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Sole Trader Registration: Is It For You?

If you’re a sole trader, you run your own business as an individual and are self-employed.

You can keep all your business’s profits after you’ve paid tax on them. You’re personally responsible for any losses your business makes. You must also follow certain rules on running and naming your business.

Check what counts as self-employed if you’re not sure about your status.

How to register

You need to set up as a sole trader if any of the following apply:

  • you earned more than £1,000 from self-employment between 6 April 2018 and 5 April 2019
  • you need to prove you’re self-employed, for example, to claim Tax-Free Childcare
  • you want to make voluntary Class 2 National Insurance payments to help you qualify for benefits

To set up as a sole trader, register for Self Assessment and file a tax return every year.

Your responsibilities

You’ll need to:

  • keep records of your business’s sales and expenses
  • send a Self Assessment tax return every year
  • pay Income Tax on your profits and Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance

You’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number if you’re moving to the UK to set up a business.


You must register for VAT if your turnover is over £85,000. You can register voluntarily if it suits your business, for example, if you sell to other VAT-registered businesses and want to reclaim the VAT.

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What if Your Bank Merges

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a spate of building society takeovers peppered daily news broadcasts. Initially, the Government acted to protect savers who had money stashed in two different building societies that merged, but that ended in December 2010.

So, if you have money in more than one of the institutions contained within the following groups, you now only have £85,000 protection across that group.

  • Co-operative Bank and Britannia
  • Nottingham and Shepshed building societies, trading as Nottingham BS
  • Yorkshire, Chelsea, Barnsley, Norwich & Peterborough building societies, plus Egg.

Nationwide used to share its protection with Cheshire, Derbyshire and Dunfermline Building Societies, but all products held with the three smaller building societies are now Nationwide branded. The same is true of Coventry BS and Stroud & Swindon BS – any old S&S accounts are now Coventry branded.

There are lots of overseas-owned banks operating in Britain, including Santander, ICICI and Yorkshire Bank. Providing they’re not ‘offshore’ accounts (which are very different), it’s usually irrelevant who their parent company is.

They’re UK-regulated banks, so you get the same £85,000 per person protection. Yet there’s a subtle extra dimension…

If a bank gets into trouble, it’s to be hoped there’d be a bailout which didn’t affect savers, so all your money’s protected (though that, of course, isn’t guaranteed). This didn’t just happen with UK-owned Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley, but also with Iceland-owned (but UK-regulated) Kaupthing Edge.

Where possible, always keep your cash within the £85,000 limit, as it’s an aim but not a promise to bail out banks that fail. However, this is particularly true with non-European banks, as this has not been tested yet (and hopefully won’t be!).

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Virtual Meetings to Save Time & Energy

There can be nothing more frustrating for a business person than sitting waiting for someone to arrive, or if they have, to get themselves organised and ready for the meeting. We do spend an inordinate amount of time travelling – be that in the car or on trains, planes etc. There have been some amazing innovations in the last 20 or 25 years that could cut out a great deal of this extra burden. By holding electronic, web-based meetings. Virtual meetings.

Using shared online business meetings etc. All these ideas are really fantastic and with a bit of ingenuity and know-how in the wizardry department, and voila, your online meeting can be achieved. When I was working in government offices, the members of the project team were in far-flung places and all meeting up was impractical and discouraged at all times. Virtual meetings were arranged where we all sat around a table via the business video system. Fantastic!