When to register for VAT

You must register if:

  • your total VAT taxable turnover for the last 12 months was over £85,000 (the VAT threshold)
  • you expect your turnover to go over £85,000 in the next 30 days

You must also register (regardless of VAT taxable turnover) if all of the following are true:

  • you’re based outside the UK
  • your business is based outside the UK
  • you supply any goods or services to the UK (or expect to in the next 30 days)

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, read the guidance on non-established-taxable-persons (NETPs).

You can choose to register for VAT if your turnover is less than £85,000 (‘voluntary registration’).

You must pay HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) any VAT you owe from the date they register you.

If everything you sell is exempt from VAT, you do not have to register for VAT.

If you exceeded the threshold in the last 12 months

You must register if, by the end of any month, your total VAT taxable turnover for the last 12 months was over £85,000.

You have to register within 30 days of the end of the month when you went over the threshold. Your effective date of registration is the first day of the second month after you go over the threshold.


Between 10 July 2019 and 9 July 2020 your VAT taxable turnover is £100,000. That’s the first time it has gone over the VAT threshold. You must register by 30 August 2020. Your effective date of registration is 1 September 2020.

If you’re going to exceed the threshold in the next 30 days

You must register if you realise that your annual total VAT taxable turnover is going to go over the £85,000 threshold in the next 30 days.

You have to register by the end of that 30-day period. Your effective date of registration is the date you realised, not the date your turnover went over the threshold.


On 1 May, you arrange a £100,000 contract to provide services. You’ll be paid at the end of May. You must register by 30 May. Your effective date of registration will be 1 May.

If you sell goods or services that are VAT exempt and are based in Northern Ireland

You’ll need to register if you only sell goods or services that are exempt from VAT or ‘out of scope’ but you buy goods for more than £85,000 from EU VAT-registered suppliers to use in your business.

If you take over a VAT-registered business

You must register for VAT if the combined taxable turnover of the new business and your existing business is over the threshold.

Calculate your turnover

Your turnover is the total value of everything you sell that is not exempt from VAT. It also includes:

Late registration

If you register late, you must pay VAT on any sales you’ve made since the date you should have registered.

You might need to pay a penalty, depending on how much you owe and how late your registration is.

If you go over the threshold temporarily

You can apply for a registration ‘exception’ if your taxable turnover goes over the threshold temporarily.

Write to HMRC with evidence showing why you believe your VAT taxable turnover will not go over the deregistration threshold of £83,000 in the next 12 months.

HMRC will consider your exception and write to confirm if you get one. If not, they’ll register you for VAT.

How to register for VAT

Register for VAT

You can usually register for VAT online.

By doing this you’ll register for VAT and create a VAT online account (sometimes known as a ‘Government Gateway account’). You need this to submit your VAT Returns to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Using an agent

You can appoint an accountant (or agent) to submit your VAT Returns and deal with HMRC on your behalf.

If you’re using an agent, you can still sign up for a VAT online account when you receive your VAT number (select option ‘VAT submit returns’).

When you cannot register online

You must register by post using VAT1 if:

Register by post using:

  • form VAT1A if you’re an EU business ‘distance selling’ to Northern Ireland
  • form VAT1B if you import (‘acquire’) goods into Northern Ireland worth more than £85,000 from an EU country
  • form VAT1C if you’re disposing of assets and you have claimed Directive refunds on them

When you receive your VAT number from HMRC, you can sign up for a VAT online account (select option ‘VAT submit returns’).

After you’ve registered

You’ll get:

  • a 9-digit VAT number which you must include on all invoices you raise
  • information about when to submit your first VAT return and payment
  • confirmation of your registration date (known as your ‘effective date of registration’)

You’ll get this in your online VAT account or by post, depending on how you registered.

When you can start charging and reclaiming VAT

You can start charging VAT on your sales and reclaiming VAT on items you bought from your ‘effective date of registration’.

