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Can You Start a UK Business While on Benefits?



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Can You Start a UK Business While on Benefits?
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While your financial circumstances shouldn’t stop you from chasing your dreams, it’s understandable if you’ve asked ‘can I start a business while on benefits?’ After all, funding your business is an important step in your business journey and you may question if you can become a business owner while on Universal Credit. But your financial circumstances shouldn’t stop you from achieving your life goals. 

If you’re looking for support to get you started on your business journey, look no further than SUAZ. We’re a free company formations provider, who’d love to help you on your road to success. Below, we’ll answer ‘can you start a business on Universal Credit?’. We’ll also cover the key considerations of becoming a business owner while on benefits so you’re fully prepared for your next chapter. 

An overview of starting a business on benefits

Knowing where to start a business can feel tricky, regardless of your financial circumstances. But if you’re claiming Universal Credit or other benefits, you may feel concerned about where to begin, or question if it’s possible to start a business in your situation. You’ll be pleased to hear, however, that the government encourages those claiming benefits to start or run their own businesses, and even offers support to get started. 

If you’re looking for support when starting your business, the government offers free advice through their Business Support Helpline. From writing your business plan, to navigating business tax, there are experts at hand to guide you in the right direction.

Understanding Universal Credit and self-employment 

Usually, when you’re self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, you’re treated as if you are earning a certain amount - known as the ‘minimum income floor’. This is the amount of money an employed person in similar circumstances to you would earn on the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage, once tax and National Insurance have been deducted. Should you earn more than this amount in any month, your actual earnings will be looked at instead to determine your Universal Credit payment.

But as a new business owner, you may be entitled to a 12-month ‘start-up period.’ This means the minimum income floor won’t apply to you for the first 12 months, to give you the opportunity to grow your business. 

This means that regardless of your income as a new business owner, your Universal Credit payments are based on your actual monthly earnings. During this time, you won’t need to look for other work and you’ll also receive support from a Jobcentre Plus work coach. You’ll find out if you’re eligible for a start-up period at your self-employed interview. 

Legal and financial considerations

Before you get started on your business to-do list, you must get to grips with the legal and financial considerations of starting a business while on benefits

Legal implications

If you claim benefits, you’ll need to bear in mind how your business may affect your benefit entitlement. If your business is registered as a limited company and you claim Universal Credit, the limited company structure will be ignored if you have a trade or property business and your position works similarly to a sole trader. In simple terms, directors of their own companies are often treated as self-employed when it comes to Universal Credit. 

When it comes to claiming Universal Credit as a business owner, you’ll need to demonstrate that your self-employment is your main source of income. This includes having proof that you get regular work from self-employment, your work is organised (you have invoices and receipts, or accounts) and that you expect to make a profit. To do this, you’ll need to give your work coach evidence of your tax returns, accounts and any business plan, your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) if you’re registered for Self Assessment, your marketing materials and your customer and supplier lists. Once you’ve shown all of these items, you’ll be seen as ‘gainfully self-employed’ and won’t need to look for other work. This means you can focus on growing your new business.

You’ll need to report the following at the end of each monthly assessment period:

  • How much you’ve earned that month from self-employment, even if it’s nothing

  • Any money you’ve paid into a pension

  • The payments going into and out of your business 

If you forget to report your earnings on time and don’t have a good reason why you missed the deadline, the Department for Work and Pensions will usually stop your Universal Credit claim until you report your earnings to them. 

Financial planning

You'll also want to consider the other costs of starting a business, it’s important to remember that if your earnings change each month as a new business owner, your Universal Credit payments will do the same. This can make it difficult to stick to a monthly budget, especially if you don’t know how much you’ll take home each month. 

Remember - if you’re gainfully self-employed, your UC payment is likely to be calculated using a minimum income floor. But if you earn more than this from your self-employment income, your UC amount will be calculated based on your actual earnings. 

To help you manage your finances month-to-month, you may look to pay your income tax and National Insurance monthly rather than annually. This is known as a budget payment plan and works like a monthly direct debit. You’ll get to choose how much you pay each and how often, to help you keep on top of your finances. This could alleviate financial worries as you’ll know how much money you have left to work with each month once your bills are taken care of. Take a look at the government’s Self Assessment payment information for more details. 

Practical steps for starting a business on benefits

We’ve covered the legal and financial implications of starting a business on benefits, but how do you get started? Below, we’ve put together some practical steps for starting a business while receiving Universal Credit or other benefits. 

Research and planning 

Like most things in life, research and planning is key to achieving your goals and shaping success. Not only does researching your business’ target market help you connect with potential customers, it can also give you a competitive edge in your industry by creating something new and distinctive compared to your competitors.

Thorough research is also key to risk mitigation. By planning ahead, you can minimise the chances of unexpected issues threatening your business’ success. When it comes to your business finances, a detailed financial plan is vital for long-term stability. Above all, spending time researching your business will pay off long-term, ensuring you have a plan in place to combat potential threats and improve your chances of growth and success. 

You'll likely want to create a business plan. Read our guide to writing a business plan for more information.

Utilising support services

Starting your own business could be life-changing, but taking that first step towards entrepreneurship can feel daunting, especially if you’re concerned about your financial circumstances. When starting a business on benefits, it’s important to remember that help and support are out there. Reaching out for support could streamline your business journey and take some weight off your shoulders. 

Be sure to ask your Jobcentre Plus work coach for information about local organisations who may be able to support you in your business endeavours. And when it comes to the company formation process, SUAZ can take care of the complicated stuff for you. We can register your company directly with Companies House, completely free of charge. What’s more, we’re at hand whenever you need us to answer any questions you may have about company formation, and getting started in the business world. 

To conclude…

As long as you plan ahead and brush up on your knowledge of regulations and legal implications, there’s no reason why claiming benefits should stop you from achieving your business goals. 

Entrepreneurship could be the first step towards financial independence and self-discovery. Starting a business could be the fresh start you’ve been looking for - what’s stopping you from stepping into those big boss shoes? Here at SUAZ, we’d love to help you make your business dreams a reality. We believe you have what it takes to turn your business idea into a successful enterprise. Form your company for free with SUAZ today

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