VAT Payments

VAT is normally due within one calendar month of the VAT quarter.

Even though the quoted date may be 7 days later than the month end, it still makes sense to think of the payment as being due at “the end of the following month”. The reason for this 7 day grace period is that HMRC’s bank does not operate the “faster payments service” and it can take up to 7 days for your payment to reach them!

Please make the payment to the “VAT Controller” in good time, based on our quarterly email. The 300330 report which we prepare also shows this figure at line 5

Your bank may list the VAT controller under HMRC or under VAT. It may also show either the SHIPLEY address or the old SOUTHEND address. If the online banking facility is not clear, then you should specify these details:

• HMRC VAT SHIPLEY
• sort code 08-32-00
• account no. 11963155
• ref – your VAT number

The other way to pay is to set up a direct debit, so that they can simply take the money off you when they like. Debits are normally taken one month and 11 days after the end of the VAT quarter. Be sure to have funds available in your account by the 11th of the relevant month.

The VAT Controller postal address

We send correspondence to the Revenue and the VAT office by Special Delivery. Even when we do that, Royal Mail can still sometimes fail to deliver.

Whilst most VAT returns are submitted by us electronically, some still have to go in on paper. We posted 4 VAT returns by Special Delivery on 30 Jul 2009 within a guaranteed delivery date of 31 July 2009. If you were affected, the tracking number was ZW 2614 4011 7GB. The letter apparently arrived at the VAT Central Unit on 3 Aug 2009. We are still trying to resolve the fallout from that, and Royal Mail have refused the claim for the refund of the Special Delivery fee as (they say) the post code was wrong!

Having raised this with the VAT central unit, we will no longer use the address on the envelopes:

  • VAT Controller
  • VAT Central Unit
  • BX5 5AT

And, instead we will be using the full postal address (and recommend that you do the same):

  • HM Revenue & Customs VAT Controller
  • Accounts Office
  • Salts Mill Rd
  • Shipley
  • Bradford, BD98 1YY

Let’s see if that helps Royal Mail to do things properly.

When do I have to charge VAT?

VAT is a complex area of law, and it revolves around a “person” as a legal entity and not a “business”. Generally, a “person” can be:

• an individual
• a limited company
• a partnership

If you are not VAT registered, then you cannot charge customers VAT. This earlier report discusses the question of registration.

Once registered, the VAT registration number is allocated to only one “person” and can be used by only that “person”. If you are both a self employed individual, and you are also running a limited company, the VAT number is not interchangeable. The question of registration has to be asked by each “person” and you may need (or want) to have separate VAT registrations for each separate entity.

Once a “person” is VAT registered, then ordinarily, all goods and services supplied by that “person” should carry VAT. There are very few exceptions to the VAT rule, and they are mainly relevant to any customers you have who reside outside the European Union.

So for example, if you are VAT registered and you’re a self employed individual who (a) does website design as your main trade and (b) offers guitar lessons as a sideline, then you are one and the same “person” in a legal sense. All of your business activities are “VATable” sales and all of your EU resident customers are liable to pay VAT – whether that’s for a web site or for a guitar lesson.

Conversely (for example), if you have a VAT registered company which offers management consultancy, and you also do a bit of “marketing” work as a sideline, in partnership with a friend, then the company and the partnership function as two totally separate entities. They cannot share a VAT number and any business done between the two entities should be done on a commercial basis and at “arm’s length”. The management consultancy fees from the company will charge VAT to the partnership, whereas the marketing fees from the partnership cannot.

If in doubt about who charges VAT to whom in any specific business relationship, simply establish which entity is the supplier and which entity is the customer. Which letterhead are you using to do the billing? If the position is still unclear, then it would be best to check with your accountant.

Claiming back expenses from your own Limited Company

You may be familiar with this process if you have ever been employed and had to submit an expense claim. As a director of your own limited company the process is the same, and it applies where directors and employees have used personal cash or a personal bank card to pay for a business cost.

It’s better to have all your suppliers invoice your company directly, and have the company pay them directly. If that could be done, you would never have to fill out a personal expense claim form.

Do not prepare employee expenses claims for items which the company has paid for directly from the company bank account or with the company credit card.

