The UK Rules
Cash Basis Accounting for Small Businesses

Cash Basis Accounting Procedures

There are several advantages for small businesses to use cash basis accounting practices. You only record income and expenses as cash flows in and out - not when invoiced or received.

CASH BASIS: Does your business operate as a sole trader or partnership?

If so, you may qualify to use cash basis accounting. It is a way of working out your income and expenses for Self Assessment tax returns.

Reasons to use Cash Basis

Cash basis and accrual basis are methods of business accounting and record keeping. Running a small business on the cash basis accounting system may suit you better. If not, you must use the traditional accrual basis of accounting instead.

The cash basis method is much simpler for working out business taxes and finances. You only declare money when it actually comes into, and goes out of, the operation.

This is big advantage for small businesses - especially at the end of the tax year. You do not need to pay Income Tax on revenue unless you receive it in your particular accounting period.

Reasons Not to use Cash Basis

There are situations where cash basis accounting procedures will not suit a business. As a rule, the process is unlikely to benefit an organisation if it:

Note: Always discuss your situation with a tax professional if you need help. Contact an accountant or a legal adviser for expert advice about business accounting.

Cash Basis Accounting Eligibility Criteria

Your small business can only use cash basis accounting procedures if:

What if you are running more than one business on the cash basis scheme? In this case, you must run them all on the same program. But, note that the combined turnover of all the businesses must not go over £150,000.

Using Cash Basis when the Business Grows

If the business expands you can continue using the scheme. But, only while the total business turnover stays at £300,000 (or less) per year. If it goes above £300,000 you must start using traditional accounting in the next tax return.

Who Cannot use Cash Basis Reporting?

Cash basis accounting rules do not accept limited companies or limited liability partnerships. Some specific types of business operations do not qualify for the scheme either, such as:

Note: Use traditional accrual accounting if you are not eligible for cash basis. Read 'How to calculate your taxable profits: HS222 Self Assessment helpsheet' for advice.

Start Using Cash Basis Accounting HMRC

Make the calculations at the end of the tax year. You should work out the taxable profit from cash basis income and expenses records. Select the 'cash basis box' on the form when you send in your tax return.

Note: You can only use cash basis accounting for the 2013 to 2014 tax year onward. What if you send a late tax return for tax years before 2013? You must use traditional accounting to calculate your accounts for any previous years.

Change from Traditional Accounting to Cash Basis

You can switch from traditional accounting to cash basis. But, you may need to make some adjustments when you make the change. You can get further information on the HS222 helpsheet or from a tax professional.

Recording Cash Basis Income and Expenses

You have responsibilities for keeping business records and paperwork if you are self-employed. You need records of income and expenses to work out profit margins for the tax return.

How to Record Income

Cash basis reporting means you only record the income you actually received in the tax year. You do not need to record any 'owed money' until you receive it.

An Example:

You wrote an invoice on the 19 of March 2018 for a customer. But, the business did not receive the money until the 19th of April 2018.

Thus, you would record this income in the 2018 to 2019 tax year.

Cash basis accounting rules allow you some choice on recording the money. You can record it on the date the money enters your account or on the date that a cheque gets written. But, whichever one you choose it must be the same method used for each tax year.

Note: All the different types of payments count (e.g. cash, card, cheque, payment in kind, or any other method).

How to Record Expenses

You can deduct business expenses as costs from income to work out the taxable profit. Doing so means your allowable expenses reduce the amount of Income Tax you pay.

But, you can only count the business expenses that you actually paid for. Any money that the business owes out does not count until it gets paid as an expense.

Examples taken from a list of allowable business expenses for self-employed workers using cash basis include:

You can use the simplified expenses scheme from 2013/14 tax year onward to calculate:

Cars and other Business Equipment

Special rules apply if you buy a car for the business. In most cases, you claim it as capital allowances on business cars. But, this only applies if you are not using simplified expenses to work out expenses for that vehicle.

Cash basis accounting is different than the traditional accounting. You claim other equipment kept and used in a business as a normal allowable business expense. Thus, you do not claim it as a standard capital allowance.

Note: You can switch from claiming capital allowances to cash basis. But, you may need to make adjustments when you make the change. Read further information on the HS222 helpsheet or contact a tax professional.

Keeping Cash Bases Records

You only need to send in a tax return to HM Revenue and Customs - not the business records. But, you do need to keep the paperwork for at least six years in case HMRC ask to inspect them in a tax compliance check.

Cash Basis for VAT Registered Businesses

You can start using cash basis accounting even if your business is VAT registered. But, the income must be not more than £150,000 for the tax year.

You can choose to record the business income and expenses including or excluding VAT. But, whichever one you choose you must treat all income and all expenses in the same way.

Businesses that choose to include Value Added Tax in their cash basis accounting must also record:

How to Use HMRC Cash Basis Accounting Practices in United Kingdom