As the end of the tax year approaches, so the unsettling dreams of scaling mountains of paperwork, chased by officials in bowler hats, increase in regularity and intensity. Habitually leaving things until the last minute is the ideal way to cause chaos in your own business.
Having a list of excuses (“I was too busy”/“I’m allergic to Mondays”/“the dog ate the receipts for the new office furniture”) only delays the inevitable. Also, there are many other serial procrastinators in the world, all queuing up at their accountants’ and bookkeepers’ doors from mid-March onwards with worried faces. Accounting professionals will be snowed under themselves at this time of year, so you can do both of you a favour by having records, accounts and other documents ready in good time.
If this is your first year in business and you plan on many more, try to keep a record of how you kept your records. This will be invaluable later on, as you can see at a glance what you did right and what you wished you’d known 12 months before.
If your procrastination is causing problems, ask others in the company to nag you. Do small tasks one at a time – once you have started climbing that mountain it will only seem like a small hill. Collecting and compiling records and putting them all in one safe place will mean you are ready for the day. Having everything ready to be sorted will allow you to relax and think more clearly.
The only way to have your records properly organised is to start early – ideally April 6th last year. Compiling documents at the end of each month will mean that you will have the majority of the job done in good time, allowing you to avoid the paper-mountain nightmares, relax and wear a smug grin. Go on, you’ve earned it – you’re even entitled to inform the Twittersphere.
The HMRC publish guides to everything they expect a small business to do to keep their tax affairs in order; the self-assessment area of their website is the ideal place to start if you have any doubts.  But there’s always something that you’ve forgotten, so have a glance at this check list and make sure you can tick them all.
- You will almost certainly have your records on computer, so email or include a physical copy for your accountant.
- Records of petty cash, sales and purchase books.
- Bank statements, used and current cheque and paying in books. Purchase and sales invoices.
- Staff payments along with PAYE and National Insurance records.
- Copies of VAT returns for that year.
- Details of any loans or hire purchase agreements that began in the current year.
Note that all these documents are copies, and you should keep the originals safely. And remember – get your Tax Return in on time. The choice is yours – pay a fine or pay for a holiday.
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