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How to Complete VAT Returns

As a business owner, tackling VAT returns might seem like a complex puzzle, but fear not – you're not alone on this journey. Completing VAT returns is a crucial part of your financial responsibilities, and mastering this process can save you time, money, and headaches. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, understanding the ropes of how to complete VAT returns is a skill that pays dividends.

In this comprehensive guide, we're here to demystify the process and walk you through each step. 

What is a VAT Return?

A VAT return is a regular report that businesses registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UK are required to submit to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). It outlines the VAT collected from customers and the VAT paid on purchases during a specific accounting period.

When You Need to Complete VAT Return?

As a business owner, you typically need to complete and submit your VAT return every three months. This reporting period is known as the VAT accounting period. It's crucial to meet the deadlines to avoid penalties.

How to Calculate VAT Return?

Calculating your VAT return involves subtracting the total amount of VAT you've paid on purchases (input tax) from the total amount of VAT you've collected from sales (output tax). The difference is what you owe to HMRC or what they owe you.

What Are the 3 Schemes of VAT?

Value Added Tax (VAT) is a cornerstone of the tax system in many countries, including the UK. As a business owner, understanding the different VAT schemes available to you is essential for effective financial management.

1. Standard VAT Scheme:

The Standard VAT Scheme is the default scheme that most businesses use. Under this scheme, you calculate and report your VAT liability based on the difference between the output VAT (VAT charged on sales) and input VAT (VAT paid on purchases) for a specific period. This scheme offers the advantage of simplicity and direct correlation between your transactions and VAT liability.

2. Flat Rate Scheme:

The Flat Rate Scheme is designed to simplify VAT calculations for small businesses. With this scheme, you apply a fixed percentage to your gross turnover to determine your VAT liability. This percentage takes into account the average VAT paid by businesses in your industry. While this scheme streamlines your accounting, it's important to note that you cannot reclaim VAT on purchases, except for certain capital assets exceeding £2,000.

3. Annual Accounting Scheme:

The Annual Accounting Scheme allows businesses to submit VAT returns annually rather than quarterly. This can help smooth out cash flow, as you make regular payments toward your VAT liability throughout the year and then settle any remaining balance at the end of the annual period. This scheme is particularly beneficial for businesses with variable income or those seeking to simplify their reporting frequency.

Selecting the most suitable VAT scheme for your business depends on various factors, including your turnover, industry, and administrative preferences. It's essential to carefully assess the pros and cons of each scheme to make an informed decision.

Where Should You Submit VAT Return?

VAT returns are typically submitted online through the HMRC's dedicated portal. It's essential to use the correct figures and information to ensure accurate reporting.

What is the Cash Accounting Scheme?

The Cash Accounting Scheme is a VAT scheme that allows eligible businesses to account for VAT based on the actual payments and receipts they receive. Unlike the Standard VAT Scheme, where VAT liability is determined when invoices are issued, the Cash Accounting Scheme focuses on when payments are made or received. This approach can provide more accurate VAT calculations and offer significant cash flow advantages.

Benefits of the Cash Accounting Scheme?

1. Improved Cash Flow: 

With the Cash Accounting Scheme, you only pay VAT to HMRC when you receive payments from your customers. This can prevent cash flow strain caused by having to pay VAT on invoices before you've received corresponding payments.

2. Simplified Administration: 

Tracking payments and receipts can be more straightforward than managing invoices, especially for businesses with fluctuating income. This scheme can reduce administrative complexities associated with matching invoices and payments.

3. Suitability for Small Businesses: 

The Cash Accounting Scheme is particularly beneficial for businesses with irregular cash flow or those that provide credit to customers. It can help align your VAT liability with your actual cash position.

What are the Advantages of Being VAT Registered?

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, staying competitive and financially secure is essential. One strategic move that can significantly impact your company's growth and stability is becoming VAT-registered. Value Added Tax (VAT) registration is not just a legal requirement for businesses crossing a certain threshold; it also brings forth a range of advantages that can positively transform your operations and financial standing. In this article, we'll delve into the compelling advantages of being VAT-registered.

1. Enhanced Credibility and Perception

VAT registration adds a level of credibility and professionalism to your business. Customers, suppliers, and partners often view VAT registration as a sign of a stable and established enterprise. This enhanced perception can lead to increased trust and improved business relationships, potentially attracting more lucrative opportunities and partnerships.

2. Ability to Reclaim Input VAT

One of the most tangible benefits of VAT registration is the ability to reclaim input VAT. When your business purchases goods and services for its operations, VAT is typically included in those expenses. As a VAT registered business, you can reclaim the VAT you've paid on these business-related costs, effectively reducing your overall tax burden. This can result in improved cash flow and higher profit margins.

