“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” said Douglas Adams in his book, The Salmon of Doubt.
Whether there were repercussions for this lax attitude to deadlines was between Adams and his publishers. But one deadline that you really can’t miss is the self-assessment deadline – and as it’s just passed, I really hope you didn’t.
If you did miss it or made it with seconds to spare, here’s how to avoid finding yourself in this situation again:
Get an Accountant
Accountancy services need not be expensive and they can be as comprehensive or as simple as you want them to be. Accountants can complete and submit r tax returns and other financial forms, handle your payroll, do your book-keeping, offer financial advice and deal with HMRC on your behalf, but which of these services you choose to take up is your decision.
Whichever services you use, rest assured that an accountant can save you time and money, not to mention alleviating a great deal of confusion and stress!
Still not convinced you need an accountant? Still determined to go it alone? Okay then. But remember:
Don’t Be Your Worst Enemy
Few of us enjoy filing receipts and invoices, and if you’ve had a busy day it’s likely to be the last thing you’re in the mood for. But 5 minutes at the end of the day spent ensuring that any paperwork is filed in an easily accessible, logical place can save you hours of stress in the long run.
Keep It Simple
The best way to motivate yourself to regularly file away the necessary paperwork is to make your system as simple as possible.
Think about the information you need to gather for each activity or form – tax return, payroll, VAT return etc. – and ensure everything relevant for it is in one place.
If filing is too time-consuming, you’re far more likely to leave things in your in-tray or dump them on the nearest surface, kidding yourself you’ll file them after your tea break/this evening/at the weekend.
Keeping track of your income and expenses, even at the simplest level on a spreadsheet (or even in a book or Microsoft Word table!) is essential to make sure you’re keeping an eye on your business finances – and it also ensures that some of your calculations are already done when the tax return deadline rolls around.
It’s much easier to have some of the necessary figures to hand rather than to task yourself with going through everything in one soul-destroying, last-minute session.
Use the Tools Available
The Government has a host of useful web pages and webinars to help small business owners and freelancers handle their finances and tax. There are also various software packages available to help you with your book-keeping, including Cloud-based products, which allow you easy access to your accounts wherever you are.
They also offer the reassurance of knowing your information is stored securely in the Cloud; rather than a laptop or PC that could be lost or stolen. Our popular Cloud-based multi-user package, Pandle, is completely free.
If you follow this advice, then hopefully, this time next year, there will be no whooshing sound at all…