How to register as self employed

February 13, 2024

Becoming self-employed is a thrilling prospect, offering independence, flexibility, and the opportunity to pursue your passion. However, it comes with a set of responsibilities and considerations that you’ll have to follow. Whether you’re contemplating the leap into self-employment or currently building your business, there’s plenty you’ll need to educate yourself on to help your chances of success.

From the crucial decision of when to register as self-employed, to managing tax obligations and the often-overlooked steps when winding down a business, arming yourself with the right knowledge is vital.

In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to register as self-employed in the UK.

How do I know when I need to register self-employed?

Determining when to register as self-employed hinges on your earnings. You are obligated to register if your income from self-employment surpasses £1,000 in a tax year. It’s crucial to monitor your earnings and register promptly.

Even if your earnings are below the threshold, registering early is highly recommended. This proactive approach not only prevents penalties but also establishes good financial practices that will stand you in good stead.

It’s important to note that if self-employment becomes your primary source of income, you’ll have to register within six months of the tax year’s end, in the year when you began your venture. Staying vigilant about your income, promptly registering when necessary, will set a solid foundation for your self-employed status.

How do I register as self-employed for the first time?

Registering as self-employed for the first time is a crucial step in establishing your legal and financial standing with HMRC). If you’re unsure about how to register for self employment, don’t worry. The process is designed to be accessible and you can complete it quite easily online, through the official HMRC website.

Before initiating the registration, gather all your essential information to make it as straightforward as possible. This includes your National Insurance number, personal contact details, business name, and a brief summary of your business activities. Having these details on hand will support a smooth and efficient registration experience.

Navigate to the HMRC website and locate the online registration tool specifically designed for self-employed people. This will guide you through the necessary steps, prompting you to input the required information. Be prepared to provide details about your sources of income, business structure, and contact information.

During the registration process, HMRC will issue you a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), as a unique identifier associated with your tax records. Keep this reference number secure, as you will use it for all future interactions with HMRC regarding your self-employment.

After completing the online registration, HMRC will officially acknowledge you as self-employed, and you’ll be on the path to fulfilling your tax obligations.

Can you work self-employed without registering?

Working in self-employment without registering with HMRC isn’t a legitimate practice. Registering is a fundamental legal requirement, and failure to comply can result in serious consequences. Working without proper registration not only jeopardises your adherence to tax regulations but also exposes you to financial penalties and legal liabilities.

Registering as self-employed serves several purposes. It ensures that HMRC is aware of your income sources, allowing them to calculate the taxes you owe. This registration process is designed to promote transparency in financial transactions, preventing tax evasion and ensuring that everyone contributes their fair share to public finances.

Attempting to work as self-employed without registration is highly risky. HMRC has mechanisms in place to detect unregistered income, and failure to register may lead to penalties, fines, and legal action. Additionally, without proper registration, you may face challenges in conducting legitimate business transactions, such as securing contracts or partnerships that often require evidence of official self-employed status.

While it may be tempting to operate in the informal sector, the legal and financial risks associated with working as self-employed without registering with HMRC far outweigh any perceived benefits. Ignorance is not considered a valid excuse. Penalties can also accrue for late registration, late filing of tax returns, and late payment of taxes.

Does it cost to register as self-employed in the UK?

Registering as self-employed in the UK is a cost-free process. HMRC provides this service without charge to ensure accessibility for anyone working for themselves. It’s important to distinguish this registration from other potential costs associated with self-employment, such as National Insurance contributions and income tax liabilities. Being aware of these distinctions contributes to a clear understanding of your financial obligations.

Registering for tax in self-employment

Registering for tax in self-employment is a highly important aspect of establishing your legal and financial obligations with HMRC. Once you’ve registered as self-employed, the next step involves managing your tax responsibilities. This process is integral to ensuring that your business remains compliant in the UK.

Managing your tax obligations involves keeping accurate records of your income and deductible expenses. Your taxable profit is determined by subtracting allowable business expenses from your total income. Common deductible expenses include business-related costs like office supplies, travel, and equipment.

Filing tax returns is an annual requirement for self-employed workers. HMRC uses the information provided in your tax return to calculate the amount of tax you owe. Additionally, National Insurance contributions are a vital part of your self-employment tax responsibilities. Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions are applicable, contributing to entitlements such as your pension, along with other benefits.

Seeking professional advice from an accountant or tax advisor is advisable, especially as your business grows and your tax affairs become more complex. Their expertise can help you optimise your tax position and navigate any changes in tax legislation that may impact your self-employment.

What should I do if I no longer run my business?

