A taxing time…
The 2015 – 2016 tax year ended this week, so I thought I’d share a few little tips that I find have made life a little easier for me – firstly though, let me stress that I am by no means an expert or a tax advisor – these are just a few things I did to make sure I was prepared when it came time to fill in my self assessment that I thought I’d share…
Seems like a straightforward one, but you’d be surprised how many people have commented on how “organised” I am for having a simple spreadsheet to keep track of my earnings. It’s really not hard and totally worth it in the long run.
I have a Gmail account with google docs, and use a google spreadsheet, which means I can log in and access it/update it from anywhere. It’s not even that detailed to be honest, it consists of a few simple columns (see fake example below) which just allows me to track who I’ve done work for, the hours I’ve done, the total cost for the day, etc.
At the end of each month, I total up the amount of money that I need to invoice each client, then I calculate the tax I need to put to one side when I receive the payment (more on calculating that amount later).
Updating this even once a week, or if you can be bothered at the end of each day, takes no more than five minutes, and will make life so much easier when tax time comes around – you have a breakdown of every day you’ve worked, or you can add the totals from each month to get your total earnings for the year. Simples.
Again, I can’t believe the amount of people who have been shocked that I’ve saved money for the tax man! To me this was a no brainer. If I got a huge tax bill at the end of the year and hadn’t saved any money I’m not sure how I’d pay it!
I guess some people pay by credit card, but you do pay a fee for this, and it means you’re paying it off for the rest of the year anyway, and you’re paying interest on it.
When I started, a friend of mine mentioned that when you do your first full year of self assessment, they give you a bill for the year plus 50% of the year ahead based on your calculation. Surprising only one person mentioned this to me, and I’m so glad she did!
When saving, my logic was that I’d be taxed about 20% of my earnings, factoring in the additional 50% of that amount, I figured that saving 30% of my earnings each month would mean I’d have enough to cover it, and it did! Sure enough, this year, upon completing my first full year of self assessment, as well as my tax for the year, I’ve also been billed with an additional 50% of that amount to pay up front for the 2016-2017 tax year, so bear this in mind so you don’t get a nasty surprise!
Saving 30% might sound like a lot, but already being used to tax, NI and student loan being deducted from my PAYE, I found I didn’t really miss it too much.
Of course, there is an upside to this – when it gets to the end of the year, chances are you’ve saved too much money, and you’ll have a nice little chunk left over to do what you want with! Bonus! (though if you have it in a savings account, be sure to fill in the interest earned when you fill in your Self Assessment).
Again, this kind of goes without saying, but it seems like most people leave it to the last minute, I’ve heard a lot of people saying they wish they’d not left it until the last minute, year after year, but they still do.
There are so many benefits to filling it in earlier though, aside from the first, incredibly obvious one:
- It’s less stressful. I mean, this should be reason enough really.
- It’s easier to get help. If you wait until December or January and hit a snag, it’ll take you significantly longer to get through to someone on the helpline than it will earlier in the year.
- You’ll have a better idea of where you stand financially. Paying up as soon as the tax year ends means you’re starting with a clean sheet, you’ll know that whatever is left over from saving is indeed surplus and is yours to use as you wish, rather than starting the new financial year with an overdraft/credit card to pay off!
- Not paying out all your money in December and January. If you haven’t saved money throughout the year, then I can’t imagine that saying goodbye to all your money right before or after Christmas is much fun.
- Being Smug. Major bragging rights when everyone else is frantically doing their Self Assessment at the last minute.
Some of this is probably super obvious, and you’ve most likely heard it all before, but actually doing it really does take the pressure off, and your reward is a little chunk of loose change at the end so you can treat yo self!