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Losses and profits
You might think that HMRC is being unfair in refusing loss relief, but if your activity is a hobby you won’t have to pay tax on profits either. This rule can be tricky as revealed in the case of P, when HMRC dismissed his claim for loss relief.
Trade or personal loss?
HMRC challenged P’s claim at a tribunal because in its view it related to non-business transactions and so was a personal financial loss and not one arising from a trade. Non-trading losses can’t be set against taxable income and it’s not just HMRC being difficult.
HMRC and tax specialists refer to the so-called “badges of trade” to decide if a trade exists. These tests were set out in a court judgment decades ago, but remain valid today. One of the tests to establish if a trade exists is that there must be an intention to make profit from a business. In P’s case the tribunal extended this test a little further.
Incapable of making a profit
P started two “businesses”, neither of which made a profit because, in the tribunal’s view, he was inexperienced and couldn’t devote enough time to them. Neither venture was capable of making a profit without P reducing the hours he spent in his main job. In essence P didn’t have the business acumen or time to devote to making his business profitable.
Putting the boot on the other foot
The ruling in P’s case is useful, not just for guidance on when losses are deductible, but for countering HMRC if it claims money you make from a hobby is taxable. Its view has always been that if you advertise your hobby in a newspaper or online you’re probably trading. But the tribunal’s judgment, supported by HMRC, dispelled that idea. If you don’t have the time or intention to carry on a trade, profit you make from isolated sales isn’t liable to income tax.
Turn your hobby into a business
For advice on converting your hobby to a profitable business, including help with setting up a limited company or registering for VAT, please contact Alterledger.
How to maximise your VAT reclaim
Plan ahead and reclaim everything
If you are setting up a business and can ahead, you can register for VAT from the date your business will start. For most traders there is not any restriction on the date the business can start, but for some professional services eg barristers and advocates, no trade exists until they qualify. To maximise the VAT to be reclaimed, the sole trader can register for VAT in advance of date of commencement, effective the date they are due to qualify. This means that the VAT registration will be in place from the 1st day of trading and all sales invoices can be issued as VAT invoices.
There are specific rules allowing pre-registration VAT to be reclaimed, but any claims to recover pre-registration VAT must relate to the same trade and made by the same person. A sole trader who incorporates the business is not the same legal person as the new company. Any VAT suffered by the (unregistered) sole trader can’t be claimed as pre-registration VAT by the new company.
Get help with registering
Your accountant will be able to register you for VAT and recommend the best scheme for you. It can take a few weeks for HMRC to process applications, but accountants who are registered as agents with HMRC are likely to have a quicker turnaround time. For advice on registering for VAT and setting up your invoices, please visit the Alterledger website.
Anyone who works with businesses is fully aware of how important accounting is for the success of a company. Yet many business owners have a negative attitude towards accounting. A high percentage of entrepreneurs see accounting as a necessary evil and often a hindrance to starting a new company.
How is that possible? Wasn’t accounting invented to help companies manage their business?
The IT industry has brought us computers and the ability to create software to automate bookkeeping. While there is no doubt that accounting software has been a great help, when we look at the usage of it, something is wrong. More than half of the businesses in the UK keep track of their finances by using a combination of spreadsheets and word processors rather than using accounting software. In an age where computing power is ubiquitous and virtually never too far from our pocket, we should be able to do better than this.
In 2013, international accounting software provider e-conomic was considering what its next generation accounting software should look like. And decided to take a different approach. What would happen if we created a piece of accounting software for people who had no knowledge of accounting? And what if we made the basic functions free for people to use? We hoped that it would make accounting approachable by virtually anybody.
That’s how the Debitoor invoicing and accounting software was born.
Introducing simple accounting to the world
Today, more than 33,000 people in the UK and almost 300,000 people worldwide have signed up for Debitoor and have given us the privilege of approaching accounting in a different way. Debitoor is used in more than 30 countries, from the UK to South Africa, from Colombia to Australia and New Zealand.
Debitoor is an accounting package for very small businesses. It allows them to manage their customers, create quotes and invoices. It allows them to register their purchases, deal with bank and payments and helps them report their VAT directly to HMRC at the click of a button. Debitoor helps those small companies manage their assets and keep track of what’s on their balance sheet in a very simple manner. Finally, Debitoor helps business owners collaborate with their accountants by allowing them to share their data with them.
Debitoor’s mission is to make accounting cool to work with. Two years after we started, the typical reaction we get from accountants is: “Wow, convincing my clients to use this is going to be super easy!”. We have captured the essence of Debitoor in this video.
Letting users shape accounting software
But what have we done to make this possible? The most important ingredient has been a clear focus. Our mission has always been to make accounting easy for small business owners who know very little about accounting.
Here are some of the key principles we followed to build the Debitoor invoicing and accounting software:
– Approachable: We have removed any obstacles to getting started. There is no setup needed, we do not ask questions, users can start on the free package, the program is ready to go.
