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HMRC internal manual

VAT Registration

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Entity to be registered: partnerships: registration of partnerships

Although partners in a partnership are treated collectively as being a firm, under the law of England and Wales a firm is not a legal person distinct from the persons of whom it is composed. However, the effect of section 45 of the VAT Act 1994 is that individuals carrying on business in partnership are treated as a person for VAT purposes only.

Consequently, A carrying on business on his own account, as a sole proprietor, is a different person from A carrying on another business in partnership with B. In the same way, A, B and C carrying on a business in partnership are a different person from A, B and D carrying on a business in partnership.

If, A & B and A, B & C and A, B & D are three separate partnerships, all of which are registered for VAT, and C were to die, the partnership of A, B and C would have to be deregistered as any future supplies would be made by a partnership of A & B which is already registered. The same would apply if anything were to happen to cause D to leave the third partnership.

As the partners in a firm are treated as a single person for VAT purposes, one registration will be sufficient to cover all the business activities of those partners acting collectively. A partnership comprised of A, B and C will only be allowed one registration, regardless of the diversity of its business activities. However, at the same time A, B and C individually may well have separate VAT registrations for activities carried on by them as sole proprietors.

The situation with Scottish partnerships is different and is covered in VATREG09050.

The question of whether a partnership (or, more generally, a person) is entitled to more than one VAT registration was addressed in the Glassborow High Court case C & E Commissioners v Glassborow and Another QB February 1974, [1974] STC 142; [1975] QB 465; [1974] 1 All ER 1041.