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What taxes does a freelance photographer pay?

As a freelance photographer, you are responsible both for finding your own photography work and for declaring your income to HMRC. You also have to deduct tax yourself. 

To do this, you have to a complete a Self Assessment to let HMRC know that you are self-employed. You should then do a tax return by 31st January following the tax year that you worked in. 

What tax do I pay?

If photography is a freelance side-gig to your full-time employment, you can earn up to £1,000 a year tax-free under the Trading Allowance. You also don’t need to complete a tax return.

If you earn more than £1000 a year, you will need to complete a tax return and pay tax at the usual rate that you pay your salary.

IncomeTax rateTax band
Up to £12,5000%Personal Allowance
£12,501 – £50,00020%Basic Rate
£50,001 – £150,00040%Higher Rate
£150,000 +50%Additional Rate

If freelance photography accounts for your full-time income, tax works a little differently. You must pay:

  • Income Tax
  • National Insurance
    • Class 2 National Insurance
    • Class 4 National Insurance

Both Class 2 and 4 National Insurance must be paid, even if you earn less than the £12,500 Personal Allowance

What are Class 2 and 4 National Insurance?

  • Class 2 National Insurance is a tax that you pay when you’re self-employed and earn more than £6,475 a year
  • Class 4 National Insurance is a tax that you pay when you’re self-employed and earn more than £9,501 a year

You will also pay both of these if you’re employed alongside your freelance work. 

When should I register as a freelance photographer?

The deadline to register as self-employed is 5th October in any given year.

Can I claim expenses? 


As a freelance photographer, you can claim back your business expenses and reduce your overall tax bill. It’s really important to keep a record of what you spend as evidence for your tax return. 

You may not know that HMRC can come knocking up to 22 months after you pay your tax bill (if you pay by 31st January) and request to see your records!

Here are some expenses that you can claim:

  • Your camera
  • A tripod
  • Any photography equipment
  • Studio expenses (e.g. rent or space hire)
  • Travel to shoots (check out the Mileage Allowance)
  • Expenses from shoots (clothes or props)
  • Marketing costs (like your website)
  • Accounting charges

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