Should I Register For VAT?

Am I legally obliged to register?

If you haven’t exceeded the threshold for compulsory registration you can still register voluntarily if it makes sense for you to do so.

How does VAT work?

Now, here’s the good bit. When you buy items from another VAT registered business – they have to charge you VAT. But you can claim this back.

So, lets assume that in a 3 month period you collect £1,000 in VAT from your customers. In the same period you also buy something from a supplier and you’re charged £200 + VAT (Total: £240).

The amount you have to give to HMRC is the VAT you’ve collected (often called “Output VAT”) minus the VAT you’ve paid out (“Input VAT”) . So in this example you’ll be handing over £960 (1000 minus 40).

You’re essentially £40 better off than you would have been if you weren’t VAT registered.

Why else would I want to register?

By not being registered, you are telling the world that your company is turning over less than £79,000 a year. If you’re trying to present an image of being a big, established company then this would shatter that illusion to those in the know.

So why would I not want to register for VAT?

The most often cited reason for not registering is the paper work. This is absolute codswallop. If you’re using decent accounting software (like KashFlow) then this really isn’t an issue.

But imagine you sell widgets to people or business that aren’t VAT registered (ie, the public). You currently buy them for £7 (including VAT of £1.17) and sell them for £10.

You currently make a profit of £3 on each sale. If you become VAT registered then you can claim that £1.17 back and now you’re making a profit of £4.17 per sale – and increase of over 30%.

But you’re now VAT registered and you have to charge VAT on everything you sell. If you add VAT to your current selling price of £10, then you’ll be selling at £12. If your customers are VAT registered they wont care as they can claim back the VAT. But if they’re not then the extra £2 has to come out of their pocket.

So essentially your prices are now higher and may mean you customers go to the other widget shop that is now cheaper than you.

You could absorb the VAT – i.e. still sell at £10, but have that as the VAT inclusive price (£8.33 + £1.67 VAT).

So lets look at your profit again.

You buy your widgets at £5.83 (you actually pay £7, but £1.17 can be claimed back)
You sell them at £8.33 (you actually charge £10, but £1.67 goes to HMRC)
So, you now make £2.50 (£8.33 minus £5.83) profit on each sale.

So should I register or not?

Even if you sell mainly to non-VAT registered business and decide not to register for VAT yourself, then do remember that if your turnover gets high enough (and we hope it will!) then you’ll be legally obliged to register.

A couple of other important things that may effect your decisions is whether the products you supply are “Zero-rated” for VAT, and whether your main suppliers/customers are outside of the UK – but that is outside the scope of this article.

Different VAT Schemes Available

Standard (or Accrual) Scheme
On the standard scheme, the amount of VAT you owe (or reclaim) is based on the date of invoices. So if you invoice someone for £1,000 + VAT – that VAT is deemed to be owed to HMRC at the end of the quarter in which you dated the invoice. This can cause cashflow problems for small business.

Cash Accounting Scheme

This solves the cashflow problems associated with the Standard scheme. VAT is deemed to be owed at the end of the quarter in which you were actually paid for the invoice (and on the other side – when you paid for your purchases)

Flat Rate Scheme (FRS)
This scheme can save you a lot of money in certain industries. You get given a flat-percentage rate dependent on the industry you are in. Lets assume 11%. You then charge VAT at the usual rate but you only pay over to HMRC 11% of your Gross (meaning inclusive of VAT) turnover. You can’t claim back any VAT on your purchases (With a few exceptions), but you don’t hand over all of the VAT you receive to HMRC.

Our accounting software supports all of the above schemes.

Where can I get more help and advice?

Further information about the UK’s Vat rate is available here and a useful Vat calculator available here. Additionally, we have some advice on why it’s important to check Vat numbers when dealing with suppliers and how to avoid problems with HMRC in respect of invalid tax invoices.

If you think you don’t need one or can’t afford one – read our Benefits of having an Accountant article.

HMRC are not the monsters they’re made out to be. The people on their VAT helpline are friendly and helpful and will happily be prepared to advise you over any Vat registration queries, Vat Thresholds or Vat registration number enquiries .
Call them on 0845 010 9000.

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