VAT – The basics!

We’ve mentioned registering for VAT in a recent blog but as we didn’t go into detail we thought we’d add a bit more now.  VAT is essentially a tax on the sales of services & goods, that you as the seller collect on behalf of the government. There’s a few different rates but the main one you’ll come across is the standard rate, currently 20%.
 
You have to register for VAT when your turnover goes over the HMRC set threshold, currently £85,000. However, this isn’t based on a tax, financial or calendar year, it’s based on a 12 month rolling period so it’s another good reason for keeping your books in good shape and up to date, it’s up to you to monitor this and be ready for it (we of course keep an eye on things for you when we know you’re approaching and will help you prepare for this).
 
You can register voluntarily, so if you’re nearing the threshold you could join when you want to, rather than when you’re forced, which could help you prepare your customers.
 
A common concern for businesses nearing the threshold is if they can remain competitive when their customers are non VAT registered business customers or individuals, as ultimately the addition of VAT will just be an increase in cost for those customers.
 
For example, you’ve got an item you buy for £50 + VAT (£60) and sell for £100, so you currently make £40. You can obviously set your sales price to what you want, the below table shows a few options after registering for VAT, just adding VAT to your existing price which increases your profit, sell for the same but including VAT which lowers your profit to £33.33 or keep your profit the same by increasing your sales price. 
 
  Cost of item Sales price Profit Net VAT to pay to HMRC
Net VAT Net VAT
Before registering for VAT £50.00 £10.00  £100.00  – £40.00 – 
Registered – sell for same plus VAT £50.00 £10.00  £100.00  £20.00 £50.00 £10.00
Registered – sell for same inc VAT £50.00 £10.00  £83.33  £16.67 £33.33 £6.67
Registered – same profit as before £50.00 £10.00  £90.00 £18.00 £40.00  £8.00
The table also shows how much VAT you’d have to pay to HMRC on your VAT return. Looking at the line where we just add VAT, you receive £20 VAT for each sale, which is tax you collect on behalf of HMRC. You’ve also paid out some VAT of £10, which you’re allowed to reclaim but you need proof, a VAT receipt.
 
Think of it the same way you do if someone spends your money with expenses, you want some proof of what was spent, you’re spending HMRC’s VAT money you’ve collected so they want proof too! As a minimum the receipt must show the VAT number of the seller. 
 
To balance the VAT you’ve collected & spent, you do a VAT return (or we will for you!). These are most commonly done every quarter, you can choose when these occur when you register – most businesses will align with their year end to keep things tidy. Returns and payments are due a month and a week after the quarter ends.
 
VAT was never going to be the most exciting blog subject but hopefully if you’ve made it this far it’s helped!