Employment and self-employment

Updated on 9 September 2020


This part of the website looks at tax for those who are employed or self-employed. This is a particular area of importance for migrants who come to the UK.

Image of blocks spelling out self and employed
(c) Shuttertock / 3D generator

Whether you are employed or self-employed is not just relevant to your tax affairs but is also relevant to your employment law rights such as entitlement to the minimum wage and holiday pay. You can find more information on employment law rights in general from ACAS.

Whether you are employed or self-employed is not a matter of choice, by you or the engager; it depends on the circumstances. In particular, it depends on the nature of the relationship between you and the engager. The distinction between employment and self-employment is not always clear. Some businesses try to exploit this by treating you as self-employed when you should be treated as an employee, because it can save the business money.

As such, you should beware of the following situations:

  • someone offers you work and gives you the choice of being employed or self-employed;
  • you go to work for someone, thinking you are an employee, but the work-provider tells you that you are self-employed;
  • you go to work for an employment agency – which sends you to work at different jobs for different people – and the agency tries to treat you as self-employed or arranges for you to be paid by someone else, for example an umbrella company or a payroll company.

In any of these situations it is important for you to find out the facts and work out for yourself whether you are employed or self-employed, or both. If you need help, you can find out where to get advice on our getting help page.

This part of the website has more information on the following topics:

For a simpler overview, download our easy-to-digest factsheet.

More information on self-employment
Am I employed, self-employed or neither?

What tax allowances am I entitled to?

How do I register for tax and National Insurance?

What is the trading allowance?

What business records should I keep?

How do I pay tax on self-employed income?

Working out profits, losses and capital allowances

What National Insurance do I pay if I am self-employed?

How do I work out my taxable profits?

What is the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)?

How do I prepare my accounts?

How do I work out my profits for universal credit?

What business expenses are allowable?

Do I have to pay VAT if I am self-employed?

Can I claim for pre-trade expenses?

What is Making Tax Digital for VAT?

What capital allowances can I claim?

Pensions and self-employment

What if I make a loss?

How do I repay my student loan if I am self-employed?

When do I make Self Assessment payments and file my tax return?

Penalties and enquiries

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