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How to Register as Self-Employed in the UK

Despite the extra amount of time and effort it takes, many expats decide to register as self-employed in the UK. There are several types of business structures to choose from. In our InterNations Guide, you can learn about how to register as self-employed in the UK as a sole trader, limited company, or partnership.
Starting your own business in the UK can be an exciting endeavor.
  • Sole traders are personally liable for any financial losses while as a limited company the business is a legally separated entity.
  • When taking up self-employment, you need to inform the HRMC, register for Self Assessment tax returns, as well as get a National Insurance Number.
  • A partner in a business partnership does not always have to be a person, it can also be another company.


In the 2016 Doing Business Report issued annually by the World Bank Group, the UK ranked sixth in terms of overall ease of doing business. Nevertheless, if you decide to register as self-employed in the UK, there are still several things to keep in mind. If you are going to be starting a new business in the UK, you’ll need to do your research on the current market there, write a good business plan, and secure enough start-up capital to get your business off the ground. If you are going to be continuing your previous freelance activities, there are still lots of steps you’ll have to take to register as self-employed in the UK.

Are You a Sole Trader?

As a sole trader, you work for yourself and run your own business as an individual. This means that you can keep all the profits you make after paying taxes. It also means that you are personally liable for any financial losses. Sole traders are permitted to hire employees. Make sure to keep good records of anything you buy for your business, as well as all outgoing expenses. Further, you need to send in a Self Assessment tax return annually and pay self-employed national insurance and income tax on your profits.

The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) classes sole traders as self-employed. If you’re not sure what your employment status is, use the HMRC’s Employment Status Indicator. You can find more information on how to register as self-employed in the UK as a sole trader on the UK government’s website.

Your Choice between Sole Trader and Limited Company

Many expats who register as self-employed in the UK set up a private limited company. The advantage of incorporating as a limited company is that your business then becomes a legally separate entity, which means that your personal assets will remain protected even if your business fails.

Another thing to take into consideration when making the choice between setting up as a sole trader or a limited company is tax rates. If your profits exceed the higher tax rate threshold, which was set at 43,001 GBP as of 6 April 2016, then it is better from a tax standpoint to register your business as a limited company.

How to Incorporate Your Limited Company

A limited company needs a registered office in the UK, at least one director, and at least one shareholder. You must register with Companies House and choose a name for your company. You can check if the name you wish to give your company is already taken using the WebCHeck service offered through Companies House.

To help navigate the legal and financial aspects of registering your limited company, you may wish to hire a formation agent. The Companies House website provides a list of Formation & Company Secretarial Agents. Once you have successfully completed the registration process, you will receive a Certificate of Incorporation. This document serves as confirmation of the legal existence of your company and includes the company number and date of foundation. You can find more information about incorporating your private limited company, including all the documents necessary for registration, on the UK government's website.

Find information on business partnerships, business taxation, and insurance on the second page of this article.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


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Expat Guide Great Britain

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