Anyone in business in the UK who is a sole trader or self employed and not incorporated into a limited company must complete a tax return of their financial affairs each year. For a number of years the specific tax form to be completed by everyone self employed was the self assessment tax return. While still referred to as self assessment tax the new tax form is now called the self employed tax return.

The new self employed tax returns were introduced quite late in the reporting process being published at around the end of the financial year, to which they relate, 2006 07. This should not be a problem to those familiar with the previous small business tax return as the format is similar and presented in a simpler way to facilitate better understanding and accurate completion.

Self employed businesses are not required to keep formal accounts of the years financial transactions but must keep sufficient financial records to justify and support the financial entries made on the tax returns. While formal financial accounts may not be essential requirements the self employed and sole traders are still required to maintain an organised system of record keeping using bookkeeping or accounting software to maintain financial control. and provide supporting evidence for the tax forms.

The accounting system employed can be simple lists of financial records supported by sales invoices, purchase invoices and where applicable cash or bank records. The essential support to all bookkeeping procedures are third party documents received or issued to provide a full and fair financial account of the business.

There are a number of rules to be taken account of as to whether the full version of the tax return should be completed or whether the short version of the tax form is applicable. Generally most small businesses and small traders with an annual turnover under £64,000 would complete the short tax return however there are specific exclusions where the full tax form must be completed.

The short tax form which is often completed by a sole trader also has further simplified completion in that only totals are required if the self employed sales turnover is under £30,000.

The self employment full tax return is required to be completed when the following conditions apply and the self employment (short) tax return is required where the conditions do not apply.

1. Sales turnover exceeds 64,000 pounds during the financial year or exceeds an average of 5,333 pounds per month if trading for less than a full financial year.

2. The accounting date to which accounts are made up has changed in the last financial year.

3. The financial accounts have been declared in a previous tax return.

4. The basis on which the accounts have been prepared has changed from a cash accounts basis an accruals basis.

5. The self employment includes the provision of contracts that continue into the following financial year.

6. Business is conducted outside the UK.

7. Agricultural or Industrial Buildings capital allowances are being claimed.

8. The self employed basis period is different to the accounting period.

9. Overlap tax relief is being claimed.

10. Averaging profit is being claimed by a farmer, market gardener or creator of literary or art works.

11. Practising barrister or advocate in Scotland.

If none of the above conditions are applicable to the self employed business then the self employment short tax return may be completed.

The short tax return is a simplified version of the full tax return. The main decision point being the £64,000 limit at which a full return is required which is also the vat threshold for the financial year 2006 07. While a future policy announcement has not yet been formally made it could be the cut off point on the tax form may be changed each year in line with movements in the vat threshold.

For the financial year commencing April 2008 the vat threshold at which a sole trader or self employed business must register for vat was increased from a sales turnover of £64,000 to £67,000.

The short tax return also has an option to declare total expenses as opposed to listing expenses under expenditure type categories where the business income is less than 30,000 in the financial year.

Finally if the self employed person has more than one small business a separate tax return must be completed for each business. This rule applies even if a single set of accounting records has been kept for all the businesses. It is therefore appropriate for separate accounting records to be maintained for each small business to simplify the completion of the tax returns each year.

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