Tax guide for self-employed professionals

Customisable business insurance
25 January 2022
8 minute read

This article was updated in March 2024.

Ask any self-employed professional what their favourite thing about being self-employed is and you’ll likely hear answers like ‘flexibility’ and ‘freedom’. What you certainly won’t hear is dealing with ‘taxes’ (or insurance, we admit) — and for good reason!

While taxes for employees are looked after by the employer, being self-employed comes with the burden of being totally accountable filing and paying you own taxes.

Taxes for self-employed professionals

Can I pay tax monthly if self-employed?

In short, no. While pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE) means that employees’ taxes are paid on a monthly basis, if you’re self-employed, you’ll have to pay your tax on an annual basis. However, there’s a slight caveat to this.

If the flexibility of being self-employed works for you, but paying income tax on an annual basis doesn’t, working under an umbrella company is something you may like to explore.

An umbrella company is a type of limited company that is set up to act as an employer for self-employed professionals. It provides a payroll service, which means that income tax is paid annually for any work performed through the umbrella company and some even offer benefits.

This can simplify things, but remember that you most likely will still need to file a return (it’ll just be simpler, hopefully!)

What key dates do I need to remember?

Fortunately there aren’t many dates to remember when it comes to your taxes. The key ones to think about are as follows:

  1. The tax year runs from 6 April to the 5 April the following year. This means that you have approximately nine months each year to prepare your return for the previous year, if submitting it online — and six if submitting it by paper.
  2. If you haven’t already done so, 5 October is the deadline to register as self-employed.
  3. 31 October is the deadline for submitting paper returns for the previous tax year and 31 January is the deadline for online returns.
  4. Pay the tax you owe: midnight, 31 January after the tax year in question ends. For example, for the 2022/23 tax year, the payment deadline will be 31 January 2024.

You can download a calendar of other key business dates throughout 2024.

How much tax do I need to pay?

Tax may seem complex, but it’s one of those things that you need to spend time getting to grips with and once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to tackle your taxes year after year with far less stress.

In the next three sections, we’ll explain the basics when it comes to business expenses and how to take care of your income tax and National Insurance contributions.


Before considering income tax or anything else, it’s a good idea to get your expenses sorted first, as many expenses are deductible from your gross income before calculating your final tax bill.

What constitutes a ‘business expense’?

An easy rule-of-thumb is to ask yourself: is the expense directly connected to the running of my business? Examples of common business expenses include:

  • Business travel costs — including fuel and parking
  • Staff costs (e.g. salaries, freelancers)
  • Business equipment costs (e.g. laptops)
  • Utilities (e.g. electricity, internet, gas and water)

If you’re operating as a sole trader or a partnership (not involving a limited company) you can opt for ‘simplified expenses’, which enables you to calculate some business costs based on flat rates rather than your exact costs.

Income tax

If you’re self-employed, operating as a sole trader or a partnership, the amount of tax-free income and income tax brackets are exactly the same as if you were an employee.

However, they are calculated based on 'profit', which means that you calculate your tax amount after deducting business expenses and capital allowances.

For the 2023/2024 tax year, these rates are:

  • No tax on the first £12,570 income
  • 20% tax on anything you earn between £12,571 and £37,700
  • 40% tax anything you earn between £37,701 and £125,140
  • 45% tax on anything you earn over £125,140

However, if you’re operating as a limited company, it’s a little more complicated. Limited companies in the UK don’t pay income tax or National Insurance. Instead, they pay Corporation Tax, which is currently set at 25% and it is paid on profits.

National Insurance

If you're operating as a sole trader or a partnership*, you will also need to take care of your National Insurance contribution.

This is split into two categories, ‘Class 2’ and ‘Class 4’. Which class you sit in and therefore your National Insurance contribution is dependent on your profits.

Class Profits per year Rates for tax year 2023-2024
2 £6,725+ £3.45 a week
4 £12,570+ 9% on profits between £12,570 and £50,270 / 2% on profits over £50,270

*Certain self-employed professionals are exempt from National Insurance. These include:

  • Examiners, moderator, invigilators and exam content creators
  • Those who run businesses involving land and property
  • Religious ministers who do not receive payment for their services
  • Those who invest for themselves or on behalf of others (so long as they are not operating as a business and receiving payment)

From April 2024, Class 2 contributions will be scrapped. Self-employed workers will still qualify for the Class 2 linked benefits. Those earning less than £6,725 can make voluntary contributions so they're entitled to those benefits.

