With the 31st of January Self Assessment deadline coming up, there are a lot of people feeling the taxman breathing down their necks right now. If you haven’t got your receipts and invoices ready to go, you could be looking at a blizzard of paperwork in the coming days.

Filing complicated documents like CIS Self Assessment forms can be a lot of work, and leaving all the bookkeeping till the last minute only ramps up the stress and hassle. The same goes for claiming tax refunds. Combing through a mountain of unsorted receipts is no one’s idea of a fun weekend. You’ve still got to prove what it’s costing you to do your job if you want to make the most of your tax return or refund, though. Here’s a quick guide to simplifying your tax paperwork.

Step 1: Know what you’re looking for

Get into the habit of keeping your work-related receipts separate from your personal ones. When you start hunting through them later, you’ll be glad you didn’t stuff them all together in a drawer. Remember that some of your general household bills might include some work expenses in them (like office stationery, for instance). Get familiar with the everyday expenses that score you tax relief and sort the important receipts as you get them. While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to ask for two receipts if you’re buying business and personal stuff at the same time. If you’re shopping online, consider doing separate checkouts for your work buys.

Step 2: Get organised (pt. 1)

With your receipts gathered and sorted throughout the year, you should divide them up according to what they’re for. For example, you might separate them out into piles for:

  • Travel expenses (fuel, public transport fees and associated costs).
  • Office equipment and associated costs (including postage, print and stationery). If you have an office in your home, you can claim for some of your utility bills and insurance.
  • Financial, professional and insurance fees. Some bank and credit card charges might count toward a refund claim if you’ve got a separate business account, along with the interest on your business borrowing. Grab your bank statements and other financial documents as they come in.

Step 3: Get organised (pt. 2)

When you’re going through your receipts, spend a moment thinking about what’s not there. What expenses could you have claimed for that you now don’t have the paperwork for? Use these moments to build the habit of asking for receipts whenever you make a business purchase – particularly if you’re VAT registered. Electronic receipts for online purchases are just as good as paper when you’re talking to the taxman, so make sure there’s a folder on your computer where you always put them.

Step 4: Remember why it matters

If you find yourself staring blankly at a receipt, trying to work out exactly where, when and why the purchase was made, remind yourself to keep better notes. Don’t just assume the receipt will contain all the critical information, and if you check it and need to pencil in some details, do it while your memory’s still fresh. You’ll need to note things like the date, item, supplier and payment method.

Step 5: Back it up

You’ve got to back up every work expense you’re claiming for in your tax refund claim or Self Assessment return. That means you’ve got to back up your receipts, too. Losing receipts is like losing cash, so wherever possible keep more than one copy of everything. There are some pretty good online backup services like Dropbox and Google Drive that can save your neck in a crisis.

Step 6: Keep it simple with MyRIFT

Your MyRIFT account is custom-built to make organising your receipts smooth, simple and painless. Just log in and record all your expenses as they crop up, and they’ll be ready and waiting when it’s time to use them. You can update your account with all the essential information on your phone from anywhere with an internet connection, and can even upload photos of your receipts to make your paperwork completely effortless.

Keeping spotless records is the key to every great tax rebate claim or tax return. Log into MyRIFT, keep your details up-to-date and get in touch with all your tax questions, problems or worries.

Wondering if you can claim tax back? Use our free tax refund calculator to get an estimate of how much cash you could be owed. Answer a few simple questions and you'll get an instant estimate. Simply fill out your details and we'll get to work on your starting your claim.