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Keeping business records if you're self-employed


What records to keep

You’ll need to keep records of:

  • all sales and income

  • all business expenses

  • VAT records if you’re registered for VAT

  • PAYE records if you employ people

  • records about your personal income

Why you keep records

You don’t need to send your records in when you submit your tax return but you need to keep them so you can:

  • work out your profit or loss for your tax return

  • show them to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if asked

You must make sure your records are accurate.

Keep proof

Types of proof include:

  • all receipts for goods and stock

  • bank statements, chequebook stubs

  • sales invoices, till rolls and bank slips

How long to keep your records

You must keep your records for at least 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may check your records to make sure you’re paying the right amount of tax.

Example

If you sent your 2013 to 2014 tax return online by 31 January 2015, you must keep your records until at least the end of January 2020.

Very late returns

If you send your tax return more than 4 years after the deadline, you’ll need to keep your records for 15 months after you send your tax return.

If your records are lost, stolen or destroyed

If you can’t replace your records, you must do your best to provide figures. Tell HMRC when you file your tax return if you’re using:

  • estimated figures - your best guess when you can’t provide the actual figures

  • provisional figures - your temporary estimated figures while you wait for actual figures (you’ll also need to submit actual figures when avail


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