The complete guide to tax returns for the self-employed

Jun 18, 2021

In this free downloadable guide we look at what self-employed people need to know about completing their personal tax return, whether they’re sole traders or in a business partnership.

It covers everything you might need to know about income tax self-assessment and answers all the most common questions, such as…

  • How do you define self-employment?
  • Who isn’t self-employed?
  • Does a self-employed person always need to file a tax return?
  • Can I file my own tax return?
  • How do I register for self-assessment?
  • Deadlines and penalties
  • Making Tax Digital (MTD)
  • National Insurance contributions (NICs)
  • Allowable business expenses

We’ve includes a taster from the guide below. If you’d like to read more simply enter your details and away you go.


A sample from the guide

How do you define self-employment?

Do you spend at least part of your time doing paid work as your own boss? Then you are self-employed.

Although, of course, it’s more complicated than that. HMRC offers the following definition:

“A person is self-employed if they run their business for themselves and take responsibility for its success or failure.

“Self-employed workers aren’t paid through PAYE, and they don’t have the employment rights and responsibilities of employees.

“Someone can be both employed and self-employed at the same time, for example if they work for an employer during the day and run their own business in the evenings.”

Most self-employed people are either classed as sole traders or in a business partnership.

Who isn’t self-employed?

If most of your income is from a permanent job at someone else’s business, you’re not self-employed.

That’s true even if you make a small amount of money from side hustles, as long as it’s less than £1,000 per year – the threshold for the ‘trading allowance’.

If your business operates as a limited company, HMRC won’t classify you as self-employed. Instead, you’ll be considered a director and treated as both employee and owner.

Contractors can be self-employed, but not if they operate through an agency, through their own limited company or as temporary employees.

Does a self-employed person always need to file a tax return?

It’s hard to think of any justification for a self-employed person not to complete a tax return.

If your gross income from self employment is less than £1000 and you have no other reason to file a return, you do not need to report this income to HMRC. If it is more than £1000 then HMRC will expect you to complete a return.

That’s partly because while employees’ earnings can easily be tracked via PAYE, self-employed people would essentially be off the Government’s radar without completing tax returns.

Unlike steady nine-to-five jobs, self-employment can also mean fluctuations in earnings from month to month and year to year – and from multiple sources. Your tax return is how HMRC understands where your income has come from and decides what tax you owe.

Self-employed people have greater freedom, in many ways, and maintain greater control over the amount of tax they pay. Completing a tax return is, unfortunately, the trade-off.

Although filing a personal tax return can be fiddly and time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be too scary, with the right support.