Business records if you're self-employed

How long to keep your records

You must keep your records for at least 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may check your records to make sure you’re paying the right amount of tax.

Example If you sent your 2018 to 2019 tax return online by 31 January 2020, you must keep your records until at least the end of January 2025.

Very late returns

If you send your tax return more than 4 years after the deadline, you’ll need to keep your records for 15 months after you send your tax return.

If your records are lost, stolen or destroyed

If you cannot replace your records, you must do your best to provide figures. Tell HMRC when you file your tax return if you’re using:

  • estimated figures - your best guess when you cannot provide the actual figures
  • provisional figures - your temporary estimated figures while you wait for actual figures (you’ll also need to submit actual figures when available)
  1. Step 1 Check if being self-employed is right for you

  2. Step 2 Choose the name you want to trade under

    1. Check the rules for sole trader business names

    You can register a trade mark if you want to stop people from trading under your business name.

    1. Apply to register a trade mark
  3. Step 3 Check what records you'll need to keep

  4. Step 4 Register for tax

    To pay tax, you'll need to register for Self Assessment.

    1. Apply for a National Insurance number if you do not have one
    2. Register for Self Assessment

    You might need to register in a different way if:

    You may also need to register for VAT.

    1. Check if you need to register for VAT