Tax tips for small business owners

11 min read
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Paying tax is an unavoidable part of owning a business. From the largest corporations, to the smallest sole traders, keeping up to date with your tax payments is essential to staying in business. 

The amount of tax your business pays will vary largely depending on factors such as income and profits, business expenses, staff salaries, and more. If you own a small business, or are considering starting a new business, you should take time to understand how your tax should be paid. Not only is this good practice for the future, but you may also discover ways to reduce your tax liability by learning which expenses are tax deductible.

In this blog post, QuickBooks will guide you through important tax tips for small businesses, including tax deductible expenses, meeting tax deadlines, how to improve your cash flow, and how to use accounting software and accounting professionals to avoid unexpected tax bills in the future.

Quickbooks provides easy-to-use tax and accounting software for small to medium businesses. Explore our competitive pricing & plans page to discover how to simplify your accounting needs today.

What taxes do you have to pay as a small business owner?

There are a number of taxes you may have to pay as a small business, all of which are dependent on your business model and legal status as a business.

A tax year will generally begin on the 6th of April and run until the 5th of April the following year, although each type of tax may have a different day for due payments. Below, we have included a list of different tax types and how they may affect you:

Corporation tax (Limited Companies)

Corporation tax is a type of tax that is applied to limited companies. It must be paid no later than 9 months after the accounting period ends for your business, usually on or around the 1st of January, with the main rate for Corporation Tax generally being set at 25% for companies with profits over £250,000, and a Small Profits rate of 19% for companies with profits under £50,000.

Limited companies are expected to send a company tax return to HMRC. If you are the director of a limited company, you will also be required to file a Self Assessment tax return, as well as pay tax or National Insurance through the PAYE system if you earn a  salary from your limited company.

Income tax

Sole traders and partners will pay income tax on earnings. Income tax is paid on personal income, such as your salary, and can be paid through your business's PAYE system. Sole traders will pay income tax based on the profits of their business, which are included in a Self Assessment tax return.

Top tips to help reduce your tax bill

You can help reduce your overall tax bill by utilising some of the following methods. As a small or new business, it is good practice to begin using all of these methods as soon as possible. Getting a good idea of how to reduce your tax bill legitimately in the early stages of your business will set you up for better success in the future.

Claim back deductible expenses

There are a number of regular business expenses that you are legally allowed to ‘write off’ as tax deductible expenses, however, these expenses must be wholly and exclusively for business use. This will generally include:

Office costs

Everything from the cost of equipment such as stationary and computers to phone and internet bills, can be deducted from your tax bill.

Travel expenses

Bus fares, train tickets, fuel, parking, or any other costs incurred by travelling for the purpose of work. This can include travelling to meetings, exhibitions, or work related events, however, travelling between work and home is not a tax deductible expense.


If the clothing you wear for work can only be worn at work, for instance, medical scrubs, then you may be able to write this off as a tax deductible expense. It is important to remember that clothing that could be used for a variety of purposes, such as a suit, cannot be written off as tax deductible.

Staffing costs

The salaries of your staff are also tax deductible, as well as any additional payments made to contractors.

Financial outlay

Any additional charges such as banking charges, insurance premiums, or contactless payment charges.

Office or workplace running costs

This can include your electricity bill, ground rent, maintenance fees, or any other costs incurred by the day-to-day running of your workplace.


The cost of marketing your business is also deductible. This could be the cost of marketing campaigns, website maintenance, and advertising.

Meet tax deadlines to avoid penalties

It is vital that you submit your Self Assessment tax returns on time. As a sole trader, this will always be the 31st of January each year, though these dates can be different depending on the type of business you own. Your accountant should advise you on when your tax bill is due, but it is the responsibility of the business to ensure tax is paid on time.

Late filing penalties

If you file your tax return late, you will be subject to varying penalties depending on how late your tax return was filed. These are as follows:

  • 1 day late will incur a £100 penalty

  • 3 months late may incur a penalty of £10 a day, for a maximum of 90 days.

  • 6 months late will either incur a further 5% penalty on all tax owed, or a £300 fixed penalty, depending on which figure is greater.

  • 12 months late will also incur either a further 5% penalty on all tax owed, or a £300 fixed penalty, depending on which figure is greater. In exceptional cases you could be made to pay 100% of the tax you owe.

Late payment penalties

If you miss your tax payment deadline, the penalty fee you owe will increase incrementally the longer it goes unpaid. 

  • 30 days late will incur a 5% penalty on all tax due on that date.

  • 5 months late will be an additional 5% of tax due on that date.

  • More than 11 months will add a further 5% penalty. 

Maintain accurate accounting records

As a legal requirement, you and your business should maintain an accurate record of your yearly finances to ensure your tax obligations are met.

