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If your business is registered for VAT, you’ve probably heard all about Making Tax Digital (MTD), and MTD for VAT in particular.

Introduced in April 2019, it affected all VAT-registered businesses over the VAT threshold (currently £85,000).

But now, MTD for VAT applies to all VAT-registered businesses. This includes businesses that are voluntarily registered for VAT and under the threshold.

They must store their VAT accounting records digitally and use compatible software for their VAT accounting.

MTD for VAT provides an opportunity to revolutionise your accounting.

By switching to software, or updating your current software to be compliant, you can both modernise and take advantage of the latest technologies.

At the same time, your overall accounting admin workload is reduced.

In this article we look at how to register for MTD for VAT if you’re new to it all.

Here’s what we cover:

If the taxable turnover of your business is under the VAT threshold and you’ve not already registered voluntarily for VAT, now might be the time.

Registering means you can reclaim VAT on things you purchase for your business.

Many businesses register voluntarily because it makes their operation appear more professional – especially when selling to other businesses.

The goal of Making Tax Digital for VAT is to simplify VAT accounting. So if you’ve been put off previously by the admin requirements of VAT accounting, it’s a great opportunity.

You can register for VAT online, or your accountant can do it for you. If doing it yourself, you’ll need to create a Government Gateway account for your business (if you don’t already have one).

Once you’ve registered for VAT, you’ll be sent your VAT number that you should then quote on your VAT invoices.

You should start accounting for VAT from the date that HMRC registers you.

Once you have your VAT number, you can also submit a VAT Return online when the time comes. To do this, you’ll need to sign up for a VAT online account.

This is done by logging into the Government Gateway account you created while signing up for VAT, and then selection the option headed VAT Submit Returns.

You can use accounting software to submit your VAT Return to HMRC. And that’ll save time as you won’t have to enter numbers in HMRC’s online service.

To register for MTD for VAT, you’ll need gather together a few bits of information:

  • The email address you use for your business
  • The Government Gateway ID you use for the business
  • Your VAT registration number
  • Your latest VAT Return
  • Your National Insurance number if you’re a sole trader
  • Your company registration number and Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) if registering a limited company.

You need to choose the software you intend to use before signing up for MTD for VAT.

You can register for MTD for VAT by clicking register for MTD at the Gov.uk website, then answer the questions, which will involve providing the information mentioned earlier.

There are limitations on when you can sign up – this stops you accidentally making a double payment for your current return.

You should not sign up less than seven days before your VAT Return is due, or less than five days after your VAT Return is due.

You should receive confirmation from HMRC within three days.

The MTD for VAT features in your accounting software need to be activated once you know your sign up details, as provided by HMRC.

Therefore, activation won’t be automatic. Speak to your software vendor if you’re unsure of what’s required.

Yes. Just ask them to do so on your behalf.

But bear in mind that this doesn’t mean you can ignore MTD for VAT’s requirements.

You still need to store your key VAT accounting records digitally and use software for your VAT accounting – even if your accountant then calculates your VAT bill and submits the VAT Return on your behalf.

Your accountant may ask that you link your accounting software with theirs.

It’s not possible to opt out of MTD for VAT.

However, some businesses have genuine reasons why they’re unable to comply with Making Tax Digital.

These include the following:

  • Reasons of age, disability, remoteness of location or, in HMRC’s words, “any other reason” that means it’s not “reasonably practicable” for the business owner to use digital tools to keep business records or submit returns. For example, a business without an internet connection because it’s on an island that’s off the grid might be considered exempt.
  • Religious beliefs are incompatible with the requirements of MTD for VAT. This is typically that the individuals running the business are unable to use computers because of their beliefs.

To apply for exemption, call HMRC’s VAT helpline to discuss the situation and arrange alternative measures.

It’s important to note that if HMRC believes exemption isn’t appropriate, it may offer digital assistance to help your business get online support.

Any VAT-registered business can ask to cancel their VAT registration with HMRC if they’re not eligible anymore or if taxable sales drop below the £83,000 deregistration threshold.

VAT registration can be cancelled online, or you can you fill in and then post a VAT7 form to HMRC.

HMRC says it takes three weeks for the cancellation to be confirmed.

This will include confirmation of the cancellation date, which you will already have set with HMRC. Typically, this is the date on which you make the request.

Up to that date, you should continue to observe VAT requirements.

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

This must account for stock and assets you have at the cancellation date if you could reclaim VAT when you bought them, and if the total VAT due is over £1,000.

Now you know how to register for Making Tax Digital for VAT, you can take the steps to do so for your business.

And by using software to manage your VAT accounting, you’ll be able to revolutionise your processes.

Need more help with MTD for VAT?

Speak to your accountant about the requirements – they can help you examine processes in your business to see what needs to be adapted.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2021 and has been updated for relevance.

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