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Foreigner registering as self-employed in the UK: help!
Thread poster: Maaike van Vlijmen

Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
Jun 1, 2011

Hi everyone

I am Dutch and I moved to the UK last week. I thought things would be easy, since we're all cosy in the EU and all, but I'm finding myself in a registration nightmare and I don't know my way out. I desperately need some advice from people who have been in my situation.
Yesterday I had an interview to apply for a national insurance number. When I called to make the appointment, the gentleman on the phone urged me to bring as much proof as possible of my business and self-employment. So I printed a huge stack of papers: invoices and PO's of the past year, e-mails with translation orders, contracts, etc. However, when I arrived at the interview, the lady immediately told me this was all useless, since it was proof of my business in the Netherlands and not of my business in the UK. I was very surprised, since the gentleman on the phone knew I had just arrived here and still told me to bring everything. I told her this was my business and I would continue this same business in the UK. That didn't matter at all, she said.
In the end, I was denied a NIN, because of two things: the lady who conducted the interview said it was because I was being paid in euros and not in sterling. She asked me how I would know how much tax to pay and I tried to talk about conversion, but she said I had to talk to the HMRC or the tax office about that (which I did, but didn't get real answers). Then her supervisor came and said I needed to provide proof of my business here. I tried to explain that that was impossible, since I'd just arrived and had been reluctant to accept work, because I assumed I needed to register first in order to be able to work. They sent me to the HMRC Enquiry Centre, where a nice lady was very helpful and understanding, and there I called many, many helplines, but nobody could give me clear answers, other than that the euro excuse wasn't a reason to deny me a NIN.
So today I called them again and the supervisor, who of course wasn't happy to hear me again, told me that it wasn't about the euros (although I had to sign a statement saying I understood I couldn't get a NIN because my income was in euros), but about the fact that I couldn't provide proof of my self-employment. Then we talked about registering at the HMRC and she said I wouldn't need a NIN to register at the HMRC, although at the HMRC Enquiry Centre they had told me I needed one. In the end we agreed that I just had to continue working and gather as much evidence of my business here. But, as you can read below, my Italian clients want me to have a VAT number and of course I don't have one (and don't need one), so I'm afraid everything will collapse.

What bothers me about this situation is that nobody could give me an answer to the question: How did all the other foreigner translators do this when they moved here?
So I am asking you here on this forum: how did you move your business here and how did you register here? How did you get the much desired NIN and were you able to register at the HMRC as self-employed without a NIN?

I have called so many numbers, but everyone tells me to phone someone else. I am getting desperate.
On top of it all, basically all my clients are in Italy (the lady at the NI office asked me: "So why don't you set up your business there?" ......) and the first one already started to complain about the fact that I don't have a VAT number anymore. I know I don't need one, and I've read all about it here on proz, but this is aggravating the situation and increasing my regret that I ever decided to move here.

Any help is very, very much appreciated!!!


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I can help... maybe Jun 1, 2011

Maaike van Vlijmen wrote:

Any help is very, very much appreciated!!!


I'm sorry to hear you've found people so unhelpful.

It's wise to hire an accountant to get you correctly set up - then after a couple of years you can probably do most of the book-keeping yourself.

I don't know any accountants in Belfast, unfortunately, but I suggest you look for a small friendly one-room operation - not one of the big accounting firms (too expensive and they lack the personal touch).

What seems impossibly difficult for you is really easy for an accountant and by going through an accountant, HMRC will be happy that you're doing everything correctly.

[Edited at 2011-06-01 16:34 GMT]


 

Ramon Inglada  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
My own experience, 4 years ago in Scotland Jun 1, 2011

Hi Maaike,

I was in the same situation 4 years ago, so maybe I can help.

I started freelancing in Ireland. After being a freelancer there for a bit more than 18 months, I moved to the Scotland. Although I had already lived in the UK before, it had always been as a student and I had never worked here, so I didn't have a NIN.