– Natural: We have eliminated all technical lingo. You will not find the words “debit” and “credit” in Debitoor. The workflows in the program follow the natural flows of a user with no accounting knowledge and the program uses the typical words he’d use.
– Forgiving: People make mistakes; and accounting systems typically make it quite complicated to correct mistakes. In Debitoor, actions can be undone and mistakes can easily be corrected.
– Instructive: We assume people do not know much about accounting, so we have structured the entire program to let users learn along the way. This is not just functionality but it encompasses the entire packaging of the product.
– User-driven: In an open forum, users can give their feedback and suggest new features, vote for their own or others’ suggestions and influence the further development of the software. This transparency is super important for us to develop a truly user-driven program.
– Collaborative: Most of our users share their data with their accountants in order to get help with taxes, reporting and ensuring quality.
We also had the privilege of building the product with the technology which was available in 2013. This has huge benefits for our users because it allows us to provide them with a service which is reliable, improving at a fast pace and very secure. Having a modern architecture also ensures that Debitoor is very easy to connect to other popular cloud services.
Debitoor’s user base is very diverse as its appeal is quite broad. Many of our users are freelancers, artists, consultants, designers or other creative people, but we have also small artisans and shop keepers or owners of clinics and small distributors. They all have missions and purposes in their lives and we try to help them with their accounting.
Changing how an industry works
As with any change in technology, this brings great opportunities to the industry it affects. The introduction of new technology, however, takes a bit of time to mature. When television started to gain mass adoption in the 1950s, broadcasters used it as it was radio. The first shows had older men with glasses reading papers in front of a microphone. This was how it used to be with radio programs.
The availability of cloud software has created a set of providers who simply made traditional accounting software available on the internet. This, we believe, will change and we will see more and more software which is transformational in nature. That is what we are trying to do with Debitoor.
We are only at the beginning of this journey. The roadmap for Debitoor will focus on three main aspects:
1. Continue to add simple flows to support what today are very difficult accounting scenarios
2. Introduce more and more automation and intelligence to enable our users to do more with less knowledge
3. Strengthen the collaboration between users and their accountants by facilitating the sharing of data between them.
What will this mean for accountants and the accounting industry? This is what our users are telling us: They love doing their invoices and keeping track of their costs in Debitoor. It gives the nice feeling of being in control, it keeps them organized and allows them to focus on their business going forward.
At the same time, they also tell us that they need help from their accountants. They need help with taxes, they need help with reporting to authorities and a lot of them need a quality check from the experts. In addition, most of them need legal and financial advice on ad hoc issues they encounter in their life as entrepreneurs.
The biggest change for accountants is to be prepared to embrace the possibilities that technology gives us. Things like cloud storage and online applications will substitute manual processes, paper and data disks. Everything is now available via a web browser on your computer or on your phone.
In order to be successful, accountants will have focus on services that draw on their knowledge and experience and they will need to be prepared to serve their customers as they move towards those new technologies.
Increased access will not be limited to technology but also to services. This will also mean increased competition. The best thing an accountant can do is embrace change and be ahead of the curve, start small but start early. The customers are already going there.
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is going through parliment now
The Bill will open up new opportunities for small businesses to:
- get finance to create jobs
Here are my top 15 key points:
- For every piece of legislative brought in two pieces will be removed
- Prompt Payment
- Changes to Childcare Early Years and Child Minder Registrations
- Cheque imaging from smart phones (Presentment of Cheques)
- Banks will share data on Small Businesses with other Lenders
- Invalidating restrictive terms in business contracts to increase access to Invoice Discounting
- Company Transparency – Register of People with Significant Control
- Accelerated Strike Off
- Company filing changes
- Directors Disqualification – tougher rules
- Schools, Colleges, Higher Education to track students into the labour force
- Penalties for employers who fail to pay an Employment Tribunal award
- Penalties for non compliance with National Minimum Wage increased to 100% or upto £20,000
- Improved access to alternative finance
- Streamlined Company Registration
These are major changes that will affect us all!
Almost a third of British workers run some kind of creative business outside their main job contributing an estimated £15bn to the UK economy, according to new research from Moo.com. Profitability among this group of enterprises has increased by 32% in the past year. One in ten part-time creative entrepreneurs plans to leave their job to focus on their business full-time within the next year. However, 60% said it was their passion for the business, and not making money, that motivated them. The most popular part-time creative ventures are in food and cooking, gardening, photography and knitting. (According to Law Donut)
So why are micro businesses taking off:
- You can start off working at home
- Your start up costs are low
- You can do it part time when it suits you
- With wages frozen and costs rising it can provide a useful additional income
- Its easy to be price competitive with low overheads
- The Internet makes it easy to sell your goods and services
- Your social capital can be used to generate sales ie use your contacts and connections
- There could tax advantages – employees generally pay more tax than sole traders
- Some clients prefer the personal touch
- It could be start of something big
Here are my top 20 home based business ideas:
- Get a lodger – Under rent-a-room a taxpayer can be exempt from Income Tax on profits from furnished accommodation in their only or main home if the gross receipts they get (that is, before expenses) are £4,250 or less
- Ironing and Laundry Services – Always popular and you can start with friends and family
- E Bay Trading – as E Bay say… The first task is to sort through those bulging drawers and messy cupboards, finding stuff to flog. Get a big eBay box to stash your wares in, and systematically clear out wardrobes, DVD and CD piles, the loft and garage. Use the easy 12-month rule of thumb to help you decide what to offload: Haven’t used it for a year? Flog it.
