How to register as self-employed

A step-by-step guide on how to register as self-employed - including all the forms, documents, and contacts you'll need for your self employed registration

If you’ve started working for yourself – whether that’s earning extra income in addition to having a job or you’ve started a business – you’ll need to register as self-employed.

Anyone who becomes self-employed must register for income tax and National Insurance contributions with HM Revenue & Customs. Why? Registering as self-employed is needed for tax (known as self assessment tax) and National Insurance purposes as these aren’t normally deducted from your income when you receive it (unlike income that is received from an employer through a payslip).  In fact, you are technically required to declare this  income from self-employment, even if you don’t think you’ll need to pay tax on it (it can be easy to miscalculate, particularly as you can have a job and be self employed at the same time).

Wondering when to register as self-employed? While it is not possible to register in advance for self-employment (officially, if  you are not starting out in self-employment within 28 days you cannot register yet), it is important that you inform HMRC as soon as you start working. This can be done either online, by phone or by post, however it is easiest to register online. You’ll need to register for self assessment by 5 October in your business’s second tax year (so a maximum of 18 months after you started trading, if you start on 6 April (the beginning of the tax year)). You could be fined if you don’t. As an example, if you started trading on 1 January 2017, the latest date you could register self employed would be 5 October 2017.

These are the steps how to register self employed:

    1. Create a ‘Government Gateway’ account.

For this you’ll need to supply your full name and email address and create a password. You’ll then be sent a user ID to the email address you provided, from which you can continue with the next steps. You can create the account online here.

    1. Log in to your Government Gateway account and select ‘Add a tax’

Using your user ID and password, you can now log in to your Government Gateway account (here) and register self employed for self assessment tax. You’ll see an option to add a tax to your account.

How to register self employed: add tax screenshot from HMRC

    1. Select ‘Self Assessment’ for the type of tax you want to add

Choose the option for Self Assessment (for self-employed, partnerships and trusts), when presented with the question ‘what type of tax do you want to add?’ (you can add in other taxes later, if needed. You’ll then need to select a self assessment category from the options: Individual or sole trader, partnership or trust. We’re looking here at the most common method for registering self employed – registering as an individual – but we discuss registering a partnership (or registering a partner to an existing partnership) elsewhere on Startups.co.uk

How to register self employed: self assessment tax option screenshot from HMRCHow to register self employed: self assessment tax category option screenshot from HMRC
    1. Enter the date you started trading

For tax purposes, you’ll be asked when you started working for yourself – i.e. when you started receiving income.

How to register self employed: trading date screenshot from HMRC

    1. Submit basic details about you as an individual for HMRC

You’ll need to have your National Insurance number and confirm a few other details, including personal information, home address, contact details and the name of the person or firm you’re working for (which might be yourself, or the name of the business). If you don’t have a National Insurance number, you will need to get a National Insurance number to register for self employment: you can apply for one by contacting the Jobcentre Plus application line on 0345 600 0643.

    1. Submit basic details about the type of self-employed work you do

Define the nature of the business to ensure you will be taxed appropriately for the income you receive from being self employed. This only needs to be a basic summary; the example given by HMRC in answer to ‘What sort of self-employed work do you do?’ is ‘e.g. plumbers, investment business’.

  1. Review and submit your request to register as self-employed

You’ll then get a letter with a 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and be enrolled for self-assessment online service. You can then use this UTR to add other taxes.

How to register self employed: submission screenshot from HMR

That’s it!

Registering self employed is fairly light on paperwork and doesn’t require paying a registration fee (unlike registering a limited company), but it’s easy to overlook, so it’s worth registering as soon as you can. Once you’ve registered self employed you can add other taxes that you might need, such as VAT (once you reach the VAT taxable turnover).

Although the steps are quite straightforward, it may still be worth speaking to an accountant to help you get started. Startups.co.uk has a contact form for you to claim a free consultation with a local accountant here.

Finally, it’s worth noting that you can still register self employed by phone or post:
-phoning HMRC’s Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504
-by completing form CWF1

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