You must register for VAT if your vatable turnover is more than the registration threshold (2017-18 – £85,000). You may also want to consider registering voluntarily if your turnover is below the threshold, as in certain circumstances this maybe beneficial to your business.  Guidance from HMRC is given in VAT notice 700/1.

When to register

Even if you are not over the threshold you must perform checks every month and register if any of the following apply:

  • Your vatable turnover is more than the VAT threshold in the previous 12 month period.
  • You receive goods in the UK from the EU worth more than the VAT threshold in the previous 12 months.
  • You expect to go over the threshold in a single 30 day period.

You must register within 30 days of your business turnover exceeding the threshold. For example, if at the beginning of September you check your turnover records from 1.9.16 to 31.8.17 (the previous 12-month period), and find you exceed the turnover registration limit, then you must register during September with a registration date of 1 October 2017.

If you register late, you must pay what you owe from the date when you should have registered. There may also be penalties charged.

When you register you will be sent a VAT registration certificate which will confirm:

  • Your VAT number
  • When to submit your first VAT Return and payment
  • Your ‘effective date of registration’.

It is important to note that you can’t charge or show VAT on your invoices until you get your VAT number. However, you’ll still have to pay the VAT to HMRC for this period. While you wait for your VAT number you should increase your prices to allow for the VAT and tell your customers why. Once you have got your VAT number you can then reissue the invoices showing the VAT.

Pre-registration expenses

Once registered you are able to claim back the VAT on purchases made before your registration date. However, there is a time limit for backdating claims as follows:

  • 4 years for goods, but you must still have the goods on hand at the point of registration.
  • 6 months for services.

You can reclaim these on your first VAT Return.

Record keeping

To reclaim the input tax (VAT on purchases) you must have valid VAT invoices to support your claim. You should keep invoices and receipts for a minimum of 6 years, although these can be kept electronically.


The deadline for submitting the return online and paying HMRC is 1 month and 7 days after the end of the VAT period. For example if your VAT period ends on 31 August 2017 the VAT return needs to be submitted and payment made by 7 October 2017.

De-registering from VAT

Once registered you can ask HMRC to cancel your registration if your vatable turnover falls below the de-registration threshold (2017-18: £83,000).

You must cancel your registration when you stop trading or stop making VAT taxable supplies.

If you have any further questions on this article or would like to discuss your business requirements then please email us at