United Kingdom

VAT Tax Guide for the United Kingdom

April 25, 2024
VAT Tax Guide for the United Kingdom

Understanding the Value Added Tax (VAT) system in the UK is essential for businesses and individuals engaged in trade and services. This guide will cover the basics of VAT compliance, registration, and filing in the UK.

VAT Information

Current VAT Rates in the UK:

  • Standard rate: 20%

  • Reduced rates: 5% for certain goods and services such as children's car seats and home energy.

UK VAT Registration Thresholds and Requirements

  • Resident Businesses: The current threshold for VAT registration in the UK is £85,000 in taxable turnover per annum. If a business's taxable turnover exceeds this amount, it must register for VAT.

  • Non-Resident Businesses: Non-resident businesses must register for VAT if they are making taxable supplies in the UK, regardless of their turnover. There is no threshold; registration is mandatory from the first sale.

  • Intra-EU Distance Sales of Goods and B2C Supplies of Services: Post-Brexit, the UK no longer follows the EU's VAT threshold for distance selling. Non-UK businesses making distance sales of goods to UK consumers need to register for VAT irrespective of turnover. For services, the place of supply rules will determine the need for registration.

  • Non-EU Established Suppliers of Electronically Supplied Services: Non-EU businesses supplying digital services to UK consumers are required to register for VAT regardless of the amount, as there is no threshold.

Process and Documentation Required for VAT Registration:

  • Online Registration: Businesses can register for VAT online through the UK government's official portal.

  • Required Documentation: This typically includes the business's legal identity (corporate or individual), proof of business activity in the UK, and financial information showing the taxable turnover.

Tax Representative in the UK

The concept of a mandatory tax representative is not generally applicable in the UK for VAT purposes. However, non-EU businesses might choose to appoint an agent to handle their VAT affairs, though it's not a requirement.

Links or References to Official Registration Portals

UK Government VAT Registration: The official portal for VAT registration is accessible through the UK government's website, providing a step-by-step guide to the registration process. Here is the link: UK Government VAT Registration

VAT Filing and Payment

Due Dates
VAT returns and payments are generally due quarterly.

Filing Process
Submit VAT returns online through the HMRC portal.

Payment Methods
Direct debit, bank transfer, and online payments are accepted.

Common VAT Deductions and Exemptions

  • A comprehensive list of goods and services eligible for deductions includes business supplies, commercial property transactions, and certain charitable activities.

  • Guidelines for claiming VAT deductions are available on the HMRC website.

VAT for International Businesses

Navigating VAT regulations is crucial for international businesses trading with or within the UK, particularly in the context of imports, exports, and the provision of digital services. Here’s a detailed breakdown to help you understand how VAT applies to these transactions.

Imports and Exports

  • VAT on Imports: VAT is typically payable on goods imported into the UK. The VAT rate depends on the type of goods imported and is generally paid at the same rate as if the goods were supplied within the UK.

  • Deferred VAT Accounting: To help cash flow, businesses can account for import VAT on their VAT return instead of paying it upfront and then reclaiming it later. This means the VAT can be both paid and reclaimed on the same VAT return, subject to normal rules on VAT recovery.

  • Customs Duties: Depending on the origin of the goods, customs duties may also apply, which are not recoverable as VAT.

  • Zero-Rating Exports: Goods exported to customers outside the UK can generally be zero-rated, meaning no UK VAT is charged on the sale. However, businesses must obtain and keep evidence that the goods have been exported within the required time limits (usually three months).

  • Services: The place of supply rules will determine if the services are outside the scope of UK VAT. Generally, if the customer is based outside the UK, the supply of services may not be subject to UK VAT.

E-Commerce and Digital Services

Selling Digital Services to UK Consumers
  • VAT MOSS: Non-UK businesses providing digital services (e.g., software, streaming) to consumers in the UK need to register for VAT. Following Brexit, the non-Union VAT MOSS scheme allows businesses to register in one EU member state and declare VAT due across the EU. However, for sales to UK consumers, businesses must register for VAT in the UK.

  • VAT Rates: Standard UK VAT rates apply to digital services provided to UK consumers, which currently stands at 20%.

Online Marketplaces
  • Marketplace Liability: Online marketplaces facilitating sales of goods located in the UK at the point of sale to UK consumers may be required to collect and remit VAT on these sales.

  • Overseas Goods Sold to UK Customers: For goods from overseas sold to UK customers through online marketplaces, the marketplace may be responsible for collecting and remitting VAT.

Documentation and Compliance

  • Record Keeping: Businesses must maintain detailed records that support the VAT treatment of their imports, exports, and digital services, including evidence of export and customer location.

  • VAT Invoices: Proper VAT invoicing is crucial, especially for services where determining the place of supply and applicable VAT rate can be complex.


Navigating the VAT system in the UK can be complex, particularly with recent legislative changes. Consulting with a VAT professional is advisable for tailored advice.

Additional Resources

Visit the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website for more detailed information and official VAT forms.

Best Regards, Vatabout team