Self Assessment how-to part 1: Registering for Self Assessment

Guides, Money

In the run-up to the Self Assessment online submission deadline of January 31st, we’ll be running a series of how-to articles explaining how freelancers and contractors can complete their Self Assessment tax return with the minimum of fuss. In part one, we look at registering for Self Assessment Online.

To complete your Self Assessment online, you first need to register with HMRC to tell them you need to submit a tax return. You can learn about the process here. You can register either online, by phone or by post (by completing form SA1 – PDF download here – and sending it to your local tax office). To register you will need:

  • Your National Insurance Number
  • Your personal details and those of your business

Do I need to complete a Self Assessment?

If you are a freelancer, yes! As a general rule Self Assessments are for anyone who receives income that is not taxed “at source”. In the case of a sole trader, the income you receive via your invoices does not have National Insurance contributions or Income Tax subtracted from it, so you must tell HMRC about that income on your Self Assessment so they can calculate what, if any, tax you owe.

Other examples of income not taxed “at source” includes rental income from any property you may own, or income from abroad.

If you are the Director of a limited company you must complete a Self Assessment, so freelancers who have incorporated must file too!

When do I have to register?

The registration deadline is October 5th following the tax year for which you wish to submit a return.

For example, if you went freelance and set up your own business in June 2010, you would need to submit a Self Assessment for that tax year, which runs from 6th April 2010 until 5th April 2011. To submit that Self Assessment, you would need to register by October 5th 2011, in order to submit it (and pay any owed taxes) by January 31st 2012. All a bit confusing, if you ask us. You can read more about tax and financial years here.

If you miss the registration deadline there are penalties you must pay, but all is not lost! If you can prove to HMRC that your intentions are good and you still manage to submit your Self Assessment on time, these penalties can be reduced or even eradicated entirely – your accountant can help you with the appeals process.

What will I get when I register?

Your reward for registering for Self Assessment will be a Unique Taxpayer Reference Number (or UTR Number). This is a ten-digit number that HMRC allocate to those needing to complete Self Assessment to help streamline the process. You will only have one UTR (much like a National Insurance Number), so if you have previously registered for Self Assessment you need not get a new one.

After you have registered for Self Assessment HMRC will send you your UTR in the post (aren’t they adorable?), and you will need it to submit subsequent Self Assessments, so keep a record of it!

Do I have to register every year?

No! Once you are registered you will be reminded to submit a Self Assessment every year until you inform HMRC you no longer need to complete one. This could be because you return to full-time employment, move abroad etc. etc.

Bear in mind if you inform HMRC you no longer need to complete a Self Assessment, but further down the road end up in a situation where you need to start filing personal tax again you will have to re-register, and get a new UTR.

Go back to the Self Assessment Guide

Go to Part 2: Keeping proper records

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

  • Rosie Slosek @1ManBandAccts

    Brilliant post. I’d remind people to really get on with it if you need to register for Self Assessment Online as the waiting time is several weeks, and it’ll get longer the closer we get to the deadline.

  • Alice Tucker

    I just started out as a freelancer (writing) in May. I am not currently earning much money but i am keeping records etc of what I do earn. I have kind of been avoiding looking into tax because it confuses the hell out of me! It was only when I got a letter through from the student loans company earlier in the week asking for my updated info that I realised that I really need to start looking into it. Under the self-employed section of the student loans form it mentions a unique tax payer reference. Please excuse my ignorance, but can I apply for this now having only been self employed since may?