4 Common Bookkeeping Mistakes of the Self Employed

A few frequent fumbles and how to avoid them


Danny Call

8/4/20233 min read

As a self-employed individual, you carry the responsibility not only of your chosen profession but also of managing your own business expenses. Unlike being an employee, where management tasks are often handled by others, self-employed men and women face the challenge of accounting for their income. Many find it difficult to step back from their income-generating activities and take the time to manage their finances properly.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, this article highlights four common bookkeeping mistakes made by self-employed individuals and offers advice on how to address them effectively.

Mistake 1: Not Using Separate Bank Accounts

One of the most crucial mistakes is failing to maintain separate bank accounts for personal and business finances. Although you may not own a limited company, having a dedicated business bank account is essential for accurate bookkeeping and accounting. It allows you to track your business income and expenses more efficiently, making it easier to calculate profits and offset taxable income.

To rectify this, open a second bank account solely for business transactions. Transfer the profits earned regularly to your personal account. This separation will provide clarity, ensuring that all transactions related to your business are accurately accounted for.

Mistake 2: Neglecting Receipts

Keeping receipts is imperative for proper bookkeeping. HMRC mandates that self-employed individuals maintain specific records, including bank statements, invoices, and receipts. These receipts serve as evidence for your business expenses and can significantly offset your taxable income. Failure to keep them may result in higher tax payments than necessary.

To remedy this, consider using a dedicated business email address for online purchases. This will help you keep business-related receipts separate from personal emails and reduce clutter. Alternatively, use bookkeeping software with receipt-capturing features to simplify the process. Remember to keep these receipts organized, safe, and legible for at least five years from the end of the tax year they are accounted for.

Mistake 3: Uncertain Expense Claims

Knowing what expenses can be claimed as business-related and what cannot is crucial. While some expenses, like materials exclusively used for your business, are clearly deductible, others may be more complex. For instance, food and fuel costs may have specific rules for allowable deductions.

If you are unsure about any expense, seek guidance from your bookkeeper or accountant. They can provide the necessary expertise and help you determine which costs are valid business expenses.

Mistake 4: Procrastinating Bookkeeping Tasks

Delaying bookkeeping until the last minute is a common error that can lead to numerous problems. Many self-employed individuals tend to prioritize other tasks and leave bookkeeping for the end of the tax year. This approach can lead to uncorrected mistakes accumulating throughout the year, making the process overwhelming.

To avoid this, make a habit of regular bookkeeping, ideally on a monthly or periodic basis. This way, errors can be promptly identified and rectified, saving both time and money in the long run.

By being aware of and addressing these common bookkeeping mistakes, you can streamline your financial management process, saving yourself time and money. Maintaining accurate and organized records will not only ease your tax responsibilities but also provide a clearer picture of your business's financial health. Remember, proactive bookkeeping is a valuable investment in the success of your self-employed venture.

The Takeaway: Stay in the Know!

Being self-employed is a fantastic journey, but it comes with its challenges – bookkeeping being one of them. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and make your life as a business owner much more enjoyable.

If you're ever uncertain about anything related to your bookkeeping, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional. They can guide you through the labyrinth of tax regulations and help you stay on track. Remember, knowledge is power, and staying informed is the key to financial success.

If you have any questions or need some expert help with your bookkeeping, don't wait – contact us now and let's get your finances sorted.