Those who make between £6,725 and £12,570 will get a credit.

Class 4 National Insurance contributions will also change in April 2024. In the 2023 Autumn Statement it was due to be cut by a percentage point to 8%, but in the 2024 Spring Budget, this was lowered to 6%.

You can read more about how National Insurance contributions work for the self-employed.

You can also find some great tax calculators online, including ones specifically designed for income tax which will enable you to enter your income and expenses, and calculates your National Insurance and income tax.

What if I make a mistake on my tax return?

We all make mistakes — in fact, nearly 2 million people made a mistake on their tax return in 2018. Fortunately, HMRC have made it possible to rectify these mistakes with relative easy.

How you deal with a mistake you made on your tax return depends on how you filed it and how late you’ve realised the mistake.

If the deadline was in the past 12 months

If you filed online

If you filed online, it should be case of logging into your HMRC self assessment account and going through the following steps:

  1. Select ‘more self assessment details’
  2. Select ‘at a glance’
  3. Select ‘tax return options’
  4. Choose the relevant return
  5. Update the return
  6. File it again

If you filed by paper

If, however, you filed by paper you’ll need to download a new tax return and send HMRC an updated version, marking each corrected page with ‘amendment’.

If the deadline was over a year ago

You’ll need to contact HMRC directly about your situation on 0300 200 3310 or via the HMRC Digital Assistant.

How are my tax payments affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

If you’ve participated in the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), while you won’t need to pay back the money, it’s important to be aware that you will need to pay tax on it. The government has a useful guide to how you should report and declare your SEISS on your tax return.

Please note, the SEISS ran across both the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 tax years, so you should be aware that you may have to declare income support on more than one tax return.

What records do I need to store for tax purposes?

Keeping records doesn’t necessarily mean file cabinets full of paper records, but it’s important to find a way of organising your records that works for you. We’ve put together a guide to keeping business records, which covers records for tax purposes and more.

You can also read about how to ensure you are prepared for when the entire tax system will become digital, including keeping records.

Self-employed taxes

Top tax tips

Get it on a spreadsheet

The easiest way to keep on top of your finances is to keep everything you earn and spend in a spreadsheet for each tax year. Split it into monthly tabs and make sure you update it as you go. That way, when it comes to the actual tax return, all the information you’ll need will be in one place.

Use a business account

And speaking of keeping everything in one place, having a business account is a great way to split your sole trader income and spending from everything else.

It’s easy to miss transactions when you’re having to pick them out individually from a statement of all of your finances, so make it easy for yourself. There are also lots of free business account apps to choose from now which you can set up in minutes.

Keep expenses in mind

A lot of sole traders aren’t sure exactly how expenses work. There’s a lot of grey area in terms of what can and can’t be expensed.

Basically, if you spend something that is wholly, exclusively and necessarily for your business, you can deduct it from your income when you calculate the tax you owe.

Don’t forget about Payment on Account

This is something that’s easy to overlook. When you’re self-employed, your tax bill can be split into two instalments. But it’s not quite as you’d imagine.

When you first go self-employed, you pay 150% of your tax bill in one go — the tax you owe for the year you’ve worked and an advance payment for the months ahead. The second instalment is paid by 31st July.

All your side gigs count

Although this is obvious, lots of us forget what counts as a side gig. Your self-employed income is not just contract work and client work. It can be anything from:

  • Being an influencer
  • Selling on eBay, Etsy, Depop, Facebook Marketplace
  • Working as a Deliveroo or Uber driver
  • And more!

Additionally, as of January 2024, side hustle sites including Vinted, Airbnb, and eBay will collect and share details of transactions with the tax authorities, allowing HMRC to seek out anyone who should be declaring any extra income but isn't.

Getting insurance as a self-employed professional

Now you have an idea of how tax works for self-employed professionals, insurance will seem a breeze! Find out more about insurance implications in our simple guide to insurance for self-employed professionals.

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This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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