Sole Trader – Cash Basis

By Mike Smith Small Business Comments Off on Sole Trader – Cash Basis

‘Cash basis’ is a way to work out your income and expenses for your Self Assessment tax return, if you’re a sole trader or partner.


Why use cash basis

If you run a small business, cash basis accounting may suit you better than traditional accounting.

This is because you only need to declare money when it comes in and out of your business. At the end of the tax year, you won’t have to pay Income Tax on money you didn’t receive in your accounting period.


When cash basis might not suit your business

Cash basis probably won’t suit you if you:

  • want to claim interest or bank charges of more than £500 as an expense
  • run a business that’s more complex, for example you have high levels of stock
  • need to get finance for your business – a bank could ask to see accounts drawn up using traditional accounting to see what you owe and are due before agreeing a loan
  • have losses that you want to offset against other taxable income (‘sideways loss relief’)

Who can use cash basis

You can use cash basis if you:

  • run a small self-employed business, for example sole trader or partnership
  • have a turnover of £150,000 or less a year

If you have more than one business, you must use cash basis for all your businesses. The combined turnover from your businesses must be less than £150,000.

If you use cash basis and your business grows during the tax year

You can stay in the scheme up to a total business turnover of £300,000 per year. Above that, you’ll need to use traditional accounting for your next tax return.

Who can’t use the scheme

Limited companies and limited liability partnerships can’t use cash basis.

There are also some specific types of businesses that can’t use the scheme:

  • Lloyd’s underwriters
  • farming businesses with a current herd basis election
  • farming and creative businesses with a section 221 ITTOIA profit averaging election
  • businesses that have claimed business premises renovation allowance
  • businesses that carry on a mineral extraction trade
  • businesses that have claimed research and development allowance
  • dealers in securities
  • relief for mineral royalties
  • lease premiums
  • ministers of religion
  • pool betting duty
  • intermediaries treated as making employment payments
  • managed service companies
  • waste disposal
  • cemeteries and crematoria

If you can’t use cash basis, you’ll need to use traditional accounting to work out your taxable profits.

How to record income and expenses

You must keep records of all business income and expenses to work out your profit for your tax return.


With cash basis, only record income you actually received in a tax year. Don’t count any money you’re owed but haven’t yet received.

ExampleYou invoiced someone on 15 March 2017 but didn’t receive the money until 30 April 2017. Don’t record this income for your 2016 to 2017 tax return, but instead for 2017 to 2018.

You can 
choose how you record when money is received or 
paid (for example the date the money enters your account or the date a cheque is written) but you must use the same 
method each tax year.

All payments count – cash, card, cheque, payment in kind or 
any other method.


Expenses are business costs you can deduct from your income to calculate your taxable profit. In practice, this means your allowable expenses reduce your Income Tax.

Only count the expenses you’ve actually paid. Money you owe isn’t counted until you pay it.

Examples of allowable business expenses if you’re using cash basis are:

  • day to day running costs, such as electricity, fuel
  • admin costs, for example stationery
  • things you use in your business, such as machinery, computers, vans
  • interest and charges up to £500, for example interest on bank overdrafts
  • buying goods for resale

You can check what else counts as an allowable expense.

For the 2013 to 2014 tax year onwards you can also choose to use the simplified expenses scheme instead of calculating expenses for:

  • running a vehicle
  • working from home
  • making adjustments for living on your business premises

Cars and other equipment

If you buy a car for your business, you can claim the purchase as a capital allowance (but only if you’re not using simplified expenses to work out your business expenses for that vehicle).

Unlike traditional accounting, you claim other equipment you buy to keep and use in your business as a normal allowable business expense rather than as a capital allowance.

If you’re currently claiming capital allowances and want to switch to cash basis, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have guidance on the changes you need to make.

Keep your records

You don’t need to send your records to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when you send in your tax return but you need to keep them in case they ask to check them.

VAT registered businesses

You can start to use cash basis if you’re VAT registered as long as your income is £150,000 or less during the tax year.

You can record your business income and expenses either excluding or including VAT. However, you must treat income and expenses the same way.

If you choose to include VAT, you have to record:

  • VAT payments you make to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as expenses
  • VAT repayments you receive from HMRC as income

31st January is fast approaching!

If you need any help with preparing and filing your self-assessment tax return for your self employment as a Sole Trader or Partner, we’d be delighted to hear from you at CORNEL Accountants to discuss your needs and provide an idea of our proposed all-inclusive and fixed-fee basis.

Get in touch with us by email on

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