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How to register as self-employed in the UK

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Last editedOct 20233 min read

Decided to set up shop as self-employed? Great, but before you really get stuck into the nitty-gritty of running your business, there’s one thing you need to do first: register as self-employed. Not sure where to start? Check out our comprehensive guide for how to register as self-employed in the UK, giving you the inside track on how to make the process work for you.

Why do you need to register as self-employed?

It’s very important to register as self-employed after you start running your own business. This is so HMRC knows how much you’re earning and can therefore, charge you the appropriate amount of tax.

When do I need to register as self-employed?

According to gov.uk, you must register for Self-Assessment and Class 2 National Insurance by 5 October in your business’s second tax year. For example, if you started your company on 21 September 2023, you must register by 5 October 2024. If you don’t, you could be fined, so it’s best to sort out your registration as quickly as possible.

How do I register as self-employed in the UK?

Learning how to register as self-employed in the UK is simple.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to the registration process:

1. Check whether you need to register

First up, you should check whether what you’re doing counts as self-employment. HMRC can help you determine whether you should be classed as employed or self-employed for tax purposes. You’re likely to be classed as self-employed if the following statements apply to you:

  • You run the business yourself

  • You decide how and when you work

  • You provide most of the equipment you need to do the job

  • You have more than one customer simultaneously

  • You have the option of hiring other people

  • You charge an agreed-upon fixed price for your work

Use the HMRC’s Employment Status Checker to find out for yourself. If you are classed as a self-employed worker, it’s time to register.

2. Make an online account on the Government Gateway

Self-employed registration online is a relatively straightforward process. After you’ve worked out if you need to register, you should go to gov.uk and begin the registration process. To get started, you’ll need to enter your email address. You’ll then be sent a user ID that you’ll use to complete the next couple of steps.

3. Register on the Government Gateway

After you’ve received your Government Gateway user ID, you’ll need to sign in and complete your self-employed registration online. The HMRC will need a couple of critical pieces of information from you, including:

  • The date you started trading

  • The type of tax you want to add (Self-Assessment)

  • National Insurance number

  • Home address and contact details

  • The type of self-employed work you do

Once you’ve done this, you’ll be sent a letter with a 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) which you’ll use on all your subsequent tax payments. In addition, you’ll be enrolled for Self-Assessment, which means you’re officially self-employed.

How do I register as a self-employed sole trader?

Being self-employed and being a sole trader isn’t necessarily the same thing. Technically, sole trader refers to the structure of your business, whereas self-employed refers to how you pay your taxes. If you’re self-employed, you can choose from various business structures, including limited company, partnership, and sole trader. Put simply, sole traders are self-employed people who are also the sole owner of the business.

So, how do I register as a self-employed sole trader? Simple, you just need to register. First, check if sole trader is the right structure for your company. Then, choose a name for your business, check what records you need to keep, and register for Self-Assessment.  

How do I register for self-assessment if I'm not self-employed

The UK government has created a helpful video to make the process easier for you.

  • 00:00 The video provides a step-by-step guide on registering for Self Assessment on GOV.UK if you are not self-employed, which is a quick, free, and secure process.

  • 00:32 You might need to register for Self Assessment for various reasons, including earning over £1000 from property, having annual income over £50,000 while claiming Child Benefit, paying Capital Gains Tax, receiving income from a trust, or having untaxed income.

  • 01:31 To use HMRC online services, create a Government Gateway account. If you don't have one, you can easily create one following the instructions provided on the GOV.UK website.

  • 02:03 Enter the appropriate web address or follow the link in the video description to sign in and complete the necessary forms. Once filled, review and submit your details.

  • 02:35 After submission, you'll receive a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) in the post within 15 to 21 days. The UTR is crucial for all self-assessment dealings and should be kept safe.

  • 03:04 Ensure to register for Self Assessment by October 5 and submit your tax return and payment by January 31. For more information, refer to other videos on the HMRC YouTube channel or search 'Self Assessment' on GOV.UK.

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