When to register

You must register for VAT if your VAT taxable turnover goes over £85,000 (the ‘threshold’), or you know that it will. Your VAT taxable turnover is the total of everything sold that is not VAT exempt.

You can also register voluntarily.

Compulsory registration

You must register for VAT if:

  • you expect your VAT taxable turnover to be more than £85,000 in the next 30-day period
  • your business had a VAT taxable turnover of more than £85,000 over the last 12 months

You might also need to register in some other cases, depending on the kinds of goods or services you sell and where you sell them.

If you’ll exceed the VAT threshold in the next 30-day period

You must register if you realise that your total VAT taxable turnover is going to be more than £85,000 in the next 30-day period.

You have to register by the end of that 30-day period. Your effective date of registration is the date you realised, not the date your turnover went over the threshold.

Example On 1 May, you realise that your VAT taxable turnover in the next 30-day period will take you over the threshold. You must register by 30 May. Your effective date of registration is 1 May.

If you exceeded the VAT threshold in the past 12 months

You must register if, by the end of any month, your total VAT taxable turnover for the last 12 months was over £85,000.

You have to register within 30 days of the end of the month when you went over the threshold. Your effective date of registration is the first day of the second month after you go over the threshold.

Example Between 10 July 2017 and 9 July 2018 your VAT taxable turnover was £100,000. That’s the first time it has gone over the VAT threshold. You must register by 30 August 2018. Your effective date of registration is 1 September 2018.

If you sell goods or services that are VAT exempt

You’ll need to register if you only sell goods or services that are exempt from VAT or ‘out of scope’ but you buy goods for more than £85,000 from EU VAT-registered suppliers to use in your business.

If you take over a VAT-registered business

You may have to register for VAT.

Businesses outside the UK

There’s no threshold if neither you nor your business is based in the UK. You must register as soon as you supply any goods and services to the UK (or if you expect to in the next 30 days).

Late registration

If you register late, you must pay what you owe from when you should have registered.

You may get a penalty depending on how much you owe and how late your registration is.

Voluntary registration

You can register voluntarily if your business turnover is below £85,000. You must pay HMRC any VAT you owe from the date they register you.

Get an exception

You can apply for a registration ‘exception’ if your taxable turnover goes over the threshold temporarily.

Write to HMRC with evidence showing why you believe your VAT taxable turnover will not go over the deregistration threshold of £83,000 in the next 12 months.

HMRC will consider your exception and write confirming if you get one. If not, they’ll register you for VAT.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    You need to follow this process if you're moving goods to a country outside the EU.

    What you need to do is different if you are:

    1. Get exporting advice on great.gov.uk
  2. Step 2 Check the rules for exporting your goods

    Check if you need a licence or certificate to export your goods from the UK. You also need to check if there are any restrictions or special rules in the country you want to export to.

    1. Check if you need a UK licence or certificate to export your goods
    2. Check the duties, rules and restrictions for your goods in the destination country

    The rules for trading with some countries outside the EU might change after Brexit.

    1. Check if the UK has negotiated a trade agreement with the country you are exporting to after Brexit
  3. Step 3 Register your business for exporting

    1. Get an EORI number
    2. You are currently viewing: Check if you should register for VAT

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  4. Step 4 Apply for a licence or certificate if you need one

    How soon you need to start the application process and what you need to do depends on the type of goods you’re exporting.

    1. Apply for a licence or certificate if you need one
  5. Step 5 Decide who will make customs declarations and transport the goods

    You can hire someone to deal with customs and transport the goods for you, or you can do it yourself. Most businesses that export goods use a transporter or customs agent.

    1. Find out how to hire someone to deal with customs for you
    2. Find out what you'll need to do if you make the customs declaration yourself
    3. Find out how to transport goods out of the UK by road yourself
  6. Step 6 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're exporting.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  7. Step 7 Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods

    The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods.

    When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you’re selling them for. List separately any freight or export insurance you included in the price. For free samples, use the market value of the goods.

    You might be able to zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.

    1. Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT
  8. Step 8 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

  9. Step 9 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork.

    If you exported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.

    If you're VAT registered, record the goods in your VAT accounts and report them on your VAT Return. You'll need to do this even if you zero rated them.

    1. Find out how to record the goods in your VAT accounts
    2. Fill in your VAT Return