Is it just me?

January 23, 2018

I occasionally post on these pages in January about the agonies of preparing my own tax return. As a retired tax inspector, I often wonder whether I am less or more compliant than the average taxpayer, on the same spectrum as the dentist’s own teeth being a mess and the builder’s house having falling roof tiles. But with the writing and teaching I do I am, frankly, an extremely small business so I also wonder whether I have the same characteristics as other extremely small businesses.

For example: what were you doing eighteen months ago? I am looking at a payment statement from the spring of 2016 which will of course fall into my 16/17 accounts which will be included in the return I will have completed in, gulp, eight days. It is for a few hundred pounds and I had, frankly, forgotten doing the work at all until I found the statement helpfully placed in the right month in my account book. (Yes, I keep my records on paper.)

Now that I remember the gig I also remember that it was a one-off, where they also paid for my hotel and train fare. It doesn’t say on the statement whether this is payment for the work itself, or includes the reimbursement for the train fare. I vaguely remember they reimbursed the hotel directly so I don’t need to worry about that, but do I need to include the train fare in my accounts or not?

If they paid for the work and reimbursed me for the train fare in one cheque, then I need to include the cost of the train fare in my accounts expenses. If they paid for the train fare on a different date or by cash or in some other way, well, the fare and the repayment cancel each other out and I don’t need to include anything in my accounts (or, to be picky, I need to include both).

What I’m actually going to do, of course, is stick the amount of the cheque in my accounts as takings and forget about the train fare, on the grounds that you never mess with the Revenue by under declaring your takings, but that a train fare I might or might not have paid eighteen months ago is neither here nor there.

Of course, if the fabled free software for MTD existed, I would move to keeping my records electronically. I did accept a free trial of some software and found it remarkably easy to have invoices that generated and numbered themselves and added themselves up. However at the end of the free trial the monthly subscription was more than my average monthly turnover so I had to decline.

In short, if there was free software I would use it. If there was free software I would know whether the payment I received was net or gross and my accounts would be that much more accurate. This is why I believe MTD is a customer service initiative and not a money-making device: it’s expenses that I fail to record, not takings. Is it just me?

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