Tax return

Running a small business often means money is tight, says Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Coach. As with any business, money must be looked after carefully – there’s no room for wastage. Tax is always going to be an inevitable outgoing, but if you run a small business, there are plenty of ways that you can save some money on your tax bill – and do this legally.

Even though you are probably too small to benefit from tax avoidance schemes that can be as dodgy to use as they are expensive to set up, there are some simple things that you can do to make sure that you don’t pay a penny more tax than you legally have to.

Firstly, make sure you record every single expense you possibly can

Neither your accountant nor the tax office have a crystal ball. Their knowledge of you is limited by what you tell them about your business. Remember, they can’t possibly know what you haven’t told them, so if you don’t record expenses, there is very little chance you can get the tax relief you are probably more than likely to be entitled to on them. Make sure you record every expense as it happens – there are plenty of useful apps and tools for this now – and stop relying on human memory to remember costs. When it comes to tax season, having a pre-prepared list of your expenses saves you plenty of stress and probably money too.

Make sure you think about extra expenses that you can claim for too - not all business expenses are immediately obvious. For example, perhaps you perform some clerical work at home for your business, such as typing up letters or keeping the accounts in order? If you do, there’s definitely scope for you to claim some of your household bills against your profit. There are different levels, and the tax office expects you to allow a “reasonable” amount for this. It’s important to take advice in this area to make sure that you put in the right amount, and don’t short change yourself.

Is the structure of your business the best it can be?

Previously, many small businesses rushed to form limited companies in order to take advantage of low corporation tax rates and the lack of National Insurance on dividends. Whilst the new dividend tax has reduced the difference between being taxed personally and being taxed through a company, there are still some advantages and savings to be had by using a limited company – or at least looking into other options. Talk to your accountant who will be able to discuss alternative possibilities with you to see how changing your business structure can potentially save you money on tax.

Avoid penalty costs - file your tax returns on time

Every pound you have to pay in late fees or penalties is a pound that should be in your pocket. Avoid nasty surprises like late payment surcharges, penalties and interest by making sure your business and personal tax returns are always filed on time. Each type of return has a different regime, so for example the penalties for filing a VAT return late is different to the penalties that apply to a personal tax return. Regardless of these differences, every single penny paid out that you don’t need to is a penny that’s not in your pocket. Be efficient and organised, and avoid unnecessary outgoings.

What about your business’s share structures?

If you run a business, this is where things can get a little bit tricky – but can save a decent amount! If your partner or spouse is involved in the business, you should consider whether they should be a shareholder in the business. If you are a higher rate taxpayer, this may help you reduce your family’s tax bill by paying them for the work that they are doing. As with the extra expenses, this is an area where advice should end up paying for itself – and I would definitely recommend seeking out professional advice on this one.

Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of and co-founder of

To hear more from Carl follow him on Twitter @carlreader or join “The Startup Coach” group on Facebook