Top tips for completing your Self Assessment in 2024

Crunch Accounting take you step-by-step to ensure your Self Assessment goes smoothly
11th December 2023
Written by James Waller

Top tips for filing your tax return from Crunch Accounting

Completing your yearly self-assessment tax return is something that many new and experienced business owners dread. As it’s renowned for being a tedious and time-consuming process that presents a host of potential administrative pitfalls. 

Some of which can incur fines and penalties that HMRC will gleefully apply.

However, the task of filing a self-assessment tax-return needn’t be a major stressor - if you do it right.  So in this article we’ll explain the most vital points to pay attention to, and steps to ensure your Self Assessment goes smoothly. 

Whether you’re a first-time filer or seasoned SA form submitter, this guide is for you.

Freelancer working on laptop

Self Assessment stats to note:

  • Last year 800,000+ taxpayers filed their Self Assessment on the day of the deadline, 36,000 of them within the last hour.

  • 600,000+ self-employed people missed filings for the 31st January deadline

  • Around 250,000 'early-birds' filed Self Assessment in the first week for tax year 22/23 - between 6 and 12 April 2023.

  • Just under 5.7 million tax-payers had still not filed their tax return less than 1 month from the deadline for the 21/22 tax year.

  • Low-level tax evasion offences (which can happen unintentionally) can result in a 6 month prison sentence and a £5000 fine!

  1. Keep your financial records in good order
  2. Keeping your essential documents and data well organised is a basic principle of business management. But when it comes to completing your self-assessment tax-return, the importance of good record keeping cannot be overstated.


    Properly maintaining and collating receipts, invoices, payments, emails, letters and other relevant data related to your financial activity is crucial.


    These documents need to be kept in a readable and ordered fashion so you can access and locate them easily when filing your return. This will save you frantically scouring your office for a receipt you need to claim a large business expense at the last minute.



  3. Start Early
  4. Filing a tax return with HMRC is similar to travelling to an airport to catch a flight. It’s wise to leave early with plenty of time to spare, as some unexpected disruption usually occurs.


    Begin preparing to file your tax return as soon as possible in the new tax year. Make time to gather the necessary documents together as mentioned above, and also write out a plan that outlines the key actions, dates, resources and information you need to complete Self Assessment.


    Doing this will give you a clear picture of your responsibilities in the process and how/when to fulfil them. And enable you to make any adaptations or changes in good time.


    It’s also wise to have some form of contingency plan in anticipation of any possible obstacles in submitting or filing. Such as having to amend an error or miscalculation, or supply missing information post-submission.


    In the event of these, it’s very useful to know what channels and contacts to pursue in order to find solutions to any queries, or make an appeal. As well as being generally educated on how HMRC’s customer service works.



  5. Register asap, and submit on time
  6. It's necessary to sign up for Self Assessment by the 5th of October 2024 if you're required to submit a tax return and haven't previously done so. You will then be issued with Unique Taxpayer Reference Code (UTR) which you should allow a couple of weeks to arrive.


    For those completing their tax return online, it needs to be submitted by the deadline of midnight on January 31, 2024. You face an immediate £100 fine if you miss it.


    The typical deadlines for settling your tax bill are as follows:

    • January 31st - For any outstanding tax from the previous year (referred to as a balancing payment) and your initial *payment on account.
    • July 31st - For your second payment on account (If you make payment ‘on account’.)

    The sooner you can register for Self Assessment, and submit your tax return, the more time you will have to complete the form and get on with making calculations and organising records/documents.

    HMRC’s penalties for late payment, miscalculations and other errors are no laughing matter. So it would be prudent to prioritise the registration, filing and payment dates in your schedule.



  7. Stay tax efficient - Understand what expenses, allowances, and rebates you can claim
  8. An equally crucial aspect is understanding the nuances of tax efficiency. Specifically, knowing which expenses, allowances, and rebates you can legitimately claim is a game-changer for any small business owner. This knowledge not only helps in reducing your tax liability but also ensures you're making the most of the benefits available to you.



    Identifying Allowable Expenses

    Firstly, get familiar with what counts as allowable business expenses. These are costs that are exclusively for the running of your business. Common examples include:


    • Office costs: This includes rent, utility bills, and office supplies.
    • Travel expenses: Mileage, train or bus fares, and hotel accommodation if a business trip requires an overnight stay.
    • Staff costs: Salaries, pension contributions, and subcontractor fees.
    • Items for resale: Stock, raw materials, and direct costs related to goods or services.
    • Financial costs: Insurance, bank charges, and interest on loans and credit purchases.
    • Marketing and subscriptions: Advertising costs and professional journal subscriptions.

    Understanding what qualifies as an allowable expense can significantly reduce your taxable profit. Keep in mind, personal expenses are not included.


    Utilising Allowances and Reliefs

    The UK tax system offers various allowances and reliefs that can further reduce your tax bill. These include:


    Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) - This allows you to deduct the full value of qualifying items, such as machinery and business equipment, from your profits before tax.


    Capital Allowances - If you buy an asset for your business, like a car or computer, you can deduct some of its value from your profits before you pay tax.


    Research and Development (R&D) Relief - If your business is involved in innovation, this relief can reduce your tax bill or, for some small or medium-sized companies, provide a cash sum.

    Research and Development (R&D) Relief - If your business is involved in innovation, this relief can reduce your tax bill or, for some small or medium-sized companies, provide a cash sum.


    Understanding Rebates - In certain situations, you may be eligible for tax rebates or refunds. This can occur if you've overpaid tax due to miscalculations or changes in your business income or structure. Be proactive in reviewing your tax situation, especially after significant business changes, to identify potential rebate opportunities.



  9. Get expert help
  10. To save significant time and money you can use Crunch’s Self Assessment service to have our expert accounts file your tax return for you. They’ll handle all the boring and stressful admin whilst keeping your return totally error-free and compliant, and you get 35% off with Qdos!


    As part of Crunch's commitment to supporting small businesses, our online accountancy software is designed to help you keep track of your expenses and allowances efficiently.


    With features that allow for easy categorisation and reporting of business expenses, our tool can assist in maximising your tax efficiency. Ensuring you're paying the right amount of tax while capitalising on legitimate opportunities to reduce your tax liability.


    Tax laws and allowances change regularly. So staying compliant with the latest tax rules is crucial to ensure you're not missing out on any allowances or claiming something incorrectly.


    In addition, you can protect yourself from any tax-investigation with business insurance. If you’re already a Crunch client you can use Crunch Protect, designed to assist small businesses with tax enquiries from HMRC. With which a Chartered accountant will defend your case from start to finish. See also, Qdos Tax Enquiry Insurance.



Self Assessment Simplified

In summary, completing your Self Assessment doesn't have to be daunting. With a mix of organisation, early planning, an understanding of tax efficiencies, and expert support, you can navigate this process smoothly and effectively.


Staying informed and proactive will not only save you from penalties but also optimise your financial health. Remember, Crunch is here to assist, making your Self Assessment journey as seamless as possible.


Crunch Accounting
Written by
James Waller
James is the Content Specialist at Crunch Accounting, who have been helping members of the self-employed community manage their accounts simply and effectively for over a decade. He has a background in branding, social media and content creation for London based start-ups. When not writing long-form blog articles he enjoys walking in the English countryside,and exploring the culinary joys of Spain as a food-tourist.

Have a question?

Ask away! One of our team will get back to you!

Prefer to talk to us in person?

Call our team on 0116 269 0999 or we can call you back at a time that suits you!