The government recently revealed some new information about their controversial Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative and how it will affect the UK’s freelancers. Here’s a quick guide to help you get ready before the deadline.

Exemptions from MTD

The first thing to do is to find out if MTD will apply to you. HMRC has confirmed that a small minority will be exempt from MTD for a number of reasons including:

  • disability
  • age
  • remoteness of location
  • membership of a religious society or order with beliefs that are incompatible with the use of electronic communications
  • being subject to insolvency proceedings
  • any other reason accepted by the MTD commissioners as valid grounds not to use an electronic return system

There will also be a minimum threshold for MTD which HMRC has said previously will be £10,000 annual turnover, although this is yet to be confirmed.

If you are exempt from MTD, you can still volunteer to take part if you wish to do so.


The first MTD deadline is for VAT-registered businesses. By April 2019 all small businesses above the VAT threshold and not exempt from MTD will have to comply with the new digital tax legislation. At the moment, the VAT threshold is £85,000 annual VATable sales, but at least one Budget announcement is due before the deadline, so this could well change.

If your business is already VAT registered or is going to be VAT registered by the deadline you will need to:

  • keep digital records for VAT purposes
  • provide VAT return information through MTD-compatible software

Bear in mind that the 2019 deadline is for VAT figures and returns only.

MTD for Income Tax

MTD for Income Tax won’t apply until “at least 2020”, however the government has already put together its suggested next steps for Making Tax Digital for Income Tax. If you will be preparing accounts and filing to HMRC, here’s a brief summary of what you’ll need to do when MTD comes into effect:

  • Record each of your business’s transactions – invoices, bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and money in and out – in functional MTD-compatible software. Each quarter, sum up these transactions by category (using the categories currently displayed on the short form of the self-employment pages of your tax return) and submit the information digitally to HMRC.
  • Report just your total sales – minus your total allowable expenses – for that quarter if your business’s annual sales are under the VAT threshold.
  • Correct any mistakes from one quarter in the following quarter.
  • Make a digital ‘end of period submission’ at the end of the accounting year and include any additional information, such as adjustments your accountant has asked you to make or claims for capital allowances for the year.
  • Declare in the end of period submission that the figures you’ve filed for that year are accurate to the best of your knowledge and belief.

Interestingly, the guidelines for MTD for Income Tax don’t state that you need to keep a digital copy of receipts. You do still need to keep a receipt for every business transaction but these can still be on paper.

What can you do to prepare for MTD?

With the deadlines fast approaching it’s not too early to start looking around for digital tax software that meets HMRC’s criteria. Any software you find must have the ability to:

  • keep records in a digital form according to the regulations
  • preserve digital records in a digital form for the required amount of time (this is currently up to six years).
  • create a VAT return from stored records and share this information with HMRC
  • provide HMRC with VAT data on a voluntary basis
  • receive information from HMRC

Most accountants in the UK have been busy preparing for MTD for the last couple of years and your accountant should be able to give you advice on choosing an accounting software package that will meet your needs.

You can find out more about how the new era of digital tax will affect your business and keep up to date with progress with FreeAgent’s handy MTD guides and resources.


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