Making Tax Digital Explained

Making tax digital is the biggest shake-up to the tax system ever and in this guide I explain more about it including:

  1. What it is;
  2. What it means for small business owners and the self-employed;
  3. The impact it has on bookkeeping & tax calculations.

Updated 30 March 2020

HMRC Making Tax Digital

MTD is the complete digitisation of the entire tax system, meaning mandatory quarterly tax reporting into HMRC along with regular tax payments by businesses and individuals via digital bookkeeping.

HMRC estimated that errors and mistakes result in over £9 billion lost taxes annually, a loss they feel they can hugely reduce by making people switch from manual bookkeeping to digital bookkeeping.

Essentially business will need to:

  • Maintain their bookkeeping electronically;
  • Report VAT and income & expenses digitally to HMRC on a quarterly basis via approved software;
  • Make quarterly tax payments to HMRC.

The first group to be affected by MTD were VAT registered business, in other words, those with a turnover of over £85,000. These businesses must now submit their VAT returns to HMRC using an HMRC compliant bookkeeping software.

Making Tax Digital for Sole Traders

It will be introduced for sole traders and the self-employed for accounting periods starting on or after 6 April 2023, with income above £10,000. MTD promises to make it easier for sole traders to help them to stay on top of paying taxes with quarterly payments to HMRC. But it also signals the end of the annual self-assessment tax return form due by 31 January each year.

The initial rollout for the self-employed and sole traders was intended to take place in April 2020 but this was delayed in part due to Brexit and then the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic.

Government Support for Sole Traders During COVID-19

VAT Reporting

From the 1st April 2019, all VAT returns need to be sent to HMRC via a MTD compliant software, using digital record-keeping. Digital record-keeping basically means entering every sales and purchases transaction that make up the figures on your VAT return, one by one into a bookkeeping software.

This means if you add your VAT up either manually from your invoices or with a spreadsheet, then input the figures into a VAT return on the Government Gateway, you’ll need to make some changes. For each sales and purchases transaction you’ll need to record:

  • Date or Tax Point
  • Value of Supply
  • Category
  • Rate of VAT used

The approved MTD bookkeeping systems, like Quickbooks, all require you to enter this information as standard.

Your bookkeeping system will then work out your VAT figures and transmit them straight to HMRC from the system (once you approve the figures).

Making tax digital does not affect how you keep copies of your business sales and purchase invoices, that part of business record-keeping remains unaffected. HMRC don’t want to see all your invoices each time you submit a tax return, they just want to know that you have used one of their approved softwares to work out your VAT.

HMRC Compliant Software for Making Tax Digital

Most of the market-leading options for cloud accounting have now been approved by HMRC as officially being compliant for Making Tax Digital.

Quickbooks is HMRC approved and there are two versions available in the UK that handle VAT:

  • Quickbooks Essentials
  • Quickbooks Plus

Whilst both are MTD compliant, they are different with Plus being more expensive due to additional functionality it offers including budgeting, purchase order and project costing.

Quickbooks self-employed is designed with non-VAT registered sole traders in mind, therefore it does not have VAT functionality. So if you are VAT registered then this version won’t be suitable for you.

About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek, money nerd and creator of www.goselfemployed.co - the UK small business finance blog for the self-employed community. Here she shares simple, straight-forward guides to make self-employment topics like taxes, bookkeeping and banking easy to understand.