Last minute dot com – year end is looming!

 By author and finance entrepreneur Lisa Newton

Lisa Newton cropped picThere are no excuses! The self-assessment financial filing deadline (a little bit like Christmas Day) never changes from year to year – it is the 31st January and yet why do we (myself included) leave it to the very last minute?! I have been filing self assessment year end tax returns for myself and others for over a decade. I remember specifically one year putting it off, and putting it off… and that year, I probably spent more time worrying about the figures to file, than I actually spent in physically DOING the filing. It didn’t take long to file at all, and the rush of relief that I felt afterwards was tremendous! I’ve never left my filing until the last minute again.

Proudly, in all this time in filing for others, I’ve only missed a deadline ONCE … and that was because the client couldn’t find his user name and / or password, and so when we applied to get another one – they said they had to send it out in the post! Which meant it wasn’t received on time, and so he got a £100 fine. So, as a tip – just make sure you have your user name and password to hand. Don’t leave it until the last minute (like everyone else) as the website might collapse under the strain.

One year, I had a friend contact me THE DAY BEFORE THE FILING DATE asking me if I could file her return for her. Why do people leave it until the very last minute? They’ve had over NINE months to get their act together! There is no excuse. It’s like having a baby. You’ve got nine months of preparation. Why wait until the labour pains start to then think ‘ooh… I really ought to get some baby clothes, and book some time off work, and get the spare room looking like a nursery!’

I think (and I speak of personal experience and from observing others) – when you run a business, you have many hats to wear and many balls to juggle. Most of the time, small business owners, freelancers and consultants are just running to stand still and fire fighting! They’re responding to a series of ‘urgent’ and ’critical’ tasks and crisis and often aren’t in very good control over their own time. And then you get those who *know* deep down, in the back of their mind that they really ought to ‘do something’ about it, but they put it off. Something else becomes more important. Maybe they just don’t want to face it… yet.

Others will blame their accountant and they’ll say ‘oh, s/he never told me’ or something along those lines. The thing is, HMRC don’t allow ignorance as a defence because ultimately timely filing is YOUR responsibility as the owner / director… and no-one elses!

The thing is, these things just don’t go away. They just don’t disappear. So, as a person with a background in bookkeeping and accounts, take heed of the following top 7 tips, and you’ll be happier for it (trust me).

 

  1. Put ALL filing dates into your diary… VAT, payroll, year end, annual returns, self assessment. Put a note to yourself two weeks before the deadline, AND the deadline day – just give yourself plenty of notice.

 

  1. Allocate the job to either your bookkeeper or accountant and book them in accordingly to get the work done. Alternatively, if this is YOUR job, then schedule in time for it. Make an appointment in your diary and switch off all phones and distractions so that the task can get done.

 

  1. Don’t let it mount up. DO YOUR BOOKS AS YOU GO ALONG. Set aside 1-2 hours per week or fortnight, and just ‘get your books done’. Then when it comes time to file… most of the job will already be done, and it won’t seem like such a monster task.

 

  1. If you are self employed, then EVERY YEAR your self assessment runs to the 5th April, and you have until 31st January to file your return. This date never changes! It is set in stone. You would do well to aim to be super-organised, and get your filing in by the second May bank holiday. This will mean the rest of the year – you can be in peace.

 

  1. Always keep a copy of your previous return. Start a folder and call it ‘filing’ and keep it. This is useful if you need to refer back to it for any reason, or to remember how you filled out “box 12” last time. It will save you a lot of time because the questions are repetitive.

 

  1. Always keep your user name and password safe. And put them in a place where you can access them. There is nothing worse than having psyched yourself up to get on and file your returns … and then you spend 2 hours trying to log in and / or on the internet helpdesk trying to reset everything. The job could have been completed within that time!

 

  1. Focus on the end result. Focus on how nice it will feel to get the return filed and out of the way! For this very reason you should seek to get it done sooner rather than later. Delaying the filing just makes it more difficult. If you got it out of the way early in the year – this will free up your mind to just think about the business and how you can improve upon the figures. You will only end up wasting a lot of energy ‘worrying’ and ‘fretting’ over it, if you allow it to hang there, waiting to get done. Just by looking at it, your heart will sink and your good mood will evaporate and your energy levels will dip. You don’t need to go through this daily for 10 months before panicking and finally dealing with it. Just get it over and done with!!!

 

I know it’s easier said than done, but just make the commitment to yourself to tackle it. Stop reading this. Go and deal with it. And if you are one of the smug few who have filed their tax return already, and are sitting down with a cup of tea or filing your nails and feeling relieved… good for you! Everyone else is sitting there dreading it. But it doesn’t go away. I’m sorry. Even if you’ve nothing to declare – you still have to file a NIL return! The clock is ticking….

 

ABIUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Newton manages Find Me A Bookkeeper Ltd and if the filing task is depressing you and you just can’t face it, jump on the website and find a local bookkeeper who can help you out of the mess TODAY! www.FindMeABookkeeper.com

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