At this time of year, the self-employed people in your life might appear slightly more stressed than usual. They may have a bit of a grey tinge, look sweaty and pale or carry a calculator on them at all times. The reason?
Tax return season.
Being entirely responsible for your own tax liability is terrifying. Seriously terrifying. And although the concept is seemingly straightforward (save 20% of whatever you earn), it’s very easy to screw it all up. So, if you’re currently experiencing a breakdown while surrounded by Excel spreadsheets that just don’t add up and receipts for stationery you bought a year and a half ago, here are my tips.
Panic, then get a grip
I think a little bit of panic is good. It shows you’re serious about the situation, and you want to fix it. Being blasé about tax is never a good look.
Once you’ve finished panicking, get yourself together and start tackling things head-on.
Check, check and check again
If your accounts just don’t make sense and things aren’t adding up, check again. Get someone else to check. Run the figures until you’re certain they’re right. Things might even out, but if they don’t…
Speak to an accountant
I can’t recommend this enough. If you’re in a pickle with your accounts and you just can’t see a way out, speak to a pro. It’s not your job to know the ins and outs of our very complicated tax system, but it is an accountant’s. Unless you are an accountant. But then you probably won’t need this advice.
Call HMRC (early)
The Inland Revenue (or whatever it’s called these days) is not as scary as you think. If you can’t make your payment next week, you’re unsure about how to process your payment on accounts or things just aren’t making sense, give them a call. They’re (usually) very helpful, knowledgeable and understanding. Just call bang on 8am when the lines open, otherwise you’ll be waiting on hold for the rest of your natural life.
Set up a payment plan
If you’ve miscalculated and just can’t stretch to your full bill come 31st Jan, you can arrange a payment plan with HMRC and split the remainder into more manageable monthly sums.
Don’t think you’re going to prison
Seriously. It will be fine. You are not Starbucks.