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Tax returns for the self-employed

If you're self-employed, you have to fill in a Self Assessment tax return every year. Each April or May HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will send you a letter telling you to complete a tax return or a paper tax return.

You'll be asked for information about profits from your business and other income that you have to pay tax on - such as rental income. This is used to work out how much tax and National Insurance contributions you have to pay. You must provide the correct information and get it to HMRC on time.

You must keep records so that you can fill in your tax return fully and accurately. The more detailed records you keep, the easier it will be to answer any questions that HMRC may have.

You may decide to use an accountant, but Self Assessment is designed to be as straightforward as possible so that you can do it yourself.

On this page:

Check that you are self-employed

The tax and National Insurance contributions you pay depend on whether you're self-employed or an employee - so it's important to check that you really are self-employed. You're usually self-employed if you can answer 'yes' to the following:

  • Do you have the final say in how the business is run?
  • Are you responsible for meeting any losses as well as taking any profits?
  • Can you hire someone on your own terms to do work for you?
  • Do you risk your own money?
  • Do you provide the main items of equipment you need to do your job?
  • Do you agree to do a job for a fixed price regardless of how long it may take?
  • Can you decide what work to do, how and when to work and where to provide the services?
  • Do you regularly work for a number of different people?
  • Do you have to correct unsatisfactory work in your own time and at your own expense?

You can be self-employed for some of your work, but an employee of another business as well.

You normally have to pay tax and National Insurance contributions as if you're an employee if

  • you work through an agency
  • you're a company director
  • you're the secretary of a club or the holder of any other office

If you're still unsure whether you count as self-employed, follow the link below for more guidance. Or you can contact your Tax Office or the HMRC Helpline for the Newly Self-Employed.

Read more about whether your work counts as self-employment or employment

Telephone or write to HMRC

Contact the Newly Self-Employed Helpline


Registering for Self Assessment

If you're self-employed you should register for business taxes with HMRC. You can do this online.

When you've registered, HMRC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference and set up the right tax and National Insurance records for you. They will ask you to complete a tax return each year.

Follow the link below to find out how and when to register for business taxes.

How to register for Self Assessment


Dealing with your Self Assessment tax return

Once you're registered with HMRC, you'll receive a letter, usually in April or May, telling you to when you need to send your first return. HMRC may get in touch earlier if you need to send a tax return back for a previous tax year. If you don't receive a letter or a tax return, you should contact HMRC.

It's best to complete and send back your tax return online. There are many advantages to sending the tax return online, for example:

  • the deadline is later
  • you'll get an immediate confirmation when the return is received
  • your tax is worked out for you

If you're self-employed and you send a paper tax return (SA100), you'll also have to complete either:

  • SA103S - if your turnover is below £79,000
  • SA103F - if your turnover is £79,000 or more

Self Assessment Online - find out how to sign up

Completing your tax return - find out more

Go to Self Assessment tax returns, supplementary pages and helpsheets


If you're no longer self-employed

If you stop self-employment, you still need to fill in a Self Assessment tax return for the tax year in which your self-employment ends. The tax year runs from 6 April to the following 5 April.

Show the date that you stopped being self-employed on the self-employment pages of your tax return.

If you receive a tax return the following year, and think you don't need to complete one, get in touch with HMRC as soon as possible.

Find out more about closing or selling a business

Contact the Self Assessment Helpline


Self Assessment deadlines

The tax year runs from 6 April to the following 5 April.

Tax return deadlines

You can send partnership and partners' returns on paper or online. The deadlines are:

  • 31 October after the end of the tax year for paper returns
  • 31 January after the end of the tax year for online tax returns

Payment deadlines

The deadlines for paying any tax due are:

  • 31 January. This is the payment deadline for what you owe for the previous tax year. It's also the deadline for making your first payment on account towards the current year's tax bill if one is due.
  • 31 July. This is the deadline for your second payment on account - if one is due.

You may have to pay a penalty if you miss these deadlines.

Tax return and payment deadlines - find out more


Keeping the right records

You must normally keep your business records for 5 more years after the normal tax return deadline of 31 January. This date applies even if you've sent in a paper tax return.

You may need to keep them for longer if you send your return back late or if HMRC tell you they are checking your tax return.

Keep any information and documents that you may need to help you fill in your tax return or to make a claim. The records you'll need to keep depend on your specific circumstances.

Record keeping for the self-employed - learn more


More useful links

Tax return deadlines and penalties

Understanding and using Self Assessment Online

How to pay your tax

Tax returns for partners and partnerships