into the trap of becoming a lone wolf, so ensure you have a personal plan that works for you to help banish those entrepreneur blues.

 

And remember, your career is something you love so tailor it to suit you. Don’t let loneliness stop you from reaching contracting greatness!

 

*The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial 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.