How to use VAT online services for agents

This guide explains how to sign up for and use HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) VAT for Agents online service.

The VAT for Agents service enables you to set up client authorisations online for VAT, which in turn allows you to submit returns on your clients' behalf.

You'll also find out more about the VAT EU Refunds, EC Sales List (ECSL) and Reverse Charge Sales List (RCSL) online services.

On this page:

HMRC's VAT for Agents online service - an overview

HMRC's VAT for Agents online service allows you to carry out many tasks on behalf of your clients. It is safe, secure and reliable. You must sign up for this service if you plan to use the HMRC Online Service or commercial software to submit your clients' VAT Returns.

What you can do online with VAT for Agents

Key features of the online service include:

  • setting up online authorisation which lets you act on behalf of your clients
  • submitting your clients' VAT Returns online - open periods will be displayed
  • viewing any of your clients' VAT Returns submitted online for a period of 15 months after the date of submission
  • submitting your clients' final VAT Return (VAT193) online
  • setting up a Direct Debit Instruction (DDI) online for your clients from the 'At a glance' page - please note that you must be an authorised signatory on your client's bank account to do this online but if this is not the case, then there is a PDF version of the DDI available to download, complete and return to HMRC after your client has signed it
  • requesting changes to your clients' registration details, for example:
    • business or trading name
    • business contact details
  • applying to cancel VAT registration or applying for exemption from VAT registration on behalf of your clients

Benefits of using VAT for Agents

Using the online service offers a number of benefits including:

  • being able to complete applications for registration at your own pace - you can save part-completed applications for submission later
  • messages from HMRC about your clients' VAT registrations through the customer communications service - including confirmation of any changes to your clients' details you have requested
  • the option to receive an email reminder to let you know when your client's VAT Return is due
  • automatic calculation of boxes three and five of the VAT Return (based on the information entered in boxes one, two and four), helping to reduce errors
  • being able to complete returns at your own pace - you can now save part-completed returns for submission later
  • an on-screen acknowledgement that HMRC has received the return - with a unique identifier that can be printed off

Who can use the VAT for Agents online service

You can use the VAT for Agents service even if you're not VAT-registered yourself. For more information on how to sign up to use the service, see the section below: 'Signing up for VAT for Agents'.

Top

Signing up for VAT for Agents

If you're already using HMRC Online Services

You should log in to HMRC Online Services and add VAT for Agents to your portfolio from the 'Services you can add' section of 'Your HMRC services'.

If you're a new user -

You need to sign up for HMRC Online Services, then enrol for the VAT for Agents online service by following the steps below:

  1. Go to the HMRC homepage and select 'Register (new users)' under the 'Do it online' section.
  2. Follow the link to 'Sign up for HMRC Online Services' in the section 'When to sign up for HMRC Online Services separately'.
  3. Select the 'Agent' option and follow the on-screen instructions to enrol for VAT for Agents.

Please note: if you're a new user and you are not registered for VAT - you'll need to request a VAT agent reference number by following the link. After you've received your agent reference number, which will be displayed on-screen, you must wait until the next day before signing up - this allows HMRC's systems to be fully updated.

Log in to HMRC Online Services

Register as a new agent user through HMRC Online Services

How the process works

The process to sign up only takes a few minutes to complete. You'll have to:

  • provide a few details about yourself
  • make a note of your VAT agent reference number, if appropriate
  • create a password
  • make a note of your on-screen User ID and keep it safe - it will not be displayed again

HMRC will send you an Activation Code by post within seven days of signing up for VAT for Agents. You must activate the service within 28 days of the date on the letter otherwise you'll have to enrol again for the service.

See a demonstration of how to sign up for VAT for Agents

Activation Code not received, lost, or expired?

If you have your User ID and password but you have not received your Activation Code within 28 days of registration, you should check with the VAT Online Services Helpdesk to make sure that HMRC has your correct address and postcode.

Contact the VAT Online Services Helpdesk

If your Activation Code has been lost or has expired you can request a new code through the Government Gateway website.

Read more about lost or expired Activation Codes

Go to the Government Gateway website (Opens new window)

Top

Online agent authorisation for VAT

Once you've signed up for HMRC's VAT for Agents service you need to go through the client authorisation process for each client. You must do this if you want to submit your clients' returns online, even if you have already been authorised to act on their behalf using a paper form 64-8. Once you've been through the online authorisation process, HMRC can deal with you online, by phone or in writing about each of your clients' VAT matters.

It's worth noting a number of recent changes to online authorisations:

  • Your clients no longer have to sign up for HMRC Online Services before you can act on their behalf. Exceptions to this are the ECSL and RCSL online services, when your client must register and enrol for the service to enable them to appoint you.
  • After you've added a client to your VAT for Agents client list, HMRC won't issue a paper VAT Return to them for completion.

Get client authorisation using HMRC Online Services

Top

How to submit a client's VAT Return online

Who must submit VAT Returns online and pay electronically

From 1 April 2012, virtually all VAT-registered businesses have to submit their VAT Returns online and pay any VAT due electronically.

Using the online service is quick and easy, and in most cases gives your client extra time to submit their return and pay any VAT due.