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re no longer running your business, it’s important to follow specific steps to properly conclude your self-employment status. Taking these measures will ensure you meet legal requirements and prevent any lingering tax-related issues.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on what to do if you no longer run your business.

Inform HMRC

Notify HMRC as soon as possible. You can use the online tools available through your HMRC account to update your status. Provide details about the cessation of your business activities, including the date when you stopped trading.

Finalise tax returns

Complete any outstanding tax returns for the final year of your self-employment. Ensure that you accurately report your income and allowable expenses up to the date you ceased trading. This will help determine your final tax liability.

Settle outstanding taxes

Pay any outstanding taxes owed to HMRC. This includes income tax and National Insurance contributions. This will avoid being left with any penalties and ensures a clean financial break from your self-employment.

Dispose of business assets

If you have any remaining business assets, determine their value and disposition. Whether you sell, transfer, or dispose of assets, keep accurate records for tax purposes.

Cancel VAT registration (if applicable)

If you were VAT registered, formally cancel your VAT registration with HMRC. Ensure that all outstanding VAT returns are filed, and any outstanding VAT liabilities are settled.

Close business bank accounts

If you have a separate business bank account, close it or convert it to a personal account. Ensure that all financial matters related to your business are resolved.

Inform other relevant authorities

Notify other relevant authorities, such as local councils or licensing bodies, if applicable, about the cessation of your business activities.

Retain business records

Hold onto your business records for at least five years, from the date of 31st January following the tax year to which they relate. This is important in case you receive any potential future inquiries from HMRC.

Other considerations of registering as self-employed

Beyond the fundamental aspects of registration, tax obligations, and closure procedures, there are several additional factors and considerations that self-employed people in the UK should keep in mind.

Incorporating these considerations into your self-employed work can contribute to long-term success, resilience in the face of challenges, and a fulfilling entrepreneurial experience. Regularly reassessing and adapting to changes ensures that your business remains dynamic and well-positioned for growth in the ever-evolving landscape of self-employment.

Retirement planning

As a self-employed person, you are responsible for your retirement planning. Consider contributing to a personal pension scheme, which can offer tax advantages and help secure your financial future.

Financial planning

Develop a comprehensive financial plan for your self-employment venture. This includes budgeting, setting aside funds for taxes, and planning for both short-term and long-term financial goals.

Networking and marketing

Building a reliable network and implementing strong marketing strategies are vital for the growth of your self-employed business. Set up a website, make the most of online advertising and social media, attend industry events, and build professional relationships to enhance your business presence.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Stay updated on industry trends, regulations, and best practices through continuous professional development. Attend workshops, watch webinars, and take relevant courses to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Record keeping and bookkeeping

Maintain meticulous records of your income and expenses. Invest in a reliable bookkeeping system to streamline financial management and facilitate accurate tax reporting.

Business structure evaluation

Regularly assess your business structure to ensure it aligns with your evolving needs. You might consider consulting with a business advisor or accountant to see whether a change in structure could be beneficial.

Health and wellbeing

Self-employment can be demanding, both mentally and physically. Prioritise your health and wellbeing by establishing a work-life balance, taking breaks, and seeking support when needed.

Legal compliance

Keep abreast of changes in legislation and regulatory requirements relevant to your industry. Regularly review and update your business practices to remain compliant with the law.

Emergency fund

Establish an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or periods of lower income. This financial buffer provides stability during challenging times and safeguards your business against unforeseen circumstances.

Environmental impact

Consider the environmental impact of your business operations. Implement sustainable practices where possible, as societal and consumer awareness of eco-friendly businesses continues to grow.

Technological integration

Embrace technology to streamline your business processes. Try out accounting software, project management tools, and other technology solutions to boost your efficiency and productivity.

Client contracts

Clearly define terms and conditions in your client contracts or service agreements. Clarity in expectations can prevent misunderstandings and disputes.

Succession planning

Develop a succession plan for your business, especially if you plan to retire or pass on the business in the future. This plan outlines the steps for a smooth transition of ownership or closure.

Get small business insurance with Protectivity

If you’re starting your own business, there are additional measures you can take to protect yourself after registering as self-employed. While it may not be a legal requirement, having appropriate insurance can provide financial protection in unforeseen circumstances.

Protectivity’s small business insurance has been specifically created to support you in the event that claims are brought against your business. Public liability is automatically included and protects you if you’re sued by a third party; for example, for an injury or property damage suffered by a client or member of the public. There’s also employers’ liability for anyone with a team, ensuring that you’re protected against claims from workers who become injured or ill.

Find out more and get an instant quote suited to your needs.