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Self-Employment - Pensions, splits andself-employment

I started working as a locum GP in late April this year and I have been told that I should contact my local tax office to obtain a unique tax reference (UTR) because I am self-employed. Can you explain what this is about? Do I also need to complete a tax return?

The first thing you need to do is inform the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that you have begun self-employment. This needs to be done within three months, otherwise you will incur a £100 penalty.

At the same time you need to start paying class-two National Insurance contributions, which cost £2.10 a week.

The tax year runs from 6 April in one year to the following 5 April. Tax returns need to be submitted to HMRC by 31 January following the end of the tax year. You only need to submit one tax return a year. Because you commenced self-employment after 5 April 2006, your first tax return will be for the year ending 5 April 2007 and will need to be submitted by 31 January 2008.

Self-employed individuals pay tax in January and July each year. However, as your first tax return will be sent to you in April 2007, your first tax payment will be in January 2008. It is important, therefore, that you save up now to meet your future tax liabilities.

Make sure you are aware of the expenses that you can claim for tax relief.

You should keep all your receipts and records in support of expenses claim.

It is advisable to find an accountant - preferably a medical specialist - who will be able to complete the tax return on your behalf and ensure that you are claiming all allowable expenses.

A UTR is given to every individual who is required to complete a tax return. Once you are registered with HMRC as self-employed, you will be issued with a UTR. - Jenny Stone

PENSION

I will be 50 in August and joined the NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS) in 1991 when I started working in the UK. Is there any advantage for me in purchasing added years in the pension scheme or should I just make additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) to top up my pension?

The NHS Pension Scheme offers GPs the potential to make AVCs alongside their standard scheme payments. There are two options available: purchasing added years or contributing into money purchase arrangements.

Under a money purchase arrangement, the final benefits are not guaranteed.

They depend on the performance of the funds in which contributions are invested and on future annuity rates.

Added years provide a guaranteed additional pension and tax-free lump sum based on the GPs' up-rated lifetime superannuable pay that will be re-valued at the date of retirement to offset the effects of earnings inflation.

Also, where the added years contract has been in force for at least one year, if you suffer an untimely death or become unable to work due to long-term ill-health or disability before retirement, then the full value of the added years contract would be credited to your contribution record without further cost.

In the former situation, this would increase the benefits payable to your dependants, and in the latter, it would increase your retirement benefits. - Kevin Quinn

PATIENTS' RECORDS

I am new in post as a practice manager and discover that one of my responsibilities is to be the practice's 'Caldicott Guardian'. Can you explain what this is about and where I can find more information on it?

In 1997, Dame Fiona Caldicott chaired a committee which looked at how we, in the NHS, could improve the way in which we look after patient and indeed other information. Her report recommended the appointment of a guardian in every NHS establishment.

If you go to the DoH website (www.dh.gov.uk) you can download a handbook for Caldicott Guardians. - Tim Kimber

PARTNERSHIP SPLIT

My partner and I have fallen out and are dissolving the partnership. We had a meeting with the PCT and were told that the practice would be advertised. Can they do this given we have not resigned from the NHS?

As far as the PCT is concerned, they have been given notice that the partnership is dissolving, and have absolutely no choice but to advertise the practice. You and your partner can both tender for it, but neither of you is guaranteed to be awarded the contract.

If an alternative provider organisation hears of its sale - and you can depend upon it that one will - you can expect it to put in a bid to take over the practice. I would strongly advise your partner to have further discussions with you and the PCT to see if there is another way forward. - Tim Kimber

PLEASE NOTE

Please ask for 'GP Ask the Experts'. You might be asked to book a full consultation if your request is time-consuming or difficult. Our specialists retain the right to refuse advice. The information in the Ask the Experts list is for information purposes only. The expert advice is intended to provide general guidance only. It should not be relied upon by readers, who should seek further professional advice. No legal responsibility can be accepted by GP for the experts' answers.

ASK THE EXPERTS - Email questions or phone our experts

NHS RULES - Dr Tim Kimber is a Littlehampton GP and a member of West Sussex LMC. Email: tim.kimber@nhs.net

ACCOUNTING - Stuart Williamson is a partner at accountants Williamson West. Email: ww@williamsonwest.com

LEGAL - Lynne Abbess is a partner at solicitors Hempsons. They can offer 10 minutes of free advice only, from 10am-4pm weekdays. Phone: (020) 7839 0278

PREMISES - John Hearle is a chartered surveyor and chairman of Aitchison Raffety. Email: john.hearle@argroup.co.uk or fax: (01727) 844472

PENSIONS AND PERSONAL FINANCE - Kevin Quinn is a financial planner at Ramsay Brown & Partners. Email: kevin@ramsaybrown.co.uk

PMS - Dr Mo Dewji is a Milton Keynes GP and clinical director for primary care contracting. Email: mo.dewji@dh.gsi.gov.uk

ACCOUNTANCY AND TAXATION - Jenny Stone is a partner at Ramsay Brown & Partners. Email: jenny@ramsaybrown.co.uk or call (020) 8370 7739 9am-5.30pm weekdays

PRACTICE-BASED COMMISSIONING - Maggie Marum is a management consultant for the NAPC and runs its practice-based commissioning helpline. Call: (020) 7636 8626. www.napc.co.uk.

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