Business tax – guidance

VAT: refunds for non-EU businesses visiting the UK

Using the VAT refund scheme to reclaim VAT paid on goods and services bought in the UK if you’re registered as a business in a non-EU country.

Overview

VAT is payable on most goods and services you buy in the UK. The VAT refund scheme can be used to reclaim VAT if you’re registered as a business in a non-EU country and bought the goods or services to use in your business.

Eligibility

You can use the scheme if all of the following apply:

  • you’re registered as a business in a non-EU country
  • you’re not VAT-registered in the UK and you don’t have to be, or can’t be, VAT-registered here
  • you don’t have a place of business or other residence in the UK
  • you don’t make any supplies in the UK, apart from:
    • transport services related to the international carriage of goods
    • goods and services where the person you’re supplying pays VAT on them

What can be reclaimed

You can reclaim VAT for most goods and services bought in the UK for your business including:

  • accommodation and meals
  • trade fairs
  • travel costs
  • 50% of the VAT charged for hiring or leasing a car
  • other goods and services you buy and use in the UK

What can’t be reclaimed

VAT can’t be reclaimed on the cost of buying a car, or for goods and services:

  • bought for resale
  • used for business entertainment
  • used for non-business activities

Reclaiming VAT on goods bought outside the EU

If you import goods into the UK from outside the EU and they’re to use in your business you may have to pay VAT when you bring them into the UK. You can use the refund scheme to reclaim the VAT you’ve paid on these imports unless you either:

  • get some other VAT relief when you import the goods
  • have to register for VAT in the UK because you have imported the goods

How to claim

Claims can be made by you or your accountant or agent if they have a letter of authority to act for you.

You claim by completing form VAT65A - Application for refund of VAT.

Time limits

You must claim your refund no later than six months after the end of the ‘prescribed year’ when you were charged the VAT. The prescribed year runs from 1 July to 30 June, so you must make a claim by 31 December. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to make a claim for that year.

Your claim can’t be for a period of:

  • more than the prescribed year
  • less than 3 months - unless that’s all that’s left of the prescribed year

Claim limits

There is no maximum limit.

The minimum limits for UK claims are:

  • £130 for claims for period between 3 and 12 calendar months
  • £16 for claims for a whole calendar year, or the remainder of a calendar year if this is less than 3 months

You can include items missed on earlier claims but they must relate to VAT charged in the calendar year of the claim.

Documents needed for claims

You must send HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) the original invoices showing all the VAT you are reclaiming.

When you claim for the first time, and every 12 months after that, you must give HMRC an official certificate proving that you’re registered as business in your own country. The certificate must be an original and show:

  • the name, address and official stamp of the authorising body
  • your own name and address and any trading name you use
  • what your business does
  • your business registration number

The certificate is valid for 12 months and will be accepted for all claims you make during that period. At the end of the 12 months you must send a new certificate with your next claim.

Timescales

HMRC normally pay any refund due within 6 months of receiving your claim, unless more information is needed. Your original invoices will be returned to you when your claim has been approved.

If you have any queries about your claim you should contact:

VAT Overseas Repayment Unit:

Calling from the UK: 028 7130 5100

Calling from outside the UK: +44 28 7130 5100

email: enq.oru.ni@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

Payment

You can choose to have your refund paid:

  • by SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Inter-Bank Financial Telecommunications) direct to your own bank
  • to a UK bank
  • by Payable Order to you or your agent

If you choose SWIFT you should enclose a copy of a bank credit slip with your claim and provide the following information on form VAT65A:

  • bank account number
  • currency of account
  • bank identification code
  • bank account name
  • bank name
  • bank address

All payments will be made in pounds sterling. If you have to pay bank charges on the transfer the cost may be deducted from the amount of your refund.

Refused claims

If your claim is refused HMRC will tell you why. If you don’t agree with HMRC’s decision, you can either ask HMRC to review the decision, or you can appeal to an independent tribunal.

Incorrect or false caims

If your claim is not complete or accurate, HMRC will usually deduct any overpayment from your next refund or ask you to repay the overpaid amount. You may also be charged a penalty for sending an incorrect claim. False claims are treated very seriously and have serious financial consequences including repayment of the amount falsely claimed plus penalty amounts.