This is the key page of the return for sole traders, because it's where you report your business's income, profit and other figures.
Many of these are calculated for you by FreeAgent, and we'll explain how these figures are derived. We'll also show you which boxes FreeAgent calculates provisionally and allows you to edit.
If you're not sure whether any of these figures are correct, particularly the ones that you can edit, speak to an accountant or HMRC, or see HMRC's guidance on the short and long versions of these pages.
Remember: FreeAgent cannot advise you on how to fill in your tax return correctly, nor can we check your figures to see if they are correct, unless they have been calculated by the software. We are not authorised by HMRC to provide accounting or tax advice. If you are in any doubt as to whether a figure on your tax return is right, you need to speak to your accountant or to HMRC.
There are two different versions of the Self Employment pages: the short version and the long version.
Who can use the short version of the Self Employment page?
If your business is preparing accounts for a full accounting year and your sales during that period were under £85,000, you’ll usually be able to use the short version of the Self Employment page. If your sales were over £85,000 you’ll need to use the long version.
If your business is preparing accounts for less than a full year and your annualised sales were under £85,000, you should use the short version of the Self Employment page. Annualised sales figures are calculated as a proportion of your sales during the accounting year. If you began trading on 1st January with an accounting year end date of 5th April, for example, and you made £16,500 sales during that time, your annualised sales would be calculated as £16,500 x 12/3 = £66,000. If your annualised sales were over £85,000 during that time, you’d need to use the long version.
You will also need to use the long version of the Self Employment page if you are using the averaging method for farmers, market gardeners, writers and artists or if you have overlap profits (i.e. profits that the business pays tax on twice).
FreeAgent will pick the short or the long version for you based on your turnover, but if you want to choose to fill in the long version, you can switch at the top of the page.
The short version of the Self Employment page in FreeAgent
Here's how FreeAgent fills in the boxes in this page, taking data from your transactions that you've recorded - invoices, bills, bank entries, expenses, and so forth. If you need to make any changes to these, then you should either make changes to individual transactions or post journal entries.
Income, costs and capital allowances
Box 9 is for turnover - the income your business has earned during the year. This figure should exclude bank interest, which you need to record on the main return page. Use box 10 to record any other income your business received during the tax year.
In FreeAgent, expense categories are tagged as either allowable or not allowable for tax. The short Self Employment form includes only transactions in categories that are tagged as 'allowable' (i.e. they can be used to reduce the amount of profit that's subject to tax). Boxes 11-19 show the total allowable business expenses in each category. Box 20 is the sum of boxes 11-19.
Boxes 23-26 show capital allowances. There are complex rules governing what you can claim for different assets, which are based on information that the software won't have. If you're not sure what figure you can claim here, talk to your accountant.
Boxes 28, 29 and boxes 32-35 refer to losses.
The basic principle is that if you make a loss for tax purposes in any one year (i.e. if your allowable expenses plus capital allowances outweighs your income), you may well be able to use that loss to reduce your tax bill in some way.
You may be able to set the loss against other income you've received in the same year (e.g. salary from a job) and claim back tax you've already paid; you may be able to carry the loss back against profits from previous years; or you can carry the loss forward to set against future profits from that trade.
Using a loss to reduce your tax bill is called 'loss relief'. The rules around when each kind of loss relief can be used are complex, especially as losses can be treated differently for tax and National Insurance. If you've made a loss and you're not sure how you can claim relief on it, speak to your accountant.
FreeAgent will make a provisional calculation for you of losses from earlier years, which it will put under box 28, and bring into the memo under box 35.
It assumes you're carrying all your losses forward. If your accountant advises you differently, you can change this figure. Use box 33 or 34 to claim loss relief, as directed by your accountant.
A business that makes losses in its early years of trading can only receive loss relief on any pound of loss once.
However, if the business makes profits in its early years of trading, and doesn't have a year end of 31st March, 5th April, or anything in between (1st - 4th April), it can end up paying tax twice on the same profit!
Class 4 National Insurance exemption
Most sole traders have to pay class 4 National Insurance contributions (NICs), but if you are under 16, over state pension age or not resident in the UK for tax purposes as at the start of the tax year in question, you are exempt from paying class 4 NICs. If this applies to you, select 'Yes' to question 37.
You may sometimes need to adjust the profits on which you're paying class 4 NICs (e.g. if you've used a loss to claim back some tax, and the loss is still available) to save you class 4 National Insurance. Check with your accountant to find out whether this applies to you.
If you are a subcontractor in the construction industry, put into box 38 the tax which was taken off your earnings by your contractors. HMRC take this tax into account when working out how much tax you should pay this year - it counts as part of your tax bill, so if you miss it out you'll pay too much tax!
Class 2 National Insurance
If your self-employed profits are £5,965 or more a year, you have to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs). Previously, these contributions were payable directly to HMRC, separately from the Self Assessment process. However, for tax returns relating to the 2016/17 tax year onwards, Class 2 NICs are paid through your Self Assessment tax bill instead (with a few exceptions).
Class 2 NICs are usually £2.80 per contribution week or partial contribution week that you're in self-employment (unless you're a share fisherman).
A contribution week is defined as a period of seven days starting from a Sunday (just after midnight) to the following Saturday (just before midnight), so if you started self-employment on Saturday 13 February 2017, for example, you would be liable for Class 2 NICs from Sunday 7 February 2017. If you began self-employment on Sunday 14 February, however, you would be liable for Class 2 NICs from that Sunday.
Once your Class 2 NIC liability has been established, it will continue for as long as you are ordinarily self-employed. This means that you will still remain liable for Class 2 NICs during holiday weeks, weeks when you do not do any self-employed work and weeks when you do not earn anything from self-employment.
If you cease self-employment, your liability to pay Class 2 NICs will end on the Saturday of the week in which you ceased to be self-employed. If you gave up self-employment on Thursday 10 March 2017, for example, your liability would have ended on Saturday 12 March 2017 and you would still have had to pay Class 2 NICs for that whole week.
In 2016/17 there are 52 contribution weeks. If your self-employment profits are £5,965 or more, FreeAgent will automatically calculate your Class 2 NI liability for you based on 52 weeks, as shown below. However, you can override this amount if you know it to be incorrect (i.e. if you have been self-employed for fewer than 52 weeks during the tax year).
If your self-employment profits are below £5,965 you can still volunteer to pay Class 2 NICS. If you want to do this, select ‘Yes’ in the section shown above and FreeAgent will calculate the amount you owe based on 52 contribution weeks.