Accounting for Freelancers

If you’re thinking about going freelance and setting up your own limited company, or have already done so, the thought of managing the financial side of things may seem daunting.

However simple your business model, as a limited company there are certain things you have to do by law. Failure to comply could result in back taxes and potential fines.

So, what are your options?

Do it yourself

The first option is that you could attempt to do your accounts yourself, but that's easier said than done. Completing your own accounts can be time-consuming, often taking up your spare time. Also, there's the chance of making a mistake and getting your accounts rejected by HMRC.

Use an off-the-shelf or online bookkeeping package

Bookkeeping is simply the process of recording your business transactions. Regardless of whether you record them in a book, a spreadsheet or a snazzy looking online package, the activity is the same; you have to record them. You can pay people to do your bookkeeping for you, but you're still the one saving receipts and sending over the information. If you forget to send something, it's unlikely the bookkeeper will ever know.

Now the above may all sound a bit ominous, however the good news is that as a freelancer it's unlikely that your bookkeeping affairs will be too complex, after all, you'll just be sending a few invoices (you'll probably immediately spot if they haven't been paid), have a few expenses, pay yourself and some taxes now and again (your accountant will help you with these) and that's about it.

There is some very good low cost off the shelf packages, some online packages and also free accounting software, the knack is not to be led by all the bells and whistles. It's important to bear in mind what you will be recording and how much of the system you'll be using. Ultimately you're the one who will be putting in the information, however, we would advise getting an accountant to check things as no software package will tell you if you have incorrectly entered a figure or claimed for a non-valid expense. They are only as good as the information you put in.

Find yourself a reputable accountant

There's plenty of accountants to choose from, however, we recommend you find one that specialises exclusively in providing accountancy services for freelancers and contractors. Even though you might think your requirements are fairly simple, there’s no substitute for working with a professional. All accountants will claim they can cover all aspects of your tax as a contractor, but the best solution is to speak to a specialist who deal with contractors every day, and can make sure that the financial side of your business is always accurate. For more information on the differences between a traditional accountant and a specialist contractor accountant, take a look at our case study.

A good accountant will also provide you with ongoing tax advice throughout the year and not just at the end when it will probably be too late to save you from an excessive tax bill. In order to do this, they have to keep abreast of the UK tax system and all of its regulations and legislative changes.

If you do choose an accountant, you may have some questions regarding what they offer.

An accountant should:

  • Help you to structure your company in the most tax efficient way possible
  • Help you to understand the best way to take money out of your company
  • Understand what you can claim by way of expenses and the impact on your income and taxes
  • Help you to understand all of your tax liabilities both personal and corporate These include:
  • Employers National Insurance contributions
  • Employees National Insurance contributions
  • Personal income tax
  • VAT (Flat Rate Scheme or standard VAT)
  • Corporation tax
  • Prepare and complete your personal self-assessment tax return each year
  • Understand when, how much and where to send payment for all taxes that are due
  • Explain the benefits of not taking every penny out of your company along with other tax planning opportunities

Let's talk!

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