Keep the receipts for all of the things that you buy personally, on behalf of your business. Then once a month (or perhaps at some different interval) fill out a claim form and ask your company to reimburse you. If there is ever a records inspection by the tax office, they will want to see the claim forms with supporting receipts, and they will also check that the reimbursements on the company bank statements match the amounts claimed on the expense forms.

Motor expenses

Mileage on business journeys should be claimed at the HMRC approved rate. These have been the same since 6 Apr 2011.

• 45p per mile – first 10,000 miles per year
• 25p per mile – additional miles

No other motoring costs are to be claimed. The FPCS rates from HMRC are calculated by the AA so as to cover all the conceivable running costs of having a car! That means that you have to keep a log of all of your business journeys in your own car.

Foreign Currencies

Separate out any expense receipts which are in foreign currencies and prepare an individual claim form in each separate currency. That way the sub-totals do not end up with mixed currencies.

Non-VAT Registered Businesses

Use two forms, one form for mileage and just one form for all other business expenses. Separate the receipts by category and claim back the gross amount including VAT. Use the non-VAT form in the samples below, and just put all the figures on that.

VAT Registered Businesses

Separate your personal expense items according to whether they have VAT on them or not. VAT receipts for motor fuel belong in another separate pile. VAT on fuel can be reclaimed, but only to the extent that it is vouched for on actual VAT receipts.

Use three forms, one form for mileage and two separate forms covering expenses with VAT and expenses without VAT.  As a director/employee you are claiming back all of the gross amounts including all the VAT. The bookkeeper needs to know which items include VAT and which ones don’t. That’s why there are three different forms for a VAT registered business.

Book keeping and sample forms

If you are doing your own book keeping, use the totals at the foot of each column and post them into your software. To download a sample form (MS Excel) right click on the link and select “save as” . . .

• Mileage Claim
• Non-VAT Expenses
• VAT Expenses

Expenses in the first month or two

Normally a new business, will lead to cash expenses which you want to reclaim, before you have any funds to pay them. There are two ways to handle this dilemma.

• Wait until the business can afford to make the reimbursement.
• Introduce working capital (use a round sum) into the business, and then reimburse yourself!

Over the course of the financial year movements in capital introduced and capital withdrawn accumulate and may be shown in the annual accounts as a loan from the director to the company. Take care, because capital movements can sometimes work the other way. If you take too much capital out of the company, the loan is the other way around and there can be adverse tax consequences.

Recharging Costs to customers

Company’s do not claim from customers, they invoice.

Company’s are not reimbursed by customers, the customer pays the bill. Your company has a receipt in the bank account.

Reserve the expressions claim and reimburse for activities that occur between you (or your staff) and your company.

If your company recharges costs to a customer it is done on an invoice. The amounts recharged are usually liable to VAT. See the Disbursement or Expense report for more details of what may and may not be liable to VAT.

In a legal sense transactions between you and your company, and transactions between your company and your customers are entirely different obligations.

The terminology matters. This is one of the few situations where all accountants, bookkeepers and VAT officers need you to understand this concept fully.

Staff claim and staff are reimbursed.

Company’s do not claim from customers, they invoice.

Company’s are not reimbursed by customers, they have a receipt.

The mechanics of processing an expenses claim

It’s your business, and it’s up to you how you run it. We are just the accountants that do the bookkeeping, the VAT returns, the year end accounts and tax returns. We do not run your internal systems for you. Ordinarily we expect you and your staff to prepare your claims on a regular basis, not once per year, and definitely not one week before the Companies House accounts deadline. This is how we do it at Proactive, our staff can submit one claim per month, which is due in by the last day of the month and is then paid by the 14th of the following month. If they miss a month end deadline then they have to wait a further month for any claim to be accepted and reimbursed.

Your claims are subject to the approval of one of your internal staff who will scrutinise them with care. If approved, one of your internal staff will then implement a reimbursement, normally by bank transfer. Do not wait for the next VAT quarter to end, do not wait for Proactive to check things, it’s not our job to micro manage what you do. However, we do require copies of all personal expenses claims handled within your business. If our checks identify areas of concern we will discuss the problem and the remedies which are open to you.

Finally, if you are the only person in your business, you still have to follow this process. Imagine you are wearing two hats! And do this task with some rigour. Later, when your business is big and successful you will thank us for putting The Senior Manager Test on this web site.

