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Should I Register to Get Paid For Occasional Photography?

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 7 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Self Employed Self Employed Tax Hmrc


I have been doing photography as a hobby for the past few years. I have been building up my profile by doing free shoots. All my work in my portfolio I have uploaded and made a website which is registered as a .co.uk.

Someone told me you need to register your business even if you just get paid for the odd work you do and that the inland revenue might track me down and I will get fined.

This is just a hobby which I am thinking of going freelance as I currently receive tax credit and working families tax credit as my husband only works part time.

(S.M, 18 March 2009)


Your question perfectly demonstrates the minefield that can face aspiring photographers wishing to do ad hoc work, either in order to complement other income or simply as a hobby. The regulations facing people who wish to work in this manner can be challenging and off-putting.

You will be pleased to know, however, that you are probably under no obligation to ‘register your business’. There are, broadly, two ways that you can carry on business as a photographer; you can either act as a sole trader, or you can incorporate a company – thereby becoming a ‘limited’ company, or similar legal entity.

There is nothing to stop you carrying on as a sole trader. As a sole trader you can take on any work, photographic or otherwise, as long as it is legal. There is no obligation to register your business with Companies House. However, if you are charging for the work then you may well have a tax liability. If you earn more than the personal allowance in any year (currently set at £6,035), you will have to pay income tax. Regardless of this, as a sole trader you are considered to be self employed.

As such, you must complete a Self Assessment tax return every year. This is not necessarily a complicated process, particularly if you have not done much self employed work in the preceding year. However, if you have any self employed income you are obliged to complete a Self Assessment return. You must also register as self employed with the Inland Revenue within three months of the end of your first month of self employment.

You also mention that you receive various tax credits. It is important to remember that any money you make from photography will be treated as income, regardless of whether it is derived from self employment or conventional employment. As such, this may have an effect on your ability to claim tax credits. You should contact your Tax Office as soon as you have registered as self employed in order to clarify the situation.

In conclusion, therefore, while you are not obliged to register your business with Companies House, if you are charging for your photographic services you must register as self employed with the Inland Revenue.

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I have created a company name, with me as the owner/sole trader and want to protect it. How do I do this without registering at companies house, as I am under the impression I don't need to register with them. I have just graduated in photography and am now looking for clients to grow my company. I will be declaring myself self employed for tax purposes, as I receive child tax credit. Does anybody have any more information on running own business as sole trader?
ljmm1967 - 7-Aug-12 @ 6:03 PM
QUESTION 2:If I wanted to carry on doing free photographs for now with the view to simply work on my portfolio and grow it, will I still need to be registered in some way to be "named". To build on the name locally in the mean time with a goal to evolve into a business that accepts payments in 2013. Thank you in advance for your reply.
mslabelle - 19-May-12 @ 11:34 AM
Hello.My question is similar to Greg's.I work full time and do photography as a hobby at the moment and so far have only taken photos for free. It's my intention to, as I get more confident, move into doing it more often and getting paid for it. I would also like to "name myself" (i.e. "Something" Photography), which in essence would be a business name. Could you tell me what I need to do to do this, and the implications on what I get taxed at my full time job? Will it mean that I will get taxed twice? And registering, what do I register as (a sole trader as above or something else)? If you could provide links on how to register in either instance, it'd be so helpful. I am not 100% sure how things work in the UK and I've never done my own business before, so a bit out of my element here. Many thanks.x
mslabelle - 19-May-12 @ 10:58 AM
HiI have similiar question, I'm amateur and people like my pictures but I have actually good contract at work and do not think to be a photographer full time. I prefer rather to make pictures for people when I have time and get paid for it and at the same time be emplyed by company.
Greg - 4-May-12 @ 10:29 PM
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