It doesn’t matter if you’ve been self-employed for a week or a decade, sometimes it’s worth sitting back with a checklist and having a quick lifestyle MOT, especially when it comes to your finances.
Not everything on this checklist will apply to you, but it could be worth thinking about – even if it’s just to check it off your list and not have to worry about it anymore. And the best place to start?
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
Or HMRC, as it’s more widely referred to. They’re a lovely bunch really, but you do need to keep up to date with them. That means setting yourself up as a sole-trader, limited company, or business partnership - if you haven’t already.
If you’ve been doing this a while, then chances are you’re already all set up, but you’ll still need to make sure that all your details are correct. This means updating any changes of address or business names and sharing the records of your business sales and expenses.
Are you keeping good records?
Being self-employed, it’s a legal requirement that you keep a record of all your business’s sales and expenses. If you’ve been going for a while then it may be worth looking at whether the way you keep records is still working for you, or if it’s starting to cause more hassle.
There are plenty of ways that you can keep records – from printing them out and filing them, to specialist record-keeping software that helps to take some of the hard work out of it. If you find that one way isn’t working, it may be worth trying something else.
How’s your accounting?
Not many people enjoy accounting, and you normally find a method that works and stick to it. But as time goes on things can change – especially if your business grows – and when this happens it may be worth looking at what accounting methods you’re using:
- Traditional accounting – where you record income and expenses by the date you invoiced or billed
- Cash basis accounting – you only record income or expenses when you receive money or pay a bill
Cash basis accounting tends to work better for small businesses, with an income of £150,000 or less. If you’re exceeding this (well done you!), then it may be worth thinking about switching to traditional accounting.
Set money aside for taxes
As you’re self-employed, it’s up to you to pay taxes. Boo! That means it’s a good idea to put money away each month so that you’re not caught short when the HMRC comes knocking. If you’re just starting out, then you may not know exactly how much you’ll owe in tax, so it may be worth saving more than you need to at first.
Doing it this way means that if you end up saving more than you need, then you could treat it as a little added bonus – or even put it away in tax-efficient a Stocks & Shares ISA for the future. It’s completely up to you! Remember, with investing your capital is at risk, so the value of your investments can go down as well as up, which means you could get back less than you put in.
Forward-thinking and tax-efficient
Speaking about tax, there are a number of things you could do to be more tax-efficient and keep hold of your hard-earned money. One of these things is putting your money into a personal pension. The government is really keen to encourage people to save for their retirement and to help with this they offer tax-relief on your contributions up to £40,000. Now, technically that relief is 20%, but if you put in £800 the government will give you £200 to bring your total to £1,000 – but as £200 is 25% of £800, you’ll actually get a 25% uplift on everything you tuck away. And what’s more, if you’re a higher rate taxpayer you can claim even more relief from the government.
Plus, when it comes to filling out your self-assessment tax return, you can declare the whole contribution including the relief claimed by your pension provider (at Wealthify, we do this for you automatically). That means you could claim an additional £250 relief per £1,000, which is basically money right in your pocket.
Don’t be afraid to outsource
At Wealthify, we believe in letting the experts do their thing – that’s why they’re the experts after all. When it comes to accounts, it's often worth letting a dedicated accountant handle the admin for you. While it is likely to cost you money to get a good accountant in, it will help to save you time, hassle, and could even save you money in the long run.
If you’re looking for a pension that removes all the hard work, then Wealthify can help. And unlike other pensions, you can pay into it in a way that suits you – so if you’re quieter in some months than others, you don’t need to add as much, or even anything, to your pension. This sort of flexibility is designed to make saving for your future as easy as possible.
With investing, your capital is at risk, so the value of your investments can go down as well as up, which means you could get back less than you initially invested.