- Blogging – Blogging has taken off and many businesses are looking for people to write blogs for them
- Candle Making – You can sell the candles on line and its easy to buy the wax and things you need to make the candles
- Car Boot Sale – As with E Bay but without going on line
- Cake Making – Make sure everything is labelled correctly and you comply with Health & Safety issues
- Data Entry – The internet makes it easy to enter data from where ever you are
- Social Media – Similar to blogging, businesses need help to manage Twitter, Facebook and Linked In
- Website Design – If you have the expertise, go for it
- Sales Parties – Cosmetics to Ann Summers, there is a long list of opportunities
- Sewing and Clothes Alterations – Perfect before and after Christmas
- Jewellery – Making and selling jewellery is always popular and great for Christmas presents
- Car Repairs – Assuming you have the skills needed and comply with legal requirements
- Pet Care – Walking dogs or grooming is popular
- Virtual Assistant – Also personal organiser or personal shopper
- Wedding Planner – You could start by creating a blog about your expertise
- Direct Sales – For example http://www.netmums.com/back-to-work/working-for-yourself/direct-selling-opportunities
- Computer Repair – Great provided you have the skills
- Marketing – Telesales to leaflet design and freelance writing
I read about Simple Tax in an article in the Express…
Backed by venture capital investors including EC1 Capital, Seedcamp and Charlotte Street Capital, SimpleTax was set up to help customers find ways to save money on their tax bills and file returns online with HMRC in minutes.
SimpleTax’s users have so far cut a total of £2.5 million from their tax bills
So I tried it out, it’s great and it’s free.
You will need your HMRC Online filing details if you want to file your return alternatively you can just print out the return.
For taxpayers who have very straightforward returns Simple Tax should make it quicker and easier to complete and file online.
As you prepare the return Simple Tax gives you tips on things you can claim and ways to save tax.
Take a look and see what you think https://www.gosimpletax.com/
For those with more complicated tax returns get advice from a CIMA Accountant.
The UK has seen the fastest growth in self-employment in Western Europe over the past year, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
The number of self-employed workers rose by 8%, faster than any other Western European economy, and outpaced by only a handful of countries in Southern and Eastern Europe.
The IPPR’s analysis shows that the UK – which had low levels of self-employment for many years – has caught up with the EU average. If current growth continues, it says, the UK will look more like Southern and Eastern European countries which tend to have much larger shares of self-employed workers.
According to Tax Research UK…
Something like 80% of all the new jobs created since 2010 are, in fact, self-employments, and there are a number of things that very significantly differentiate self-employments from jobs.
The first is security: there is none.
The second is durability: vast numbers of new small businesses fail, which is one reason why I doubt the official statistics. I am sure they record the supposed start-ups correctly but seriously doubt if they have properly counted the failures.
Then there is the issue of pay. The evidence is overwhelming that in recent years earnings from self-employment have, on average, declined significantly.
A worker’s employment status, that is whether they are employed or self-employed, is not a matter of choice. Whether someone is employed or self-employed depends upon the terms and conditions of the relevant engagement.
Many workers want to be self-employed because they will pay less tax, this calculator gives you a quick comparison between being employed, self employed or taking dividends in a limited company.
HMRC have a an employment status tool to help you determine whether a worker can be self-employed or should be an employee http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/esi.htm
In summary, why is it attractive to use Self Employed Freelancers?
- Skill is more important than location in many business sectors – we live in world where internet can allow you to work with anyone at anytime, you can now track down the best person to work with even if they live thousands of miles away
- Lower fixed costs – Using Freelancers will lower your fixed costs (in similar way to Zero Hours Contracts), you employ them for a specific project and only pay for what you need so there isn’t any surplus capacity
- Tax advantages – Freelancers run their own business and that means they pay less tax than employees. Employers save tax too, such as Employers NI.
- Competitive Advantage – You can put together a team for a contract rather than finding contracts that fit your workforce, this means you can hire the best.
- 110% Commitment – A Freelancers success and future work depends on them performing to the highest level on every contract, failure is not an option for a successful contractor.
So do you think self employment is good for the UK?