UK VAT returns

Any company registered with HMRC (see our UK VAT registration briefing) as a non-resident VAT trader must report taxable transactions through periodic filings, known as returns.

How often are UK VAT returns required?

In the UK, VAT returns can be submitted either monthly or quarterly. Most returns are completed on a quarterly basis; however, if a business has an annual VAT liability of over GBP2.3 million payments must be made on account on the last day of the second and third month of every VAT quarter.

Once registered, a business will be assigned to a “VAT stagger group”. The group assigned will determine the month in which VAT quarters end and when payments and VAT returns are due for submission. The three stagger groups are as follows:

  • Stagger group 1 - quarters ending March, June, September, December
  • Stagger group 2 - quarters ending April, July, October, January
  • Stagger group 3 - quarters ending May, August, November, February

 What UK VAT can be deducted?

In addition to declaring sales or output VAT in the UK return, companies can offset this by the corresponding input or purchase VAT. There are some exceptions, including:

  • Goods and services obtained prior to registration
  • Cars ( except when used wholly for business purposes)
  • Business entertainment expenses (except expenses relating to overseas customers)
  • Goods and services not used for business purposes

Excess input VAT is submitted in the VAT return for the period. Subject to any investigations taking place, HMRC will normally make a payment within 30 days of a return being submitted.

What are the deadlines for filing UK VAT returns?

UK monthly or quarterly VAT filing is due on the 7th of the month following the period end.

Any UK VAT due must be paid at the same time. 

Where are UK VAT returns filed?

In the UK electronic payment and filing of VAT returns has been mandatory since 2012. Returns should be submitted electronically using the HMRC internet site.

UK VAT penalties

If there are misdeclarations or late fillings of UK VAT returns, foreign companies may be subject to penalties. Failure to register for VAT (failure to notify HMRC within 30 days of becoming liable to register for VAT) will trigger a penalty of up to 100% of the VAT which would have been due during the unregistered period of trading.  Penalties for failure or delay in submitting VAT returns take the form of a surcharge imposed by HMRC which is calculated as a percentage (up to 15%) of the unpaid VAT. In addition, incorrect or inaccurate returns are also subject to penalties, in the form of surcharges, calculated as a percentage (up to 100%) of the lost revenue.

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