How to submit a VAT Return on behalf of your client

Once you've signed up for the VAT for Agents online service and applied for agent authorisation you can submit your clients' VAT Returns online using either of the following:

  • the free online service provided by HMRC
  • software that is commercially available and tested by HMRC

Find help to submit a VAT Return online

See a demonstration of how to submit a client's VAT Return online

Find out more about commercial software options for filing VAT Returns

How to amend a client's VAT Return

You can't use HMRC's VAT for Agents online service to amend a client's VAT Return. If you discover that you have made an error on a VAT Return that you have already submitted to HMRC then you need to follow the existing process to make any corrections.

Read about how to change a VAT Return you've already submitted

Signing up for email reminders and alerts

Once you've signed up for the VAT for Agents online service, you can choose to receive an email reminder to let you know when your client's VAT Return is due. HMRC will send this email reminder about six weeks before the return due date.

To set this up just log in to the VAT for Agents online service, then from the 'Your HMRC services' page, select the 'Your Account' link in the left-hand menu. You'll find a heading on the main page - 'Your contact details'. Select the 'Update personal details' link which appears below this heading.

You'll then be presented with a 'Your information' page and you can add your email address here. You will receive an email that includes a confirmation code which should be entered in order to activate your reminders.

Log in to the VAT for Agents online service

Getting VAT updates

VAT Notes list changes in VAT policy and tell you where to find further information.

To view VAT Notes, go to the 'At a glance' page and the section headed 'VAT Information' when you are logged into the VAT for Agents online service.

Or follow the link below to read all VAT updates.

Read VAT reference material and updates

Top

VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service

In January 2010 an online VAT refund system was introduced across the European Union (EU) for all claims submitted on or after 1 January 2010. It replaced the previous paper-based process. From that date, businesses established in the UK must submit claims for VAT incurred in other EU countries through the HMRC website, rather than direct to the Member State of Refund.

How to use the service

If you've signed up to use the VAT for Agents online service you can use the VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service even if you're not VAT-registered in the UK.

  • If you're already signed up for the VAT for Agents online service, HMRC has automatically provided you with the option of using this new service.
  • If you're already using HMRC Online Services, you can easily add VAT EU Refunds for Agents to your online portfolio. You do this in the 'Services you can add' section of 'Your HMRC services'.
  • If you're new to HMRC Online Services, you'll need to sign up as a new user. For more information on how to do this, see the section above: 'Signing up for VAT for Agents' as the process works in the same way.

Register as a new agent user through HMRC Online Services

Read more about VAT EU Refunds

Sign up for the VAT EU Refunds for Agents service

Top

ECSL and RCSL online services

Only VAT-registered agents can use the ECSL and RCSL online services for their clients. These services are not currently available to non VAT-registered agents.

When you set up your online agent account using the VAT for Agents service, HMRC automatically provides access to the ECSL and RCSL online services. But you can't use the VAT for Agents online service to set up your client list.

Your client must use their business VAT registration number to register and enrol for the ECSL or RCSL online service. HMRC will send your client an Activation Code by post which they should use to activate the service. Your client must then nominate you as their agent on the Government Gateway website.

Your client does this by:

  • Logging in to their online account on the Government Gateway website.
  • Selecting 'Manage services'.
  • Selecting 'Appoint agent' - your client will need to enter your agent reference number to link their VAT number to your agent online account.

Your client will then appear on your ECSL/RCSL client list.

Guidance on when you must submit EC Sales Lists to HMRC

Find more information on the RCSL online service

Go to the Government Gateway website (Opens new window)

Top

Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) online service

If your client has brought a vehicle permanently into the UK and you want to notify HMRC on their behalf, you can use the NOVA online service.

Please note: if you're notifying on behalf of a VAT-registered business, you'll also need to have gone through the client authorisation process before you can submit a notification on their behalf.

Find out how you can use the NOVA online service

Top

Managing VAT Returns and EC Sales Lists for a large number of clients

If you have a large number of clients you may want to use HMRC's XML VAT Returns Service or XML ECSL online service. These services allow you to submit a large number of VAT Returns or EC Sales Lists.

To use either service you'll need to buy a suitable software package that has this functionality enabled. This may be commercial or bespoke, but it must allow the return to be set out and viewed before it's submitted.

HMRC provides a validation service to help software providers test their products. If the test is successful, they add details of the software and the provider to their list of available packages.

To use the XML VAT Returns service you'll need to be registered for HMRC's VAT for Agents online service and you must be authorised to act on your client's behalf.

To use the XML ECSL online service you'll need to enrol for the ECSL online service.

Read about the XML VAT Returns service

Top

Online administrators and assistants

The first person to set up your HMRC online agent account is called an 'administrator' for online service purposes. The administrator can appoint other administrators and/or assistants to help you manage your clients' VAT matters online. This is a useful facility if you want to allocate specific clients to different people in your organisation. You set up administrators and assistants on the Government Gateway website.

Read more about how to manage users and assistants

Log in to your Government Gateway account (Opens new window)

Top

More useful links

Find practical advice on all aspects of managing VAT for your clients

What counts as reasonable excuse when an online tax return is filed late

Top