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When must a company be registered for VAT?

A company must register for VAT if the supplies made by the company are subject to VAT and either:

  1. turnover has exceeded a prescribed figure, the VAT threshold, in the preceding 12 months; or
  2. it is expected that the turnover will exceed the threshold within the forthcoming 30 days.

The VAT threshold is altered from time to time and is available from HMRC.  The standard rate of VAT is  20%. Some goods and services are taxed at 0% (zero rated) and some at special rates. More details are available from HMRC.

Following registration with HMRC a company will be given a VAT registration number and must print this number on all sales invoices. Once registered the company must charge VAT at the appropriate rate on all the sales which are subject to VAT.

A company may register voluntarily for VAT and this may be advantageous if the company's sales are substantially of things which are zero rated (e.g. books) or the company supplies only other VAT registered businesses.

Once registered the company must make a quarterly VAT return to Customs and Excise and include with it payment of the VAT due. This is calculated by deducting the VAT the company has paid (the input tax) from the VAT it has charged its customers (the output tax). There are alternative methods of accounting for VAT such as annual accounting.

The HMRC website gives a great deal of information.