If you display ads on your Blog and YouTube videos or sometimes get paid to feature a product on a blog post, chances are you’re blogging as a business. You should register as self-employed and declare your blog’s earnings for tax purposes – even if blogging is not your only source of income.
With Blogging and Vlogging growing so much as a career in recent years, it doesn’t take much to run a business these days; all it takes to be a self-employed Blogger in the eyes of the UK Government, is signing up for Google Ads, signing with a blogging network like Mode Media or StyleHaul, agreeing to sponsored content or even just accepting ads on your YouTube videos. So if you do any of these, you must declare any money that you made through your blog & YouTube every year.
Declaring is not the same as having to pay tax; it just means that the Government wants to know how much you are making from your blog. If you’re only making a bit of pocket-money, you’re likely to not have anything to pay at all, but you still need to submit a tax return for your Blog/YouTube earnings every year to avoid nasty fines and penalties.
The whole process can be a bit tricky as it is filled with legal jargon and technical terms; I have a background in Law, but I still found it challenging to figure out what needs to be done to make sure my blog is all above-board. I thought sharing my research could be useful to other bloggers and vloggers out there, who are also wondering about blogging and tax duties. Please don’t take this as legal or financial advice – I’m simply sharing my research based on my own needs as a self-employed blogger. If you want the most accurate information, you can find it on the UK Government website.
So where do we start? Let’s start by telling the Government that you’re a blogger who makes a bit of money, and for their purposes, that makes you a Self-Employed Sole Trader.
Register as Self-Employed
What does it mean to be self-employed?
For bloggers and vloggers it means you are running your blog as business by earning money from it – a little or a lot; you can have another job and run your blog as self-employed at the same time. For tax purposes, self-employed people are either sole traders (if you run your blog alone) or partners (if there’s more than one of you running the blog). The majority of bloggers and vloggers are sole traders, so the terms ‘self-employed’ and ‘sole trader’ will both refer to you – the blogger.
Who needs to register and who doesn’t?
You will need to register as self-employed if you are making or thinking about making money from your Blog or YouTube channel, even if it’s just pocket-money you get from ads and sponsored posts every once in a while. You don’t need to register as self-employed if you set up your blog as a limited company. With a limited company, you are regarded as both an owner and an employee of your blog, and you will need to set up a PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system to pay yourself from the blog’s earnings. If you’re still confused as to whether or not you should register as self-employed, you can use the HMRC Employment Status Indicator to get some more advice.
When do I register as self-employed?
As soon as you can after your blog is set-up for monetisation, even if you’re not bringing in any money yet (i.e.: signing up for Google Ads, signing with a blogging network, agreeing to sponsored content or accepting ads on your YouTube videos). There’s no penalty for not registering as self-employed within this time frame, just as long as you send your Self Assessment tax return and pay your tax bill on time.
What do I have to do once I’m registered?
Once you are registered as self-employed you become a self assessment taxpayer, which means that you’ll have to fill in a tax return each year detailing your blog’s earnings and expenses. This needs to be done even if you have another job.
Because you will have to do your Self Assessment to HMRC every year, keep records of all your earnings from your blog; it doesn’t matter if it was a one-off sponsored post, your monthly payment from a blogging network or any other payment you have received for work you’ve done via your Blog/YouTube. You may also have to start paying your Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and VAT, but more on that below.
How do I register as self-employed?
You can register online, over the phone or by post. The easiest way is to do it online, but if you run into any problems, you can call the HMRC newly self-employed helpline on 0845 915 4515.
- Registering online
I chose this one; the process will register your new blogging business as Self-Employed, for Self-Assessment Tax Returns and Class 2 National Insurance Contributions, which is basically all you need. Go to the Register Your New Business with HMRC page and click ‘Start now’. Make sure you read through everything, and if you’re doing this for the first time, you will want to choose the option ‘I want to tell HMRC that I am in business and need to register for a new tax’ on the first screen.
Before you can proceed with the registration, you will be prompted to create a Government Gateway account, if you don’t already have one. This is the account you will use to submit your tax returns each year, so make a note of your User ID, password and email you used to register. After the account is created, log in to your Government Gateway account and go to this link or click on ‘Register for HMRC taxes’ on your homepage. Again, read carefully through everything! If you’re a Blogger or Vlogger, you will want to check the Self Assessment (including Class 2 National Insurance Contributions) box. Only check PAYE and VAT if you know they are applicable to you.
If you run your blog on your own, choose ‘Self-employed/Sole trader/Sole proprietor’ as the type of business. Fill out all your personal information and details about your blog, then submit your form. You will get a confirmation page with an ‘Acknowledge reference number’ so make a note of that for your records. After a few days you will receive a letter at home confirming if your registration was successful, and a second letter with and Activation Code for your Self Assessment Tax Returns (more on that later). If you have done Self Assessment returns before, use the CWF1 form instead.