Having a record of your business finances allows you to determine which expenses are tax deductible, meaning you will likely save money on your overall tax bill as a result of keeping an accurate accounting record. 

You can use QuickBooks’ accounting software for limited companies and sole traders to keep on top of your financial records. You can also send invoices, manage your expenses, and prepare VAT returns using our desktop and mobile apps.

Hire an accounting professional

You should hire an accounting professional as early as possible. For small businesses, it may be feasible to handle accounting on your own for a short time, but as your business grows it will become necessary to allow an accountant to handle your business finances.

A dedicated accountant will be able to identify money saving opportunities within your business and will allow you to stay on top of your business finances and tax obligations throughout the year.

You can use QuickBooks’ find an accountant page to find skilled accountants in your area.

Claim any allowances you are entitled to

There are a number of capital allowance schemes you are entitled to as a business. These include:

  • Annual Investment Allowance (AIA): There is an allowance of up to £1,000,000 in the UK for qualifying expenses related to office equipment, hardware, software and furniture purchased for your business. This will allow you to deduct the full cost of an item when you calculate the taxable profits of your business.

  • Writing Down Allowance (WDA): You may benefit from an annual deduction in value up to 18% for a majority of items used for business purposes, such as an 18% relief on plant and machinery purchases, or a 6% tax relief on thermal insulation added to your building or electrical and lighting systems. You can find detailed information on WDAs on the government website.

  • Research and  Development Allowance:  As a trader, RDA provides up to 100% relief on expenses incurred through research and development costs as a year 1 tax relief. RDA is applicable to qualifying capital expenditure used on research and development activities for your business. You can discover more information on the meaning of research and development through the website.

Improve cash flow with VAT accounting

For VAT registered companies, employing VAT conscious payment strategies can help your business better handle yearly finances. 

You may also consider increasing the frequency of your VAT return submissions. If your business usually receives a repayment from the HMRC following your yearly VAT return submission, then you can offset this overpayment by completing monthly VAT returns instead of annual or quarterly returns. This method may not be suitable for all businesses however, as the monthly workload of your accountant will increase, and you should also consider whether the potential financial gains from submitting VAT returns more frequently outweigh the cost of waiting until the end of a tax year to receive your repayment from the HMRC.

What is VAT?

Value Added Tax (VAT) is a type of tax applied to the majority of products and services sold by VAT-registered businesses within the UK. Your business must legally register for VAT if your annual taxable turnover exceeds £85,000, but you may also register for VAT if your taxable turnover is below this figure.

Do all businesses pay VAT?

There are some businesses that cannot register for VAT. If your business exclusively sells tax-exempt goods or services such as insurance, health services, or education services, then you are not eligible for VAT registration.

How often should my company file VAT returns?

Your business should submit quarterly VAT returns every 3 months at the end of what is known as your ‘VAT accounting period’, with the deadline to submit your quarterly VAT returns being 7 days after an accounting period ends.

You can find out more information about registering for VAT online in our blog post.

Be prepared to pay tax

Our final point is essential to any business, and one you should be prepared for regardless of the size of your business.

Firstly, as a sole trader you are given a tax-free personal allowance of £12,570 per year. This means that if your business earns this amount or below you are not obligated to pay any income tax, but if you earn £12,571 you will have to pay the basic income tax rate of 20% as of April 2023. 

As a sole trader, tax should be made payable at the end of each tax year, and you are expected to pay this in full within 30 days of the payable date to avoid any penalties. This means that your company should have this amount to hand and ready to pay the HMRC.

For example, if your company earns profits of £43,000 per year, then you will be expected to pay £8,170 in tax. This amount should have been saved throughout the year by your accountant, and ensuring that you are ready to pay the full amount on time will help your company avoid unnecessary penalties. 


By utilising the above tips, you and your business can help to reduce your yearly tax bill tremendously. It is best practice to employ these techniques from the very start of your business to ensure your early costs are reduced as much as possible, and as your business begins to grow, you will save even more money year-on-year as a result of these tax reducing tips.

It is important to remember that this guidance on tax tips offers general information for sole traders and small businesses. For specific tax guidance for your business, you should always hire a professional accountant to streamline your VAT and TAX process and offer bespoke advice for your business.

QuickBooks provides businesses with the best way to keep track of their accounting with our simple and easy-to-use accounting software for sole traders, limited companies, and accountants. Discover our plans & pricing page to find out how you can save money on your yearly tax bill.

The information on this website is provided free of charge and is intended to be helpful to a wide range of businesses. Because of its general nature the information cannot be taken as comprehensive and they do not constitute and should never be used as a substitute for legal, accounting, tax or professional advice. We cannot guarantee that the information applies to the individual circumstances of your business. Despite our best efforts it is possible that some information may be out of date. Any reliance you place on information found on this site or linked to on other websites will be at your own risk.


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