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  • Writer's pictureIrina Inayat

1-2-3 Guide to VAT

Welcome to our 1-2-3 Guide series where we explain different accountancy and bookkeeping topics in a simplified way, giving you the key ideas of complex concepts and topics in two-minute reads or less.

Here is what you need to know about Value Added Tax (VAT)

1. What is VAT? VAT (Value Added Tax) is a consumption tax imposed on goods and services in the UK. As an indirect tax, businesses charge VAT on behalf of the government and then pay it to HMRC. VAT is typically 20%, though reduced rates of 5% and 0% apply to certain items like domestic fuel and children's clothing. Some services, such as insurance and education, are exempt from VAT.

2. The VAT Process

  • Registration: Businesses with a taxable turnover above £90,000 must register for VAT.

  • Issuing VAT Invoices: Registered businesses must issue VAT invoices showing the VAT charged separately.

  • Collecting and Paying VAT: Businesses collect VAT from customers at the point of sale and submit regular VAT returns to HMRC, detailing VAT collected and paid. Businesses can also reclaim VAT on business-related purchases (input tax).

3. VAT Compliance and Challenges

  • Legal Obligations: Businesses must adhere to VAT rules to avoid penalties.

  • Record-Keeping: Accurate records of sales, purchases, VAT invoices, and VAT returns must be kept for at least six years. The Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative requires businesses to maintain digital records and submit VAT returns using compatible software.

  • Complexity and Changes: Different VAT rates, exemptions, and international trade rules can be complex. VAT regulations can change, influenced by government policy and economic conditions, requiring businesses to stay informed for compliance and effective planning.

Understanding VAT is crucial for businesses to ensure compliance and effective financial management. HERE you can read the full article on this topic. New businesses, uncertain about VAT registration or compliance, may benefit from working with experienced accountants like Penn Accounts to simplify the process.

Irina Inayat

0207 183 6623 


The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute professional advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal, accountancy or financial advice as appropriate on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor, Accountant or Financial Advisor/Mortgage Broker before you embark on any course of action. 


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