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VAT registration goes online only

  • 22nd November 2023

HMRC is moving ahead with its ‘digital by default’ ambition by pushing VAT registration to online only. Any business unable to use the online registration service will have to call HMRC’s VAT helpline to obtain a paper registration form.

According to HMRC, more than 95% of businesses already register online, but there are some circumstances when registration by post is the only option.

HMRC recently made an almost immediate U-turn after concerns were raised when it tried to remove the option for downloading paper self-assessment tax returns. the forms continue to be available to download.

Paper-only option

Online registration is not possible where a business wants to:

  • Apply for an exemption from VAT registration (where turnover has gone temporarily over the registration threshold);
  • Join the agricultural flat rate scheme; or
  • Register a company’s divisions or business units separately for VAT.

In these circumstances, businesses must contact HMRC’s VAT helpline to ask for a VAT1 form. The digitally excluded will need to do likewise.

Other registration issues

The compulsory VAT registration threshold has been frozen at £85,000 since 1 April 2017, so not surprisingly the number of new registrations has risen considerably – over 300,000 in each of 2020/21 and 2021/22. The threshold will remain unchanged until 31 March 2026.

With more smaller businesses being drawn into the VAT net, it doesn’t help that HMRC closed its VAT registration helpline earlier this year. Anyone with a registration query can now end up waiting well over a month before HMRC responds.

Currently, it can take HMRC 30-40 working days (although sometimes longer) to process an online VAT registration. However, VAT must still be accounted for from the date when the obligation to register arose, so sending out invoices in the interim can be problematic.

HMRC’s guide to VAT registration can be found here.

If you would like any further advice on this topic, we would be happy to help.

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