Fill in your return
Complete and send your VAT Return online.
If you need help there’s guidance on:
You must include EU sales on your VAT return and complete an EC Sales List.
Working out what you can claim
If your business is a charity, you pay VAT at a reduced rate on some goods and services.
VAT-registered businesses can usually reclaim the VAT they’ve paid on business purchases and expenses. The claim must be for a business activity (you have to work out the business element if it also had a personal use).
You must keep records to support your claim and show the VAT was paid.
You can’t reclaim the VAT on:
- entertainment expenses
- purchases if you use the VAT Flat Rate Scheme (except some capital assets worth more than £2,000)
There are special rules for working out how to reclaim VAT for:
- cars, eg buying, repairing, fuel costs
- staff travel expenses, eg accommodation and transport expenses
- businesses that are partly exempt from VAT
Ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for permission to use estimated figures. You’ll need a good reason why you can’t give accurate figures on your VAT Return.
If you’re allowed, you won’t be charged a penalty unless you miss the deadline or make a careless or deliberate error. You’ll normally have to give the correct figures in your next VAT Return.
You can reclaim the VAT you’ve paid HMRC but not received from a customer if it’s a ‘bad debt’ (one you’ve written off). To qualify for the relief:
- the debt must be between 6 months old and 4 years and 6 months old
- you mustn’t have sold the debt on
- you mustn’t have charged more than the normal price for the item
You should reclaim them via your VAT Return (add them to your Box 4 figure) and keep records about the debt.
If the debt is paid, you must pay the relief back via your VAT Return by adding the amount to your ‘Box 1’ figure.
How to submit your return
You must submit your return online unless:
- your business is subject to an insolvency procedure – if you have a Company Voluntary Arrangement or an Individual Voluntary Arrangement you can submit your return online if you want to
- you object to using computers on religious grounds
- you can’t because of your age, a disability or because of where you live, eg you don’t have internet access
Contact HM Revenue and Customs HMRC to find out how to submit your return, eg paper filing, if you can’t submit online.
You can get help with your VAT return or if you don’t understand something about your tax.
Submit your VAT return online
You need a VAT number and a VAT online account. You can then submit your VAT Return using HMRC’s free online service or commercial accounting software.
If you need:
- a VAT number and online account – register for VAT
- an online account – sign up for an online account and select ‘VAT submit returns’
- a VAT number – log in to your online account and apply for a VAT number
HMRC’s free online service
Log in to your VAT online account and complete your VAT Return.
Using accounting software
Most accounting software lets you submit your VAT Return to HMRC directly. This means you won’t have to enter your figures separately in HMRC’s online service.
HMRC has a list of software you can use to submit your VAT Return.
Keep any reference number you receive as proof you’ve sent your return.
Using accountants or agents
You’ll need to authorise them before they can submit your VAT Return. You can do this through your VAT online account.
Find an accountant or a solicitor to help you with your VAT return or tax.
Help with online services
Contact the VAT Online Services Helpdesk if you need any help using VAT online services.
Check your VAT Return and payment deadlines in your VAT online account.
Your VAT online account tells you:
- when your VAT Returns are due
- when the payment must clear HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) account
The deadline for submitting the return online and paying HMRC are usually the same – 1 calendar month and 7 days after the end of an accounting period. You need to allow time for the payment to reach HMRC’s account.
The deadlines are different if, for example, you use the VAT Annual Accounting Scheme.
Pay your VAT bill
You must pay VAT to HMRC electronically, eg through direct debit or internet banking. Most businesses aren’t allowed to pay by cheque.
Contact HMRC if you can’t pay your VAT bill.
Surcharges and penalties
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) record a ‘default’ if:
- they don’t receive your VAT return by the deadline
- full payment for the VAT due on your return hasn’t reached their account by the deadline
You may enter a 12-month ‘surcharge period’ if you default. If you default again during this time:
- the surcharge period is extended for a further 12 months
- you may have to pay an extra amount (a ‘surcharge’) on top of the VAT you owe
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will write to you explaining any surcharges you owe and what happens if you default again.
