20th October, 2017

For the majority of Sole Traders or small business owners, there isn’t a dedicated accounts department located in the office who are willing (albeit not happy) to accept a shoe-box full of expense receipts in order to process your business expenses.  It’s like the IT department, the Catering Department, and the Complaints Department – it’s highly likely that these are all you (which does makes the annual Christmas party a little less rowdy).

Though it is a tedious chore (only beaten in the ‘tedious’ work charts by actually having to phone HMRC, who are obviously very busy people), processing your expense receipts is an important necessity.  Without regularly going through your expenses, two possible things can happen.

1.) you are left with a pile of random receipts the size of Kilimanjaro to process when it comes to completing your tax return.

2.) you misplace some of your receipts (a result of them being ‘filed’ randomly in piles everywhere), meaning that the ‘taxable profit’ for your business is higher than it should have been.

So how do I keep on top of my expenses? I try to adopt a ‘little and often’ approach, scheduling in some time every couple of weeks and making sure that any allowable expenses have been logged on a spreadsheet and the relevant receipts have been filed away, usually with a liberal sprinkling of staples to keep everything together.  And I work through my diary to note my mileage and anything else I haven't seen already. This approach particularly helps when it comes to otherwise ‘invisible’ expenses like pay-by-phone parking, Oyster top ups or congestion charge payments that don’t give a receipt at the time of purchase.  It’s easy to forget these expenses if I leave it a month or two before logging them, so ensuring that they are sorted regularly helps me to avoid that horrendous ‘Oh no, I’ve paid more tax than I actually should have!’ feeling.

I also have a very hi-tech clothes peg stuck on the inside of my cupboard door. I can then unload all my receipts onto this and know where they will be when I come to do something them. 

One of the best recommendations I can make though is to actually schedule time for processing your expenses into your monthly task list or diary.  A tool like Todoist - https://en.todoist.com/ - allows you to set a recurring task to remind you to do it, though also gives you the flexibility to postpone the job for a day or two if you have more pressing  matters to attend to.  There are also a whole host of apps out there that allow you to take pictures of your receipts and transfer the details into a .csv file, making the process even easier if you have a tendency to accidentally put your receipts in the wash with your work trousers.

At Personally Virtual, we LOVE a good productivity ‘hack’ (although we are not fans of the word), some might say we're a tad obsessed, so we would love to know if you have any tips or tricks when it comes to managing your own expenses? Let us know on one of our Social Media channels.


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