What is a UTR number?​

Last reviewed: November 2023

If you’re confused about how to get a UTR number, or why you might need one, here’s everything you need to know. A Unique Taxpayer Reference number (UTR) is a 10-digit code that uniquely identifies you or your business. UTRs are used by HMRC whenever they're dealing with your tax situation. From claiming a tax rebate to filing a Self Assessment tax return, your UTR will make sure the taxman always knows who he's talking to.

  • If you have a UTR number and work in trades, you need to complete a tax return and may be owed a tax rebate. RIFT can help.
  • If you have a UTR number and are self-employed, we can help with your tax return.
  • If you don't already have a UTR number, and want to know how to get a UTR number, keep reading.

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UTR NumberHow to get a UTR number

It's essential to get yourself a UTR if the taxman says you need one. Thankfully, it’s easy to do. You'll get a UTR automatically when you sign up for the Self Assessment tax return system. The process can take a few weeks, but once it’s sorted out your UTR will start cropping up every time you're dealing with HMRC.

It's best not to leave it to the last minute to get your UTR, so you don’t end up missing an important tax deadline. A couple of months before you need to file your first tax return should be long enough to stay on the safe side. The deadline for filing is the 31st of January, assuming you do it online.

When you're ready, RIFT will send out an SA-1 form for you to sign. You'll also get a UTR automatically when you set up a Limited Company. Both you and your company will need one, and RIFT can help you get everything set up quickly and easily.

HMRC does all it can to keep your information secure, so there'll be a few security hoops to jump through to get your UTR. When you're all set, HMRC will send you a letter called “Welcome to Self Assessment”, which will show your UTR on it. You'll only get your UTR by post, and that part of the process can take up to 7 days. Again, it's best to get your UTR sorted at least several weeks before your first filing date to stay out of trouble.

After signing up for HMRC's online services, you'll get an email with your login details in it. Logging in will give you a chance to check your UTR. If you're teaming up with RIFT for your Self Assessment returns or tax rebates, let us know your UTR as soon as possible so we can get to work for you.

Information needed to get a UTR number:

  • Your name, date of birth and address.
  • Your National Insurance number.
  • Your email address and telephone number.
  • The name, address and nature of your business.
  • Your business telephone number.
  • The date your self-employment started.

Follow these simple steps to get your UTR number:

  • Register for HMRC online services.
  • Wait for HMRC to post out your UTR number.
  • Register online for Self-Assessment.
  • Wait for HMRC to post out your UTR activation code.
  • Activate your account within 28 days.

UTR NumberHow can I get a UTR number by phone?

You get your UTR by phone by calling HMRC’s Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310. You’ll still need to give HMRC all the information they need to sort out your UTR, and pass some security checks so they’re sure who they’re talking to.

UTR NumberHow can I get my UTR number by post?

You can also get a UTR number by writing to HMRC. They’ll get back to you to ask a few questions, but once you’ve jumped a few hurdles they’ll send you a UTR by post.

What is a UTR number?Where can I find my UTR number?

Once you've been issued a UTR, you'll be able to find it in all kinds of official HMRC documents, including:

  • Your SA250 "Welcome to Self Assessment" letter.
  • Your Self Assessment tax return paperwork.
  • Your notice to file a tax return.
  • Your statement of account.
  • Any payment reminders you get.

If you've signed up for an account on the HMRC website, you can also check your UTR number by logging in. If you're still not sure, give RIFT Tax Refunds a shout and we'll help you track it down.

How long does it take to get a UTR number in the UK and abroad?

Once you've applied for your UTR, it can generally take about 10 working days to receive it in the UK. If you're applying for a UTR from outside the UK, though, the wait can be longer—probably around 3 weeks.

Tax CodesIs a UTR number the same as a tax code?

No, UTR numbers and tax codes are very different things, and are used for completely different purposes:

  • A UTR number is used by HMRC to personally identify you or your business when dealing with things like your Self Assessment paperwork. If you’ve never been self-employed, claimed a tax refund or run your own business, you may never have needed one of these.
  • Your tax code is the string of numbers and letters that tells HMRC what kind of tax-free Personal Allowance you qualify for, and also specifies any particular circumstances affecting your tax situation.

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UTR NumberIs a UTR number the same as a tax code?

No, UTR numbers and tax codes are very different things, and are used for completely different purposes:

  • A UTR number is used by HMRC to personally identify you or your business when dealing with things like your Self Assessment paperwork. If you’ve never been self-employed, claimed a tax refund or run your own business, you may never have needed one of these.
  • Your tax code is the string of numbers and letters that tells HMRC what kind of tax-free Personal Allowance you qualify for, and also specifies any particular circumstances affecting your tax situation.

UTR NumberDo you always have the same UTR number?

Once you’ve got a UTR number, it won’t change. In fact, just like your National Insurance number, once you’ve got one it’s yours for life.

Keep in mind that if you have a company UTR for your business, that’s a separate number from your personal one. You’ll find your company UTR on your company’s tax returns and other documents your business gets from HMRC.

UTR NumberWhy do I need a UTR number?

Some of the most common times you'll be needing your UTR are:

  • When you're filing a Self Assessment tax return.
  • When you sign up for the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).
  • When you’re working with someone who's managing your finances for you (like an accountant).

