Value Added Tax (VAT) is levied on most business transactions and on
many goods and some services.
BBC News explains how VAT works and who has to pay it.
There are three rates of VAT in the UK: 17.5% (the 'standard' rate),
5% ('reduced' rate) and 0% ('zero' rate).
If you run a business or work for yourself you will probably have
to register for VAT if your taxable turnover reaches a certain limit,
if you take over a business as a going concern or you buy goods from
elsewhere in the EU.
The VAT registration level is £60,000 of your taxable turnover,
but businesses with turnovers of less than this limit can also register
if they wish.
Companies over the £60,000 limit which fail to register can
Goods and services liable to VAT are called 'taxable supplies'. If
your business turnover reaches the registration threshold, it must
be registered for VAT and the business must charge VAT on all taxable
VAT doesn't apply to services such as insurance, some types of education,
training and loans, as these are deemed to be 'exempt'.
VAT advice line
0845 010 9000
The amount owed to Revenue and Customs is the difference between
your output tax and input tax.
Output tax is the VAT charged to your VAT-registered customers, and
VAT charged by suppliers to your business is your input tax.
To work out what is owed to Revenue and Customs, deduct your input
tax from your output tax. If input tax is greater than output tax,
a refund may be owed.
Should I register?
Even if your taxable turnover is below £60,000, you may be
eligible to apply for 'voluntary registration'.
There are advantages and disadvantages to registering voluntarily
- and it is important to weigh up the pros and cons.
Revenue and Customs says one of the benefits is increased "credibility"
but maybe the more important benefit is, if your business makes standard
or zero-rated supplies, you'll be able to claim back input tax.
Once registered for VAT, however, it can be a hassle.
You'll have to keep careful VAT records and accounts, account for
output tax on all your taxable supplies, and send in VAT returns regularly.
For information, call Revenue and Customs helpline: 0845 010 9000.