How to Register as Self Employed with HMRC

I’ve updated this post on 12 June 2020

Whether you’ve already started working for yourself, want to make the ‘leap’ or plan to turn a hobby into a fully-fledged business, then I’m sure that the thought of how to register as self-employed is lurking somewhere at the back of your mind!

In this guide, I’ll show you how you can make things official with HMRC and share the 5 steps you need to take and some advice about what you can expect to happen next, as well as your legal responsibilities once you are signed up as self-employed!

This guide is for individuals who want to register as self-employed. There are other business structures available such as Limited Company, Partnerships and LLPs. Not sure what business structure is right for you? Read this Guide.

Who Needs to Register as Self-Employed in the UK

First things first, it pays to check whether you actually need to register with HMRC because not everyone needs to.

Avoiding registering can save you a lot of hassle!

When you work for yourself you’ll need to apply for self employment once your business income (not profit) is £1,000 or more during a single tax year.

A tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t register if you are getting paid less than £1,000.

In fact, many people choose to apply anyway because they:

  • expect their turnover to increase beyond this;
  • don’t want to miss the registration deadline and avoid any potential HMRC penalties;
  • want to lock in a tax saving in future years by recording a tax loss to use against future profits.

Actually, HMRC’s recommended approach is that everyone should register as self-employed once they start working for themselves, regardless of how much they get paid.

The £1,000 exemption is really just designed for people who do odd jobs, babysitting or sell small amounts through eBay or car boot sales, for example.

£1,000 Trading Income Allowance

The Deadline for Registering as Self-Employed with HMRC

The deadline for registering as self-employed is the 5th October in your business’s second tax year.  

The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

So if you started working for yourself on 1 March 2019, you’ll need to register by 5 October 2019.

What Happens if You Miss the Deadline?

You shouldn’t ignore the 5th October deadline because there are penalties for missing it, which can be up to 30% of your tax liability.

How to Register as Self Employed in the UK

Registering is simple enough to do yourself and once completed you’ll expect to:

But let’s start at the beginning.

The easiest way to apply it is to either:

  • Go Online or;
  • Phone HMRC.

How to Register Online

Before you start applying online, make sure you have your National Insurance number handy.

You’ll then need to complete the following 5 steps:

  1. Visit the HMRC website and choose the option to “Register Online”;
  2. Set up your HMRC online account so you can manage your taxes online;
  3. Enrol for self-assessment online;
  4. Wait for your UTR number to be posted to you (can take up to 10 days)
  5. Wait for your activation code so you can complete setup of your HMRC online account (can take 7 – 10 days).

Need my help? Here’s my video guide to help you register as self-employed.

How to Register by Phone

You can apply to register as self-employed by phone if you call HMRC on 0300 200 3500.

HMRC’s opening times are as follows:

Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm
Saturday: 8am to 4pm

How to Apply for Self Employment if You Are Already Registered for Self-Assessment

If you already fill out a tax return for another reason, for example, because you are a landlord or have dividend income, then you should not apply for self-employment again. If you register again, HMRC will set you up on their system for a second time and expect two tax returns from you!

Instead, you should complete a CWF1 Form online.

Completing the CWF1 Form Online

You’ll need certain information to complete the form online so that HMRC can tie up your application to the right person.

Here’s what you need to have ready:

How to Find the 2019/2020 CWF1 Form Online

Head over to the HMRC website where you can find the latest version of the 2019/2020 CWF1 form online.

It is fairly straightforward to fill out and you’ll be given the opportunity to review the form before you submit it.

cwf1 form online

How Long Does it Take for HMRC to Process Your Application?

HMRC’s guidance says the self-employment registration process takes 7 – 10 days to complete. However, there can be delays with this timescales.

To get an up to date estimate of how long your application will take you can call HMRC on 0300 200 3310.

You’ll need to wait for two things:

  • An activation code to complete the setup of your HMRC Government Gateway account;
  • A UTR number that completes your registration.

Contacting HMRC About Your Application

If you have a question about your application or think you have made a mistake then you should call HMRC on 0300 200 3310.

Wrapping Up

Once you have successfully applied for self employment you’ll receive a UTR number to make it official and you’ll need to follow the rules of self-assessment.

You’ll need to follow the rules of self assessment, which includes working out your own taxes, pay income tax as well as class 2 and class 4 national insurance and completing a self assessment tax return online by 31 January each year.

New Here? Learn how to set up the financial side of your business with these easy to understand guides and resources:

  • Sole Trader or Limited Company? – Download my free calculator to check which business structure would help you to pay less tax;
  • Tax Records and Bookkeeping – Understand what tax records you’ll need to keep and how to set up your own bookkeeping system;
  • Self Employment Taxes Explained – Learn what taxes you’ll pay, how much and when;
  • VAT Guides – From registration to de-registration, VAT schemes and thresholds, these guides will take you through the basics every UK small business owner needs to know;
  • Invoice Template – Free template and step-by-step guide so you can get paid by your clients.
Anita Forrest
About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek, money nerd and creator of - the UK small business finance blog for the self-employed community. Here she shares simple, straight-forward guides to make self-employment topics like taxes, bookkeeping and banking easy to understand.