Follow this step-by-step guide on how to apply for a UTR number from HMRC and find out what it means once you have received your code.
Table of contents
- 1. What is a UTR number?
- 2. Who Needs to Apply for a UTR Number?
- 3. How to Get a UTR Number Online
- 4. How to Get a UTR Number by Phone
- 5. How Long Does Registration Take?
- 6. What Happens Once You Are Registered With HMRC
- 7. Do I Need a UTR number for Amazon?
- 8. Do I need to Include my UTR on my Invoice?
- 9. How to Get a Temporary UTR Number
- 10. How Do I Cancel My UTR?
- 11. Is My UTR Number the Same for My Limited Company?
Friendly Disclaimer: Whilst I am an accountant, I’m not your accountant. The information in this article is legally correct but it is for guidance and information purposes only. Everyone’s situation is different and unique so you’ll need to use your own best judgement when applying the advice that I give to your situation. If you are unsure or have a question be sure to contact a qualified professional because mistakes can result in penalties.
1. What is a UTR number?
UTR stands for ‘Unique Taxpayer Reference’ and it is a 10 digit number that HMRC issues to UK individuals who work for themselves or receive taxable income that they need to declare such as rental income or dividends. Your number is totally unique to you, just like your passport number or National Insurance number.
2. Who Needs to Apply for a UTR Number?
You need to register for a UK UTR number so HMRC can identify who you are along with details about your income, tax returns and whether you need to start paying tax. It’s a bit like a National Insurance number that tells the government how much you have contributed and your entitlement to things like the state pension.
If you are in full-time employment you do not need to apply for a UTR number because your employer will be handling all your taxes on your behalf (you can check those deductions on your payslip). However, if you receive other forms of untaxed income, for example, from going self-employed or a side-hustle, then you may need to register with HMRC to declare that additional income.
Students may also need a UTR number that’s because everyone who works is subject to the rules of paying tax regardless of age or whether they are in education or not. However, you only start paying National Insurance once you are over the age of 16.
A UTR and CIS number are different. Therefore, if you’re going to work in the construction industry, you need to apply for a UTR number as well as register for the construction industry scheme. Once registered for both you will get your CIS card.
3. How to Get a UTR Number Online
The quickest way to get a UTR number online is to complete the application form on the HMRC website. However, you can also apply by phone (see below). Before you start the HMRC registration, make sure you have your National Insurance number handy. You’ll then need to complete the following steps:
- Visit the HMRC website and choose the option to “Register Online”;
- Set up your HMRC online account so you can manage your taxes online;
- Enrol for self-assessment online;
- Wait for your UTR number to be posted to you (can take up to 10 days)
- Wait for your activation code so you can complete setup of your HMRC online account.
3.1 Visit the HMRC Website
Head over to the HMRC website to get started with their registration service.
3.2 Create HMRC Online Account
Next, you’ll need to create an HMRC online account called “Government Gateway Account”. This is where you can check on your taxes, get messages from HMRC and fill in your tax return online.
To get set up, you’ll need to start by entering a valid email address. You’ll need this to confirm the completion of your UTR application so make sure you have access to it.
You’ll be emailed a code. Enter the code to continue with the application.
Once entered correctly, you will receive the message “Email address confirmed”.
Continue with your application by entering your full name and press continue.
Once you have set up your HMRC online account, you’ll be issued with a User ID (12 digit number) and be asked to set up a password. Keep a note of your user ID and password; they are essential for getting your UTR and filing your tax return online.
3.3 Enrol for Self-Assessment Online
Once you have set up your Government Gateway account, you’ll need to let HMRC know more details about you so they can send you a UTR number.
You’ll need to provide information about yourself including:
- Personal details
- Date of birth
- National Insurance number
- The date you went or are planning to go self-employed
3.4 Wait for your UTR number to be posted to you
Your UTR will be posted out to you. There’s no such thing as an emergency UTR or temporary code. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for HMRC to complete your application to get your number.
3.5 Wait for your activation code so you can complete setup of your HMRC online account
You need to enter your activation code so you can complete setup of your .GOV self assessment account. This is really important because you won’t be able to file your tax return online if you can’t get into the account; meaning you may face self-assessment penalties starting at £100. Your activation code expires so make sure you enter it as soon as you receive it.
4. How to Get a UTR Number by Phone
You can phone HMRC on 0300 200 3310 to apply for your UTR number.
Again, you’ll need to have your National Insurance number ready and they will ask for various information to get you set up.
5. How Long Does Registration Take?
It can take anything from one week up to one month for HMRC to approve your UTR application and issue your tax number; it all depends on how busy they are. If you are concerned your application isn’t being dealt with quickly, then call HMRC on 0300 200 3310 to check the status. They’ll also be able to give you an estimate of how long it will take to be issued.
6. What Happens Once You Are Registered With HMRC
Once registered with HMRC, you’ll be registered for self assessment and need to fill in a tax return once a year, by 31 January, and work out your taxes. You’ll also be responsible for keeping records of your income and expenses, known as bookkeeping and tax-records as evidence of what you have declared to HMRC on your tax return. In addition to declaring your income on a tax return, you’ll also need to pay any tax you owe by the 31 January and 31 July every year.
7. Do I Need a UTR number for Amazon?
Although you can earn up to £1,000 tax-free in the UK, without letting HMRC know (which is known as the Trading Income Allowance), to sign up as an Amazon Seller you are required to have a UTR number. Whilst there is some uncertainty about the reasons behind this, I would imagine that Amazon is protecting their platform and their users. An individual who is signed up as self-employed is perceived to be a more serious seller who is willing to pay taxes. So, regardless of the amount you intend to turnover if you wish to become a seller on Amazon you’ll need to apply to get a UTR number.
8. Do I need to Include my UTR on my Invoice?
No, due to its confidential nature you shouldn’t include it on invoices for security reasons. Alternatively, you can include your National Insurance number if a contractor or client asks you for it.
9. How to Get a Temporary UTR Number
Unlike payslips where there are emergency tax codes, there is no such thing as a temporary UTR number. The online application system means that it would take just as long to receive a temporary one as a permanent one as well as resulting in a lot of confusion for HMRC.
10. How Do I Cancel My UTR?
To cancel a UTR number you’ll need to de-register for self-assessment, complete tax returns covering the period until you stopped working for yourself and pay any outstanding tax.
11. Is My UTR Number the Same for My Limited Company?
If you are setting up a business and have, or are planning to, form a Limited Company your LTD will have its own UTR number for corporation tax purposes. That’s because a Limited Company is its own separate entity. Directors of Limited Companies should register for self-assessment so will need a personal UTR number.