Registering as self employed

To register, you will need to contact your tax office and request your Unique Taxpayer Reference number (UTR) – this is the number you need to quote on invoices for your self-employed work so you can get paid without the organisation paying you taking off tax and paying it to HMRC on your behalf.

Having a UTR means that any organisation paying you will know to pay you all the amount and you will be responsible for paying tax.

Everyone who has a National Insurance number also has a UTR by default, but finding this out from HMRC can be difficult.  We’ve heard – and experienced – a wide variety of stories from artists trying to find out their UTR from HMRC and become self-employed – from bald refusal that there is such a thing as a self-employment number to requests to fill in forms and return them and are never heard from again, all the way round to simply telephoning their tax office and getting the number given to them immediately over the phone.  HMRC publishes their preferred method for registering as self-employed on their website and we supplement this with some tips of our own.

  • Be quietly persistent – call your tax office regularly, note who you speak to each time and politely request your UTR each time until you get it. If you know the PAYE reference of your most recent employer, you can call them direct.
  • Let them know that you have work coming up or already past that you need to invoice for, and you can’t get paid until you receive your UTR.  You cannot register for a UTR in advance of getting work.
  • Make sure that information or forms you send them has been received and is being acted upon by calling and following it up.

It’s a good idea to carefully record what money you spend in relation to your business (your self-employment as an artist) so you know what payments are relevant to your tax return and what are personal expenses.  You may decide to open a business bank account, but this is not legally necessary (although it may be convenient if you spend and earn a lot in your business), and they usually charge fees.

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