It is worth considering getting an accountant.
- First, you are a business and there is a fair amount of work associated with this, in particular filling in tax returns and VAT returns. This may be too much to handle in your first couple of years when building a practice; having someone to keep on top of things for you will take away most of the work and a lot of the stress.
- Second, the stress of sorting out this sort of thing will be reduced if there is someone who knows and understands the requirements and can give you simple advice on what you can and can’t claim. Being able to trust an expert rather than relying on your own research in the limited time available will reduce the likelihood of you missing deadlines (which can incur a fine) or getting something very wrong (which could result in criminal penalties in extreme cases).
- Third, if the accountant gets it wrong you will have some redress.
You may be put off by the cost of an accountant, but it is always worth investigating: many accountants offer free accounting services for your pupillage year (or your first year of practice or year with them). Thereafter, some offer competitive fixed fees based on your earnings. Having an accountant may also pay for itself in terms of time saved (which you could be using on more remunerative work) and in identifying what items can be claimed against tax.
We would always recommend that when you choose an accountant, you look for one who specialises in or is at least experienced in working for barristers. They will have a much better idea of both the demands and eccentricities of your practice and what kind of paperwork they should be expecting from your chambers (they may be able to guide you in this).
If you are unsure who to choose, ask around chambers for a recommendation or see the Bar Council’s recommended partners: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/supporting-the-bar/explore-member-benefits/.