I therefore went to request one, under the assumption that, being a European citizen, I had the full right to work here and get a NIN with no problem. I did like you: I brought a lot of documentation showing I was self-employed in Ireland. In my interview to get the NIN, I got the same reaction than you: the documentation is useless, we need something to prove you are self-employed in the UK, not in Ireland. I asked: how can I do that if I can't register as self-employed in the HMRC without a NIN? I was given the advice to work unregistered for 2-3 months to generate documentation (mainly invoices with my UK address) that would show I was self-employed in the UK. I considered this to be highly irregular but I was told it was only temporary.

I did this. I went on working normally for a couple of months, issuing my invoices with my UK address. If clients didn't request a VAT number, no number was included. If they needed a VAT number, I would supply my Irish VAT number (in most cases a VAT number was not required, so this wasn't a big problem).

Two months later I returned for another interview to get my NIN. I brought along quite a few invoices with my UK address, for different clients and different amounts (all of them in Euros), my business card with my UK address, and general proof of address in the UK (rental agreement and different utility bills).

After a short interview about my professional activity and how long I had been self-employed and so on, I was given my NIN. I then called HMRC and officially registered as self-employed, and then it was all pretty easy.

I also have to add that my partner is also a freelance translator. She is French, we moved together to Scotland 4 years ago and she followed the same process with identical results.

So I would recommend you keep on working from here for a couple of months, to build up documentation showing your UK address, and then it should be ok to get your NIN. And for your Italian clients who absolutely demand a VAT number, keep using your Dutch VAT number for the time being. Again, this looks quite irregular but this is what I was told in person during my NIN interview, and it worked for me.

Feel free to send me a private message if you have any other question I might help you with.

Good luck with everything!

Ramon


[Edited at 2011-06-01 17:17 GMT]


 

Susana González Tuya
Spain
Local time: 10:02
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree with Ramón Jun 1, 2011

I was given the advice to work unregistered for 2-3 months to generate documentation (mainly invoices with my UK address) that would show I was self-employed in the UK. I considered this to be highly irregular but I was told it was only temporary.

I did this. I went on working normally for a couple of months, issuing my invoices with my UK address. If clients didn't request a VAT number, no number was included.


[Edited at 2011-06-01 17:17 GMT]


As Ramón says this is the easiest way to do it.

Take into account that in the UK you do not need to register as self employed if your activity does not generate over £5,000 a year, therefore many people start without being registered. In addition as long as your business does not reach the threshold of £70,000 a year you do not need to register for VAT unless you want to (in fact they will encourage you not to do it unless you absolutetly need to)


 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member
Dutch to English
+ ...
You can continue with your Dutch business Jun 1, 2011

You can pay taxes in Holland and run your business from there while residing in the UK. Your domicile for tax purposes is the Netherlands and you reside in the UK.

This will solve your VAT issue immediately because you can use your Dutch VAT number.

You can trade in the UK for 6 months (?) before you have to register so I would just trade and then see. They will want your money and then you need a NIN so they will simply have to give you one.

I use an accountant who deals with international situations. You can, for example, actually do your tax returns to match the normal year and do not have to do it from April to March.


 

Rad Graban  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
English to Slovak
+ ...
Not sure about.... Jun 1, 2011

.... couple of months working unregistered. As far as I know you should register as self-employed not later than 30 days after the date you start your business or you can be fined.

 

Debbi Steele  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
3 months Jun 1, 2011

You actually have 3 months to register as self-employed (any later and you are charged a fine of I think £100), so you would be fine to work for a month or so and still have plenty of leeway to register in time.

 

Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jun 2, 2011

Thanks everyone for your replies, especially Ramon. I think I was so confused because it all just didn't make sense to me: continuing to work and only later registering. I needed confirmation that I had understood it correctly and that it had worked for others, and now I knowicon_smile.gif
I would like to know one other thing from Ramon: did your clients pay you in a bank account in Ireland or in the UK? And did you just convert the euros into sterling?

