By Stuart Taverner January 31, 2024

5 things to STOP doing as a sole trader – to get more deductions

Being a sole trader comes with a multitude of responsibilities, and managing your finances effectively is crucial to the success of your business.

To ensure you’re not leaving money on the table come tax season, it’s essential to identify and eliminate detrimental habits that could be costing you valuable tax deductions.

In this blog, we’ll explore five common practices that sole traders should stop right now to optimise their tax deductions and maximise savings.


1. Neglecting Regular Record-Keeping

One of the cardinal sins of financial management for sole traders is neglecting regular record-keeping. Keeping track of your income and expenses in real-time is not only essential for staying on top of your business’s financial health but is also crucial for identifying and claiming all eligible tax deductions.

Waiting until tax season to gather receipts and financial records is a recipe for missed opportunities and potential errors.

Example: Meet James, a wedding photographer running “James Captures Moments.” In the past, he neglected regular record-keeping. During a wedding shoot in 2022, he purchased a new camera for $2,000 but failed to document the expense until tax time. Consequently, he missed out on claiming the instant asset write-off for small businesses. Recognising the potential savings, James adopted accounting software with automated expense tracking. Now, he logs expenses in real-time, ensuring that every deductible cost, including the camera purchase, is accounted for, and he maximises his tax savings.

Stop Right Now: Implement a consistent and organised record-keeping system. Utilise accounting software with features like expense tracking, invoicing, and receipt capture to streamline the process. By staying on top of your finances throughout the year, you’ll be better positioned to identify and claim all applicable tax deductions.

2. Avoiding Technology and Automation

In an era where technology simplifies and streamlines various aspects of business operations, avoiding it can be a costly mistake. Some sole traders resist adopting technology and automation tools, believing they are too complex or time-consuming.

This mindset can lead to missed opportunities for tax deductions, especially when it comes to tracking expenses, invoicing, and maintaining accurate financial records.

Example: Emily, a freelance graphic designer with “PixelPerfect Designs,” used to avoid technology and automation. She manually tracked her income and expenses using spreadsheets, leading to errors and missed opportunities. In 2022, she failed to invoice a major client for $1,500 due to a spreadsheet oversight. Emily decided to break free from this habit by adopting user-friendly accounting software. With automated features like receipt scanning and invoicing, Emily streamlined her financial processes. Now, she avoids missed invoices, ensuring she captures every income opportunity and maximises her tax deductions.

Stop Right Now: Embrace technology and automation. Invest in user-friendly accounting software that caters specifically to sole traders. Features like automated expense categorisation, receipt capture, and invoicing can significantly reduce manual effort while ensuring accuracy. Overcoming the initial learning curve will open doors to efficiency and a higher likelihood of capturing all potential tax deductions.

3. Mixing Personal and Business Finances

Blurring the lines between personal and business finances is a common pitfall for sole traders. This practice not only complicates financial management but also makes it challenging to identify legitimate business expenses for tax deduction purposes.

Personal expenses mistakenly mixed with business transactions can lead to inaccuracies, potential oversights, and missed deductions.

Example: David, a consultant running “Strategic Insights Consulting,” used a single bank account for both personal and business transactions. This mingling of finances created confusion during tax season. In 2022, he missed claiming $500 in business-related meals and $300 in professional development expenses. Learning from this experience, David opened a separate business bank account and integrated it with his accounting software. Now, he easily distinguishes between personal and business transactions, leading to clearer financial records and optimised tax deductions, including the previously overlooked expenses.

Stop Right Now: Open separate bank accounts for your personal and business finances. This clear distinction will simplify record-keeping and ensure that all transactions are appropriately categorised. Additionally, use accounting software with bank feed integration to automatically import and categorise transactions. By maintaining a strict separation between personal and business finances, you’ll avoid confusion and optimise your ability to claim eligible tax deductions.

4. Failing to Plan for Estimated Tax Payments

Sole traders often underestimate the importance of planning for estimated tax payments throughout the year. With irregular income streams, it’s easy to fall into the trap of neglecting quarterly tax obligations.

Delaying payments until the end of the year can lead to financial strain and limit your ability to leverage available deductions.

Example: Sophie, a sole trader in the catering business, “Gourmet Delights,” struggled with irregular income and often neglected to plan for estimated tax payments. This resulted in financial stress and a hefty tax bill at the end of the year. In 2022, Sophie faced a tax bill of $4,000, impacting her cash flow. Sophie decided to break this habit by setting aside a percentage of her income for quarterly tax payments. With the help of accounting software, she projected her tax liability and planned her payments accordingly. This proactive approach not only eliminated year-end financial surprises but also allowed Sophie to claim deductions strategically throughout the year, reducing her overall tax liability to $3,500.

Stop Right Now: Set aside a portion of your income regularly for estimated tax payments. Calculate your tax liability and make quarterly payments to avoid penalties and interest. Utilise accounting software to track your income and expenses, providing a clear picture of your financial standing. This proactive approach not only ensures compliance with tax regulations but also helps you manage cash flow effectively.

5. Ignoring Professional Advice

Some sole traders, in an attempt to cut costs, opt to handle their taxes and financial matters independently. While self-reliance is commendable, ignoring professional advice can result in missed opportunities for tax deductions and expose you to avoidable risks.

Tax laws are complex and subject to change, making it challenging for non-experts to stay informed and navigate the nuances effectively.

Example: Tom, a web developer and owner of “CodeCraft Solutions,” used to handle his taxes independently, thinking he could save money by avoiding professional advice. In 2022, Tom missed out on claiming $1,000 in eligible software subscriptions as deductions. Seeking professional advice, Tom consulted with a tax advisor who identified the overlooked deductions and provided guidance on tax planning. Though there was a cost of $300 associated with the service, Tom realised that the peace of mind and increased tax savings made it a worthwhile investment for his business. Now, Tom is claiming all eligible deductions and benefiting from the tax advisor’s strategic advice.

Stop Right Now: Seek professional advice from a qualified accountant or tax advisor. A professional can provide personalised guidance, help you understand applicable tax laws, and identify deductions specific to your business. While there is an associated cost, the potential tax savings and peace of mind often outweigh the expense. Better yet, get accounting software that can be shared with your accountant save some cash on

For sole traders, success in business goes hand in hand with effective financial management. By recognising and eliminating detrimental habits, you can pave the way for optimised tax deductions and increased savings. Stop neglecting record-keeping, embrace technology, separate personal and business finances, plan for estimated tax payments, and seek professional advice. Breaking free from these habits will not only streamline your financial processes but also position you for success in navigating the complexities of the tax landscape. Take control of your financial destiny by making these changes today and ensuring a more prosperous future for your sole trader venture.

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About the author

Stuart is an Australian journalist and marketer with a range of experience working across small business, politics, business, community news, sport and finance.

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