3. Competitive Advantage

VAT registration can provide you with a competitive edge in the market. For customers, dealing with VAT registered businesses can be financially advantageous as they can recover VAT on their purchases from you if they're also VAT registered. This can make your products or services more appealing compared to those offered by non-registered competitors.

4. Global Business Opportunities

For businesses engaged in international trade, VAT registration can be crucial. VAT rules can vary significantly between countries, and being VAT registered can simplify transactions and compliance when dealing with foreign partners. Moreover, it can help you avoid potential VAT-related issues when selling goods or services to customers in other countries.

5. Expansion and Growth

VAT registration can pave the way for business expansion and growth. As your turnover increases and your business thrives, you're likely to surpass the VAT registration threshold. By already being registered, you're prepared for this growth and won't face delays in getting your VAT affairs in order. This streamlined transition can support your expansion plans and prevent any disruption in your operations.

6. Access to VAT Schemes and Benefits

VAT registration opens the door to various VAT schemes that can benefit your business. Depending on your industry and circumstances, you might be eligible for schemes like the Flat Rate Scheme, Annual Accounting Scheme, or Cash Accounting Scheme. These schemes can simplify your VAT reporting, reduce administrative burdens, and optimize your cash flow.

What Are the Disadvantages of Being VAT Registered?

While VAT registration brings a host of benefits to businesses, it's important to also consider the potential drawbacks that come with this financial commitment. As with any business decision, a balanced perspective is essential. In this section, we'll explore the potential disadvantages of being VAT registered, helping you make an informed choice that aligns with your business goals.

1. Administrative Complexity

One of the most significant challenges of VAT registration is the increase in administrative responsibilities. VAT compliance requires accurate record-keeping, timely filing of VAT returns, and adherence to VAT regulations. The administrative workload can be particularly burdensome for smaller businesses that lack dedicated accounting resources. Failure to meet these requirements can result in penalties and additional costs.

2. Cash Flow Constraints

VAT registered businesses collect VAT on behalf of the government from their customers. While they can also claim back input VAT, there can be a time lag between collecting and paying VAT. This time gap can strain your cash flow, especially if your customers delay payments or if you have substantial VAT payable amounts. Managing this cash flow imbalance becomes crucial to prevent financial stress.

3. Pricing Complexities

Determining the right pricing strategy can become more intricate when VAT is involved. VAT-registered businesses often need to price their products or services to account for both the base price and the added VAT. This can lead to confusion for customers and impact their purchasing decisions, especially in markets where non-VAT registered competitors offer seemingly simpler pricing.

4. Impact on Smaller Transactions

For businesses that primarily deal with smaller transactions, VAT registration might not always be advantageous. The administrative effort and costs associated with VAT compliance can outweigh the benefits, particularly if the amount of input VAT you can reclaim is minimal. This can potentially erode your profit margins on these smaller transactions.

5. Competitive Pressures

While being VAT registered can give you a competitive advantage in certain scenarios, it can also introduce pressures from competitors who are not VAT registered. Non-registered businesses might be able to offer lower prices since they don't include VAT. This could lead to price wars or customer attrition, especially in markets where price sensitivity is high.

6. Irreversible Decision

Once your business crosses the VAT registration threshold, the decision is typically irreversible. If your business growth slows down or circumstances change, you might find yourself in a position where VAT registration is no longer financially viable. This can be particularly challenging for businesses that registered prematurely or without a clear understanding of their future growth trajectory.

How to Successfully Fill in Your VAT Return Online?

Navigating the intricacies of Value Added Tax (VAT) returns can be a challenge for businesses, but with the convenience of online platforms, the process has become significantly more efficient. As a leading accounting firm in the UK, FCCA Accounts & Tax LTD is here to guide you through the steps of filling in your VAT return online. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just starting out, our expert insights will help you streamline the process and ensure compliance with HMRC regulations.

Step 1: Gather Your Information

Before you begin the online VAT return process, it's crucial to gather all the necessary information. This includes your sales and purchase invoices, VAT receipts, and records of any VAT you've paid or received during the return period. Accurate data is the foundation of a successful VAT return, so take the time to organize your financial records.

Step 2: Access the HMRC Online Services

To get started, log in to your HMRC online account. If you haven't registered for online services, you'll need to set up an account on the HMRC website. Once you're logged in, select the option for VAT and choose "Submit VAT Return."

Step 3: Choose Your VAT Period

You'll be prompted to select the VAT period for which you're submitting the return. Make sure to choose the correct period, as each VAT return corresponds to a specific time frame.