Dealing with bad debts

Any business with a bad debt will naturally try to take steps to try to recover it. However, eventually you have to take a view on these things and perhaps write it off. If you go about this the right way you can claim bad debt relief and your tax bill may be reduced. And, if you’re VAT registered you can also claim back the VAT.

Go about it the wrong way and there is a risk that you will lose out even more. I’ve seen that happen and I’ve seen the VAT office recover VAT which was reclaimed in good faith, but which was reclaimed incorrectly.

Firstly, be commercial! Make an effort to recover the debt. Send reminders to the client, or to the administrator or to the receiver. Be persistent. If after 6 months you are getting nowhere, then you can consider bad debt relief. No tax relief will be allowed until 6 months after the invoice date.

Assuming that writing off the debt is your only option, you then have to generate a document (a copy of the original invoice will do) and mark it “Bad Debt”. This “expense” is then shown in your books as though you had bought something. It is not a negative invoice, nor is it a credit note, it is simply an expense and there is a special “bad debt” category for this type of expense.

Like any other expense, it goes through the books, leads to a reduced profit, and in turn to a reduced tax bill. And if there was VAT on the original document, then there is VAT relief on the corresponding bad debt. Treat it as you would any other expense from a VAT registered supplier.

Just be sure to try 6 times over 6 months to recover the debt. At the point where you write it off as a bad debt you must inform the client that you consider this to be a bad debt and, accordingly, you are claiming bad debt relief. That way, the tax man and the VAT man will be content that you have followed the rules.

Should I register for VAT?

VAT is a tax on the end consumer. It is not normally a tax on the businesses through which the VAT passes. In effect, a VAT registered business becomes an unpaid tax collector for the government. End consumers are normally households and shoppers, but any businesses which are not VAT registered and which cannot reclaim any VAT are also end consumers.

There are three main categories of business in the UK . . .

  1. The small businesses who would rather not register for VAT and thus steer clear of its complexity.
  2. The small businesses who voluntarily register for VAT, for one of two reasons (see below).
  3. The businesses who are compelled to VAT register, because their turnover exceeds the threshold.

There are also a few more rules which allow people like freelance doctors and freelance teachers, in the right circumstances, to exceed the VAT threshold and to not have to become VAT registered. However, once you pass the current threshold (see below) you either have to register, or you have to apply to HMRC for exemption from registering (for doctors and teachers).

The VAT registration threshold became

• £79,000 on 1 Apr 2013
• £81,000 on 1 Apr 2014
• £82,000 on 1 Apr 2015
• £83,000 on 1 Apr 2016
• £85,000 on 1 Apr 2017

The standard rate of VAT has been 20% since 4 Jan 2011.

The default position

When you start a business in the UK, the default position is that you are not registered for VAT and you must not charge VAT on your sales. In the case of most new start up businesses, we recommend that they stay this way unless any of the following apply:

  1. Your new business is clearly going to be a big mainstream business with annual sales above the VAT threshold. If your sales are going to be heading that way within a few weeks or months of starting, you might as well have your business VAT registered from the outset.
  2. You want your customers to think that you’re bigger than you really are. I know that if one of my UK suppliers sends me a bill, and the bill does not mention VAT, then my supplier is a small business with annual sales of less than the threshold. In spite of the added administration, some businesses will register for VAT voluntarily so that they look like a bigger mainstream business.
  3. You have lots of expenses which suffer VAT, and you’d really like to be able to reclaim those amounts. There are two sides to this argument. Yes, if you are VAT registered, you can reclaim relevant VAT, but you will also have to add VAT onto all of your sales and charge it to your customers. That won’t bother your customers if they are also VAT registered businesses, but if your customers are end users then they will suddenly see your bill shoot up by the VAT rate. If you feel compelled, you can register voluntarily and then reclaim VAT on your costs.
  4. Your sales creep up to the threshold over time. It’s up to you to keep tabs on your sales as there is a penalty for failing to VAT register on time if you hit the threshold. The whole system of registration hinges on sometime as imprecise as your “expectation”. And, you have to allow for fluctuations in sales over the year.

In all probability you will have to VAT register as you reach the threshold. Basically, if your monthly sales are getting near 7,000 that’s the time to ask us for more advice. Don’t wait until your monthly sales exceed 7,000 consistently, because then it’s too late.