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Must You Register for VAT?

Newsletter issue - July 2011.

There is a myth in certain quarters that every legitimate business is required to be VAT registered. This is not the case. Your business (as a sole-trader, partnership or company) does not have to become VAT registered until the total sales for 12 consecutive months exceeds £73,000. However, this total does apply to all the businesses you run as a sole trader. You can't artificially divide your businesses to avoid registering for VAT.

Once your business is VAT registered you must charge VAT at the appropriate rate (normally 20%) on your sales. You also have to submit regular VAT returns, either quarterly or monthly, which means you need to keep your records of sales and purchases up to date. If this all sounds a bit too much to cope with there are a number of schemes you can sign up to which are designed to make VAT reporting much easier for small businesses.

One of those schemes is the flat rate scheme for small businesses. When you use this scheme you don't have to worry about your purchases. You just have to total-up your sales each quarter and pay over a flat percentage as VAT to the Taxman. The percentage used will depend on your trade sector. If your business makes very few purchases you can benefit significantly from being within the flat rate scheme.

Some people prefer to keep their total sales below the compulsory VAT registration threshold, so they don't have to charge VAT and submit VAT returns. They do this by turning down work that would take them over the VAT threshold. This is not illegal, but the Taxman is very suspicious of businesses who manage their sales in this way.

If you use this strategy to avoid VAT registration, you need to be able to prove all your sales are correctly recorded and declared. Later this year the Taxman will offer a limited amnesty to those who have sales over the VAT threshold but who have not registered for VAT. Once that amnesty period is over he will start to actively investigate traders who report total sales just below the VAT threshold. Contact us for further information if you are interested in taking advantage of the amnesty.

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