How much you pay
Your surcharge is a percentage of the VAT outstanding on the due date for the accounting period that is in default. The surcharge rate increases every time you default again in a surcharge period.
This table shows how much you’ll be charged if you default within a surcharge period.
You don’t pay a surcharge for your first default.
|Defaults within 12 months||Surcharge if annual turnover is less than £150,000||Surcharge if annual turnover is £150,000 or more|
|2nd||No surcharge||2% (no surcharge if this is less than £400)|
|3rd||2% (no surcharge if this is less than £400)||5% (no surcharge if this is less than £400)|
|4th||5% (no surcharge if this is less than £400)||10% or £30 (whichever is more)|
|5th||10% or £30 (whichever is more)||15% or £30 (whichever is more)|
|6 or more||15% or £30 (whichever is more)||15% or £30 (whichever is more)|
There’s no surcharge if you submit a late VAT Return and:
- pay your VAT in full by the due date
- have no tax to pay
- are due a VAT repayment
HMRC can charge you a penalty of up to:
- 100% of any tax under-stated or over-claimed if you send a return that contains a careless or deliberate inaccuracy
- 30% of an assessment if HMRC sends you one that’s too low and you don’t tell them it’s wrong within 30 days
- £400 if you submit a paper VAT Return, unless HMRC has told you you’re exempt from submitting your return online
If you don’t send your VAT Return and pay any VAT due on time, you will get a ‘VAT notice of assessment of tax’ from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), telling you how much VAT they think you owe.
What you need to do
Send your VAT Return and any payment due immediately.
If the assessed amount of VAT is too low you must tell HMRC within 30 days. Do this by sending a correct VAT Return and VAT payment or contacting them. You may be charged a penalty if you don’t.
If the assessment is too high, you can’t appeal it. You must send a correct VAT Return and VAT payment.
Interest on under/ overpaid VAT
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may charge you interest if you don’t report and pay the right amount of VAT. If you pay too much VAT because HMRC make a mistake, you can claim interest.
When interest is charged
Interest may be charged if you:
- report less VAT than you charge, or reclaim more than you pay
- pay an assessment that HMRC later find was too low
- let HMRC know you owe them VAT because of a mistake on your VAT Return
How much interest is charged
You’ll be charged 2.75% interest.
There’s a different interest rate for tax that was underpaid before 6 September 2016.
Use your VAT online account to check the amount you owe.
HMRC will also send you a notice telling you how much you owe and how it’s worked out.
If you don’t pay within 30 days, further interest is charged on the VAT due from the date of the notice. You’ll be charged interest for as long as you don’t pay, up to a maximum of 2 years.
You can’t deduct the interest HMRC charges you when working out your taxable profits.
You may be able to claim interest if HMRC’s mistake means:
- you pay too much VAT
- you reclaim too little VAT
- a payment to you from HMRC was delayed
Normally HMRC won’t repay interest if you’ve paid too much VAT because of a mistake you made.
How much interest can you claim
You can claim 0.5% interest. This is normally paid for the whole period from when the VAT was overpaid or reclaimed until the date repayment is authorised.
There’s a different interest rate for tax that was overpaid before 29 September 2009.
If you caused a delay to any payments (eg by not claiming straight away) HMRC might leave this time out.
You have to claim the interest separately from the repayment itself.
Write to HMRC with details of the repayment, explaining why you’re owed interest. You must do this within 4 years of the repayment’s authorisation date. Use the postal address on the VAT correspondence you have from HMRC.
Any interest you get from HMRC counts as taxable income.
Paying interest to your customers
You must pay any of the interest you get (as well as the VAT) to your customers if HMRC’s mistake means they paid too much VAT.
Contact the person at HMRC who dealt with your claim if you need to find out how the interest was calculated. This can help you work out how much you need to repay each customer. You must give the money back to HMRC within 14 days if you can’t get in touch with a customer to repay them.
HMRC only charge or pay simple interest (interest on the original amount, not interest on interest).
Challenging an HMRC decision
You can’t appeal the decision to charge you interest but you can challenge the actual amount.
Last updated: 25 October 2016