Translation in the UK

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Due to the country’s long and varied history as well as its tight economic links with trading partners all over the world, translation has a long tradition in the UK. The United Kingdom serves as the base for many English-native linguists as well as speakers of other languages, who translate for direct clients and agencies in the UK, the EU and the rest of the world alike.

The UK’s multicultural population and its strong and well-developed economy are two major boosters for the translation industry. Not everybody speaks English, and British companies are realising the need for translation if they want to branch out and export their products to other countries, putting particular emphasis on quality work and a professional appearance.

State of the translation industry in the UK

Local history and factors affecting translation in the UK

Profile of domestic demand


Programmes encouraging translation in the UK

"Writers in Translation is English PEN's newest programme. We award grants to support new books being published for the first time in English translation, and which have a clear link to the PEN charter...

Each year, Writers in Translation support between 6 and 8 books that are translated from a wide variety of foreign languages. Our aim is to celebrate books of outstanding literary value, dedication to free speech and intercultural understanding." English PEN

Legal framework

Public commentary

Working as a translator in the UK

  • Freelance translators need to register as self-employed in the UK. This can be done online at the HM Revenue & Customs website. Once your register as self-employed you are given a UTR (Unique Tax Reference) number.

Invoicing from within the UK

The information that invoices must contain when invoicing from within the UK vary according to business type, with differences for sole traders and limited companies. See invoicing information defined on government website


Basic requirements

  • "Self-employed tax and employed tax are generally the same as far as I know. You have a tax-free threshold of around £6430 (you can check this on the HMRC website) and after that you pay 20% on everything up to £38,000 more or less. You don't need to register for a VAT number until your self-employed business earns over £68,000 per year and this means that you don't have to pay VAT so you don't really need to invoice for it unless your company will be earning close to that amount." [1]
  • "As self-employed, you must also pay Class II National Insurance contributions (this works out to an amount per month you must pay by direct debit and then, 8% Class IV National Insurance contributions that is added to the 20% income tax base above-cited (because effectively you are employee and employer)." [2]
  • If you work for an employer and freelance on the side, taxes are handled in a hybrid fashion. "When you do your self-employed tax return at the end of the financial year, there will be a section where you can enter all information from your PAYE job (from your P60 which they give you at the end of the financial year). This will show your tax code and all the tax you've paid with regards to your PAYE employment. Then you can add in what you've earned as self-employed and your expenses and the HMRC will calculate how much tax and National Insurance you need to pay at the end of the financial year. The tax year in UK goes from 6th April to 5th April the following year. You then have until October that year to do a paper tax return or until January the following year to do an online return." [3]


  • Deductions can be taken in full or in part for costs related to internet, telephone, electricity, gas bills, rent, council tax, etc. The topic of "Use of Home", and how specifically to account, is covered in detail on the HMRC website. The topic has also been discussed in the UK forum.

Industry bodies

Industry associations in the UK

The British language industry is host to numerous organizations claiming to represent different sectors of the workforce.

Among the largest are the specialised Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI) and the “wider” Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL), both of which aim to establish and maintain high standards of work, and to create links with companies and other potential clients, as well as providing varied networking opportunities to their members – among them newsgroups and email lists, smaller regional events such as workshops and big annual conferences.

Schools with translation or interpreting programs

"One could say that the British people’s reluctance to learn foreign languages at high-school and even undergraduate level indirectly benefits the numerous language professionals who graduate from one of the country's excellent postgraduate schemes – from the specialised MA in Legal Translation offered by London’s City University to the ICL’s MSc in Scientific, Technical and Medical Translation to language-specific postgraduate degrees at the University of Edinburgh. In addition, the translation business in Britain is characterised by an exceptionally high number of professionals who switch to translation from other fields and can then leverage their industry-specific knowledge in their translation work."

Other bodies

Notable translators in the UK

The UK and

In addition to numerous and frequent powwows, the country has already been the venue of international as well as regional conferences which have attracted a large number of attendees from all over Europe.

Additional information related to the translation industry in the UK


  1. Frances Leggett
  2. Myriam Garcia Bernabe
  3. Frances Leggett

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