What government stuff do you need to do in the UK?

I have heard the following terms in passing:

['council tax', 'electoral register', 'tax return', 'P60', 'Jury duty']

and I am now aware that I need to chase local councils to make sure they all know where I live (new local council does not talk to old local council)

This set of entities are things which I need to tell where I live and occasionally take action for. What is this set called? This is probably incomplete... what other entries are there?

For each of these who do I contact, what do I need to do and when, and do I need any knowledge of things to do it? e.g. do I need to contact local government legal services (specifically, as they might have a separate database to the local council tax department) and tell them all my contact details too so that they know where to request me to be on a jury? (And do I need to make sure I have some basic law understanding before being on a jury or will some study of ethics be enough?)

Is there a guide to living in the UK without being ambushed by police officers proclaiming I am a criminal or fined because I should just know to do XYZ? The government has not given me a pamphlet (or perhaps a large book).

  • 1
    I am not sure which country you migrated from, but the UK police doesn't jump on you just because you are a criminal. You will be given ample opportunity to do the right things or rectify, before you are reported to the police.
    – DumbCoder
    Dec 8, 2014 at 9:13
  • 2
    Try the site at Expatriates. Dec 9, 2014 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


Edited to add an important one that I forgot, because I don't have a TV myself.

You need to:

  • If a householder, arrange to pay Council Tax to your local council (easiest via their website)
  • If self-employed, register as such with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, formerly known as the Inland Revenue) so you can pay National Insurance contributions (again, easiest online)
  • If you have untaxed income or income above the higher-rate tax threshold, or HMRC tell you to, file a self-assessment tax return
  • Register to vote at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (that will also get you registered for jury service)
  • Not drive a motor vehicle without a valid driving licence (it doesn't need to be physically in your possession while you're driving, you just have to be able to produce it within a week if required to do so by a police officer)
  • If you own a car, tax it online or in a Post Office, insure it, and get an annual safety inspection if it's more than three years old (the "MOT test") (most garages are licensed to conduct MOT tests).
  • If driving in the London Congestion Charge Zone or (since last week) through or over the Dartford Crossing, pay the tolls online
  • If you have in your house equipment capable of receiving TV broadcasts (e.g. a TV, VCR, satellite or cable box, that's connected to an aerial, cable connection or satellite dish) or you use the Internet to watch live video streamed by a UK TV company (not just the BBC; any company that's licensed to broadcast TV in the UK), buy a TV licence. Catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer are currently not included and don't require a TV licence. It's currently £145.50 per year. http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/

That's really about it, unless you're employing people or running a business turning over more than £81,000 per year (or doing one of a number of relatively unlikely things that require specific paperwork, such as owning a horse or farm animal (but not a dog or cat or similar)). It's not a bureaucratic country. None of those things except the driving licence/car tax/MOT test/car insurance will be a police matter if omitted, but you could be fined for them (although it's vanishingly unlikely that you'd be fined for not registering to vote and for jury service).

You don't need to understand the law before being on a jury, because it's the judge's job to ensure that the jury understand the law as it relates to the case in front of them.

A few pieces of paperwork jargon for you:

  • P45 -- a tax form that an employer will give you when you leave their employment, to pass on to your next employer
  • P60 -- a tax form that your employer will give you after the end of each tax year stating your total taxable employment income, and the tax and National Insurance deducted
  • P11D -- a tax form that your employer will give you after end of each tax year stating the total taxable value of benefits in kind that you've received from them, such as health insurance, a company car, and so on
  • MOT Test -- the annual safety inspection of vehicles over three years old, required by the Department for Transport or DfT, which hasn't actually been called the Ministry of Transport or MOT for a very long time
  • National Insurance number -- a unique identifier for you in the National Insurance/income tax system, which is issued to UK citizens when they turn 16, and which non-citizens with the right to study or work in the UK can get on application. You'll need one before you can work. https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number
  • 2
    @Pepone I'm afraid not. If you're asked to register to vote (which you will be annually) then you have to do so, on penalty of an £80 fine. Although as I said, in practice you're very unlikely to be fined. You're also wrong about Council Tax -- if you're renting a property, it's your responsibility to pay it, not the property owner's.
    – Mike Scott
    Dec 7, 2014 at 17:56
  • so the Libdems sneaked that one through eh and mainstream parties wonder why UKip/greens are doing so well
    – Pepone
    Dec 7, 2014 at 18:33
  • 4
    @Pepone It's not recent and it's not the Lib Dems. The recent change is that everyone is required to register themselves, rather than the head of the household being required to register everyone in the household. In fact the potential fine has got a lot smaller -- it used to be £1,000. That goes back at least as far as the Representation of the People Act in 1918, passed by the Conservative government. Since UKIP are so keen on going back to the 1950s, they should be all in favour of mandatory registration like we had in the 1950s.
    – Mike Scott
    Dec 7, 2014 at 18:39
  • I'm pretty sure it's not compulsory to register to vote. And it's obviously not compulsory if you are not a citizen. Dec 9, 2014 at 18:47
  • 1
    @DJClayworth You're wrong about that. Lots of people think it's not compulsory, because in practice no one is ever prosecuted, but gov.uk/electoral-register is quite clear: "If you’re asked to register and don’t do so, your local Electoral Registration Office could fine you £80."
    – Mike Scott
    Dec 9, 2014 at 19:42

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