Tax Glossary

Basis Period

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Last updated on:
March 17, 2024

The basis period is crucial for sole traders in the UK as it determines the timeframe for tax calculation each year, covering both income and expenses over this duration. Sole traders have the flexibility to define their basis period, but choices here can significantly impact tax implications.

Choosing a Basis Period

While flexibility exists, sole traders can opt for one of the following periods:

  • Standard Tax Year: Running from 6th April to 5th April the subsequent year.
  • Financial Year: From 1st April to 31st March the following year.
  • Custom Dates: Any 12-month period, such as 1st January to 31st December.

Opting for a custom basis period introduces complexities, particularly the risk of overtaxation due to misalignment with the standard tax year. It's advisable to select a custom period only for compelling reasons.

Implications in Practice

Selecting a basis period that doesn't align with the standard tax year can lead to taxation on the same income twice in the initial stages of your business. However, HMRC provides Overlap Relief to reclaim any tax paid on duplicated income.

Example Scenario:Consider starting your business on 5th November 2022 and setting the basis period from 5th November to 4th November annually. The initial tax period would surprisingly span from 5th November 2022 to 5th April 2023. Subsequent tax calculations would cover from 5th November to 4th November annually, leading to an overlap in the first year.

This overlap, particularly from November 2022 to April 2023, exemplifies why many opt for the standard tax year to avoid unnecessary complexity and the potential for double taxation.

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