Personal Bests and Personal Worsts

I started this week on a fantastic high. After having cracked squatting my bodyweight earlier this year (roughly 72kg give or take) I had been struggling with improving my squats further. Marred by dodgy knees, skipped gym sessions thanks to a chaotic schedule and over-indulgence on food & drink, it’s my own fault. Still, this didn’t stop me on Monday when I smashed out squats at both 80kg and 85kg with a set of 2 for each. Strong strong legs.

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Not content on just PBing there, I went on to pull 50kg doing close-grip front lat pulldowns having been stuck at 45kg forEVER. To say I was buzzing after that was an understatement.

(I am currently using Myprotein Impact Whey Protein to support my workouts but I’m looking to potentially improve on this in the new year. If you supplement protein, I’d be interested to know what you take. Drop me a comment/email.)

This strength-related high was short lived as I got home to yet another round of work related emails (boo) and the ever present threat of the taxman knocking at my door.

Every single year I forget about HMRC’s payments on account, leaving me ill-prepared to meet their demands for large sums of cash at a time of year where things are tight as it is. My kids want Christmas presents and I’m sat watching the balance of my overdraft grow hoping my clients pull their fingers out before December 25th; this doesn’t leave me much leeway to pay the taxman money for a tax year that isn’t even over yet (don’t even get me started).

Why is balancing the ebbs and flows of freelance, and planning sufficiently ahead, such a personal weakness? It’s been over 5 years since I started working for myself and barring a break in the middle where I briefly returned to my old agency, I have had to put money away all this time. And I fail, time and time again.

2018 has to be the year where I nail this shit.

Budgeting: The Great Big Tax Bill and Recurring Payment Hell

After the touch of reality reflected in the last post — how my over-spending and wastefulness was contributing to an unsteady financial future w/r/t buying a new house — I was already feeling a touch the poorer. So as you can imagine, when my accountant (well worth the spend) did my tax return for the ’15-16 tax year a couple of weeks ago, you could say that the paperwork hit me like a ton of bricks.

I knew the tax bill was incoming, but I’d been ignoring the potential size of it (especially since I blew my savings on a website) and holy shit was that a mistake. With tax owed, tax on account for the ’16-17 financial year and accountant fees I suddenly had just over two weeks to find £3,000. And here I am, a couple of days from the dreaded tax deadline, and I’m only able to pay off the back of a loan from my husband and a big credit card bill. (I am a responsible adult, honestly.)

So… up shit creek without a paddle I sat down and thought to myself: my ‘half’ of monthly expenditure (household bills, mortgage etc) is about £750. I make plenty more than that each month — certainly enough to live comfortably and be putting money aside for tax bills! — so why am I sat here in such a terrifying position? Where the hell is all my money going that I constantly in my overdraft and only have £9 in my ISA to pay my tax bill?

Wine and eating out and frivolities, yes… but that doesn’t eat through hundreds of pounds a month in income, surely? (Even with my wine consumption levels?!) To Excel!

I started adding up all of the yearly expenses that aren’t on my basic month-to-month budget. Hosting bills, domains (again!), WordPress plugins, memberships, magazines, software and SAAS ‘apps’. I’ve not finished logging and I’ve already totted up over £3,600 worth of yearly expenditure which totals over £300 per month. Start adding wine and eating out and frivolities to that and it’s not too hard to see where my income is going.

It’s an easy trap to fall into: pay off an expense in one lump sum, and forget it exists until next year. But it does exist, and it is chipping away at the money I could be using to pay off debt and my mortgage. It’s no wonder I’m up shit creek when I’m easily spending nearly £4k a year on things I don’t give a second thought to.

Am I the only one this disorganised? How many people actually have a handle on their irregular / yearly expenses? It’s probably about time I started using YNAB again…

Does the Taxman know about your Blog?

The rise of the professional blogger and those who monetise their personal blogs has crept up slowly and now, everyone’s doing it. For some people it’s a genuine source of income, for some it’s their business and others simply do it for a bit of extra cash. In every instance you earn tangible money from your blog – you need to be in discussion with the HMRC. In fact, even if you’re only thinking about earning money from your blog you should consider registering with them too.

Earning money from blogging takes you into the realm of self-employment and tax. The HMRC offer NO minimum limit on the amount you have to declare as extra income. This means as soon as the cash received from your blog exceeds the costs of running it then you need to make a declaration to the HMRC. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Many self-employed mums and dads run blogs as a side line and this income should be recorded too. If you’re not self-employed and have an employer but run a profit-making blog then you can simply ring the HMRC and they’ll adjust your tax code to ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax. This rule applies if you pay tax through PAYE and your earnings don’t exceed £2,500. Once you reach that milestone you’ll have to register for Self-Assessment and your blog income will also need to be declared if you’re a tax credits claimant, provided they exceed £300.

Tax Matters

Everybody in the UK is entitled to a ‘tax free’ personal allowance from their earnings which is currently £9,440 for 2013 for everyone aged 75 or younger. If your profits and any other taxable income fall below this threshold then you wouldn’t need to pay tax but you still must declare your earnings and profit.

Blogging for Business or Pleasure?

The tax regulations differ slightly dependent on the purpose of your blog. If you’re a WAHM who blogs as part of their business then it is slightly different than if you started blogging for something to do as a past time and it became slowly more popular and you decided to monetize.

