For anyone hoping to contribute to their National Insurance (NI) and pay their tax in the UK, one abbreviation will likely appear more and more frequently, and that’s the UTR number. This shorthand code stands for Unique Tax Reference (number), and for those in need of information about what it is, how it works, what you can do with it, and where to get one, you’ll find all of these questions and more answered below.
What is a UTR number?
In the simplest terms, a UTR, or as mentioned above, a Unique Tax Reference number, is a code assigned predominantly to individuals within the United Kingdom, specifically those registered with the HMRC. This code isn’t used to log in to any service but is instead considered a form of ID that is directly linked to the person or entity in possession of it. As a result, all numbers are different, and they should never be shared with anyone outside of an employer, the HMRC, or a dedicated accountant.
UTR numbers can’t be changed easily, so once issued, the HMRC considers it of utmost importance that the holder keeps it safe. Without it, you won’t be able to do things like complete your tax return and self-assessment or provide it when calling the helpline if you ever find yourself needing to talk to an advisor at the HMRC.
What does a UTR number look like?
It won’t matter whether you’re registering as self-employed, as a partner, or as part of a business, all UTR numbers look exactly the same. They consist of 10 unique digits that should always be entered correctly to avoid issues. These digits are typically numbers in any combination, as defined by the HMRC when handling the registration process.
Do I need a UTR number?
If you’re hoping to pay your tax in the UK, manage your online account via the government gateway, and pay National Insurance, then the short answer to whether you need a UTR is yes. Without it, you won’t be able to submit the required tax data as determined by the HMRC, and they won’t consider you fully registered with them either.
The HMRC will typically be lenient to those waiting for their code, but it’s advisable to ensure that you’ve received yours and are fully set up via the Government Gateway to avoid the potential for fines relating to late submissions. Furthermore, you’ll want to sign up well in advance of the end of the tax year for the same reason as mentioned above.
How do I apply for a UTR number?
You receive a UTR number from HMRC when you sign up for a self assessment tax return or set up a limited company. When you inform HMRC that you have made untaxed income, you usually need to submit a tax return so they can ensure you are paying the appropriate amount of tax. After this, you will automatically be assigned a UTR number, which will be sent to you in a letter through the mail.
This process can be handled most efficiently online, but it’s also an option to call HMRC directly and have an advisor guide you through it. Once you’ve provided the relevant information and data, you’ll be provided with further information on receiving your UTR, which as explained further below, will be sent by post to an address that you have selected.
How long does it take to get a UTR number?
Generally speaking, the HMRC suggests waiting up to 10 days to receive your UTR through the mail. As you might imagine, however, this can vary as the HMRC will be relying on a third party (Royal Mail) to deliver on time. They offer every assurance that the letter containing your code will arrive on time, but there have been instances where the UTR has been delayed, or lost in the mail.
Should this ever happen to you, don’t worry – simply visit the website again and request another code to be sent to your address. It’s also worth noting that if your address is even slightly incorrect, this can affect delivery. Always double-check the information that you provide, and if you’re ever in doubt, call the HMRC directly and let them know that your code hasn’t arrived or that there’s been an issue.
Where can I find my UTR number?
Once your letter has been sent, you’ll have a total of 4 options to retrieve your UTR number. The first is on the letter itself, and it’s always worth keeping a copy of the number or storing the original letter safely for future reference. The second place is via your Personal Tax Account, which you can access through the Government Gateway.
The third place is by downloading and linking the HMRC app to your phone, where once verified, you’ll find your UTR displayed neatly whenever you should need it. Lastly, if you’re already registered with the HMRC, checking previous tax returns can be another good option, as your UTR will be displayed along with your details, typically at the top of the page (or online PDF).
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