Registering groups, divisions and joint ventures for VAT

How to register a group of companies, company divisions, joint business ventures and business units for VAT and what to do if they change after registration.


It’s the ‘person’, not the business, who is registered for VAT. A person can be an individual, a legal person or a legal entity. Each VAT registration covers all the business activities of the registered person.

A legal person is an entity or body which has an existence separate and distinct from the persons (legal or natural) comprising that entity or body.

If 2 people work together as a joint venture, the joint venture may have to register for VAT.

Related companies or limited liability partnerships can register as a single taxable person — a VAT group. Unincorporated business units may be able to register as VAT divisions.

Joint ventures and VAT

If you and another person intend to work together on a business or project as a joint venture, HMRC may consider this as a partnership. This would be a new and separate person for VAT registration purposes. The joint venture may have to register for VAT if its turnover is above the relevant threshold.

Find out more about registering for VAT if you own land with another person.

Group registration

Two or more companies or limited liability partnerships, known as ‘bodies corporate’, can register as a single taxable person or VAT group if:

  • each body has its principal or registered office in the UK
  • they are under common control, for example, one or more company is a subsidiary of a parent company

Specified bodies

A specified body is a body corporate in or applying to join a VAT group which meets certain criteria.

Read about specified bodies and the eligibility conditions for more information.

A VAT group is treated in the same way as a single taxable person registered for VAT on its own. The registration is made in the name of the ‘representative member’, who is responsible for completing and submitting a single VAT return and making VAT payments or receiving VAT refunds on behalf of the group. All the members of the group remain jointly and severally liable for any VAT debts.

How to register your group for VAT

Most businesses must register for VAT online, including partnerships and a group of companies registering under one VAT number.

Apply online

You must:

  1. Register for VAT online.

  2. Complete the form VAT50/51 and upload it to your online VAT registration application.

Apply by post

If you cannot register for VAT online, you must:

  1. Check when to register by post. You can only do this in certain circumstances.

  2. Contact HMRC to request a VAT1 paper form. 

  3. Complete form VAT50/51.

  4. Complete the VAT1 form when it arrives.

  5. Complete additional forms, if needed.

  6. Send the completed forms to HMRC.

Your application for VAT group registration may be refused if HMRC decides that: 

  • you do not meet the eligibility criteria 
  • your VAT group registration would result in VAT avoidance or significantly decrease VAT paid

HMRC will tell you when a decision about your registration has been made.

Using an accountant

If you want your accountant to register a VAT group, or make changes to an existing group on your behalf, you must inform HMRC of this using the VAT53 form.

Adding or removing companies from your group

Once you’re registered as a group, you can make the following changes:

  • add additional members to an existing group
  • remove members from an existing group
  • change the representative member
  • disband the group

You can disband your VAT group online, but for all other changes you must send forms to HMRC by post. You should use the:

  • VAT56 form to change the representative member of a VAT group
  • VAT50/51 form to change or disband the group or to provide details of the companies involved

Adding an acquired company to the VAT group

If you buy a business as a going concern which becomes part of the group, you may have to account for VAT on the purchase if that business will only be supplying goods or services to other companies in the group.

Divisions or business units

A body corporate with business units or divisions that are not limited companies may be able to register each of them separately for VAT. Each unit or division would have its own VAT registration number and each must account separately for VAT.

Even though each division would be VAT registered separately, the body corporate is still a single taxable person and remains liable for any VAT debts of all the divisions. You cannot combine divisional VAT registration and VAT group registration.

For the purposes of divisional VAT registration, a body corporate is trading in divisions if:

  • it has 2 or more branches, sites or departments that carry out different functions or trade in different geographical areas
  • each branch has its own independent accounting systems

In addition bodies corporate may only be approved for divisional VAT registration if:

  • all divisions are registered, even those whose turnover does not exceed the VAT registration threshold
  • the whole body corporate is fully taxable, for example it has no exempt sales
  • all divisions have the same tax periods for submitting their VAT Returns

How to register divisions or business units for VAT

To register divisions or business units of your company for VAT you need to:

Divisional registrations cannot currently be completed online, but you can contact HMRC to request a form VAT1 Application for Registration to register your business units or divisions for VAT. The paper forms must be completed and sent with your supporting documentation to HMRC using the address at the top of the form.

Published 1 July 2014
Last updated 23 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. If you need to register for VAT by post, you will need to contact HMRC to request the paper VAT1 form and send this with your VAT50/51 form.

  2. To register a VAT group you now only need to include the VAT50/51 form with your application.

  3. The online VAT registration link has been updated.

  4. Title updated.

  5. Link to VAT registration for people who own land with another person added to 'Joint ventures and VAT' section.

  6. First published.