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Plain English guide to VAT for businesses

Plain English guide to VAT for businesses 


Getting to grips with the basics of accounting, financial management and business strategy can be a challenge. To make things easier, we’re starting a new Plain English guide to business.

This time, we’ll be looking at Value-Added Tax, or VAT as it’s generally known.

What is Value-Added Tax (VAT)?

Value-added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax. VAT is imposed on the value added at each stage of the production and distribution of many goods and services. Registered businesses charge VAT on their sales and can reclaim VAT paid on their purchases.

The standard VAT rate in the UK is currently 20%, with different reduced rates for certain goods and services that fall outside the standard rate.

How does VAT affect your business?

You can choose to register for VAT at any point. But registration does become mandatory once you hit the relevant threshold (see below). As a VAT-registered business, you’ll add a few tasks to your to-do list but will also benefit from claiming back any VAT expenses.

Here are your main VAT responsibilities:

  • Become VAT-registered – it’s mandatory to register for VAT once your company’s taxable turnover exceeds the rolling 12-months threshold (currently £85,000 per year)

  • File your VAT return – your business must file a VAT return (normally quarterly) that shows all VAT you’ve collected from customers, and all VAT expenses you’ve incurred.

  • Pay the collected VAT to HMRC – also every quarter, you’ll pay the VAT funds you’ve collected from your customers to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) less any reclaimable VAT you've paid to your suppliers.

  • Claim back VAT expenses – If there's a refund – where the reclaimable VAT on your outgoings exceeds the VAT on your sales – you can claim that back from HMRC. This can be a helpful boost to your cashflow).

How can our firm help you with VAT?

Becoming a VAT-registered business brings a certain amount of professional kudos to your company – and it needn’t add too much to your financial workload.

As your adviser, we’ll let you know when you’re close to hitting the registration threshold and will be there to help you get VAT-registered. We’ll also make sure your VAT processes are as simple and streamlined as possible, and that you maximise your VAT expense claims. We can also help you decide whether one of the special VAT schemes might benefit you.

If you’d like to know more about registering for and managing VAT, we’ll be happy to explain.