1tap receipts: Actors and tax – five common mistakes and misconceptions

Performers have enough to focus on without the often stressful demands of keeping on top of their finances,
so inevitably areas of confusion arise. Fortunately, 1Tap Receipts’ tax-and-expenses app can help.

Becoming self-employed is a big step for any actor or performer. While you might be the most promising new TV actor in the UK or the star of the latest must-see musical, you’re probably like most of the UK’s self-employed – no Carol Vorderman! While you don’t need to add ‘accounting professional’ to your list of business skills, as expenses specialists at 1Tap Receipts, we thought we’d give you a little helping hand by highlighting five common mistakes and misconceptions we see all the time.

I can claim cinema tickets, haircuts and costumes, right?

Actors and performers are often able to claim expenses that most other self-employed people can’t. However, you must be careful to make sure that you can prove they are ‘wholly and necessary’ purchases for your business. If you are researching a role for an audition for example, you may well be able to claim cinema and theatre tickets for related research but don’t get carried away with your two-for-one Tuesday deals!

Many actors also fall into the trap of claiming for ‘costumes’ for events or shows. If you are wearing them once for a specific performance or event it’s fine, but you’ll struggle to explain a walk-in wardrobe of outfits to HM Revenue & Customs. The same goes for haircuts and make-up. HMRC has taken a hard line on these in recent years. Again, be sensible and only claim for specific events (and keep a good record of each). General recurring hairdressing is not an allowable tax expense and day-to-day make-up is even harder to justify.

Tip: The important thing here is to be honest and realistic. You should definitely record everything you spend out on, but sometimes it is good to reflect a bit and decide if you really should claim an expense. With 1Tap, you can record your expense and share with an adviser or accountant who can help guide you. You can also split a receipt to record personal and business purchases to ensure you don’t overclaim by accident.

Mixing up tax years

Knowing what tax year you are getting your information together for can be really confusing – especially if your accounting period isn’t the same as the standard tax year (April to April). Providing the wrong documents (invoices and receipts) for an accounting period is one of the most common errors sole traders make.

One of the reasons for this is because most actors and performers leave their self-assessment reporting (due on January 31) until the last couple of months of the year and because this is so far down the line, it feels like you should be pulling together your information for the year that has just passed. This is incorrect! Assuming your accounting period is April to April, in January 2018 you’ll be reporting on your business activity for April 5, 2016 up until the April 4, 2017. That’s going back a long way!

Tip: Try to get in the habit of recording your income and expenses as you go (ensuring they are dated) – or at least on a monthly basis. It makes it much easier to identify the correct tax year and save yourself wasted hours! 1Tap automatically places your receipts into the correct tax period – saving you even more time and hassle.

Tax deductable?

Another common misconception is that ‘tax deductible’ means claiming an expense of £100 (for example) will reduce your tax bill by £100. This is not how expenses work!

In reality, as a sole trader you can deduct the expense from your income on your tax return. So if you spend £100 on an allowable expense for your business, that will not reduce your taxes by £100. It will reduce your taxable income by £100. Put simply, that means that if your tax rate is 20% (the most common rate for most sole traders) then you will save £20 on your taxes by making that purchase.

Tip: Ensure you are claiming as many of your legitimate expenses as possible by using 1Tap to record them as you go. We even provide you with a running guide to how much tax you are likely to save as you add each receipt. However, it is also important to remember that while claiming expenses will reduce your tax bill, they effectively come off your bottom line.

No receipt required

One thing actors and performers always get very concerned about is whether they can claim an expense without providing a receipt. This stems from the fear of an HMRC investigation and being unable to prove the payment was above board and allowable.

While you won’t get away with providing no receipts whatsoever, you don’t necessarily need a receipt for every single claim. If you lose a receipt or forget to get one, you can still make a claim – as long as you can provide robust evidence to back it up (date, amount, place and reason) and of course, the claim is deemed a reasonably acceptable one.

Tip: Photograph your receipts as you receive them with your 1Tap app. Not only will that stop you having to worry about losing your receipts ever again (we store the image and data from every receipt safely in the cloud for you for six years), 1Tap also records the location that the photo was taken so you can refer to your records later.

Wrong categories

If we had a pound for every actor and performer who frets over their receipt categories, we’d have lots of pounds! The truth of the matter is, if your turnover is less than £83,000 then you don’t actually have to provide a detailed breakdown of your expenses at all – just a total amount.

Having said that, It is obviously useful for you to know what categories of expenses you are spending your money on, and lots of sole traders like to see that sort of level of accuracy – especially if they are trying to work out final costs on jobs they have undertaken (it can help when quoting for future jobs or projects). So there you go: a few mis-categorised receipts is not the tax crime of the century, so don’t fret it!

Tip: 1Tap Receipts automatically puts your expenses into one of the nine recognised HRMC self-assessment form categories for you with an extremely high level of accuracy. And on the rare occasion we do get it wrong, you can easily change the category for your own peace of mind if you want to. We have now introduced custom tags so you can create your own categories to help keep track of where you are spending your hard-earned cash.

What is 1Tap?

1Tap is the first tax-and-expenses app aimed specifically at the UK’s self-employed. Simply snap pictures of all your business expenses and we will take it from there. You can even forward digital receipts via email. No need to worry about all those lost expenses anymore. The app magically extracts the key data from your receipts and stores all the information for your self assessment. To learn more about us, visit get.1tap.io/thestage