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If you are registered for VAT, then whenever you supply goods or services to someone else who is also registered for VAT you must give them a VAT invoice.
This guide tells you what information must appear on VAT invoices, who you should issue them to and when you should issue them. It also explains when you can issue a simplified or modified VAT invoice, and when you must not issue a VAT invoice.
If you're VAT registered, you can normally only reclaim VAT on purchases made for your business when you have a valid VAT invoice for the purchase.
This guide tells you what are not valid VAT invoices and therefore cannot be used to reclaim VAT.
The guide also offers useful information about numbering your invoices, the details required on an invoice and how to deal with the VAT invoices you issue to international customers.
On this page:
A VAT invoice shows certain VAT details of a sale or other supply of goods and services. It can be either in paper or electronic form.
A VAT-registered customer must have a valid VAT invoice from the supplier in order to claim back the VAT they have paid on the purchase for their business – see the section in this guide on the need for a valid VAT invoice to reclaim VAT.
The following are not VAT invoices:
You cannot reclaim the VAT you have paid on a purchase by using these documents as proof of payment.
A VAT invoice must show:
For each different type of item listed on the invoice, you must show:
If you issue a VAT invoice that includes zero-rated or exempt goods or services, you must:
If you make retail sales and you make a sale of goods or services for £250 or less including VAT you can issue a simplified VAT invoice – see the section in this guide on simplified VAT invoices.
The tax point, or time of supply, is the date when a sale is considered to take place for VAT purposes. There are rules that tell you if this is the date of the actual supply, the date of the invoice or some other date, depending on the circumstances.
It's important to put the right date for the time of supply on your invoice, because both you and your customer will need this information to make sure the VAT on the invoice is accounted for on the right VAT Return.
You must also issue invoices within a certain time of the actual supply taking place - see the section in this guide on time limits on issuing invoices.
If your customer pays in cash you must, if they ask you to, show on the VAT invoice that you have received payment and when you received it.
If you are registered for VAT you must give any VAT-registered customers a VAT invoice for any standard-rated or reduced-rated goods or services you sell them.
If you are a retailer, you do not need to issue a VAT invoice or receipt unless your customer asks for one.
As a VAT-registered supplier, you may be liable to a fine if you do not issue a VAT invoice for a supply you have made when asked to do so by a VAT-registered customer.
There is a time limit within which VAT invoices must be issued - see the section in this guide on time limits for issuing VAT invoices.
You must not issue a VAT invoice in the following situations:
If you need to issue a sales document for goods or services you haven't supplied yet, you can issue a 'pro-forma' invoice or a similar document to offer goods or services to customers.
A pro-forma invoice is not a VAT invoice, and you should clearly mark them with the words 'This is not a VAT invoice'.
If your potential customer accepts the goods or services you're offering them and if you actually supply them, then you'll need to issue a VAT invoice within the appropriate time limit - see the section in this guide on time limits for issuing invoices.
If you've been issued with a pro-forma invoice by your supplier, you can't use that to claim back VAT on the purchase. You must obtain a VAT invoice from your supplier.
If you make retail sales and you make a sale of goods or services for £250 or less including VAT, then when a customer asks for a VAT invoice, you can issue a simplified VAT invoice that only needs to show:
Exempt supplies must not be included in this type of VAT invoice.
If you accept credit cards, then you can create a less detailed invoice by adapting the sales voucher you give the cardholder when you make the sale. It must show the information described in the 5bullets above.
You do need to keep copies of any less detailed invoices you issue.
If you sell goods or services for more than £250 including VAT, and your customer agrees, you may issue a modified VAT invoice showing the VAT-inclusive value of each standard-rated or reduced rate item.
The modified VAT invoice must show separately the total:
The modified invoice must otherwise show the details required on a full VAT invoice.
If you are unable to offer either a simplified or modified invoice, you must issue a full VAT invoice.
You can issue, receive and store your VAT invoices in electronic format. You don't need to tell HMRC if you plan to issue, receive and/or store invoices electronically.
Electronic invoices must contain the same information as paper invoices.
You may issue VAT invoices (paper or electronic) to your customers in a foreign currency and/or in a foreign language if you want to. However, you must:
There is a strict time limit on issuing VAT invoices. You must normally issue a VAT invoice (to a VAT-registered customer) within 30 days of the date you supply the goods or services - or if you were paid in advance, the date you received payment. This is so your customer can claim back the VAT on the supply, if they're entitled to. You can't issue invoices any later without permission from HMRC except in a few limited circumstances.
For goods, the time when the goods are considered to be supplied is the date when one of these happens:
For services, the date when the services are considered to be supplied is the date when the service is carried out and all the work - except invoicing - is finished.
Even if you are registered for VAT, you can normally only reclaim VAT on your purchases if:
Only VAT-registered businesses can issue valid VAT invoices. You cannot reclaim VAT on any goods or services that you buy from a business that is not VAT registered.