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  • Writer's pictureBrealey + Newbury

Navigating VAT for New Entrepreneurs: A Guide for New Business Owners on Understanding and Managing VAT Returns and Responsibilities

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Starting a new business can be both exciting and daunting. Among the many challenges that entrepreneurs face is the task of understanding and managing Value Added Tax (VAT). This guide aims to provide new business owners with a clear understanding of VAT and practical tips for handling VAT returns and responsibilities. For detailed assistance and professional advice, visit Brealey & Newbury.

What is VAT?

VAT is a consumption tax levied on most goods and services sold in the UK. It is a crucial component of the tax system and is typically added to the price of products and services. Businesses collect VAT on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and must regularly report and remit these amounts through VAT returns.

Registering for VAT

Not all businesses need to register for VAT immediately. However, if your taxable turnover exceeds the VAT threshold (currently £85,000), you are required to register with HMRC. Even if your turnover is below this threshold, voluntary registration can be beneficial, allowing you to reclaim VAT on business expenses.

Steps to Register:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Check if your business meets the VAT registration threshold.

  2. Apply Online: Complete the registration process on the HMRC website.

  3. Receive VAT Number: Once registered, you will receive a unique VAT number for your business.

Understanding VAT Rates

There are three main VAT rates in the UK:

  1. Standard Rate (20%): Applies to most goods and services.

  2. Reduced Rate (5%): Applies to certain items like energy-saving materials and children's car seats.

  3. Zero Rate (0%): Applies to essential items such as most food and children's clothing.

Charging and Collecting VAT

As a VAT-registered business, you must charge VAT on all taxable sales. This means adding the appropriate VAT rate to the price of your goods or services. The VAT you collect from your customers is known as output tax.


  • If you sell a product for £100 and the VAT rate is 20%, the total price charged to the customer will be £120 (£100 + £20 VAT).

Reclaiming VAT

Businesses can reclaim VAT paid on purchases related to their business activities. This is known as input tax. To reclaim VAT, you must have valid VAT invoices for your purchases.

Steps to Reclaim VAT:

  1. Keep Accurate Records: Maintain detailed records of all business expenses.

  2. Submit VAT Returns: Regularly file VAT returns with HMRC, detailing the VAT collected and the VAT to be reclaimed.

  3. Receive Refunds: If your input tax exceeds your output tax, HMRC will refund the difference.

Filing VAT Returns

VAT-registered businesses must submit regular VAT returns, usually every quarter. These returns summarise the total sales and purchases, the amount of VAT owed to HMRC, and the amount of VAT reclaimable.

Key Points for Filing:

  • Accurate Record-Keeping: Ensure all sales and purchase records are up to date and accurate.

  • Digital Submissions: VAT returns must be submitted electronically through the HMRC website or compatible accounting software.

  • Deadlines: VAT returns and payments must be made by the deadline to avoid penalties.

Managing VAT Responsibly

Effective VAT management is crucial for avoiding penalties and ensuring the smooth operation of your business. Here are some tips to help you manage VAT responsibilities:

  1. Use Accounting Software: Invest in reliable accounting software to streamline VAT calculations and submissions.

  2. Stay Informed: Keep up to date with changes in VAT regulations and rates.

  3. Seek Professional Advice: Consider hiring a tax advisor or accountant to assist with VAT management. Professional guidance can help you navigate complex VAT issues and ensure compliance with HMRC regulations.

Navigating VAT can be a complex aspect of running a new business, but with the right knowledge and tools, it becomes manageable. By understanding VAT registration, rates, reclaiming procedures, and return filing, you can ensure your business remains compliant and avoids unnecessary penalties. For more detailed guidance and professional support, visit Brealey & Newbury, where expert advisors can help you with all your VAT needs.


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