Three reasons why you should keep your business and personal finances separate

This article was first published on 19 November 2015 and was last updated on 4 January 2018.

When you’re starting out in business, it can be tempting to run all of your finances through your personal bank account, rather than going through the hassle of setting up a separate account for your business.

While the idea of managing your business cash in the same place as your personal finances may sound like it could make life easier, the reality is that it’s actually a very risky strategy, littered with potential pitfalls. HMRC strongly recommends that small business owners keep their business and personal finances separate, but if that’s not enough to convince you, here are three other great reasons why you should take the time to set up a dedicated bank account for your business finances.

1. You’re more likely to pay the right amount of tax

If you combine your business and personal finances in a single bank account, you could find yourself paying an incorrect amount of tax by making one (or more) of the following mistakes:

  • You may accidentally count non-taxable income (e.g. cash gifts from your family) or income that’s already been taxed as part of your business income. This will mean that you’ll pay too much tax.
  • When you look back at your bank transactions from earlier in the year you may find it difficult to remember which payments were for business and which were personal. If you miss out some business costs when you come to add up the figures for your tax return, you’ll pay too much tax because your profit figure will be higher than it needs to be.
  • If you accidentally include non-business costs in your tax return, you will reduce your business’s profit figure too far, and this, in turn, will reduce your tax bill incorrectly. HMRC takes a very dim view of this kind of mistake; if you underpay your tax, you’ll have to make up that shortfall and you may also be charged interest and face penalties for paying too little tax, which could put your business at risk.

Keep your business and personal finances separate and you’ll be far more likely to record your costs correctly on your Self Assessment tax return and pay the right amount of tax to HMRC.

2. Your business cash will be safer

Using one bank account for all of your personal and business finances means that you could easily lose track of how much money you have for each purpose. Your bank balance may seem healthy enough for you to make a significant personal purchase, for example, but you may find you need that cash in a couple of months' time to pay a business tax bill. By having separate bank accounts you’ll avoid any cashflow problems that may arise from accidentally spending business money on personal purchases.

3. You’ll give a more professional impression to customers

No matter how small your business is, your customers want to be certain that you will provide them with a top-notch service, deliver what you promised on schedule, and be there to resolve any queries. If you ask them to pay you into your personal bank account, your customers may feel that they’re not dealing with a “real” business. A bank account that’s in your business’s name, on the other hand, is likely to give a far more professional impression to customers.

Ultimately, setting up a dedicated business bank account is a very sensible move if you’re running a small business. Not only will it help ensure you pay the right amount of tax and provide extra security and protection for your finances, it will also leave customers with a professional impression of your business when they come to pay you for your work. In addition, you’ll have clearer, more understandable records of the money coming in and out of your business - and that could be invaluable when it’s time to complete your Self Assessment tax return.

Disclaimer: The content included in this blog post is based on our understanding of tax law at the time of publication. It may be subject to change and may not be applicable to your circumstances, so should not be relied upon. You are responsible for complying with tax law and should seek independent advice if you require further information about the content included in this blog post. If you don't have an accountant, take a look at our directory to find a FreeAgent Practice Partner based in your local area.

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