During the OMG final run up to the self-assessment filing deadline in January I had a number of clients apologising for their records, or even holding on to them for that little bit longer because they wanted to "sort them out a bit" or "make them better".
It would seem that everyone thinks that their books must just be the worst I have come across. I think we could all use a little improvement, me included. Whether your records consist of a shoe box full of receipts - ranging from petrol to dog food and everything in between - or you have visited a stationery shop and upgraded to a box file that just about closes; imagine the suitcase for a two week holiday in the sun, sitting on it hoping the zip will finally close and hope it won't then explode. You may even have a spreadsheet religiously completed every Friday evening, listing income and expenses but still worry it is not comprehensive enough. Or you may even run a super-duper all singing all dancing computerised accounts recording system, but lack that reassurance you are doing it right.
The one thing you all have in common is that you do have records!!
That is the biggest battle won, failing to keep records carries a hefty fine from HMRC; one we should all be able to avoid.
As you continue to trade year upon year, you will start to realise how much easier it is to remember things as they happen rather than months or a year later, and so naturally start to update your records more frequently. I find that the majority of clients do graduate to keeping records with attached notes or questions, or at least start to separate and keep the business expenditure rather than the weekly shop too, as they travel further in their business journey. Keeping records in whatever format and reviewing them regularly makes the year end process so much easier.
The worst records you can give your accountant is no records at all. Even incomplete records we can work with, If in doubt keep everything (yes including the weekly shop), note down anything you are not sure of, or just ask.
Personally when taking on a new client, I prefer to be given too much - this enables me to learn about you as a client and as a business. There may be things you can claim for the business you have overlooked, too much gives the full picture and better advice so please never worry.
Tax returns do not have to be filed in January, the tax year-end runs to the 5th of April each year. My tax return is submitted whenever practically possible before the end of that month. I have clients who send records in advance of this date, hoping to get a head-start, especially if they are expecting a refund. Adding the last few weeks to your records and return is much easier than remembering something from 9 months ago.
The most unorganised of shoe-box record holders can win the "I'm on top of this" award purely by being time efficient and thinking about the return at the end of the tax year and not leaving until the run up to the January deadline.
Let us help you plan your year-end now, It is never too early to enter the "I'm on top of this" awards, imagine those peaceful nights sleep knowing you have submitted your return before the adverts start haunting you on the TV an radio.
Not sure what records to keep? Contact us.
I can assure you that we have seen and not seen it all, you will not be alone, not be the worst and certainly won't be the first.