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If you’ve decided to take the leap and set up as self-employed, you’re at the beginning of an exciting journey. But before you get stuck in, you need to register as self-employed first.
Use our guide on how to register as self-employed to tick this task off your to-do list.
We’ll take you through the process in depth, but here’s a quick overview of how to register as self-employed:
Once registered as self-employed you'll have a number of obligations and responsibilities, like completing an annual Self Assessment tax return.
If you’re self-employed, you have to register with HMRC so your tax can be collected properly. But how do you know if you’re self-employed?
You're likely to be self-employed if you:
If you meet these criteria, you probably need to register as self-employed. HMRC explains more about what being self-employed means.
Registering as self-employed is fairly straightforward. Head to the government's online registration portal and enter your email address.
You’ll then need to complete the registration process. Registering with HMRC is quick and easy, but here’s an overview of some of the information you’ll need to provide:
Once you're registered, HMRC will send you a letter with your 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). HMRC will also set up your online account, which gives you access to a range of digital government services.
This part of the process usually takes around seven to 10 days, but you can call HMRC for an update if it’s taking longer.
Registering as self-employed for the first time is simple. You need to make sure you’re registering through your business tax account – and that you’re registering for both Self Assessment and Class 2 National Insurance.
If you haven’t yet already created a Government Gateway account, you’ll need to create one. Once you have this account, you’ll be able to sign in.
This is when you’ll receive your UTR – so don’t worry if you don’t have one yet. Your UTR should arrive by post within 10 working days – but you can get it sooner in your personal tax account or on the HMRC app.
Once you’ve registered, you’ll get a letter or email reminding you to complete a Self Assessment tax return before the due date.
You’ll also need to decide on a name for your business. Many people choose to trade under their own name, but you could pick one that helps make you stand out.
If you choose a specific trading name, make sure you double check that there aren't any existing businesses using the same name. This helps avoid confusion and avoid potential copyright infringement.
According to HMRC, you should register at the earliest opportunity. However, there's a deadline. Legally you need to register by 5 October after the end of the tax year in which you became self-employed.
For example, if you started your business in July 2023, you'd need to register with HMRC by 5 October 2024.
Ideally you wouldn't leave your registration this late. If anything goes wrong and you're unable to register by the deadline, you could find yourself with a very large tax bill.
Being self-employed doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a sole trader. If you work for yourself, on your own, you're probably a sole trader – but there are other options.
If you're in a business partnership, you need to register as self-employed, but not as a sole trader. Instead, you should register as a partner.
If you’re not sure if you need to register as a sole trader or self-employed, our guide on the differences between two can help.
If you set up a limited company, it’s more complicated. You’ll be an owner of a company as well as its employee. Your tax and National Insurance calculation will also be different.
Our guide to setting up a limited company covers what you need to know.
Once you’ve registered you have a number of responsibilities.
Most importantly you should keep accurate records, particularly of any sales or outgoings connected with your business.
It’s also useful to keep hold of any correspondence from HMRC. These letters and documents can help you to complete your tax return quickly and easily.
There are also self-employed tax responsibilities to be aware of.
By 31 January every year, you should file your Self Assessment tax return online.
You'll need to make payments to HMRC on 31 January and 31 July, although you may be able to stagger these payments if HMRC agrees. As well as income tax, you’ll have to pay both Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance Contributions (NICs).
If your annual turnover is above the VAT threshold (£85,000 for the 2022-23 tax year), you should register for VAT.
However, you may choose to register even if your turnover is below this level. The individual circumstances of your business will determine whether this is right for you.
For some people, registering as self-employed might be more difficult. If you (or someone you're helping) are deaf, hearing-impaired or have a speech impediment, blind or partially sighted, or if English isn't your first language, use gov.uk's additional needs page for help.
There are also services available if you find it difficult to fill in forms, process complicated information, or use the internet or phone. Whether this is because of a condition like dyslexia, anxiety or stress, or a disability, help is available.
If you’re registering as self-employed in the construction industry, you'll need to let HMRC know as the rules are slightly different for you.
It’s important to register for the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) to make sure you’re paying the right amount of tax. Construction workers who don’t register for CIS pay 30% tax instead of 20%.
Self-employed insurance can cover different things, depending on the kind of work you do, and whether you have any employees.
Check out our FAQs for more information.
If you’re no longer self-employed, you’ll need to let HMRC know as soon as possible – otherwise you’ll still be expected to complete a Self Assessment tax return. If you ignore this, you could be fined.
You’ll also be expected to complete a final Self Assessment tax return. You’ll need to mention that you’re no longer self-employed here too – usually by ticking a box.
Having your National Insurance number and UTR to hand whilst you complete this will be helpful.
Have you had a good experience registering as self-employed? Let us know in the comments.
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Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.
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