National insurance numbers and tax

How to get a National Insurance number, and brief information about income tax


Everybody doing paid work in the UK has to have a National Insurance number. 

The Government uses it to ensure they take the correct amount of National Insurance contributions and income tax from you.  

Your NI number looks something like this: AB 12 34 56 C . Your number is unique to you and you mustn’t let anyone else use it. 

If you have a Biometric Residence Permit  (BRP) you may also have been allocated an National Insurance number. If you have, it will be shown on the back of your BRP.

It can take up to 16 weeks to receive your NI number. You can start work without one, if your documentation shows you can work in the UK, but you must then apply for one immediately. 

To get a National Insurance number you need to apply online:

Apply for a national insurance number (GOV.UK)     

Applying for a National Insurance number is free - but some Google searches will direct you to websites that charge for this service. These companies do not offer anything other than completing the online application on your behalf. It may also be a way of them harvesting data as you have to provide a lot of personal information. Don't be misled into using these sites - only apply using the link on the GOV.UK webpage, above.

Income tax 

Everybody working in the UK, including students, must pay tax on anything they earn above £12,570 in the tax year, or approximately £1,047 per month on average. If you earn less than the standard personal allowance of £12,570 you don’t have to pay tax. Even if you earn less than this, however, tax could be automatically deducted unless you:  

  • (if you have not worked before or if you’re starting an extra job) - fill out a Starter Checklist Form (this used to be known as a P46) for your employer  

  •  (if you have worked here before) – give your new employer a copy of your P45 form, which your last employer will give you  

Until this information reaches HMRC your employer may put you on a temporary emergency tax code, which means you will have tax deducted. The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April. 

 If you have paid tax but your total earnings were below £12,570 (your personal allowance) you can claim this back.  

Student jobs: paying tax (GOV.UK)  

Income tax in Scotland  (GOV.UK)

Claim a tax refund (Gov.UK)   

If you are confused or concerned about an income tax issue you can get free advice from University of Edinburgh Law School students who are running a tax clinic in partnership with the charity, TaxAid. Contact them at