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How To Find Your VAT number

How To Find Your VAT number

VAT registered businesses will all have a unique VAT number assigned to them. If you can’t find your VAT number, there are plenty of ways to locate it.

You can check your existing paperwork including VAT certificates or letters from HMRC relating to your VAT registration or ongoing accounts, you can call HMRC to check the details, or use your Government Gateway account to find the number in your online tax account.

Finding Your VAT Number From Existing Record

Once you have a VAT number, it will be included on all official documentation from HMRC and your accounting paperwork. Check the following records that you will have to locate your tax number:

Check the following places to find your VAT number: 

VAT certificates and letters from HMRC

Sales invoices you’ve sent to clients

Historical VAT returns

Your accounts system (particularly if it’s online)

Contracts or finance applications that reference VAT numbers.

It’s likely that you store these kinds of documents carefully in one place, so it should be easy enough to find the missing information.

Finding Your VAT Number Via The VAR Helpline

HMRC has a handy helpline for anyone that requires assistance with VAT.

Simply call 0300 200 3700 for assistance. You will need to be able to prove your identification and link to the business. You can then either be told your VAT number on the phone or have a reminder sent to you via the post.

If you have a number but aren’t sure if it’s a VAT number, you can also use the ‘check a VAT number’ tool online here.

Finding Your VAT Number With Government Gateway

If you are registered for self assessment, are a company owner or manage your tax affairs online, you will have a government gateway ID. It’s a login that grants you access to your tax details online.

If you sign into your government gateway account, you can go to the VAT details section in your account where the number you need will be displayed.

Most businesses will now be registered for online tax filing as part of the making tax digital initiative (MTD). This means that your VAT number will also show in your HMRC account online when you login.

Finding Your VAT Number From Your Previous VAT History

One of the easiest ways to find current numbers for things is to look at previous records for the same thing. In this case, asking HMRC for a registration history letter will help you to find your VAT number along with information on when it was set up, de-registered and other useful information about your VAT number’s history.

What is VAT and Why It Matters

Value added tax (VAT) is a tax paid on goods and services. It can be collected at every stage of the supply chain where materials, products and services are exchanged between businesses and businesses to customers.

Businesses that are tax registered must collect and pay VAT to HMRC whereas customers are charged VAT at the point of sale when shopping online or in-store. The money raised goes to the Government.

The current standard UK VAT rate is 20% on most goods and services. Reduced VAT rates are also in action for items like children’s safety equipment (car seats) and most food.

Here is a list of all current VAT rates in the UK: https://www.gov.uk/vat-rates

Why Do You Need A Tax Number?

It’s legally required that a business has a VAT number if they have a turnover of £85,000 or more. If they meet this threshold but fail to register for VAT, they are subject to large financial penalties.

When a company exceeds £85,000 in turnover in a 12 month period, or they expect to exceed it in the next 30 days, then VAT registration is required. This applies to sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.

The penalties on non-compliance with VAT registration can be severe. From financial penalties of 100% of the unpaid VAT and prosecution for tax evasion, it really is best to ensure that your business tax affairs are in order. An accountant can help you to ensure you’re fully compliant and alert you if any changes are needed as your business develops.

When You Need a VAT Number

Turnover threshold, business structures and trading with EU countries are all triggers for needing a VAT Number.

The main point that a business will need to register for VAT is when they reach £85,000 taxable turnover in 12 months or expect to hit it in the next 30 days. Taxable turnover is business sales excluding VAT and is mandatory once these thresholds are triggered.

Sole traders who change their business structure to limited companies, partnerships that become limited liability partnerships or if an existing VAT business joins your business are also reasons that require a VAT number.

Trading with EU countries obligates VAT registration and gives proof that you will handle VAT on EU sales correctly. Any purchases made from EU supplies entitle you to claim VAT refunds.

 How to Check If Your Business Should Be VAT Registered

Whilst most small business owners will have a firm handle on their accounts, profits and turnover, some may be unaware of their current financial position. If you find yourself in the latter camp, you should take dedicated steps to checking if you have exceeded the VAT registration threshold.

You can do this by reviewing your taxable turnover: 

  • Adding up the sales and income from your business in the last 12 months. If you use a finance software like Xero or Sage, this will be easy to see. If you manually log your work on spreadsheets, simply sum the total of both the sales and income received this year.
  • Exclude any VAT you charged customers in these calculations
  • The result of your taxable turnover future. If it’s more than £85k, then you need to act now. If it’s less, then you don’t need to be VAT registered.

Projecting next month’s turnover: 

Estimate your next month’s turnover excluding VAT for the next 30 days using the same method as outlined above for the 12 month period. If it goes over £85k, then you need to register for VAT.