Accounting for VAT while you wait for your VAT number

You cannot include VAT on your invoices until you get your VAT number but you can increase your prices to account for the VAT you’ll need to pay to HMRC.


On 1 May, you arrange a £100,000 contract to provide services to a new customer. You register for VAT because you know you’ll go over the threshold in the next 30 days.

Your effective date of registration is 1 May. This means you’ll need to pay VAT to HMRC on any invoices you raise from that date.

To account for the VAT you’ll need to pay, tell your customer that you’ll be adding 20% to the original contract amount of £100,000 and then raise an invoice for £120,000.

After you get your VAT number, reissue the invoice showing the full amount including the £20,000 VAT. Your customer does not need to make any extra payment but can now reclaim the additional £20,000 from HMRC on their next VAT return.

Changing your details

You must keep your VAT registration details up to date. Some changes mean you have to cancel your VAT registration or transfer your VAT registration.

Tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within 30 days of any changes to the:

  • name, trading name or main address of your business
  • accountant or agent who deals with your VAT
  • members of a partnership, or the name or home address of any of the partners

You might need to pay a penalty if you do not tell HMRC about changes within 30 days.

Changing your bank details

You must tell HMRC at least 14 days in advance if you’re changing your bank details.

If you pay your VAT by Direct Debit, you’ll need to tell your bank as well. Do not do this in the 5 banking days before or after your VAT return is due – it could mean you get charged twice.

If you use the Annual Accounting Scheme, you must write to the Annual Accounting Registration Unit to change your Direct Debit details. Include your registration number.

How to tell HMRC

You can change your details:

You must send form VAT2 to the VAT Registration Service to report any changes to a partnership.

If you take over someone else’s VAT responsibilities

You must tell HMRC within 21 days if you take over the VAT responsibilities of someone who has died or is ill and unable to manage their own affairs.

Use form VAT484 and post it to the address on the form. Include the details of the date of death or the date the illness started.

If you join a VAT group

If you join a VAT group, you must first cancel your VAT registration. You’ll need to use the group’s VAT number once you’ve joined it. The VAT group should tell HMRC about the new member.

If you change your business structure

You need to tell HMRC if you change the structure of your business.

You can transfer your VAT registration if you want to keep the same VAT number.

Cancel your registration

You must cancel your registration if you’re no longer eligible to be VAT registered. For example:

  • you stop trading or making VAT taxable supplies
  • you join a VAT group

You must cancel within 30 days if you stop being eligible or you might be charged a penalty.

If your VAT taxable turnover falls below £83,000 you can ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to cancel your registration.

How to cancel

Cancel your VAT registration online.

Cancel your registration

If you cannot use the online service, fill in and send form VAT7 to cancel your VAT registration by post.

What happens next

It usually takes 3 weeks for HMRC to confirm your cancellation and the official cancellation date. This is either the date when the reason for your cancellation took effect (for example, when you stopped trading), or the date you asked to cancel.

HMRC will send confirmation to your VAT online account or through the post if you do not apply online.

You must stop charging VAT from the cancellation date. You’ll need to keep all VAT records for 6 years.

HMRC will automatically re-register you if they realise you should not have cancelled. You’ll have to account for any VAT you should have paid in the meantime.

VAT after you cancel

You’ll have to submit a final VAT Return for the period up to and including the cancellation date.

You must account for any stock and other assets you have on this date if both of the following apply:

  • you reclaimed or could have reclaimed VAT when you bought the assets
  • the total VAT due on these assets is over £1,000

You must submit your final return within one month of the cancellation date, unless you are on the Cash Accounting Scheme.

If you’re on the Cash Accounting Scheme, submit your final return within 2 months of the cancellation date.

Do not wait until you’ve received all your invoices before submitting your final return. When you get them you’ll still be able to reclaim VAT.

ransfer your registration

You can transfer a VAT registration if there’s a change of business ownership or legal status.

For example, if:

  • you take over a company and want to keep using its VAT number
  • your business changes from a partnership to a sole trader

This means the business will keep the same VAT number.

