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Virtually all VAT-registered businesses must submit their VAT Returns online and pay any VAT due electronically. This guide explains how to do this. You (or your accountant, bookkeeper, or other agent) can opt to use either the free HMRC VAT Online service or commercial software.
Submitting your return online is quick, convenient, reliable and secure.
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You can submit your returns free of charge using the HMRC VAT Online service.
Before you can submit your returns, you must have registered and enrolled for the VAT Online service. Once you've done so, you'll be able to submit your returns straightaway. You do not have to wait for an Activation Code (also known as an Activation PIN) to be sent to you by post.
Once you have submitted your VAT Return to HMRC you will get an on-screen unique submission receipt reference number. It's a good idea to save or print a copy of this on-screen confirmation, as you will only receive an email confirmation of this receipt if you've registered your email address at the signing up stage for VAT online services or at a later date for VAT messages (this is a separate process to setting up an email address to receive the email VAT Return reminder).
A copy of every VAT Return you submit online will be automatically saved on your VAT Online services account for a period of 15 months after submission. You can view your submitted returns from the left hand menu on the 'At a Glance' page by selecting the 'View submitted returns' link. You can also print off a copy of the submitted return and keep it with your other business records.
If you'd prefer to use a commercial software package to submit your return, there are a number you can choose from.
Using a commercial product is a quick and easy way of submitting your return - you can submit your return almost instantly because the information is sent directly from your accounting software. Once you've checked your return on screen, all it takes is the click of a button to send it to HMRC.
You must have signed up and enrolled for VAT Online to submit your return using commercial software. If you're already signed up and enrolled then you can start submitting at any time.
You can use an accountant, bookkeeper or other agent to submit your returns online. Before they can submit your return online for you, they will have to:
You will then receive a letter containing a unique Authorisation Code and asking you to confirm the authorisation request. You should pass the code immediately to your accountant, bookkeeper or agent (if you agree the authorisation) and they will enter it online.
The Authorisation Code is valid for 30 days from the date of the letter. If it is not activated within 30 days then step 3 will need to be repeated by your accountant, bookkeeper or other agent and you will receive a fresh Authorisation Code - so make sure you don’t delay giving the code to your accountant, bookkeeper or other agent.
Your accountant, bookkeeper or other agent can choose to submit your return using either HMRC's free online service or a commercial software package.
You must have enrolled for VAT Online before you can submit your VAT Returns online. To submit your return online please follow the instructions below:
It's important you keep a copy of the submission receipt reference number.
By following the on-screen instructions and the 'Download VAT Return' link, you can print a copy of your VAT Return showing confirmation of the receipt of the return by HMRC. This shows the date and time of submission and a unique reference number. You can also print your submission receipt by following the 'Submission receipt' link. The submission receipt will include your submission receipt reference number.
If the system won't accept your online return it's important to check you have filled in all the relevant boxes in the correct format. Where you do find an error you can normally change things and re-send it.
If you have checked everything, but HMRC's system won't accept your return, you should check the HMRC website (follow the link below) to see if there are any known problems and what to do if there are.
If you can't find the information that answers your problem on the HMRC website, then contact HMRC's VAT Online Services Helpdesk (follow the link below for contact details).
If you find that you can't submit your return due to a problem with your own computer, your software provider or the HMRC service being unavailable, then you will need to:
If you miss the deadline to submit your return online or to pay your VAT electronically you may be liable to a surcharge. To avoid the possibility of a surcharge for late payment, make sure payment of any VAT due on your return clears to HMRC’s account by the due date.
You must pay any VAT due by an approved electronic method by the due date, which will be shown on your online return. You must make sure that cleared funds reach HMRC's bank account by this date. If your payment arrives later than this you may be liable to a surcharge for late payment.
To view VAT Notes, log in to VAT Online and go to the 'At a glance' page and the section headed 'VAT Information'.
Or follow the link below to read all VAT updates.
You can get help with using HMRC's VAT online services in the following guides, which can be printed off.
You can watch videos on YouTube that show you how to enrol for VAT online and how to submit your VAT Return online.
There is also an online demonstrator, which takes you through the process of signing up for VAT Online, submitting a return, and setting up an online Direct Debit.
You can also get help over the telephone from:
You can read a summary of all the support available to help you switch to online VAT Returns, including help available from third parties.