While many self-employed people and small business owners find financial record keeping a real chore it can increase profitability. 
You can reduce your tax bill by accurately claiming allowable expenses for your business. However, before worrying about taxes, it’s worth thinking about the overall health of your business. 
Why understanding business expenses matters 
Understanding what you spend as well as how much you are paid will help to keep your business in good financial health. Not having a clear picture is one of the most common financial mistakes made by small businesses. 
You can avoid overspending and making decisions based on unrealistic projections of your profits, so you can create a realistic budget for your business. 
Expenses that can be off-set against your business income include: 
rent, rates, utilities and maintenance 
office supplies and equipment 
phone and internet 
travel expenses 
professional fees 
advertising and marketing 
If you find yourself regularly emptying out a carrier bag full of crumpled receipts and trying to make sense of them you’ll be pleased to know there’s a better way of dealing with your business expenses. 
Take control of your business finances 
Once you have put a few simple measures in place, keeping track of your business expenses can be streamlined and simplified. Here are some of them. 
A business account – sometimes you might buy things for yourself and your business at the same time using your personal account. Opening a business bank account is one of the simplest things you can do to keep your business expenses under control. Then you can simply ask to make two payments at the checkout to keep the costs separate. 
You won’t have to worry about working out what items in your personal bank account were for business purposes – it’s surprisingly difficult to remember after just a few days and will certainly take a lot of effort after a few weeks. 
You might choose to have separate accounts for business expenses, savings, vehicles and payroll but many modern online business bank accounts make it easy to set up and allocate costs to different categories. 
Receipt control – so many business expenses are made in the moment and it’s easy to put the receipts in your pocket or the glove compartment of your vehicle only to discover them again weeks or months later. This could literally cost you money if it was an allowable business expense but you can’t now remember what it was for. 
At the very least, always carry a special folder for your receipts (not a carrier bag). At the end of the day put them in a safe place in date order. Before filing them add a note to each as a reminder of what they were for. Even better, use a receipt tracking app which allows you to photograph each one as soon as you receive it using your smartphone. These apps can automatically identify the amount and where you spent it, saving you time on data entry. If you have to manage employee expenses this is an easy and reliable way to keep track. 
Save receipts – sometimes HMRC will want to see evidence of your expenses so you will need to keep a record in a well-organised file for up to seven years. This will be much simpler if you use accounting software in the cloud like Xero or QuickBooks. If you want the reassurance of also keeping the paper receipts then file them in month order to minimise the effort needed to refer to them later. 
Use online accounting software – Making Tax Digital means you already have to submit your VAT return using compatible software and from April 2024 you will also need to make your self-assessment tax return online (MTD for ITSA). You can join MTD for ITSA voluntarily now if your only income is as a self-employed person or as a landlord and it is above £10,000. 
Using online accounting software in the cloud makes it easy for you or your bookkeeper to add and share records every day or every week and you can view them wherever you are. 
Beat the receipts 
With good habits for your business record-keeping, you will have a complete picture of your finances so you can set realistic budgets and targets and make good decisions. 
If you would like some help or advice about keeping good financial records please get in touch
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