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Introduction -how long to keep business records
As a limited company contractor and UK business owner, how long do you have to keep business records (UK) and how long do you need to keep financial records (UK)? In addition, as an individual and personal how long to keep tax records (UK)? In fact, when we think about this, how long do you have to keep records for HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) in general? Basically, you should be aware of how long to keep company records and about storing financial records as this is one of your director’s duties. In this article, we will take a general overview of how long to keep accounting records as a UK contractor or small business owner.
If you set up your company for the first time, you need to be aware of how long to keep business records (UK) for. What’s more, you should also understand how to maintain your accounting records and how long to store these.
You may work as a contractor running your own company. On the other hand, you may be a self-employed freelancer, or you may work through an umbrella company. In both cases it is important that you are aware how long to keep business records.
Why you need good accounting records to satisfy HMRC
When we consider how long do you need to keep business records, whichever way you perform your work, through your own company or self-employed, as part of your small business bookkeeping, you should aim to keep good accounting records for each accounting period. This is important as they may need reviewing later. Indeed, this could be by either by yourself or by one of the tax authorities. What’s more, a tax inspection can occur at any time during the calendar year. Therefore, you should have good accurate accounting records so they can be inspected with ease.
How long to keep financial records for a business (UK)? Basically, you should also keep the business records in a safe place for a certain amount of time. However, how long do you have to keep business records (UK) depends on the tax type they relate to.
Making Tax Digital and online accounting software
With the advent of the internet and, more recently, Making Tax Digital, many UK contractors and small businesses now store their records online or part online/part offline. They will also use online accounting software in many cases. This contrasts with before the age of technology when most business record keeping was kept offline in paper format.
Besides business and tax records, a company must also keep statutory records. These are usually maintained by your accountant, and contain details on directors, shareholders and other official data.
How long do you have to keep records for HMRC
What to consider first
When we consider how long do you need to keep business records, it is essential to note that the main reason is HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This is because they may need to inspect the documents later. Therefore, let’s consider how long do I need to keep business records (UK) in terms of length of time.
In terms of how long to keep financial records for a business (UK), the length of time you should keep your records please below.
How long to keep company records (UK)
How long to keep accounting records (UK) and, as part of this, how long to keep business bank statements for? Company directors must store business records for their company, therefore when it comes to how long to keep business bank statements (UK) for these should be kept for at least six years for each accounting period, after the end of the accounts year they relate.
How long to keep Self Assessment tax records (UK)
When we look at how long to keep tax records (UK) for Self Assessment, sole traders and self-employed people need to keep their business records for five years for income tax purposes from the end of the tax year that they relate.
People who work via an umbrella company also need to keep their personal tax records as they are employees, not business owners. The individual tax filing deadline is 31 January; however, the personal tax year ends on 5 April. Therefore, records covering the year to 5 April will need to be retained.
When considering how long to retain tax records, an individual’s personal tax records will include income details such as employment, interest income, pension income, rental income and expenses, dividend income, government support such as Universal Credit, foreign income, and any capital gains information. These need to be retained for 22 months from the end of the tax year that they relate to when we consider how long should I keep tax records (UK).
How long to keep accounting records -employer (UK) records
If you are an employer and run a PAYE scheme, how long do I need to keep payroll records for? Basically, when we look at how long to keep payroll records and what to keep, such records will include the amounts the company deducts for tax purposes and National Insurance. This will also include any statutory payments for sick pay and maternity pay. Notably, you should save the files safe for at least three years.
How long to keep accounting records -an overview
Keep and dispose of your records
As we show above, depending on the types of records, you need to keep them for different lengths of time. Therefore, keeping your records and documents for six years makes sense. You can then dispose of the relevant tax year or accounting year records, year by year once you have kept them for the required amount of time.
Do I need to keep paper records for HMRC
Nowadays a lot of details e.g., banking, invoices etc are kept online. Therefore, if you have the records online or manually this should suffice for HMRC. If you do receive any paper invoices or receipts from suppliers, you could scan these and save them online too however it is advisable to keep the originals too.
How long to keep business records -the reasons why
As part of investigating how long to keep accounting records and how long to keep financial records (UK), there are plenty of reasons to keep your business and tax records for each financial year. These are in addition to the legal reasons that we mentioned above.
A common reason for the owner of a contractor limited company or any other business, is you may wish to check back on something later. This could be for your own purposes if a query arises.
Most limited company contractors now use online software systems to do their small business bookkeeping. Therefore, when we look at how long do you have to keep financial records, most of their records are now online. On the other hand, they may also have some documents, such as receipts, kept offline. You can also now scan any records and save them online. However, it is still wise for you to keep the originals.
How long to keep business records -which records should you save in a safe place?
As part of the process, when you consider how long do you have to keep business records, you need to keep the following documents in a safe place:
- Bank statements for all company bank accounts nd any company credit card accounts. If you have gone paperless, you can access these online. However, banks only keep history for so long though. Therefore, you may decide to print out your statements. Alternatively, you can download the statements and save these on your computer.
- Sales invoices for your services and sale of any goods.
- Invoices or receipts for purchases/expenditures. Nowadays, many suppliers will send a receipt to your e-mail address to save paper. Any invoices or receipts you have received electronically could be printed out, or, again, you can keep these on your computer.
- Any business mileage records. This should contain dates travelled, details of journeys made, the reason for the trip and the number of miles.
- The details of any PAYE records. This would include your payroll workings, payslips, workings for any sick pay, maternity pay, etc.
- Details of all your business’ assets and liabilities.
- In the past, you would also keep copies of VAT returns. Today, you can save these online when using a digital software system.
Other areas to consider
How long to keep accounting records for a business -tax enquiries
As a business owner, various enquiries from the tax office could come around from time to time:
- HMRC may decide to conduct a VAT inspection. As part of this, they may investigate the amounts that make up recent VAT returns.
- The tax office could also carry out a Corporation Tax When they do this, they may investigate the details that make up last year’s company tax return.
- HMRC may also perform a routine PAYE inspection.
You must make your business records available in each case at their request.
How long to keep accounting records for personal tax -HMRC enquiries
HMRC may decide to conduct a Self Assessment enquiry into your last few tax returns or your latest return. In this case, you will need to make your tax records available to them at their request.
How long to keep accounting records -a HMRC inspection
As the result of an HMRC inspection for any of the above, the tax office may find that the amount of tax you or your company have paid is incorrect. As a result, they may issue an assessment requesting extra tax that needs to be paid. Alternatively, if they find that you have paid too much tax, HMRC will arrange a refund.
When we look into how long do you have to keep business records (UK) the general rule is six years. However, there are other time periods for different types of records as summarised earlier.
We hope you found this a worthwhile read when considering how long to keep financial records for a business (UK). We have covered how long to keep accounting records and how long to keep tax records (UK). In addition, we have covered how long to keep business records in general. Knowing how long you should retain your documents is good so that no unnecessary issues occur further down the line.
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