So, you’re sorting out how to pay your taxes? Smart move. You’ll need a UTR number for that. No idea what we’re talking about? Don’t worry, you’re in the same boat as most newbie sole traders. Read on for everything you need to know about getting and using your UTR number. First…

What exactly is a UTR number?

A Unique Taxpayers Reference (UTR) number is the unique number that’s given to all sole traders when they register with the government for Self Assessment (or to pay tax, in layman’s terms). All sole traders need a UTR number in order to pay their tax bill for each financial year.

As soon as you register for Self Assessment, you’ll get yours.

It’s 10 digits long and — just in case anyone asks for it — be aware they might call it your “tax reference” for short.

Do I need one?

If you’re a sole trader, then yes. You can’t complete a tax return without one.

You’ll usually need your UTR number for any dealings with HMRC too, and you’ll definitely need it to claim tax relief or benefits.

Your UTR number is unique to you, so keep it safe. In the wrong hands, someone else could claim benefits or relief on your behalf, and that’s a whole lot of drama that no one wants.

How do I get my UTR number?

Luckily, you’ll find your UTR number in pretty much every document you get from HMRC. If you’ve completed a Self Assessment before, for example, it’ll be on your old tax returns, payment reminders, tax return reminders… (the list goes on).

And if you’ve set up an online account with HMRC services, you’ll find it there too.

If you haven’t done a Self Assessment yet, here’s how to get your UTR number and start your Self Assessment:

  1. Go online and register for HMRC services. In about 7-10 days, you’ll get a letter containing your UTR number. If you’re out of the country, you might not get it for up to 3 weeks.
  2. Log in to the account you set up with HMRC services in step 1, and use your UTR number to sign up for Self Assessment.
  3. Once you’ve signed up for Self Assessment, you’ll get another number through the post. This is your activation code.
  4. You can then use this code to log in to your account (again), activate and start your Self Assessment. These codes expire in 28 days, so make sure you use it before that happens.

As HMRC processes go, getting your UTR number is definitely one of the lesser evils. Asides from a bit of waiting around for it to arrive in the post, it’s a relatively pain-free task.

If you need to, you can call or write a letter to HMRC to get your UTR number sent out. But if you’re a last-minute Larry when it comes to your taxes — we’d avoid letters. End to end, it might take weeks, which could delay you in completing your tax return. And that’s a stress no one needs.

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