• Zoe

Can I do my own tax return?

Yesterday I had a chat with a client who had a few questions about her self assessment tax return, and as with many of my clients a lot of her questions were about the expenses she could claim through her self employed work*. After talking to her about that, she asked me whether I only do tax returns for people whose affairs are more complicated, and whether she could just do her own tax return herself.

The answer is, is that people with all kinds of circumstances outsource their tax returns. You can do it yourself if you feel you have the knowledge you need to do it accurately. We're told that our fees are quite competitive but any financial outlay might seem like a lot to spend for something you feel can do yourself. The thing is, no matter how straightforward HMRC make a tax return to complete, many people still choose to pay a bookkeeper or accountant to do theirs and I suppose people who tend to come to me for help with their tax returns approach me for four reasons.

They find a tax return difficult

Lots of people come to me because they find tax difficult, they don't feel qualified to do their own tax return, they don't understand the terminology (do you know what the difference is between the cash basis and the accrual basis for example?) and they don't know what expenses they can claim. These people employ somebody to do their tax return because it saves them heaps of googling time, phone calls to HMRC and just gives them peace of mind.

They find the idea of a tax return scary or daunting

Then there's the group of people who feel daunted by the idea of doing a tax return. If you've read the story about how I started the business you'll know that I got talking to a guy who wanted to start his own business but was afraid of doing a tax return, it's a very real thing. Often these people are doing their very first tax return maybe because they have a side project as well as employment or have left their job to start a business, but others never get away from the feeling that finance is a daunting topic even after years of submitting tax returns. Many people would just rather somebody else dealt with the whole thing to save them the stress.

They find the whole thing overwhelming

Some people just don't know where to start. If like me, you like to make sure something you start gets finished in one sitting if you possibly can, logging on to do your tax return and then keeping having to go back when you've found yet another piece of paper and another can get tiring. People come to me because I know what to ask them for straight up, saving too much back and forth with limited overwhelm.

Their time is better spent doing something else

I once read about a study into the efficiencies offered to married couples because of the ability to divide up household tasks in the most efficient way. Bear with me. My husband's good at hoovering so he does that, I'm more likely to make sure we don't forget anything we need at the supermarket so I do the food shop. All that time saved by not having to re-do the hoovering before guests arrive because I did a bad job, or us not having to pop to Tesco because my husband forgot the dishwasher tablets means we can spend time doing something we'd rather be doing. Outsourcing your tax return is exactly the same. If you employ somebody who knows what they're doing and they can do it in half the time it might take you, that frees you up to do something you'd much rather be doing, like earning money in your business.

Of course, if you have any questions at all about the expenses you can claim in your tax return, you should speak to HMRC or your bookkeeper or accountant. If you need any help with your tax return or you decide this is just too much to think about, please get in touch and call 0117 287 2807, or email hello@butthebooks.co.uk, I’m always happy to help.

*If you're puzzling about your own small business expenses by the way, I've put together a list of what I think we're the best resources on the web to get you started, drop me a quick email and I'll send it over.

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