What is a UTR number and how to apply for one?

What is a UTR number and how to apply for one?

If freelancing overseas, you will need to apply for a UTR number to manage your tax obligations

Office life is changing. More and more people are realising that they don’t need to be tied to a desk and can explore the world by making the most of remote working facilities. If you’ve decided to work from a tropical beach or a bustling city overseas or perhaps to travel the world and pay your way by freelancing, you’ll still be classed as a resident in the UK unless you make a permanent move. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer abroad, the first step is to apply for a Unique Taxpayer Reference number to set up your account with HMRC. 


What is a UTR number?

A UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) number or tax reference is a 10 digit code that is allocated to you as a freelancer. If you’re setting up a limited company, the company will be allocated a UTR. This number is your identification with HMRC which means it holds all the required information to understand and manage your tax obligations. 


What is my UTR number?

If you’ve previously filed accounts with HMRC as a freelancer, your UTR number will feature on any official correspondence you’ve received. This will include the SA250 welcome letter, a notice to file a tax return, a statement of your account or any payment reminders. If you haven’t previously worked as a freelancer and have always paid tax via an employer PAYE scheme, you will not have a number already allocated. If you have lost your number and can’t get hold of the paperwork – which may be the case if you’re currently living far from home – you can call the HMRC helpline on 0300 200 3310 and they will advise on how to receive your UTR number.


How do I get a UTR number?

If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to apply for a UTR number as a separate part of the process. When you register for Self-Assessment as a freelancer or as a business, a number will be allocated to you. You can start the process over the phone, by post or, particularly convenient if you’re working overseas, you can start the whole process online. 


What else do I need to know about my accounts when freelancing overseas?

Once you’ve set up your accounts, make sure you’ve got a note of the dates of the financial year and the deadlines for filing and making any payments.

Many freelancers living overseas benefit from what is known as cost arbitrage, when the cost of living in the resident country is cheaper than in the UK, which makes a Western salary go further. To make the most of this, it’s worth looking at your currency transfer costs to make sure you’re making the most of your earnings and not losing out to poor rates or high transfer fees.

Speaking with a currency exchange specialist can help you maximise your earnings and give you even more time and money to explore the world on your terms whilst freelancing abroad.


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