All done! Now let’s move on to the part where you register your blog’s earnings for tax.
Declare & Pay Your Taxes
What taxes do I have to pay as blogger/vlogger?
You may have to pay income tax and national insurance contributions if you’re monetising your blog. You may not have any taxes to pay, but regardless of making money or not, as a self-employed blogger, you will have to send a Self Assessment tax return form to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) each year.
What is Self Assessment?
That’s the system you will use to declare and pay your income tax; you will declare your blog or YouTube’s yearly earnings and expenses in a tax return form, and the Government will calculate if you owe any money based on what you have declared.
How do I register for Self Assessment?
If you followed the steps to register as self-employed, you will already have registered for Self Assessment and National Insurance contributions at the same time. If not, click here to do it. Within 10 working days, you will receive two letters at home; the first one confirms that HMRC has set up a Self Assessment record for you and shows your UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference), which is a very important number, so keep this letter safe with your blogging financial documents. The second letter will contain your Self Assessment Activation Code and instructions on how to activate the service online. The code must be used within 28 days or it expires and you will have to repeat the registration process to get a new code.
How do I declare my blogging income each year?
When your Self Assessment service has been activated, you can report any money you have earned via your Blog or YouTube through a Self Assessment Tax Return after the end of each tax year (5 April). As I mentioned before, the easiest way to do this is online via your Government Gateway account, but you can also submit a paper copy by post if you wish. You will need bank statements and receipts to add up all your blog’s yearly earnings.
What are the deadlines?
To register for Self Assessment, the deadline is 5 October. To submit your tax return by paper you have until 31 October, and online you have until 31 January. To make a payment, if any is due, the deadline is 31 January. You’ll get a penalty of £100 if your tax return is up to 3 months late; if you send it even later or if you’re late paying your tax bill, the penalty is higher.
How much tax will I pay?
HMRC will calculate how much you owe based on the earnings you have declared. They take into account your expenses of running a business, any personal allowances and reliefs, so hopefully, after all the deductions, you will be left with a small or no tax bill.
- Income Tax
Put very simply, if you’re earning less than £10,000 a year from your Blog or YouTube only, you are more than likely to have no income tax to pay, unless you have money coming in from other sources as well. You’re entitled to deduct certain expenses and costs from running your blog, such as travel expenses, electricity bills, living costs, cameras and other equipment, server and domain costs. Have a look at this page on the HMRC website to see a list of everything you can count as expenses to reduce your income tax bill. The basic tax rate for income over £10,000 and up to £31,865 is 20%.
- National Insurance
If you’re only earning a small amount of money from your blog, you may be entitled to a Small Earnings Exception (SEE) from your Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs); if your yearly blogging profits (money left after expenses) were less than £5,885 (for 2014-2015), you won’t pay any NICs, as long as you apply for an SEE, which you can do here. If your blogging profits are more than £5,885 a year, you must arrange your NI payments yourself; HMRC will send you a payment request every April, unless you set up a Direct Debit on your Government Gateway account.
If your turnover (the money your blog makes in a year before deducting expenses and taxes) is more than £81,000 a year, you may have to pay VAT for your business; that probably won’t be the case for most small to medium bloggers, but if it applies to you, you can register here.
I think that covers the basics (and some not so basics) of how to register for tax and self-employment if you’re earning money from blogging or vlogging in the UK. I will reiterate that this is by no means a complete guide on how to run your blog as business, this is simply the products of my very own research. If you feel like the whole thing is just too much to handle, get an accountant to do it all for you – don’t just ignore it and hope it will go away eventually, as you might regret it in the future when you receive a nasty fine to pay!
I would love to know if you found this helpful, and if you would like to see any more blog posts of this kind here on my blog! :) Here’s a list of more useful websites & blogs that talk about the business side of blogging:
UK Government & HMRC
- HMRC Thinking of working for yourself? (leaflet)
- Working for yourself
- Register your new business with HMRC
- Register for Self Assessment
- Self Assessment Tax Returns
- Self-employed National Insurance rates
- SEE Certificate for Class 2 NICs
- Business records if you’re self-employed
- Expenses if you’re self-employed
Bloggers & Other Websites
- When Do You Become Self-Employed? – Smarta
- How to register as Self-Employed, Sole Trader or Freelancer – Startups
- Tax on self-employment income while remaining employed – Brighton Accountants
- Does the Taxman know about your Blog? WAHM Web
- The Truth About Tax and Blogging – In The Frow
- 5 Tips to Avoid Any Nasty Tax Suprises for The Blogger – In The Frow