Self Employed Freelance Journalist? Here is our tax advice guide just for you. Whether you are starting out or just want to understand more about allowable expenses, here are some useful tips specifically for Freelance Journalist.
Register with HMRC as a Self Employed Freelance Journalist
If you are considering working for yourself then going self employed is the easiest way to kick start your career as a Freelance Journalist.
First of all you must let HMRC know that you are self employed and you can do that online here. Once this process is completed HMRC will send you a UTR number (Unique Tax Payers Reference). Keep this safe as you will need this code to file your Self Assessment Tax Return.
As you are self employed you are required to pay tax under Self Assessment which means you need to submit a personal Tax Return by 31 January each year detailing your trading income, the income tax and Class 2 & Class 4 National Insurance due as well as making a payment for the tax and NI due. Your tax return submitted by 31 January covers the previous tax year for example: your tax return due on 31 January 2018 details your trading income earned between 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017.
Watch out, you are also required to make a payment on account to HMRC by 31 July each year too which is normally 50% of your previous years tax bill, so make sure you budget for this additional payment too.
Your trading income, somewhat deceivingly, actually means your trading profits (all your income less all your allowable business expenses). Generally speaking, business expenses are only tax allowable if they are ‘wholly, necessarily and exclusively’ incurred in the performance of your business. All expenses must be supported by a receipt, so make sure you keep hold of all your paper or emailed receipts. But it is really important to be aware of which expenses are allowable because they will reduce your tax bill and incorrect claims can result in penalties.
Allowable Start Up Expenses for a Freelance Journalist
Starting any business usually involves some element of cost so it is worth understanding whether these expenses will attract tax relief before you start spending. Here is a list of typically allowable start up expenses relevant if you are a freelance journalist:
Computer & Printer
Your computer will probably be one of the main tools of your job an as such this will be tax allowable either in full or a proportion of its value, so make a note and keep the receipt to discuss at tax time.
Having a website is so important and it gives you the chance to detail your services, prices, showcase your work and let people get a feel for your experience and personality. If you are considering investing in a website then it is worth noting that the website, domain and hosting again are all allowable expenses.
Allowable Ongoing Expenses for Self Employed Freelance Journalist
Once you have begun finding work you will being to incur expenses on an ongoing basis as you run your business. Here are some of the ongoing expenses you which you should look out for as a self employed journalist and keep details of as they are generally tax allowable and reduce your tax bill:
Equipment & Materials
The ongoing costs of things like stationery, printer paper and cartridges for example are tax allowable. Keep hold of all your receipts as and when you buy things so you can pass them onto your accountant at tax time.
Phone and Internet
The cost of a business phone (mobile and/or landline) and your internet is an allowable expense however if there is personal use then only a portion of the contract costs can be claimed.
Travelling around to meet people for your work will most likely be tax allowable. Keep hold of your receipts for trains, tubes or taxis as they should all be allowable expenses and help reduce your tax bill.
If you need to use your car for work travel you should note down the mileage as this falls under the category of travel. Record your miles to and from your destination since you can claim 45p for the first 10,000 miles of driving and 25p thereafter.
Note – If you choose to rent a desk or office space you may not be able to claim for the cost of travel/mileage as this may represent your permanent place of work. Make sure you take professional advice before claiming for travel/mileage as incorrect claims can result in penalties.
Use of Home
If you choose to work from your home then there are rules that will allow you to claim an amount for the running costs of doing so from your home as a portion of your household bills such as gas, water, electricity or rent. Make sure you have an idea of your household running costs to discuss with your accountant at tax return time as they will help you work out how much you can claim against your taxable income.
If you opt to rent a desk or an office, then again the cost of doing so is an allowable expense and will reduce your taxable income.
You may opt to take courses to improve skills. These may be tax allowable so keep your receipts ready for when you need to submit your tax return. If you need to travel to your course or stay overnight as part of the training these costs are also tax deductible, as well as the cost of a basic meal for lunch/dinner. Take the time to collate your receipts or note down mileage so you can discuss your claim against your taxable income with your accountant.
Any marketing you do (online or offline), paid ads or anyone you pay to help you with your marketing is also fully allowable so make sure you download or ask your marketing assistant to send you an invoice before you pay them.
Accounting & Bookkeeping
Keeping accurate business records will help to avoid missing any entitlements or tax relief that you may be eligible for. Using a cloud based accounting software such as Xero, Quickbooks or Sage will make life easier, so if you do choose to sign up the cost of the monthly subscription is fully tax allowable. Then, if you choose to use an accountant to complete your self assessment tax return again their fees will be an allowable expense. Keeping accurate records will definitely help keep their fees down too as well as giving them all the information they need to make sure you receive all the deductions and reliefs to reduce your tax liability.
It is advisable to open a business bank account and keep your business and personal expenditure separate. The bank charges you pay on your business bank account is an allowable expense.