Barristers Act now – Making Tax Digital

Posted 31st March 2017

Making Tax Digital (or MTD for short) is a radical new system being introduced by HMRC. It will transform the way that tax returns are filed online.

Under MTD, self employed individuals must keep accounting records electronically and use that information to provide updates on their business profit to HMRC on a quarterly basis.

HMRC’s main aim under the scheme is to make tax administration more efficient and easier for taxpayers through the introduction of a fully digitised system. Also, HMRC estimate that they lose around £8bn a year through filing errors by taxpayers and that MTD will help to reduce those errors.

The Facts

  • The way that business profits are reported to HMRC is changing
  • Barristers with income in excess of the VAT threshold will need to begin digital submissions from April 2018 under the current proposals
  • Barristers with income below the VAT threshold will need to begin digital submissions with effect from April 2019
  • Quarterly submissions will be due to HMRC following the above start dates
  • The quarterly submissions will need to be based on accurate accounting data. The reports must be submitted one month after the end of the quarter
  • You will no longer need to wait until the end of the year to find out how much tax you need to pay
  • A penalty regime will apply to late submissions
  • If you are not already using software for your business record keeping/accounting you will need to establish a system in order to comply with the rules

What steps can I take now?

1. Establish a digital system – use Xero software and Smart Phone App

Steps should be taken now to prepare your business for recording and reporting business income and expenditure electronically.

We recommend that self employed Barristers take advantage of Xero accounting software and the related Smart phone App to begin recording information online now. Chamber income and receipts can be recorded using the same software and can streamline the preparation of VAT Returns.

The information can then be collated and reviewed by your accountant prior to each quarterly submission.

We already have a great number of Barrister clients using the system. The main benefits that clients have found are:-

  • Having a clear picture of your current financial position in real time
  • Having a simple system to record expenses by taking photos of receipts and uploading them to the cloud
  • Streamlined submission of VAT Returns
  • Following best practice for maintaining accurate business records
For guidance on how to start using the system in the most efficient way please contact Craig Manser ACA

2. If you currently use the cash basis (or would like to)

Under the cash basis, income is taxed when received and expenditure is relieved against tax when paid. It avoids the barrister having to pay tax on the value of work done until is billed and collected.

From April 2017, the entry threshold for the cash basis increases to £150,000 of income and the exit threshold will increase to £300,000.

As such, many barristers will be able to join or remain within the scheme. This will make the reporting of profits under MTD more straightforward and allow individuals to remain within the cash basis scheme for longer.

3. Review your accounting year end date - potential to delay your start date for MTD

The regulations may not impose the MTD requirements in respect of any accounting period beginning before the tax year 2018/19. This means that Barristers with an accounting year end of 5th April 2018 will need to start keeping electronic records from 6th April 2018, with the first quarterly report covering the period to 5th July 2018. Barristers with accounting dates of 30 April 2018 would follow shortly thereafter.

A Barrister with an accounting date ending on 31 March 2018 will not start digital reporting until 1 April 2019 which gives more time to adapt to the new requirements. A further benefit is that the soft landing regime for penalties would not expire until 2020.

There are tax implications to changing your accounting year end, so please discuss this with your accountant.

Please ensure that you address the above 3 points with your tax advisor.

If you have any questions or would like further guidance on the requirements of MTD, please contact Craig Manser ACA