Help with Freelance Tax Number
Thread poster: eleni sakka

eleni sakka
Local time: 22:09
English to Greek
+ ...
Jun 15, 2007

Dear everyone,

I need help with a tax problem that occured just today.

I am living in UK and I've been very irregularly translating documents (mainly of medical nature as I am working full time in medical research) from English to Greek and vice versa. I want to pursuit freelance translations more in the near future aiming to work full time as a freelance translator at some point.

At the moment because my translation work is not much and far in between I haven't applied for a VAT number which while collaborating with UK agencies was not an issue, it was a different case with a French agency for which I undertook a project just a few days ago. Basically for them, showing they gave work to someone without a tax number is concidered to be giving illegal work.

Because my knowledge in the business side of freelancing is quite limited, I don't realy know whether having a VAT number when you have a very small profit from freelancing is something worthwhile? And secondly, is it a put-off for agencies, their freelancer not to have a VAT number?
Finally, is it financially costly to get a VAT number in UK?

Thank you everyone in advance
Eleni Sakka

PS. Wishes for a relaxing weekend everyone!!!!


Helene Martin-Hernandez  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:09
English to French
+ ...
My experience Jun 15, 2007

Gia sou Eleni!

Well, first of all, I would advise you to go and have a look on this page, they will tell you a bit more about being a freelancer: You can also give them a call regarding precise questions.
Then, I don't really know your situation, but if you already have a job, you can still register as a freelancer. It all depends on the amount of work you do as a freelancer. Because you would still have to fill in your tax return every year, and I think you would also have to pay your National Insurance contributions on top of what you already pay with your current job. You certainly have to look into it.
Also, you talk about a VAT number, but registering here as a freelancer does not necessarily mean that you will get a VAT number (if you want one, and I don't think you will in your situation, you have to apply for it separately). You would rather get a tax number.
If it helps, when I started as a freelancer, because I didn't register at once (and the whole process can take a bit of time anyway), I was giving my NI number. It usually works for clients outside the UK.
Good luck!


lalabelle  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:09
English to French
Not compulsory to have a VAT number Jun 15, 2007

Hi Eleni,
It is absolutely not compulsory to have a VAT number in England, but it is up to you to judge if you have an interest in having one, because it can be more benificial in terms of tax assessment to have one when you reach a certain level of benefits as a freelance. But having a VAT number does not "cost" anything, it can just makes things more complex.

As for the French agency, what they might have asked for is a "Siret "number (which is not applicable for anybody who is not registered in France), but they do not have to ask for a VAT number, that is up to you to decide if you want one. However, maybe they did not accept to work with you because you have not registered as a self-employed with the inland revenue, which puts you in an illegal situation unless you have not reached a certain level of income from translation work.

Anyway, if you need more information about the VAT, you can call the self employed office and ask them about the VAT, they will probably be able to give you information about it.



Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:09
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Should not be required Jun 15, 2007

eleni sakka wrote:
Dear everyone,
different case with a French agency for which I undertook a project just a few days ago. Basically for them, showing they gave work to someone without a tax number is concidered to be giving illegal work.

I had exactly this problem with a French agency a month ago. They said "What we need in your case is just an official number to practise your job if you have such a number in England... in France each invoice a company has to pay must mention such number." I searched in Proz for discussion and came to this conclusion: In France it would be illegal to give such paid work to an unregistered translator living in France. It appears to be OK for them if they can prove that you are not living in France, and this is presumably proved by your postal address.
That is what I told my agency in Fr and they seem to have accepted that, as they have not sent me another email since then.


Manuela Junghans  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:09
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Dear Eleni Jun 16, 2007

It is not compulsory to register for VAT in the UK, unless you earn more then GBP 64,000, which I would assume you don´t if you are just translating now and then.

You would, however, still have to register and pay NI contributions, which at the moment are GBP 2.20/week for freelancers in the UK. Have a look at the website mentioned by Helene, it´s very informative and their helpline people are usually very friendly. Although you would have to fill in a tax return you don´t pay NI contribution double since what you earn (and are being taxed for) in your employment will be set off against your contributions as a freelancer.

I also work with agencies in Europe and usually they do know that the UK is a special case in terms of VAT registration. If they don´t just explain to them.

I wish you all the best.



sandra lewis
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:09
English to French
+ ...
Tax Jun 16, 2007

Hi Helen

In the UK you do not register for VAT unless you make over 60K. What you can provide the agency is your UK tax reference, which appears on top of all your correspondence with the tax office.

Doing freelance work on top of your PAYE work you need to register with the Inland Revenue as self-employed (using your current national insurance number). Continue receiving PAYE income after tax as usual. Then after a year or so fill in your tax returns, where there are forms for both self-employed and PAYE work and any kind of other work.

Then the Queen gets your money lol!


eleni sakka
Local time: 22:09
English to Greek
+ ...
Help with Freelance Tax Number Jun 16, 2007

Dear everyone,

Just to say thank you for your comments. They were all very helpful and informative. I'll contact the agency to let them know of the above so they won't worry about the matter also.

I'll add on my invoices my NI number as it seems like a good idea to do so especially with foreign agencies and also enquire about NI contributions as a freelancer.

So, again thank you for all your help.

All the best


Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:09
French to English
+ ...
ring HMRC... Jun 17, 2007

you need to ring HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) and register as self-employed, if you haven't already done so. Their 'Helpline for the Newly Self-Employed' is 0845 915 4515 and you should ring within three months of starting self-employment, or they can issue a fine.

I've never had a problem due to not having a VAT number - none of my French agencies has ever raised the question, and I think you just experienced an ignorant project manager. But providing them with your tax reference number or NI number should make them happy, and in the end that's what you want to do.icon_smile.gif Really, all they need to know is that you're not domiciled in France. But the project manager might not have known that.


Bruno Billion
Local time: 22:09
English to French
Another issue you may have with French clients (and other EU countries) Jul 3, 2007

Some French companies (mostly those paying royalties) are now asking for a tax document called Annual Claim for Exemption from French tax on Royalties (form 5058 RF - 3 GB) and will not pay you (or deduct social charges) until you've sent them this document.

It basically proves that you are paying taxes in the UK. This document can be obtained from the UK tax central document office. You send it filled to your local tax office, and they send it back to you and you then send it to your client in France.**So far, only publishing houses are asking it, not agencies.


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