VAT Scheme Adjustments

Flat rate accounting and annual accounting are VAT schemes that may alter your turnover calculations. Flat rate schemes allow small businesses with a turnover of £83,000 or under to voluntarily pay VAT as a fixed percentage of turnover under £83,0000.

An annual accounting scheme permits the submission of one annual return rather than the traditional quarterly submissions required for VAT. This provides more flexibility on fluctuation in turnover.

Cash accounting schemes mean businesses pay VAT on customer payments received rather than invoices raised. Again, the £85,000 threshold applies to cash received methods but there is no requirement to adjust VAT thresholds for unpaid invoices.

VAT margin schemes are good for those reselling second hand goods without altering them. Here, sellers only account for VAT on profit margin, not full sale value and there is no turnover threshold for these margin exemptions.

VAT Exemptions 

If you’re in education, health, finance, rental and not-for-profit sectors you may qualify for VAT exemptions or be subject to alternative registration rules.

In summary, there are plenty of reasons and ways to check if your business needs to pay VAT. The best option is to check with HMRC directly or with an experienced accountant who is familiar with your business to see which exemptions your business qualifies for and to determine if you need to pay VAT now or in the near future.

Applying for a VAT Number with HMRC

When the time comes to apply for a VAT number with HMRC, follow the simple steps below to get your business set up for VAT:

Overview of the application process for VAT: 

  • You will need to fill out the VAT1 form online or by post
  • To do this, gather up the following information:
    • Business address & contact details
    • The date you registered your business
    • An overview of business activities – such as ‘selling used cars’ or ‘marking services’
    • Your expected taxable turnover
    • Business bank account details – this must be in your business name and somewhere that HMRC can pay refunds due into.

Registering for VAT is a fairly quick process, taking just 5 working days for your VAT1 form to be processed. If you need your VAT registration number back quicker than this, there is an expedited service available for a few hours but you will need to provide additional verification.

After this process is complete, you will receive your VAT certificate and VAT number through the post or online. From this point you must start charging VAT on sales made and schedule your VAT returns to report on the VAT received.

For everything you need to know about applying for VAT, visit https://www.gov.uk/register-for-vat/how-register-for-vat

Online Application Process

Here is a step-by-step walkthrough of the online HMRC VAT registration process, guidance on VAT registration certificates, and steps to take in case of errors.

Online Application Process To register for VAT online

  • Set up a Government Gateway account if you don’t already have one
  • Provide email address and password
  • Answer some personal details
  • Verify your Government Gateway account through text message, tax credits, or ID checking app
  • Sign in and enter your company details through the online form
  • You’ll need your company address, registration date, a detailed description of your business activities, turnover dates and more
  • Submit your application and you’ll typically receive your certificate within 5 working days

VAT Registration Certificates 

  • Once HMRC has processed your VAT registration application, you’ll receive a VAT Registration Certificate
  • Check all your business details are correct on the certificate including the VAT number, Business name, Business address, your effective VAT registration date should also be displayed.
  • If there are any errors on your certificate: Make a note of the mistakes and contact the HMRC VAT Registration Service phone helpline to report errors. They will investigate and reissue an accurate certificate

Using Your VAT Number

If you have recently applied for VAT registration, you might be wondering how to use your VAT number once you have it.

You will need to use your VAT number for sales invoices and receipts, VAT returns, when talking to HMRC and reclaiming VAT.

Including VAT details on sales invoices and receipts

You have to charge VAT on goods and services sold. Note that there are some exemptions to this. You should let customers know of your VAT status by displaying your VAT number clearly on all invoices and receipts sent to them.

A VAT return is sent to HMRC quarterly and it is the way that you report how much VAT you have charged to customers and also to reclaim VAT on allowable expenses. You will need to complete this process every 3 months unless otherwise exempt.

Reference on VAT returns and communicating with HMRC

Everytime you discuss matters with HMRC, you should quote your VAT number. It will ensure they can locate the correct file and will be needed for phone enquiries, VAT notices and VAT refund requests.

Claiming back VAT inputs and expenses

There are some purchases that you can claim VAT back on. This includes raw materials, stock, equipment and mileage. Your accountant can assist you with which items you can reclaim VAT on. It will be helpful for you to keep receipts for all business purchases.

Summary

To recap, if you need to know how to find your VAT number, there are several ways to do so.

Simply check your paperwork from HMRC, call the VAT helpline or log into your Government Gateway. Any business that exceeds the £85k turnover threshold will need to register for VAT and there are penalties if you fail to do so.

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