What is a UTR number and how to apply for it

Paola Faben Oliveira

What is a UTR number?

The Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) is a UK tax identification number, issued by the HMRC to identify a person or business entity, this identification number is needed when one wishes to complete a tax self assessment.

If you’re self-employed, a sole trader, or you own a limited company, you’ll need to know about the UTR. In this guide, we’ll give you the full lowdown on the UTR, including what it looks like and how to find yours. Plus, what to do if you lose your UTR. So let’s get started.

⚠️ Note that in the UK, the abbreviation UTR usually refers to your tax ID - but in India, UTR stands for unique transaction reference.

UTR number example

First and foremost, you’ll need to know what a UTR looks like. It’s a 10 digit number just like the example below:

UTR number: 7210158404

Some UTR numbers will have the letter ‘K’ at the end.

Tax identification number UK

If you’re a visitor or expat from the US, it’s easy to confuse the UTR with a tax identification number (TIN).

The TIN is used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the US in its tax system, and can refer to a person’s Social Security Number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Here in the UK, the UTR serves a similar function. But while it may be known as a ‘tax reference’ on some documentation, the official name for it is always the unique taxpayer reference (UTR).

Who needs a UTR number?

Anyone who completes a tax self assessment will need a UTR to file their tax return. This applies if you’re self-employed or a sole trader, own your own registered company in the UK, or work with a business partner.

If you’re not sure whether or not you need to submit a self assessment, you can find out on the Government website.

How to find my Unique Tax Reference number (UTR)?

A UTR may be automatically issued if you register a limited company or apply for tax self assessment. You’ll receive it in the post around 10 days after registering.¹

You’ll find your 10 digit number on correspondence from HMRC, often on the top right of letters issued regarding your UK tax. You can find it on:²

  • Your personal tax account,
  • The HMRC app,
  • Previous tax returns,
  • Notices from HMRC to file a return or payment reminders.

Apply for UTR number

Ready to complete your first tax return? Here’s how the process of getting a UTR number looks like in two scenarios: if you are self employed or a partner in a limited company:

How to get a UTR number - If you are self employed or sole trader³

A sole trader or self-employed must register within HMRC for self assessment if they earned more than 1,000 GBP before tax relief in the last tax year (between April 6 and April 5 of the following year). Here is how to register for utr number:

If it's your first time registering

  1. You need to access your Business Tax Account within HMRC and register for self assessment and class 2 national insurance.
  2. You need an user ID and password to access the tax account.
  3. After logging in you will need to provide some personal information such as: name, date of birth, address, email address and phone number. As well as information about our business, such as the nature of business and the date your self-employment began.
  4. Once you submit your registration your UTR number will be posted.

If you can't use the online service

  1. With all your information in hand, fill up the online CWF1 form.
  2. Print the form and post it to HMRC.
  3. After your registration is processed you will receive your UTR number by mail.

⚠️ You need to register before October 5 of your business' second tax year, you could face a fine if that is not done.

How to get a UTR number - If you are a partner or partnership⁴

You can request a copy of your company UTR number through the HMRC online services.
To do so your company needs to be registered within the Companies House, and you'll need to provide:

  1. Your company registration number
  2. The company registered name
    After submitting your request a copy of the company's UTR will be sent to the commercial address registered in the Companies House.

Finding a lost UTR number

If you’ve checked all previous correspondence from HMRC, and haven’t been able to access online HMRC services, you may need to request a lost UTR.

The good news is that it should be relatively straightforward to do this. All you’ll need to do is call the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310 and provide your details, including your National Insurance number.

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If you’re looking into getting a UTR, it’s likely that you’re setting up a new business or starting out as a freelancer. If you have plans to trade internationally with your new venture, you’re going to need a Wise Business multi-currency account.

With Wise Business you can receive money from clients overseas in 9 major currencies, and pay partners or employees sending and converting money for tiny fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate.

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And that’s the UTR in a nutshell. After reading this guide, you should be all clued up on what the unique taxpayer reference is, who needs one and where to find yours - including how to register if you’re ready to file your first tax return.

Once you have a UTR, it’s yours for life. But don’t worry if you lose it - just scroll back up to the handy section in our guide for recovering your UTR.

Sources used for this article:

  1. Self assessment registration
  2. Find lost UTR
  3. Register for self assessment if self-employed
  4. Register for self assessment if partner in limited company

Sources last checked on June 21, 2023.

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This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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