stock image credit

I would suggest making sure you have eaten, had plenty of water and and got a good set of concentration skills, because tax in general is one big, fat headache. Tax is confusing and is made to look and sound confusing to make you even more confused. Are you confused yet?

I thought I would put together a little guide on how to file your first tax return, but also talk about my experiences with the HMRC. It can be a really overwhelming process, but it was made 100 times easier when I found everything on Talk Tax that I could ever need to read up on prior to filing my tax return.

Let's start with the basics...

Who has to register as self employed?

Simple! Anyone who earns money from being their own employer has to declare how much money they have earned to the HMRC. If you earn money in any job, legally you have to be taxed on it which you may notice you already do on your pay slips from a normal job. However, with self employment, what happens if you don't? You're at risk of a very rich and smug tax man finding out your dirty secret and knocking on your door with a very big fine. I would never want to give such a person the satisfaction. Therefore, it's better to be safe than sorry.

How do I register as self employed?

When I started earning money from my blog, I registered as self employed and introduced my blog to the tax people. I never even knew you had to do this until I spoke to some blogger friends. I did not want to risk getting a fine for not declaring payments and I certainly didn't want to shame and penalise my blog. I could have made it ten times easier for myself by getting an accountant, but that means extra money leaving my bank account to fund a rich person doing the job for me, so I decided to read up on stuff and do it myself. So, I called the HMRC and asked to register my blog as a limited company. From there, I was set up with a PAYE (Pay As You Earn) account, received a UTPRN (Unique Tax Payer Reference Number) by post within 7-10 working days and was therefore then legally allowed to earn the money earned through my blog.

How do you file a tax return?

You will need to log into the HMRC website and fill out a self-assessment form or print off the form, fill it in and return by post. This is a document that records the payments you have earned during a tax year. I'll be honest, I majorly stressed out when filing my first one, as I thought I would need to go back and individually record every single payment... very time consuming! However, you just need to know how much you have earned as a total and any expenses you have paid out. The final total after expenses have been subtracted from the earnings is what the HMRC need to know.

When do you have to file a tax return?

The tax year runs from April 5th till April 5th and tax returns have to be filed for the previous tax year by January 31st of the following year. This means that any money I earned from my blog April 2017 right up until April 2018, will not have to be declared until January 31st, 2019. Now, it sounds like you have a lot of time, but trust me... it really is not a lot of time! I would recommend keeping a spreadsheet of all of your incomings and outgoings and keep it up to date. I would also suggest filing your previous years' tax return as soon as possible, rather than leaving it till 10pm on January 30th!

How much do you have to earn to be taxed?

At the moment, there is a limit of £11,000 (previously £10,600) that is essentially tax free cash. Anything earned that goes over this, unfortunately will be taxed. If you have another job and have a self employment too, then both incomes are added together as one.... despite you having probably already paid tax on your other job. You will have to pay back 20% of your earnings. I'll be honest, it hurts a lot, but nothing in life is free!

Your Class 2 National Insurance is another cost that is taken into account and it means you can be subjected more of your earnings. However, if you have a Small Earnings Exception, this may not be applicable to you. It's something that just depends on how much you have earned from your job(s) during one tax year. Generally, if your overall turnover is more than £82,000 per year, you will have to pay VAT on top of this. Unfortunately/fortunately (which one is it?!), I am definitely not earning that much every year!

What counts as blog income?

Everything. If a penny is put into your hand, then it needs to be declared. I earn money from sponsored posts, sponsored social media content, affiliate programmes, advertising and maybe more. Some say you should declare any products, samples or "freebies" (fellow bloggers if you're reading, I KNOW... I use that word VERY lightly lol~) that you are sent for reviewing/featuring purposes and some even say you should declare things like hotel and restaurant reviews. However, it's not indefinite, so entirely up to you.

What can you count as expenses?

Anything that costs you to run your business can be contributed towards business expenses. Whether it's travel (train tickets, taxi rides etc), equipment (laptop, phone, cameras, memory cards etc), stationery, food/drink, bills (phone bills, internet costs, rent cost of office/working from home). Anything that fits in with the above can be declared as an expense, which is then deducted from your overall income. This essentially reduces your tax bill if you have earned over the £11,000 threshold. I had a few things that I was unsure if I could count as an expense, so I simply called HMRC to seek advice and they advised me pretty well.

How is the overall process?

Put it this way. I did not cry or rush to register with an accountant to do all of my tax stuff for the future. I am happy to proceed and do it all of myself. I have actually already filed this years' tax return too, so it's one less thing I have to worry about in the next six months. 

The process is quite long and needs a fair bit of concentration (I suggest having snacks to hand to keep you happy), but the HMRC have made it pretty easy to file your tax return providing you have all of the correct details, information and numbers to input. I would 100% recommend also saving your log ins and passwords somewhere, as I kept forgetting mine and having to re-set it a zillion times!

There we have it. I'm no accountant or financial specialist, but that's my experience with tax returns and hopefully it has helped one of you somewhere!

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Talk Tax. All words and opinions are my own.


  1. I'm going to be saving this for future use. I don't currently earn money through my blog, but I might want to do so in the future. Right now, I just accept gifting opportunities only.. but this is very informative and I will refer back to it should I go down that avenue. Thanks for writing this! ♥

  2. Such an informative post and one I have saved for future reference - thank you :)

  3. This year will be the first time I have to do this and it is so nerve wracking! I'm glad it is fairly easy and you haven't been tempted to use an accountant (as I'm so tempted to just let someone else do it all for me).

  4. I don't actually monetise my blog or make any money from it - not yet anyway! But these are really helpful tips for if I ever do :) x

  5. I also keep a spreadsheet of my income and expenditure during the year which makes a tax return really easy - as long as you don't leave it til the last day!

    1. Completely agree! Never leave it till the last minute!

  6. This is a very handy guide - tax returns can seem very daunting so it's helpful to have a resource like this.

  7. I wish you'd written this post before I filed my very first tax return! LOL. I remember being in floods of tears because I had no idea what I was doing. I do find it a lot easier these days though :)

    Louise x

  8. Anonymous26/7/18

    This is such a handy post for newbie bloggers to read! Such great tips!

  9. Great post - i have been self employed for almost all my working life and Tax still gives me a headache! Kaz


Thanks so much for your comment! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll answer them!