A friendly UK colleague with many clients in Italy provided me with two links I can send to my Italian clients to explain why I don't need a VAT number, so I'm very pleased with that.
Hopefully things will work out.
Thank you Tom for the suggestion of getting an accountant, that's a very good idea.
I know I have three months before I need to register, so I'll just keep on working and gathering proof.
I was desperate yesterday, but thanks to your help I'm much more optimistic now!icon_smile.gif
Thank you all!!!


 

Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
End of the story Aug 20, 2011

Hi everyone

I just wanted to let you know (and it might be useful for other translators in the same situation) that everything worked out fine. I continued working and two weeks ago I went back for the second interview. In the meantime, the requirements had changed and now I had to bring even more papers, but I got everything and they were impressedicon_wink.gif I have to say that the people I dealt with this time were much more competent and friendly. I brought PO's, invoices, business cards, balance spreadsheets, contracts, letters from the bank about my business account (Santander is a good bank!) and confirmation letters from the HMRC about tax workshops I would be attending. The interview lasted 1.5 hours (!), but in the end they stamped and signed everything, so I was quite optimistic. And today I finally got the letter: I have a National Insurance Number! I am so happyicon_smile.gif
I would like to thank everyone who helped me (especially Ramon, who sent me lots of information and advice), I appreciate it a lot!
Hopefully this thread will be helpful for other translators who come to the UK.


 

Leo BORGIA  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
English to French
+ ...
In the same situation actually Sep 13, 2011

Hello Maaike,

This thread seems to be very helpful. I arrived in the UK from France 3 weeks ago. I would like to settle here in London. I was just reading this thread and found it very interesting.
I wanted to know if you could give some advice to get properly settled here in the UK.

The only thing I have now is a rental agreement.

What would you suggest first? Open a bank account ??

Thanks in advance for your help.

Cheers

Leo


 

BabelOn-line
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
English to French
+ ...
The unfathomable mysteries of the UK NI Sep 13, 2011

Hi Maaike

When i started in the UK, in 1999, coming from France, I had exactly the same reaction as you: "What do you mean, start trading now and register later?". This seemed to go against every rule most of us Europeans are used to.

Good to hear your NI problem is now solved.

If you intend to stay in the UK for a bit longer, i would recommend you to think about two more things:

- Get on the electoral register. You will be able to vote for local elections.
- Build up a "credit history": UK is very keen on credit scoring. This is done by private agencies who look up your credit history on a computer network, but they also check that you are on the Electoral Roll and various other sources. The more banks accounts, debit or credit card you have, the more credible you become to their eyes. This is a bit Big-Brotherish, but once you are "in their system", banks will get some idea about who you are. This can become crucial if you you want to apply for a credit card, a loan or possibly a mortgage.

Also, if you are in for the long term – say a couple of years or more, i'd think of starting a limited company.

Sounds complicated?

It is fairly actually simple, cheap (about £200) and has many financial advantages (unless you are to retire in the UK, you can legally avoid paying any NIC – national insurance contributions –  and pay 20% corporation tax). This also creates a watertight separation between your business and your own estate. In my view, it also lends you more credibility when you deal with clients.

If that's of any interest to you, drop me a message, i'll be happy to share my experience.

All the best!

Jean


 

Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes Sep 13, 2011

Hi Leo

Welcome to the UKicon_wink.gif
Yes, opening a (business) bank account is a good start. As you can read in this thread, you need to gather as much paperwork as possible to prove you're running your business. I suggest you visit the HMRC website: there you can find a lot of useful information about starting your own business and setting up as a sole trader.
You can send me a message through my profile if you have more questions.
Good luck!!

Maaike


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Deleted at Poster's request

Alison MacG  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
German to English
+ ...
HMRC workshops Nov 1, 2011

Workshops are run by the Business Education and Support Team and are definitely worthwhile. They can be booked online. See this link for more info and good luck!

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/bst/index.htm


 

Rute Fidalgo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Thank you! Nov 1, 2011

Alison MacG wrote:

Workshops are run by the Business Education and Support Team and are definitely worthwhile. They can be booked online. See this link for more info and good luck!

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/bst/index.htm


Thank you Alison!
I've already booked!


 
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