Apply for a transfer

You can apply for a VAT registration transfer:

  • online
  • by post

Apply online

If you own the VAT registration, sign into your VAT online account using your Government Gateway ID and password.

You’ll need to select ‘cancel VAT registration’. You will then be asked if you’re transferring the business or if it’s changed its legal status.

If you’re buying the business or changing its legal status, you will need to register for VAT.

Apply by post

If you’re changing the legal status of your business, fill in form VAT68 and form VAT1.

If you’re buying a business, you and your seller must complete form VAT68. You also need to fill in form VAT1.

What happens next

It usually takes 3 weeks for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to confirm the transfer.

If you’re selling your business:

  • cancel your accountant’s access to your VAT online account – for example if you authorised them to deal with your VAT
  • cancel any direct debits on your VAT online account

You must also give your records to the buyer if you’re passing on your VAT number.

If you’re buying a business:

  • contact HMRC within 21 days of the transfer application if you want to keep the seller’s accountant
  • replace any self-billing arrangements with new ones
  • set up new direct debits on your VAT online account

If you prefer to get a new VAT number

If you want to get a new VAT number rather than keeping the existing one, you need to cancel the existing VAT registration and re-register for VAT.

Registering for VAT in EU countries

What you need to do depends on whether you’re selling goods or services and where you’re selling from.

If you sell goods from Northern Ireland to the EU

If you sell goods from Northern Ireland to customers in the EU and go above the distance selling threshold, you’ll need to pay VAT on these sales in the country the goods are sent to.

You must register for either:

Check how to report and pay VAT on distance sales of goods from Northern Ireland to the EU.

If you sell goods from the UK to the EU

You do not normally need to charge VAT on goods you sell to any customers outside the UK. You only need to be registered for VAT with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You can charge VAT at zero rate for these sales.

Find out more about charging VAT on goods you export.

If you supply services from the UK to the EU

If you supply services from the UK to customers in the EU, you can register for the non-union VAT OSS.

Find out more about the non-union VAT OSS on the European Commission website.

Find out what to do if you supply digital services to customers in the EU.

Selling or moving goods between Northern Ireland and the EU

You need a VAT number starting with XI to trade under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

You are eligible to operate under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol if any of the following apply:

  • your goods are located in Northern Ireland at the time of sale
  • you receive goods in Northern Ireland from VAT-registered EU businesses for business purposes
  • you sell or move goods from Northern Ireland to an EU country

Check if you’re already identified as trading under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Telling HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will help them to identify you as trading under the Northern Ireland Protocol. This will mean that:

  • you can use VAT simplifications when you trade with the EU
  • your suppliers can charge goods that they send to you from the EU at zero rate
  • your trade with the EU can still be listed as ‘acquisitions and dispatches’ on your VAT return

Tell HMRC you’re eligible

Use the online service.

You’ll need:

  • the Government Gateway user ID and password you used when you registered for VAT
  • your VAT registration number
  • the name of your business

After you tell HMRC

You’ll get an email from HMRC to confirm that you’ve been recorded as operating under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

After you get the email, you’ll need to start using the XI prefix before your usual VAT number – for example, XI 123456789 instead of GB 123456789.

Using your XI VAT number

You must use your XI VAT number on all documentation when communicating with EU customers or suppliers (for example, on invoices).

If you’re selling goods from Northern Ireland to VAT-registered customers in the EU, complete an EC Sales List.

If you do not tell HMRC or use an XI VAT number, it could mean that you pay or charge the wrong VAT on goods.

If you’ve stopped selling or moving goods in Northern Ireland

Use the online service to tell HMRC.

You must complete any obligations you have for the following schemes before you revoke your Northern Ireland trader status:

  • VAT One Stop Shop (OSS) union scheme returns
  • EC sales lists
  • EU VAT refunds

You will not be able to complete any obligations for these schemes once you’ve told HMRC you wish to revoke your status.


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