The main legal obligation when becoming self-employed is that you must register as a self-employed person with Revenue. You pay tax on the profits from your business and on any other income that you have.
If you make a late payment of any taxes due by you, you will be charged interest from the due date to the date when your payment is received.
As a self-employed person you pay income tax under the self-assessment system, once a year. Self-assessment means that you are responsible for making your own assessment of tax due.
You pay Preliminary Tax (an estimate of tax due for your current trading year) on or before 31 October each year and make a tax return for the previous year not later than 31 October.
For example, if your accounting year is from 1 January to 31 December each year, you pay Preliminary Tax for 2017 by 31 October 2017, based on an estimate of your liability for the full year. At the same time you make a tax return for 2016 and pay any taxes outstanding for that year. If you file your tax return online using the Revenue Online Service (ROS), you may be able to file your return slightly later. You are entitled to the normal income tax credits and reliefs. For 2017, you may claim an Earned Income tax credit of €950 (pdf) (increased from €550 in 2016). However, if you also qualify for the PAYE tax credit, the combined value of these 2 tax credits cannot exceed €1,650.
You must keep proper records which include:
You must keep supporting records (for example, invoices, bank and building society statements, cheque stubs and receipts). You do not have to send them in to Revenue, but you must keep them in case of a Revenue audit, that is, an inspection.
You can claim certain business expenses against tax, such as purchase of goods for re-sale, wages, rent, rates, repairs, lighting and heating, running costs of vehicles or machinery used in the business, accountancy fees, interest paid on business loans, leasing payments on vehicles or machinery used in the business. as well as contributions to your personal pension (up to certain limits).
If you are working from home you may be able to claim a proportion of household bills such as telephone, heating, lighting etc.
You can find more information on self-employment in Revenue’s A Guide to Self Assessment IT10, which includes information how to fill in your tax return and important deadlines. Revenue also has information on registering for tax and about the business expenses that you can claim against income. Your local Revenue office can also help you with any questions that you may have.
Subcontractors: If you are a self-employed subcontractor working in construction, forestry or meat processing there is detailed information about Relevant Contracts Tax on Revenue's website.
USC: Everyone is liable to pay the Universal Social Charge (USC) if their gross income is over €13,000 in a year.
An extra charge of 3% applies to any self-employed income over €100,000 regardless of age. This means that self-employed people pay a total of 11% USC on any income over €100,000. The USC does not apply to social welfare or similar payments. You pay your USC with your preliminary tax payment.
PRSI: Self-employed people pay Class S PRSI on their income.
You must register for Value Added Tax (VAT) if your annual turnover is more than or is likely to be more than €75,000 for supply of goods or €37,500 for supply of service. As a trader you pay VAT on goods and services acquired for the business and charge VAT on goods and services supplied by the business. The difference between the VAT charged by you and the VAT you were charged must be paid to the Revenue. If the amount of VAT paid by you exceeds the VAT charged by you, Revenue will repay the excess. This ensures that VAT is paid by the ultimate customer and not by the business.
If you are registered for VAT Revenue will send you a form VAT3 which must be returned with the payment not later than a specified date. Normally, VAT returns are made every 2 months, but there are special arrangements for small businesses who can pay at less frequent intervals.
If you are self-employed you (or an agent) must make your income tax return and self-assess your tax liability. You have the following options:
You can access the forms on the Revenue website. Revenue also provide A Guide to Completing Pay and File Tax Returns (pdf)
Note that the rules about self-assessment changed for the year 2013. In previous years Revenue would assess your liability for tax on the basis of the information you entered in your income tax return.
From 2013, your annual return of income form – Form 11 - includes a self-assessment section which you (or your agent) must complete and sign. If you do not make this self-assessment you will be liable to a penalty of €250. However, you do not have to make a self-assessment if you returned the completed Form 11 on or before 31 August in the year following the year of assessment If you filed your completed return on or before that date Revenue will make the self-assessment on your behalf. If you use ROS, the system can calculate your tax liability based on the information you input and you can then choose to use this in your self-assessment.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.