For tax refunds, you’ll need to send HMRC a Self Assessment tax return if your allowable expenses are over £2,500. That means you’ll need to sign up for the Self Assessment system and get a UTR to apply for your refund.

Even if you're on the books and paid through PAYE, if you've got other money coming in (from rent, for instance), HMRC could be expecting a Self Assessment tax return from you. Again, that means you'll need to register for the system and get a UTR to stay inside the law. Getting caught without one can mean fines and even criminal penalties.

Business partnerships also need UTRs, both for the company itself and for each partner involved.

You can only get a UTR directly from HMRC. If you need one, though, RIFT will make sure you’re set up properly and as quickly as possible.

Getting PaidCan I get paid without a UTR number?

If you’re self-employed and working without a UTR, you’re lining yourself up for a lot of potential trouble from HMRC. For one thing, it means you're not properly registered for the Self Assessment tax return system.

If all your earnings are taxed through the PAYE system, you're not claiming a tax refund and don't earn over £100,000 a year, it's not usually necessary to have a UTR number in order to be paid. However, there are quite a few reasons why you might need to be registered for Self Assessment, even if you're not self-employed. If it turns out you need a UTR number and don't have one, you could quickly find yourself in hot water with HMRC. Talk to RIFT if you're not sure whether you need a UTR number. If you do, we'll make sure you get one.

Working in ConstructionI'm in construction and my employer wants to know my UTR number. Help!

Without a UTR, you aren't properly signed up as self-employed. In construction, this can be a serious problem. Without a UTR, you can't use Self Assessment or sign up for the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). The CIS system is designed to crack down on dodgy ‘cash-in-hand’ payment in construction. CIS basically hands 20% of self-employed construction workers' pay over to HMRC as an advance payment against the tax they'll owe. The problem is, the CIS taxes your pay from the very first penny, so it can lead to people paying way too much tax and being owed a refund. Your UTR is the key to getting signed up properly to pay your tax – and to claiming back what you're owed.

By the way, don't be fooled into thinking it’s a good idea to ignore the CIS altogether. Not registering when you’re supposed to will cost you a much larger chunk of your pay than doing it right. Talk to RIFT if you're being asked for a UTR and don't have one, or don't understand why you need it.

Working in ConstructionWhy would my construction employer ask for my UTR number?

In construction, the CIS rules mean that whoever’s paying you needs to send a portion of your earnings directly to HMRC. CIS tax is a flat 20% of everything you earn. Depending on how much you earn, this means your tax bill could be very different from a PAYE employee.

UTR NumberDoes being asked for a UTR number mean that I'm owed a tax rebate?

It's pretty likely you should be claiming a yearly tax rebate from HMRC. n construction, those CIS deductions your contractor takes out of your pay can leave you forking over too much tax. This can happen because they don't take your tax-free Personal Allowance into account. If you don't have a UTR, you won't be able to claim it back.

UTR numberI've been asked for my UTR number but I'm not self-employed!

It's possible to need a UTR even when you're not self-employed. People claiming PAYE tax refunds, for instance, often need to file a Self Assessment tax return to get their money.

If your employer's asking for your UTR and you don't have one to show them, things can get dicey. HMRC's cracking down hard on ‘false self-employment’, where people are classed as self-employed when they're actually supposed to be taxed through PAYE. If there's any confusion about your employment status, you need to get it sorted immediately before things get nasty. Get in touch with RIFT to find out exactly where you stand. If you need to register for Self Assessment, we'll get it done with no stress or hassle.

Do I need a UTR number as a Sole Trader?

A UTR is essential when you work as a sole trader and pay your tax through the Self Assessment system. Getting a UTR is a core part of setting up for Self Assessment, and without one you can expect major headaches sorting out your tax situation.

UTR NumberWhat's a company UTR number?

Businesses have UTRs, just like people. A company UTR gets sent out when you first set your company up. Like a personal UTR, it's just a 10-digit code used to identify your firm for tax purposes. You'll find it on some of your HMRC documents, like your CT603 form, ‘Notice to deliver a company tax return’.

A company UTR is different from a company registration number (CRN), so don't get them confused. A CRN is sent out when your company is ‘incorporated’ (becomes its own legal entity). You'll need it whenever you're dealing with Companies House.

UTR NumberDo I have to pay for UTR number?

No, getting your UTR number sent out is free.

UTR numberLost your UTR number?

UTR numbers are unique to you or your business, so it's wise to keep track of them. If you can't find any of the documents that show yours, get in touch with HMRC. Keep in mind that UTRs can be used for identity theft and fraud, so expect HMRC to make you prove who you are before they'll talk to you.

P45Will my UTR number appear on my P45?

UTR numbers aren't normally needed for people who work for an employer and pay all their tax through the PAYE system (unless they’re getting tax refunds for their work expenses). When you stop working for an employer, you get a P45 that lists, among other things, your National Insurance number, your employer's PAYE reference number and your tax code. These are all different from your UTR, and used for different things.

RIFT Tax Return ServiceYour local tax return accountants

The RIFT tax return service goes a lot further than other less specialised accountants. As the UK's leading tax experts and the only tax company ever to earn the ServiceMark award from the Institute of Customer Service, we stand behind our work and our customers. We don't believe in the 'one size fits all' approach of traditional accountants. Everything we do is built around your specific needs. We also go beyond filing your Self Assessment tax returns. If it looks like you're due a tax rebate we'll claim that for you too.

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