So, you’re finally sitting down to start your self-assessed tax return after procrastinating for a few months. Now you need to work out what your business expenses are for the year, but you’re not sure where to start?
Don’t worry, here’s 8 tips to help make completing your self-assessed tax return a stress free experience.
1. Allocate time in your planner
However you organise your work tasks, whether it’s a bullet journal, planner or diary, allocate some time to complete your tax return.
Giving yourself time to do your accounts means you are more likely to sit down and complete the task rather than put it off. Also, you won’t fill up your available work time or double book yourself with other tasks and activities.
If you have been completing your bookkeeping on a regular basis, it won’t take you as long as if you need to do a whole year’s worth in one go.
2. Break the task down into smaller chunks
If the thought of doing your tax return makes you feel a bit sick and you put it off because it’s such a huge task, why not break it down into smaller chunks?
Smaller chunks aren’t quite so daunting and are much easier to achieve. There are 12 months in a year, so why not set yourself 12 periods of time to complete the bookkeeping.
The tax return itself doesn’t have to be completed in one go, so you could set yourself a 20-minute time frame and see how much you get done. Then have a break and set yourself another 20 minutes. This is known as the Pomodoro Technique.
If smaller chunks are not for you, then this blog post by …But The Books explains how to get it all done in one go.
3. Choose a suitable time
Identifying the right time for you to complete your tax return will go a long way to making the task easier.
Choose a time when you are usually most awake and focused or in a good mood and are less likely to be distracted. This way you will make fewer mistakes and will likely complete the task more quickly.
Perhaps Friday afternoon would be good. It’s the end of the week and tomorrow you can have a lie-in (or not if you have kids). Wouldn’t it feel good to start your weekend knowing your tax return is complete and you’ve paid your bill?
Or maybe, a Monday morning is better for you. It’s the beginning of the week, you’re refreshed and awake, coffee in hand and have not yet been distracted by opening business emails. Perfect for focusing on your tax return.
4. Gather your tools
Gather everything you need beforehand, including your receipts, invoices, bank statements and calculator, then you won’t be interrupted because you need to find them. Remember to include a timer if you’re using the Pomodoro Technique.
Look into using a receipts app. They are designed to be used on the go to record your receipts so you don’t have to worry about losing them, but also help with bookkeeping, as they will help make the process more efficient and save you time. My favourite is 1Tap, which is designed with self-assessment in mind.
For your tax return, make sure you have all your documents to hand including your UTR no. and HMRC login details. The last thing you want to be worrying about is that you can’t complete your tax return on time because you’ve forgotten your login. HMRC can reset your password, but this will delay the process.
If you find that you always forget something, create a checklist you can use each time you do your accounts.
5. Create your perfect environment
Make your favourite beverage before you start, put on music that helps you focus and sit somewhere free of distraction. How about trying Brain.fm, which plays music designed to help you focus.
Making this a regular part of your routine will help you clear your mind of other thoughts and helps you begin to focus on the task.
Having a drink to hand keeps your brain hydrated and working at its best capacity. If you are dehydrated you will become tired and won’t work as effectively.
6. Reward Yourself
When you allocate time in your planner, write down your reward for completion next to it. The more you reward yourself for completing your bookkeeping the more you will look forward to doing the task just so you can treat yourself!
Self-care is an important part of running your own business so that you remain healthy and can keep your business running smoothly. If you are tired and stressed you are more likely to make mistakes, which can take a long time to unpick when it comes to accounts.
If you’re stuck for reward ideas, the AAT has written a great blog post on ways you can reward yourself for hard work.
7. Don’t Leave it Until the Last Minute
Putting a task off can provide temporary stress relief, but it’s not a good idea to leave your tax return to the last minute.
HMRC’s website gets very busy in January, especially as the deadline draws nearer as everyone is trying to complete their return. This can cause issues, such as not letting you log in or being very slow to respond. Completing it earlier will likely mean it will take you less time, and if something does go wrong, you have time to resolve it.
Would you prefer to be drinking your favourite beverage and eating your favourite treat or up at 1 am in the morning tearing your hair out because you’ve left it to the last minute?
If you need any more reasons for why you shouldn’t leave things to the last minute – COS Bookkeeping have an excellent blog post.
8. Speak to a Bookkeeper or Accountant
And if you’re still struggling to get your bookkeeping done on time or have any questions, then you should speak to a bookkeeper or accountant who will be able to offer help and advice specifically for your business.
Feel free to contact me using the button below.