Find out about VAT and distance selling goods from the EU to customers in Northern Ireland if you're a business abroad.
Applies to Northern Ireland
What distance selling is
Distance selling is when a business supplies and delivers goods to a customer who is not registered for VAT from:
- an EU country to Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland to an EU country
- one EU country to another EU country
You’ll be distance selling goods into Northern Ireland if all of the following apply:
- you’re established outside the UK
- you sell goods that are in an EU member state to customers in Northern Ireland who are not VAT-registered
- you deliver the goods or arrange for their delivery
Customers who are not VAT-registered include:
- private individuals
- businesses that are not required to be registered and have not registered for UK VAT voluntarily
- businesses that cannot register for VAT because their activities are exempt
- public bodies
Distance selling only involves goods, not services. It does not apply to the sale of goods:
- to customers in Northern Ireland who are VAT-registered - find out about VAT on movements of goods between Northern Ireland and the EU
from outside the EU to Northern Ireland - find out about selling goods:
What you need to do if you distance sell goods
Distance selling from the EU into Northern Ireland
- register for UK VAT if you distance sell into Northern Ireland and the value of your distance sales is more than the threshold for distance selling
- keep VAT records of all your distance sales to Northern Ireland
No matter how much your distance sales are worth, if you distance sell any excise goods such as alcohol and tobacco into Northern Ireland, you must:
Distance selling from Northern Ireland to the EU
You must follow the rules for selling goods to the final consumer in another EU country on the Your Europe website if you’re distance selling goods from Northern Ireland to customers in the EU.
Threshold for distance selling
The distance selling threshold is £70,000 in a calendar year, which runs from 1 January to 31 December.
If the value of your distance sales goes over the threshold you must:
If the value of your distance sales into Northern Ireland for a calendar year is less than the distance selling threshold, you should charge VAT at the rate that applies in your own country. You do not have to register for UK VAT, as you will account for the VAT in your own country.
You can apply to register for UK VAT voluntarily if your distance sales do not go above the threshold.
Working out the value of your distance sales
To work out how much your distance sales are worth, add up the total value of all the VAT taxable distance sales you make into Northern Ireland, including any zero-rated goods.
Do not include:
- goods you install or assemble at your customer’s premises
- new means of transport - read section 2 of VAT Notice 728 to find out the HMRC definition of new means of transport
- any capital assets you sell, like vehicles and equipment
When you need to register for UK VAT
You must register for UK VAT within 30 days of the date the value of your distance sales goes over the distance selling threshold in a calendar year (1 January to 31 December).
Your VAT registration date will be the date the value of your distance sales went over the threshold, you must start accounting for UK VAT from then.
Registering for UK VAT voluntarily
You can decide to apply to register for UK VAT even if you do not have to do so, if you think it will help your business.
You can choose the date when you want your registration to start when you apply.
If your distance sales are below the threshold
If you do not have to register for UK VAT because the value of your distance sales are not over the threshold and you do not sell any excise goods, you’ll have to apply to HMRC to register for UK VAT at least 30 days before you start charging UK VAT.
You’ll need to tell the tax authorities in your own country you’ve applied. Include written evidence that you’ve told them in your UK VAT registration application.
You’ll also have to:
- account for VAT on all the distance sales you make in Northern Ireland
- follow all the normal UK VAT rules
- usually stay VAT-registered for at least 2 years from the date you first started charging UK VAT
If you have not started making distance sales yet
If you intend to start making distance sales into Northern Ireland in the future. You’ll need to apply to register for UK VAT.
You‘ll need to include the following information in your application:
- proof you intend to make distance sales to Northern Ireland and account for VAT in the UK
- written evidence of the arrangements you have already made to start distance selling into Northern Ireland
If HMRC does not think you intend to make distance sales in Northern Ireland your application may be rejected. You can appeal if you disagree with the HMRC decision.
How to register for UK VAT
Fill in a VAT1A form and send it to HMRC.
After you send your VAT registration
You may have to wait a few weeks before you receive confirmation of your VAT registration number. You will not be able to issue UK VAT invoices until you have your VAT registration number.
If you’ve registered because your distance sales have gone over the threshold, you must account for UK VAT from the date you went over the distance-selling threshold.
You must start accounting for UK VAT from the date you requested If you’ve applied for voluntary registration and have not receive your registration details by then.
How to manage your UK VAT
You’ll have to add UK VAT to your prices at the appropriate rate when you make VAT taxable distance sales. Different types of goods have different VAT rates in the UK, so you’ll need to check which rates apply to the goods you sell.
You’ll also have to:
Appointing someone else to handle your UK VAT
Your representative will be able to deal with HMRC on your behalf when HMRC confirm they have updated their records.
If you are not established in the UK
If you are not established in the UK you’ll deal directly with HMRC’s Non-Established Taxable Persons Unit after you’ve registered for VAT.
VAT and goods returned to you
Read the VAT and overseas goods sent to the UK and returned to the seller guidance to find out how to deal with VAT if you have sold goods sent from abroad to customers in the UK and they are returned to you.
When to cancel your UK VAT registration
You must cancel your registration if you:
- stop making distance sales into Northern Ireland (including sales of excise goods) and you do not need to register for VAT in the UK for another reason
- previously intended to make distance sales but did not
Voluntarily cancelling your VAT registration
If you had to register for UK VAT because the value of your distance sales into Northern Ireland went over the registration threshold, you can apply to cancel your registration if either:
- the value of your distance sales in the last calendar year did not exceed the registration threshold
- their value in the following year will not exceed the threshold
If you decided to register for UK VAT voluntarily, you may not be able to cancel your VAT registration straight away. You’ll normally have to wait until the end of the second calendar year after the year that you registered to cancel your registration.