For a wealth of advice and information on aspects of VAT, including essential tips for VAT planning, and how to survive the VAT inspector's visit, visit our VAT guides.

The standard rate of VAT is 20% and remains unchanged.

Making Tax Digital for VAT

The new regime for many VAT-registered businesses started on 1 April 2019.

Businesses that exceed the VAT-registration threshold (£85,000 in 2020/21) are required to keep digital records and file their returns using HMRC-approved software, which means filing using API technology.

Is my business affected by the rules?

VAT-registered businesses are required to check their last 12 months taxable supplies.

If the value exceeds £85,000 then the business is subject to MTD for VAT from the start of the next accounting period, that is, 1 April, 1 May or 1 June for businesses making quarterly VAT returns.

If the value of taxable supplies does not exceed £85,000 then the business must continue to check this value at the end of each month in order to identify when they become subject to MTD for VAT.

Clearly, some businesses will be far below the threshold and are never likely to exceed it so they can dispense with checks.

What are digital records?

Businesses need to keep basic information about the supplies they make and receive digitally. This does not mean transferring all of the VAT requirements into digital form.

The requirements are very brief. For supplies made, the digital record must show:

  • The time of supply (usually known as the taxpoint)
  • The value (before VAT) of the supply
  • The rate of VAT applicable to the supply.

For supplies received, a similar requirement is in place; the digital records must show:

  • The time of supply
  • The value of the supply, and
  • The amount of VAT to be recovered.

Businesses within the flat-rate scheme for VAT do not need to keep records of purchases, except for those capital items on which VAT is to be recovered. Retailers need only keep their daily takings amounts at the various rates of VAT.

Once the digital records are in existence, transfers of date (for example, between software programs or spreadsheets) will have to be by digital links, such as import/export or similar.

Once the basic transactions have been recorded, any amendments to these in order, for example to calculate the VAT recoverable by a partially exempt business, or to calculate output VAT on supplies made through a margin scheme can be done manually, provided a record is retained of the calculations.

The adjustments are either simply entered on a spreadsheet or adjusted on the accounting software package.

Filing the return should then be simple. If a software package is in use, which is approved for MTD filing, it is just a case of submitting the return, remembering to choose the option to submit under MTD when the software offers it.

For those using spreadsheets, it is necessary to obtain ‘bridging software' which will allow the return to be filed from the spreadsheet directly to HMRC.

Mandated businesses must not log on to their business tax account and file using the standard VAT100 form provided, although businesses which are below the £85,000 limit will still file their returns in this way if they prefer.

We advise on MTD on VAT, accounting software selection, or the benefit of spreadsheets, so do ask for help if you need it.