Saturday, 16 January 2016

HMRC Self Assessment Form. Serious Anomaly with Foreign Earnings

As a self employed sole trader stock photographer my accounts are very uncomplicated but as a serial procrastinator I have only just got around to completing my 2014-15 HMRC online self assessment form.

I use cash accounting and opted to submit a single payment for expenses.

The majority of my photo related income comes from two agencies, one based in UK, one in the USA.

Working through the online Self Assessment form I filled in the relevant sums and the page for UK earnings deducting the single expenses sum brings up a loss.

I have gone through the necessary rigmarole to receive my USA income untaxed and completed the foreign earnings section bringing me into profit.

Proceeding to the final calculation showing my tax owing revealed a figure higher than I was expecting. (I am in the 20% tax rate banding).

As an experiment I deleted the foreign income and move the same sum to UK income which then gave a much lower tax demand.

I rang HMRC's helpline and explained my situation. My call was "promoted" up a tier. After a lengthy and cordial discussion the advisor agreed with me that the lower sum was correct and advised me to ignore foreign earnings and put everything in UK earnings. I (gently) put it to her that completing the form correctly should give the right answer.

The anomaly (or error?) in the way tax is calculated is that if you opt for the simplified system then you cannot carry over UK losses to other income. At present the online calculation does not take foreign earnings into the whole income pot and taxes them separately, hence the higher "bottom line".

There must be many UK stock photographers with foreign income in the same boat . I asked the HMRC advisor to investigate this further and write to me with an outcome.

I would be interested to hear if this error is widespread and advise anyone affected to contact HMRC as I am not a Tax Advisor!!

Please feel free to share this with any individuals or groups who may be affected. Tweet and Facebook away!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Thanks for the £20 Mr Murdoch

I took advantage the £9.99 deal to get Now TV. Reviewed HERE . It's obviously bait to tempt you to subscribe to Sky's Premium services so you get a slightly crippled Roku smart box with a £20 subsidy on its normal price. As I only intend to mainly use it for catch-up with iplayer etc it's nearly a free lunch, the only tiresome part is having another load of passwords to remember. You have to give credit card details to register and get a month of Sky films for free so don't forget to cancel the £9.99 sub for subsequent months. In use it takes a little while to load programmes like any other smart TV device but on the whole it's very intuitive to operate via a simple remote control. It's far better than an Android based box that I had fitted previously and which had a convoluted system that was such a pain that I never used it.

In use I discovered that the kitchen TV which is set into an alcove where a range once lived doesn't have the strongest wifi signal but the box came with a long HDMI cable and it can be moved to maintain buffering-less reception. My experience has been satisfactory but as function depends on having sufficient wifi signal and internet speed, caveat emptor. If you are able to stream video on a tablet at your TV location you should be OK

Another appealing feature is that the box will display on a suitable flat screen PC monitor so if you have a spare one knocking about then acquiring a HDMI to HVI lead and adding some powered speakers creates another iplayer watching device for the spare room.

Like most gadgets nowadays it does a load of things 99% of which I will never use, (can't imagine checking Facebook for instance) but I think I will soon have had my £9.99 worth so thank you Mr Murdoch (oh and for sponsoring Sky and Britsh Cycling).

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


A friend applying for accreditation to cover a European Summit was surprised to be asked for €99 to cover the cost of refreshments and Wifi. As he is a vegetarian there isn't much chance of him getting his money's worth out of the buffet table. Once upon a time events could be judged on the quality of the catering and other freebees. It depends on the sponsors of course, when Kellogs were involved in cycling everyone's camera bags were making a gentle scrunching sound as they left the venue. Times are changing though and last year covering the Boardmasters Festival at Newquay the press liaison demanded a compulsory media "donation" to Surfers Against Sewage". I was so taken aback that I paid up but thinking about I should have objected on moral grounds because I'm actually in favour of sewage. That's because the stuff they are campaigning against only becomes sewage when it's in a sewer and if we didn't have sewers...I can see that they have chosen their name to have a catchy acronym but the consequences of someone getting the wrong number when calling in the SAS could be too serious to contemplate. A sensible solution would be the adoption of something more accurate "Surfers Against Discharging Untreated Sewage" or S.A.D.U.S.

Dawlish Fights Back?

Dawlish town councillors have been implicated in a plot to win back media coverage of recent storms by giving waves a helping hand in undermining the railway line through the town. Witnesses report seeing activity on the beach last night during torrential rain but rather than works to protect the shore it appears that a large quantity of shingle was removed from around the foundations of the station platform. BBC television coverage this morning showed part of the station, which is right on the sea front, has been severely damaged. Suspicions have been raised because local politicians have been voicing their unhappiness about BBC bias in the coverage of the recent unprecedented bad weather. In particular the unfair emphasis on Aberystwyth where initial damage to a small Victorian shelter of the promenade was followed by reports on its subsequent repair, of the lifeboat "rescue" of a young photographer who hadn't actually been washed into the sea and the evacuation of students from accommodation on the sea front. Meanwhile the closures at Dawlish of the main Paddington to Penzance line have gone virtually unreported. No council spokesman was available to talk but a local tourist board representative commented that at least a few more people would know where Dawlish was now and she hoped that the railway would be fully up and running in time for the summer season. Whatever the cause of the damage the stakes have been raised in the jostling for attention between these two seaside towns.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Aberystwyth Braces Itself

If the predicted storms and high tides weren’t enough to worry about this small town on the west coast of Wales is having to cope with flooding of a different sort as amateur photographers pour in hoping to capture dramatic images of giant waves. Mrs Mavis Jones, (64), a local WRVS volunteer said “We have had to open up emergency accommodation for them all. Dozens arrived on the last bus yesterday hoping to find B&Bs but all the guest houses are shut and the owners off playing golf in Florida”. Local residents blame the frequent media coverage that Aberystwyth has received in recent months. One of the photographers who had come all the way from Devon said “It’s not fair. Aberystwyth has been getting all the attention. It used to be Dawlish just down the road from me. Every time there was a storm the papers would have pictures of the sea crashing over trains on the railway line. I’m a Citizen Journalist and I had a nice little sideline selling pictures but now the papers just want Aberystwyth”. A local press photographer who didn’t want to be named said “Its murder here now, I used to be the only photographer present when a new supermarket opened but now I can’t even park the car. I wish I’d never sent all those pictures of the storms to the nationals. These bl**dy amateurs have found out my name and some hang around by my house to follow me if I get a tipoff. I had a boudoir shoot booked at a bungalow in the next village and I looked around to see half a dozen lenses pointing in through the window. My client felt she had to invite them all in for a cup of tea”. After a recent incident in which a student photographer was rescued by the local inshore lifeboat the RNLI are bracing themselves for more trouble and fear that others will risk their lives for the chance of a few minutes of fame on Youtube. Hoping to discourage reckless behaviour they have been putting up ” Beware of The Sharks” signs along the seafront.