Step 4: Enter Your Sales and Output VAT

Enter the total value of your sales for the VAT period. This includes both standard-rated and reduced-rated sales. Make sure to include the VAT amount for each category. The system will automatically calculate the output VAT for you.

Step 5: Input Your Purchases and Input VAT

Next, enter the total value of your purchases, including the VAT amount you've paid. Ensure that you correctly categorize your purchases as standard-rated, reduced-rated, or zero-rated. The system will calculate the input VAT based on the information you provide.

Step 6: Review and Submit

Carefully review the information you've entered to ensure its accuracy. Double-check all the figures and categories before submitting the VAT return. Once you're confident that everything is correct, submit the return electronically.

Step 7: Make Payment or Await Refund

Depending on the outcome of your VAT return, you may need to make a payment to HMRC or you might be eligible for a refund. HMRC will provide clear instructions on how to proceed with the payment or refund process.

Can I Resubmit My VAT Return if I’ve Made an Error?

If you find errors in your submitted VAT return, it's natural to wonder if there's a way to amend it. The good news is that while you can't directly resubmit a VAT return, there are specific procedures you can follow to rectify mistakes. Understanding these options can save you from unnecessary stress and ensure your business's compliance with tax regulations.

1. Minor Net Errors:

For net errors that are less than £10,000, you have the option to adjust your next VAT return. This approach allows you to correct the mistake over time without the need for immediate resubmission.

2. Moderate Net Errors:

If the net error falls between £10,000 and £50,000 and doesn't exceed 1% of your quarterly turnover, you can still use the adjustment method. This flexible approach provides a solution that aligns with your business's financial activity.

3. Beyond the Thresholds:

For errors that don't meet the above criteria, such as net errors exceeding £50,000 or 1% of quarterly turnover, alternative steps are necessary. In these cases, you will need to directly report the errors to HMRC. The recommended way to do this is by using form VAT652, which provides a structured format for detailing the errors and necessary information.

Why FCCA Accounts & Tax Limited Is the Best Choice for VAT Returns Service?

When it comes to VAT returns, FCCA Accounts & Tax LTD is your ideal partner. Our VAT experts in UK possess an in-depth understanding of VAT regulations, complexities, and compliance requirements. Here's why we're the best choice for VAT returns service:

1) Accuracy: We ensure that your VAT returns are accurately calculated and meticulously reviewed, minimizing the risk of errors and potential penalties.

2) Efficiency: Our streamlined processes and technology-driven solutions make VAT return filing swift and hassle-free.

3) Guidance: We provide expert guidance on VAT schemes, helping you choose the one that aligns best with your business's financial goals.

4) Customization: Our approach is tailored to your unique circumstances, ensuring that your VAT return strategy supports your business's needs.

5) Compliance: With ever-evolving tax regulations, we keep you compliant with HMRC requirements, giving you peace of mind.

Choose FCCA Accounts & Tax LTD for your VAT returns,Tax ReturnsBookkeepingPayrollCIS Return services, and experience firsthand the difference that expertise, personalized care, and a client-centric ethos can make. Our commitment to your financial success is unwavering – let us be your trusted financial partner on the journey to prosperity.


Mastering the process of completing VAT returns is a fundamental skill that every business owner should possess. From gathering the necessary information to accurately calculating your VAT liability, each step plays a pivotal role in maintaining your financial health and complying with tax regulations. Remember, while the process may seem complex, it becomes significantly more manageable when you break it down into manageable steps.


What are the basics of VAT returns?

VAT returns are a way for businesses to report the amount of Value Added Tax (VAT) they owe to or can reclaim from the government. These returns provide a summary of your sales, purchases, and VAT transactions for a specific period. By submitting VAT returns, you ensure compliance with tax regulations and contribute your share to the government's tax revenue.

Can I file my VAT return myself?

Yes, you can file your VAT return yourself. Many businesses choose to handle their VAT returns internally, especially if they have a straightforward financial setup. However, keep in mind that VAT rules and calculations can be complex, and incorrect filings could lead to penalties or missed opportunities to reclaim VAT. Seeking professional assistance, like that offered by FCCA Accounts & Tax LTD, can help ensure accuracy and compliance.

What is the requirement to file a VAT return?

Businesses are required to file a VAT return if they are registered for VAT and have crossed the VAT registration threshold set by the government. As of my last update in September 2021, the threshold for mandatory VAT registration was £85,000 of taxable turnover in a 12-month period. However, these thresholds can change, and it's essential to stay updated with the latest HMRC guidelines to determine if you need to file a VAT return.

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