Sunday, 5 October 2008

#33 – Use an accountant for doing tax returns

Or outsourcing for freelancers.

Uncomfortable aspects of freelancing
One of the worst parts of being a freelance writer is that you have to do a few tasks that you may not be particularly suited to. Some are uncomfortable with the element of salesmanship. Others struggle with the running a business side of things.

Tax return
I can cope with both, but the one thing I despise is having to do my tax return. It’s just horrendously complicated, and about as much fun as pulling your toenails off with rusty pliers. And if I hate it, I can only imagine how much others do. I like to think of myself as being pretty good at maths (and I’ve got the A-Level certificate to prove it). For those not adept with figures it must be a bloody nightmare.

Pay an accountant to fill in the forms
But one look at those forms makes me whimper like a baby goat faced with a meat cleaver. It’d take me days to plough through them and get them right. And that’s why I prefer to pay my accountant a sizeable sum to do it all for me.

Monetary savings
To me, this makes sense on so many levels. First of all, there’s the monetary savings. My accountant knows exactly what can be claimed (such as depreciation on computers, sustenance expenses whilst on the road, percentages of phone bills). She also knows what questions to ask me about tax deductable items that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. She saves me a fortune every year – to the tune of thousands of pounds.

Time savings with an accountant
Secondly, she is saving me lots of time. The days that I would otherwise put in making error after error on the forms can be spent writing. I pay £353 a year to get the accounts done. But in the time that I’d take doing the pen-pushing, I can earn £600 - £1,000. Outsourcing has its benefits.But most important is the reduction of mental stress. It’s an incredibly crap job, and it’s done for me. You can’t put a price on that.

Accountancy background
Naturally, some people prefer to do it themselves – particularly if they have an accountancy background (which a surprisingly high amount of freelance travel writers seem to have). But for the majority, I’d say that getting an accountant is the way forward.


Anonymous said...

I am in the same hellish space at the moment. Do you use an accountant particularly focused on journalism? Any chance you can name names? Am seeking a recommendation.

David said...

I'll confess that I've not really shopped around (and probably should do).

I use Larking Gowen( however. I've never had a problem with them, and they do seem to 'get' freelance journalists. But there may well be someone better and cheaper out there - I've just not bothered to investigate.