Self assessment – Should I do them myself?

January is not always everyone’s favourite time of the year.  After the festive frolics of December, it can seem a little cold and gloomy with nothing to look forward to.  It’s perhaps made even worse if you are self-employed as it’s also Self Assessment deadli

ne time!

Admittedly, nobody wants to do their Self Assessment, but sadly it’s a fact of life and something you really can’t avoid.  Or at least, not forever.  It will catch up with you eventually, and the longer you leave it, the more stressful the experience tends to be.

One thing we get asked a lot is whether you need to have an accountant (either a local one, or an online one like SwiftBooks Accounting) prepare and file the returns on your behalf.

The short answer is no, legally speaking you are not obligated to have an accountant do any of this for you.  Therefore, it comes down to personal choice.  To help you decide what might be best for you, we thought we’d look at the pros and cons of going it alone, or hiring a professional.

The benefits of doing it yourself

If you like being in total control, and many business owners do, the completing your own return can be a good idea.  This way you know precisely what’s happening, what’s going in to it and when it’s going to be completed.  You don’t have to wait around for someone else to do their bit, and you won’t feel you need to “chase” anyone up to get any answers.

Another benefit is you will be fully aware of what’s coming in and going out, and how much you’re going to owe.  This way you won’t experience any nasty surprises, and can immediately start budgeting for your next tax bill to stay ahead of the game.

Equally, doing it yourself is a lot cheaper than hiring an accountant – no matter what their fees are (and these can, of course vary quite widely).  Some sole traders and small businesses can become frustrated when they are paying in the area of £500 to an accountant, when their earnings may only be £10,000 per annum.

This can turn to resentment if the accountant in question is not as helpful or reliable as they had been led to believe. Doing it yourself therefore saves money in fees, and time in having to phone around looking for referrals and ascertaining professional competency.

The benefits of using an accountant

Running a business is time consuming, from doing the actual work to marketing, answering calls and managing staff.  If you want to try and fit a personal life in amongst all of that you probably don’t have much time to sit and look at your figures. Instead of worrying about numbers, deadlines, accuracy and the fear of investigations should you get it wrong, it can be a lot easier to hand everything over to someone else to handle.

It might sound daft, but an accountant could actually save you money in the long run.  They are experts at spotting where you can cut back, make savings and equally what you can (and can’t) claim for, which ultimately means you may be able to spend less on your tax bill.

Although completing your Self Assessment may not be the most complicated thing in the world (especially if your general record keeping is good and up to date), but tax laws in the UK are always changing, and it’s impossible to stay on top of these if you are not an expert.  If you want to have complete peace of mind (and someone to turn to if anything did go wrong), then you are far better off employing a professional to worry about these things than doing it yourself.

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