The simplest way to start a business in the UK is to become self employed. This is also commonly referred to as becoming a sole trader.
There is minimal paperwork to take care of, and you don’t have to pay any company formation costs. However, you do need to formally register as self employed with HMRC, and assume responsibility to pay your own income tax and National Insurance liabilities.
Here are the steps you must take to if you want to become self employed, plus the other aspects you will also need to consider when working for yourself:
Register with HMRC to tell them you are becoming self employed
You must notify HMRC within 3 months of becoming self-employed. You can do this in one of these three ways:
1. Register online here.
2. Call the Newly Self Employed Helpline on 0845 915 4515.
3. If you want to register by post, you will need to fill in Form CWF1 here.
Don’t forget to register with HMRC within the 3 month deadline, or you will be fined £100.
Decide on a name for your new business name
What are you going to call your business? For many new business owners, this is the most exciting start-up task and one that lots of time is spent on!
Some people simply trade under their own name, or say they are; ‘Your Name trading as Business Name‘. For example, if you were John Smith you could opt for, ‘John Smith trading as John Smith Plumbers’.
Don’t forget to check that no-one else is using the same name. There is no register of business names used by self-employed people so you should do an online search to see whether someone is already running a business with your preferred name.
If someone has beaten you to it, then you’ll need to think again, and come up with an alternative name for your new business.
Being self-employed means you are responsible for your own tax and National Insurance liabilities
Once you have registered as self-employed with HMRC you will become responsible for calculating and paying your own tax and National Insurance liabilities. This means that you will need to complete and submit a self-assessment tax return to HMRC every year.
The vast majority of sole traders get their accountant to deal with their tax affairs. A good accountant can safely negotiate this complex area, and can advise you on ways of paying less tax.
A smart move is to put tax money aside in a separate bank account from day one. If you do this, you will never find yourself scrabbling around and looking behind the sofa to find the money to meet a tax payment. Your accountant will be able to guide you on how much tax you can expect to pay.
As a sole trader, you will also be responsible for paying your own National Insurance Contributions (NICs).
You will need to pay Class 2 NICs – currently £2.80 a week, and also extra Class 4 contributions which is currently 9% on annual profits between £8,060 and £42,385, and 2% on profits above £42,385 (2015/16 tax year).
The rules aren’t straightforward, so it’s wise to consult your accountant for advice specific to your financial situation.
Should you register for VAT?
If your business has, or is likely to have, an annual turnover of more than the current VAT registration threshold, you will need to register for VAT. The registration threshold for the year from April 2015 is £82,000.
You will need to keep a close eye on how well your new business is doing, because once your annual turnover passes the threshold, you only have 30 days to register.
You don’t have to wait for your turnover to reach the threshold to register for VAT. You can become VAT-registered at any time.
In some cases, it might be beneficial for you to register for VAT as soon as you start up. For more details on VAT read;
With some types of business, you need to get a licence before you can start working. For example, if you want to set up as a taxi driver you will need to apply for a licence from your local authority.
It’s the same for many other types of work, including being a child minder running a restaurant or pub, or being a market trader. And to get a licence, you will typically have to do some specific training and gain relevant qualifications.
You may also have to go through an inspection to ensure your business is shipshape and legal.
Should you go self employed or set up a limited company?
When you are starting a new business the decision on whether to become self employed or to form a limited company is an important one.
Read ByteStart’s guide to 10 advantages of running your business as a limited company instead of being self employed to find out some of the key differences between these two business structures.
You should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of the options, and discuss with your accountant before jumping in.
More help and advice on starting up
ByteStart is packed with information and advice on becoming self employed and starting a new business. The following guides should help you to get your new venture up and running;
- 5 things you must do when you go self employed
- ByteStart’s guide to tax for the self employed
- The start-up survival guide – 6 practical tips to help you get through the early years
- Why it’s important you plan your exit strategy before you start your business
- Which types of business insurance is your new business legally required to have?
Duport offers a Sole Trader Package which will help you get up and running as a sole trader in a matter of hours (including the forms you need to register with HMRC).