Places people… it’s one week until the tax return deadline in the UK! But take a deep breath, because as much as it might make you panic if you haven’t yet ticked this off your list, the world will not stop turning next week, and you will, you will get it finished.
I want to start by saying that, although I talk a lot on here about freelance life, productivity, mindset and starting a business, finances is one thing I will NOT be giving you my advice on. This blog is simply to share some things I’ve learned while doing my own tax return, and hopefully provide you with the motivation to get over the hurdle yourself.
Put the guilt aside and get on with it
Although I have been saying for the last few months that I would do my tax return super early and be all smug when the deadline came around, I finally got to doing mine… last week. Not months ago. Last week. I know that you will probably have been feeling guilty and letting it weigh on you for weeks, if not months, but it’s time to put that to one side. So you’re not one of the early, smug folks? Forget about it, and be one of the ones who gets it together the week before the deadline. As long as you’re leaving enough time for processing and payment, then you’re fine.
It probably won’t be as big a job as you think
I put so much pressure on myself to be organised in 2017/18 with receipts and spreadsheets, and although I don’t regret this as it came in handy in the end, I let the idea of doing my tax return swell in my mind until the task became so large that I believed I had to put aside a whole month to complete it, or else hire a professional accountant to do it for me. Alas, the whole thing ended up taking me less than a day, to my delight and surprise. Everyone’s tax return is entirely different so I could never estimate how long yours will take, but what I’m trying to say is that we build these things up in our mind so much, and it’s worth making a small start to the process so you know what you’re up against before making assumptions about how long it will take. You may be pleasantly relieved, like I was.
Write down everything you do
If this is your first ever tax return, then there’s no better person for you to learn from going forward, than yourself. To make the whole process easier for future-you, create a file in your documents that details the steps you took while completing your tax return this time around, any jargon you came across that needed explaining, and what you learned from the process that you’d like to do differently for next time. Keeping a note of these things means that you will only ever have to go through the confusion of it all once, and subsequent years should be a lot simpler.
If it starts to affect your mental health, outsource
I’ve always said this on the blog: if something is affecting your mental health negatively, don’t hesitate to find an alternative solution that will release you from the overwhelm. Though I truly believe that getting your tax return finished is simply a case of putting aside the time and concentrating, for many it can feel like a huge burden that just grows and grows as the deadline gets closer. If you’re feeling particularly down about this, I would always suggest investing in an accountancy professional who can help you get this year’s one over and done with, and can suggest ways to make it much less overwhelming next time around. Don’t let your mental heath suffer for the sake of saving the price of an accountant.
Use the resources available to you
Though the HMRC website is relatively simple to use, the language can get confusing, and it’s not always obvious what you can and cannot claim as expenses and capital allowances. If the whole thing is confusing you, then I recommend using as much of the HMRC website as you can to find the answers you need (they have some handy videos on there to explain elements of the process), and if you are still struggling to understand, there are plenty of other websites and resources out there to help.
I can fully recommend Julia Day from Easy As VAT, a financial coach and founder of The Independent Girls Collective, a membership site that helps you with all things money, money, money! You may remember Julia as one of the panel speakers at our first Desk Life Project event back in November, and it’s safe to say that many in attendance left the event feeling much more confident about finances. Money is something that baffles many of us, myself included, and since speaking to Julia and being a member of The Independent Girls Collective, I’ve been uplifted by the community of women all helping each other with money woes and answering questions, as well as the courses on the membership site.
There’s a course on tax with downloadable resources on there too, so if you think you need a helping hand this month, I’d highly recommend joining… it’s only £5 a month!
Remember, everyone feels confused, lonely and worried during the process of completing their first tax return, you just need to set aside the time, concentrate, and make use of the resources to help you. You got this!
Once again, I want to end by stating that I am not a financial advisor or accountant, and the advice in this blog is purely based on my personal experience. If you have any questions, please reach out to HMRC, Easy As VAT, or someone else you trust who can help.