How to register self employed with HMRC

Chris Andreou

April 21, 2021

how to register as self employed guide

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Registering Self Employed

From starting your side business to going freelance full-time, becoming self-employed can feel scary and exciting all at once. 

Before you jump right in, you need to ensure that you're staying on the right side of the law- and this begins with registering as self-employed with HMRC.

In doing so, you can be sure that you're paying the right amount of income tax and National Insurance Contributions, and thereby avoid paying unnecessary financial penalties. 

Ready to get started? We've got all the information you need below:

What counts as being self-employed?

While it's pretty straightforward for most people, there are instances where your employment status isn't obvious. You're likely to be self-employed if the following factors apply:

  • You run your own business
  • You're able to decide when and how you work, as well as what you work on
  • You have the option of hiring other people
  • You have more than one client or customer concurrently
  • You aren't paid a regular wage or salary
  • You receive income that isn't taxed under PAYE for goods or services you provide 

It's also possible to be employed and self-employed at the same time, such as when you're doing freelance work on top of your day job.  

Tip: If you're still unsure, check out the HMRC Employment Status Indicator tool. You'll be asked a series of questions to determine your employment status. You can also call up HMRC to ask about your employment status. 

Self Employed Registration Guide

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Self Employed Registration Guide

When should I register as self-employed?

You need to register as soon as you become self-employed. It doesn't matter if you haven't yet found work or brought in income, as HMRC considers your business to be in operation the moment you start actively seeking work-such as when you begin your marketing activities.  

If you fail to register within three months of starting your business, you'll be charged a fine of £100. Further delays may result in additional penalties. 

How do I register as self employed?

You'll need to register as self-employed if you're setting up as a sole trader or partnership.

You won't need to register if you're setting up a limited company, as you'll be considered as both the owner and an employee of the business. This process is more complicated, and we'll cover this in a separate article on setting up a limited company

As a sole trader, you can register: 

  • Online: Fill in this form if you've sent a return online before. If you haven't sent a return online previously, you'll need to register first. 
  • Or by post: Fill up this form, print it out and then post it to HMRC. 

If you're setting up a partnership, you can register:

A pile of self employed registration papers on the floor

What happens after I've registered?

As a self-employed individual, there are several key legal obligations you need to fulfil. These include: 

Filing your Self Assessment tax return

You'll need to file your Self Assessment tax return by 31st January each year.  

Paying your taxes on time

In addition to income tax, you'll also need to pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance Contributions. These payments need to be made by 31st January and 31st July each year. 

Maintaining proper records

Fulfilling other legal obligations, such as filing your tax return correctly is made easier when you maintain proper records. Be sure to keep track of all sales and income, expenses, as well as payroll records if you have employees.

Ensure that you've kept a copy of important documents-such as receipts, bank statements and invoices. After you've filed your tax return for a specific year, all relevant documents pertaining to that year must be kept for five years. That's because HMRC may ask to review these, and you can be fined for failing to keep records. 

Self Employed Registration Guide

What's Inside:

  • What is a Sole Trader?
  • Sole trader advantages
  • Sole trader disadvantages
  • How to register self employed
  • Sole trader responsibilities
  • Self employed tax
  • Important self employed deadlines
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Self Employed Registration Guide

What's Inside:

  • What is a Sole Trader?
  • Sole trader advantages
  • Sole trader disadvantages
  • How to register self employed
  • Sole trader responsibilities
  • Self employed tax
  • Important self employed deadlines

Do I get extra support with registering as self-employed if I have additional needs?

HMRC provides support for individuals with additional needs. An individual may require extra support if he or she:

  • Has dyslexia, autism or cognitive difficulties
  • Has reduced mobility or physical disabilities
  • Has sensory disabilities, like a visual, hearing or speech impairment
  • Has mental health conditions, like depression, stress or anxiety
  • Is experiencing financial hardship
  • Is a victim of domestic abuse, including economic abuse
  • Is hospitalised


HMRC can help in a variety of ways, including extending deadlines, providing information in a different format, organising an interpreter and more. Further information is available on Gov.uk’s extra support resource.

What business insurance do I need as a self-employed person?

Professional indemnity insurance, public and product liability insurance, business contents insurance, employers’ liability insurance, management liability insurance and cyber insurance are some examples of covers that self-employed workers—such as freelancers, contractors and small business owners—typically need.  

Your insurance needs will vary, depending on factors such as the type of work you do, whether you’re hiring employees or if your clients require you to have a certain type of insurance cover. 

For instance, if you have employees, having employers’ liability insurance is mandatory in the UK. Or if you’re subcontractor for a primary contractor, you may be required to have public liability insurance. 

If you need help with deciding on the type of cover you need, refer to our article on key questions you should ask yourself before you get business insurance. 

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How to register self employed with HMRC

From starting your side business to going freelance full-time, becoming self-employed can feel scary and exciting all at once.

Before you jump right in, you need to ensure that you're staying on the right side of the law- and this begins with registering as self-employed with HMRC.

In doing so, you can be sure that you're paying the right amount of income tax and National Insurance Contributions, and thereby avoid paying unnecessary financial penalties.

Ready to get started? We've got all the information you need below:

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What is a sole trader?

If you're planning to start out on your own, one of the most important decisions you'll need to make is figuring out how you should structure your business.

As a freelancer, contractor or small business owner, there are three main types of legal structures you should consider:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Limited company
  • Working through an umbrella company

It's a decision that requires careful consideration, and it's important that you seek advice from qualified professionals when you weigh out the pros and cons of each business structure. To begin with, you need to have a good grasp of the basics-and here's where our guide comes into the picture.

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How do I register for Online HMRC Services?

You will obtain a login for HMRC online services when you register for tax online.

You register when you notify HMRC that:

  • You need to send a Self Assessment tax return
  • You want to set up a personal tax account
  • You have set up a limited company or other organisation that needs to pay Corporation Tax
  • Your business needs to register for PAYE
  • Your business needs to register for VAT
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Self employed tax obligations guide

When you're self-employed, you have unique financial obligations-especially when it comes to paying your taxes.

When you work for a larger corporation, or even a relatively small business, your company takes on a large percentage of handling your tax responsibilities for you.

As a freelancer or small business owner, you're on your own. You work as an independent contractor for each of the clients you work for-and they don't take taxes out of your check before they send it to you.

How then should you handle the responsibility of paying your taxes?

This guide will help you get started:

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How do I setup a Direct Debit to HMRC?

You can set up a Direct Debit through your HMRC online account (you'll need to use your UTR number). If you're setting up a Direct Debit for the first time, you'll need to allow five working days for the Direct Debit to be set up.

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Self Employed Registration Guide

  • What is a Sole Trader?
  • Sole trader advantages
  • Sole trader disadvantages
  • How to register self employed
  • Sole trader responsibilities
  • Self employed tax
  • Important self employed deadlines
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How do I pay HMRC early?

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7 Advantages of Being a Sole Trader

7 Advantages of Being a Sole Trader

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What is a Sole Trader: Meaning & Definition

7 Characteristics For Defining Sole Traders

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How do I register as a Sole Trader?

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Self Employed Registration Guide

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