By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

As a business owner you are spinning a lot of plates. When there are urgent things to do spending time with your accountants may not be your top priority. However, if you’re not talking to them, then give the current complicated tax rules, there’s a danger of making mistakes with your taxes. Let look at a few classic mistakes:

Not reviewing the business structure/employment status

Maybe, when you started, you were rightly advised to go for a sole trader, partnership or a limited company. But the rules keep changing. When was the last time you reviewed and compared different tax structures?

Another important and complex area is that of self-employment.  Whilst you may safely get your own status right as an entrepreneurial business owner, how confident are you that your freelance workers and associates are genuinely self-employed? HMRC is cracking down on the so called ‘gig economy’ and are putting the onus on entrepreneurs to get this right.

Not keeping proper records

If I ask you I suspect you won’ t say that collating and keeping receipts is a fun job. However, for VAT registered business owners, not keeping them is a common mistake akin to throwing or giving away your piggy bank to HMRC. So, the next time you fail to get that VAT receipt, consider whether you will also dip into your pocket, grab those coins and throw them away.

The good news is that with so many apps on the market, the task of keeping proper tax records has become less taxing. With apps like Auto Entry, Expensify and Receipt Bank you can easily snap the receipts on the go and forget about them. The technology and your accountant would take care of the rest.

Claiming too much use of home expenses

There is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming these expenses. The problem is that by over claiming them, you potentially end up paying a lot more tax in capital gains tax when you come to sell your property. Why? Because the value of your home would have gone up and you lose generous tax relief on the part of your home you turn into business.

Wasting tax allowances

They say that tax allowances are like your muscles. If you don’t use them you lose them. And did you know that if you add up the income tax allowance, capital gains tax allowance, savings allowance and dividends allowance, you get a whopping £26,000 plus allowances in the year? It’s not uncommon to see many of these go to waste.

If you’re an entrepreneur who has dabbled in crypto currencies, make sure you make the most of the capital gains tax allowance.

And do consider how to also make use the allowances of your spouse and children.

Poor or no evidence to back up claims

The rules on what expenses can/cannot be claimed are not as straight forward as you may think. By not taking extra care or failing to appoint a good accountant or tax adviser, most entrepreneurs make this costly but avoidable mistake   Here’s an example: a business owner who rented an accommodation in Scotland in order to avoid expensive hotel bills during a long business trip was denied tax relief because the evidence he submitted was not sufficient to meet the so called “wholly and exclusively for the purpose of trade” test.

Tip – When claiming or incurring expenses for business, ensure that the primary purpose is for the business and have all the supporting documents to back this up.

Missing out on these tax breaks

There are more tax breaks within the law that most entrepreneurs miss out on but here are the most common ones

  • Research and development
  • Bad debt provision (make sure you have taken steps to recover the money)
  • Capital allowances on equipment used for the business including fixtures which are part of the building you have bought
  • Lease premiums
  • Warranty provisions
  • SEIS and EIS tax reliefs
  • Entrepreneurs relief
  • £40,000 lettings relief (this might be scrapped by HMRC)

The reason why most of these reliefs get missed is that you actually have to make a claim to get them.

Not putting aside money for tax

Cashflow can be a huge problem but when it comes to VAT and PAYE, the taxman’s stance is simple; it’s not your money. For income and corporation taxes, waiting till December or January to find out that you have this huge tax bill but no funds put aside is a common mistake entrepreneurs make.

To avoid this problem, look at the business model, plan for taxes and open a separate bank account to put cash away for taxes.

Accepting 30% more tax when selling your company

So it’s time to put your feet up and retire. You’ve decided to sell up but you’re dealing with a well-informed tax buyer who wants to pay more for the company’s assets but he or she is not interested in the shares. You’re tempted and you agree to sell the assets. You’ve potentially lost out on a 10% tax rate and are now looking at over 30% tax. Why 30%? So the company sells the assets and it pays corporation tax at, say, 19%. You then need to extract the cash out and let’s be conservative and say you pay 20% income tax. That’s 39% potential tax.

Buying the shares of your competitor

Instead of organic growth, you’ve decided to acquire your competitor. In your haste to get the deal done, you buy the shares of the company instead of the assets. This is a common tax mistake because whilst buying the shares is a good for the seller, you lose the tax reliefs associated with buying the assets.

Wasting Business Property Relief

Your business has value. It’s your life’s work. A common mistake I see is lack of planning around how the business should be passed-on tax free when you’re not here. The rules, subject to some conditions, allows your life’s work to be enjoyed tax free by your loved ones. But if you do not have a Will or if in your Will you’ve passed the business to say your spouse, you’re wasting this generous tax relief.

Always check to make sure you are avoiding these mistakes. If you are unsure call in a reputable accountant. Rather than firefighting and trying to do some retrospective tax planning make sure that you not only have a business plan, you also have a tax.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award winning chartered tax adviser and accountant who advises business owners on entrepreneurial tax reliefs. Jonathan is the founder and CEO of The Tax Guys.

www.thetaxguys.co.uk