The self-employed need them. Businesses need them. Sole traders need them. They are the life’s blood of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) — the technical linchpin holding it all together.
Oh yes, we’re talking about UTR numbers.
Anyone who’s filled out a UK tax return will know about them. Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) numbers allow HMRC to identify businesses for tax purposes.
But what are they? What do they look like? Why does HMRC give you one? How do you get one?
Let’s take a look.
This article at a glance
A UTR number is a 10-digit taxpayer reference number that identifies businesses, sole traders, and the self-employed to HMRC to better help them calculate how much tax you owe.
UTR numbers identify individuals and entities that trade in the UK to HMRC. They enable HMRC to collect tax from individuals and companies residing in the UK. It’s primarily used for filing a tax return.
A UTR number is a 10-digit tax reference number, which may include a K at the end of the number. There is usually a space after the fifth digit.
Here’s an example of what a UTR number looks like:
56 894 12 037
A UTR number is required to file a tax return with a Self Assessment form. Sole traders, the self-employed and those who work with a business partner need a UTR number.
Unsure of whether you need to fill out a Self Assessment form? Check the UK Government website to see whether you’re required to complete a Self Assessment form.
Before you apply, you must prepare the following information:
You can register for Self Assessment online. All you need to do is to provide your information to HMRC, and a UTR number and activation code will be sent to you. Alternatively, you can call HMRC or write a letter requesting a UTR number.
It takes roughly 10 days for a UK resident to receive their UTR number. If you’re overseas, it could take up to 21 days.
Upon receiving the letter containing your UTR number, you will receive a second letter containing an activation code for Self Assessment — you will need this to activate the account before you file a tax return.
If you’re a fully-registered limited company and required to pay Corporation Tax, you will be able to find the 10-digit number on the top right corner of the letter issued by HMRC.
You may also find your UTR number in the following ways:
You will need to register for Self Assessment on HMRC’s website. It’s the quickest way for anyone who wants to obtain a UTR number. You will need a Government Gateway User ID and password to sign in for registration.
HMRC doesn’t issue temporary UTR numbers. You will need to wait for HMRC to issue you a UTR number by post. After all, a UTR number is for life — not just for Christmas.
There are a few ways to apply for a UTR, depending on one’s circumstances. Self Assessment first-timers need a Government Gateway user ID and password to log in. You can create one if you don’t have a user ID.
For those who have registered previously but failed to file a tax return, you must register online using a CWF1 for Self Assessment and Class 2 National Insurance.
You must fill in the form online, print and post it to HMRC if you cannot register online.
If you cannot find your UTR number or have misplaced it, you may request your Corporation Tax UTR online and HMRC will send it to the business address that you registered with Companies House.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the murky waters of UTR numbers.
You can get a UTR number by registering online on HMRC’s website. After you’ve registered, you will be issued a UTR number. It will take 10 working days for them to post the 10-digit UTR number to your registered business address. Alternatively, you may call HMRC to request a UTR number or write a letter to HMRC for the number.
Limited companies can request a Corporation Tax UTR number online. Provide your registered company name and registration number. Complete the online form. Your Corporation Tax UTR number will be posted to your registered business address.
The self-employed can get a UTR number by registering for Self Assessment and Class 2 National Insurance through a business tax account. Log in using the Government Gateway user ID and password. Those who have registered previously but didn’t submit their tax return may register online using Form CWF1.
Sole traders use the same method to get their UTR numbers as the self-employed.
You may get a UTR number by phone call. Prepare your business details, such as business type, business address, business phone number and date of incorporation, and call HMRC’s Self Assessment helpline to request a UTR number. For calls inside the UK, call 0300 200 3310. For calls outside the UK, call 0300 200 3319.
HMRC uses your UTR number to identify your business and how much tax it owes.
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