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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Record Keeping: How long must records be retained for: VAT: Specified retention period

The period of time specified for all VAT registered entities to retain records is the same whether or not they are actually a business. CH12200 gives more detail about the records a VAT registered entity must keep.

This specified period is not to exceed 6 years. CH15200 tells you how to determine the 6-year period.

Although the maximum period is 6 years, we can specify a shorter period. And different periods can be specified for different cases. CH15300 gives more information about these concessions and CH15400 details some minimum retention periods for particular types of records.

Records must be retained for the required period regardless of whether the person remains registered. Those who deregister must retain their records until the 6-year limit is reached. If the person was granted a shorter retention period before they deregistered they may retain their records for that shorter period.

Special rules apply

  • to cases involving insolvency, see CH15800, or
  • where the business activity has been transferred as a going concern, see CH15900.

Guidance about what action you can take in cases where records have not been retained is in V1-24B Officers’ powers.

This guidance is subject to any different requirements set out in a special scheme, see CH12400.