If your blog is simply a hobby then you will be able to offset the running expenses (shown in more depth below) against the income. However, you are not able to carry any losses you make forward to offset against other income.

Blogs that are run as a business allow losses to be carried forward or used on the self-assessment form to offset other income. You do need to convince the HMRC that your blog is an effective business and not simply a hobby that costs too much if you consistently make loss upon loss.

If your blog is your business and you have no other income you must register as self-employed within three months of starting up.

Blogging Income

There are several ways work at home mums and dads may make money from their blogs including:

  • Selling advertising space on a monthly fee basis
  • Utilising Google Adwords
  • Cash payments for writing reviews or other blog posts
  • Writing sponsored posts to include links to the buyer’s client website
  • Affiliate sales
  • Certain payments in kind
  • Any money received to compensate for travel expenses to events

Certain things which are not taxable include any goody bags you may receive at a conference as this is considered a gift and also being bought lunch by a company you’re working with is non-taxable as long as you aren’t doing anything specifically in return for that lunch.

Review products are an issue of contention. As a rule if you plan to use the item in your own home with your family personally than you shouldn’t need to declare it however if you plan to sell the item then you should be paying tax on it.

Blogging Expenditure

There are some expenses that you can offset against any income you make as a blogger. These include:

  • Your web hosting fees
  • Your domain registration
  • Any marketing costs you incur including business cards, paying for advertising elsewhere and any software you may use for marketing
  • Attending conferences and events in the name of blog promotion
  • A calculated percentage of your broadband costs which you need to work out to separate business from private use
  • Assets necessary to maintain your blog such as laptops, hard drives and even printer ink – this point is only relevant if you are classed as a business and you will need to discuss these types of expenditure with an expert as they are treated differently to regular expenses.

It could be that you’ve only been blogging a short time and have received a few small opportunities so you don’t think it matters about declaring it. It does. Every £1 needs to be accounted for and the HMRC are aware of the growing blogging network and want to ensure everything is being carried out above board.

Your employer doesn’t need to know if you don’t want them to but you do need to ensure you are paying tax on all that you earn, even if you have only monetised your blog recently.

Registering as Self-Employed: What you need to know

HMRC logoAll work at home mums who are making money from their wares or services need to register as self-employed. It’s a simple process and one which can cost you dearly if you don’t do it before earning cash. It’s 100% free but the consequences of not being registered can include paying a fine.

If you plan to run your business as a sole trader rather that setting up a limited company then it’s essential you register as soon as you’re seeking work or marketing your goods.

When to Register

As already mentioned registering self-employed has to take place as soon as you are actively looking for work for your business. It has nothing to do with income and whether you start to earn money in six days or six months makes no different – it’s the seeking work that counts.

Even if you are currently in employment you must also register as self-employed when you reach this point and the risk of not registering self-employed within three months of the end of your first month of business you could face a fine of £100.

Exceptions

If you set your business up as a limited company you do not need to register as self-employed because you are classed as an employee of your business. In this instance you’ll need to set up a PAYE system to pay yourself from the business account.

The only other exception applies to subcontractors working in construction. You need to register with the HMRC Construction Industry scheme and further information about this is available in this HMRC guide.

What Happens Afterwards?

Once you’re registered you’re officially a self-employed mum. You also become a self-assessment tax payer which means you have to fill out a tax return every year.  Your tax return is where you detail your earnings and if you have another job you will also need to list any other income and benefits.

Being self-employed also means you need to keep all financial records of your business so you can adequately complete your tax return or alternatively pass your complete financial records to your accountant.

As well as paying tax (if you earn over the threshold) you will also need to pay your National Insurance Contributions and in some instances may need to pay VAT.

How do I register?

You can register by going online and filling out this form if you’re a sole trader and there is a separate one for partnerships although you and your partners will need to fill out separate forms.

Alternatively you can telephone the HMRC on 0845 915 4515. You can even choose to send it by post if that’s your preferred method.

Quick Self-Employment Checklist

This checklist is a quick rundown of all you need to remember when becoming a self-employed mum.

  1. Check with the HMRC whether your business needs any permits
  2. Register as self-employed using one of the above methods
  3. Set up a direct debit or save a percentage of your earnings to pay your National Insurance Contributions
  4. Find out whether you need to pay VAT
  5. Set up a financial records keeping system
  6. Ensure you fill in your tax return on time to avoid penalties

Further Questions

Self-employment doesn’t have to be daunting but work at home mums need to know their legal requirements. Simply registering in a few short minutes can be the difference between operating legally and illegally. Below are a few more points to clear up any doubt.

I’m not sure what I’m doing counts as self-employment

If you receive payment from another person for any service or product which doesn’t go through a PAYE system means you need to register self-employed. This could be anything from selling homemade goods to building websites.

I have a full time job – do I need to register?

As mentioned if you’re making money from a side business in anyway then you must register as self-employed. It won’t affect your full time job in any terms other than needing to declare your earnings on your tax return.

I’m not turning profit and don’t expect to soon – do I need to register?

Registering as self-employed is about the action of seeking work, not making profit. As soon as you are seeking work as a sole trader or in partnership you must register and you must also fill out your tax return annually.