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 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.
Key features of the online service include:
Using the online service offers a number of benefits including:
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'.
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'.
You need to sign up for HMRC Online Services, then enrol for the VAT for Agents online service by following the steps below:
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.
The process to sign up only takes a few minutes to complete. You'll have to:
HMRC will send you an Activation Code (also known as an Activation PIN) 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.
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.
If your Activation Code has been lost or has expired you can request a new code through the Government Gateway website.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (also known as an Activation PIN) 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:
Your client will then appear on your ECSL/RCSL client list.
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.
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.
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.