Software or accountant for Self Assessment tax return support?

Some self-employed people don’t struggle when completing their Self Assessment tax return. Often they’ve done it before and some people are simply better than others when it comes to working out figures and filling in forms.…

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Last Updated: 16th August 2022   |   Created: 15th June 2022

Some self-employed people don’t struggle when completing their Self Assessment tax return. Often they’ve done it before and some people are simply better than others when it comes to working out figures and filling in forms. And if your financial records are accurate and up to date, doing your own Self Assessment tax return is simple enough, especially if you have few costs and know what reliefs and allowances you can claim.

But many people lack Self Assessment tax return knowledge or experience. They don’t enjoy doing Self Assessment tax returns and find it difficult, so they put them off until they just about make the filing deadline or miss it and incur a late-filing penalty. Moreover, many self-employed people aren’t sure whether they’re claiming all of the tax reliefs and allowances to which they’re entitled.

Self Assessment software or accountant?

When having to complete your Self Assessment tax return you don’t have to go it alone. The two most common forms of support are to pay an accountant to sort out your Self Assessment tax return for you or use software to make the process easier, quicker and less painful. There are pros and cons to both, so let’s look at some specific factors that should guide your choice if you need Self Assessment tax return support.   

1. Cost

Always a key consideration. If you pay an accountant to complete and file your Self Assessment tax return, it could cost you anything between £200 and £400 a year, plus VAT. At the cheaper end of the market, you’ll get a “no-frills” service, while someone with relatively limited experience may complete your Self Assessment tax return.

Don’t expect any tailored tax advice unless you pay for a premium service, but you won’t have to complete your own tax return, it should all be done for you. You’ll still have to supply the required figures, of course, or pay more if you want an accountant to wade through your receipts and invoices.  

Self Assessment tax return software/apps are available for less than £50 a year, which offers good value and a decent saving when compared to paying an accountant. You’ll need to input your own figures, but this can be simple enough if you already use bookkeeping software or you can access your bank account online to calculate your business income and spending.

2. Simplicity

Choose the right accountant and they’ll want to make completing and filing your Self Assessment tax return quick and easy. It’s better for you both, and the quicker they finish, the cheaper it should be for you. You don’t need any technical knowledge or skill; you simply supply the necessary information or source material to the accountant. Simple.

But using Self Assessment tax return software needn’t be too difficult either. Software and apps are designed to be remarkably easy to use – you don’t need to be a tax expert or accountant. Pick up some basic knowledge and you can soon learn to use Self Assessment filing software. And the more you use it, the easier it gets, although tax return filing software can offer tips and hints to help ensure that you get it right first time.

 3. Convenience

You may be able to email over the information an accountant needs to complete your Self Assessment tax return or give them access to your financial records. They won’t want to come and pick up invoices and sales receipts from you, but if they’re needed, you may have to go and drop them off. You may also have to answer email or telephone enquiries from an accountant.

Using Self Assessment tax return software or an app offers a lot of convenience. As long as you have computer/mobile-device/internet access, it can be used wherever you are, at a time that suits you. And you can complete it at your own pace, fitting it around other tasks where necessary. It’s designed to be convenient.

4. Speed

Good accountants have many clients to service. So, you may or may not have to wait to get your tax return completed. As long as that happens before the filing deadline, it’s not an issue. And accountants usually charge a set fee for completing a tax return, so you don’t really care how quickly or slowly it happens, as long as the job is done properly. 

Self Assessment tax return software usually offers time-saving shortcuts, so you can quickly access the parts of the tax return that you need to focus on. You’re guided through the process is a logical and time-efficient manner.

Obviously, you must invest some of your time, but only as much is required to get the job done. Doing it yourself without software is believed to take the average person about 2.5 hours. However, using Self Assessment tax return software can cut that time down to just an hour or so.  

5. Accuracy

We all make mistakes sometimes, but an experienced accountant is unlikely to make mistakes when completing your Self Assessment tax return. But it happens, especially when accountants have a high number of Self Assessment tax returns to complete, as the filing deadline approaches. Sometimes you fail to communicate information to them, which results in errors.  

If your business financial records are correct, you take your time and you’re sufficiently diligent when using Self Assessment tax return software, accuracy shouldn’t be an issue. And the software/app will prompt you to include all of the right information in the right place.

6. Other benefits

Self Assessment tax return software can enable you to scan, upload and store receipts or produce and send professional invoices to clients or customers wherever you are. Self Assessment tax return software can also tell you how much tax you owe, before HMRC writes to you with a tax bill.

The best Self Assessment tax return software providers offer 24-hour user support, lots of helpful advice and even a Self Assessment tax return-checking service, for added peace of mind. Some accountants offer great customer service and support, while others just don’t.   

Although some prefer to use an accountant, more people than ever are turning to software and apps to quickly, efficiently and successfully take care of completing their Self Assessment tax return. If you currently use an accountant or do your own Self Assessment tax returns, maybe it’s time to try Self Assessment tax return software. It could save you a lot of time, effort and hassle.

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Blog content is for information purposes and over time may become outdated, although we do strive to keep it current. It's written to help you understand your Tax's and is not to be relied upon as professional accounting, tax and legal advice due to differences in everyone's circumstances. For additional help please contact our support team or HMRC.

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