Foreign currency transactions and VAT

You can buy and sell in any currency, but when you keep your VAT accounts, amounts in foreign currencies must be converted into sterling. Invoices must always show sterling figures for the net totals and VAT for each VAT rate, even if they also show foreign currency figures.

There are two standard ways you carry out the conversion to sterling. However, you may apply to use a different method if you would prefer. This guide explains what the different methods are and how you should carry out conversions.

If you are using the Tour Operators' Margin Scheme (TOMS), the conversion process is slightly different.

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Purchasing in foreign currencies

You can use whatever currency you want when you buy goods and services. However, any purchases or sales that were not made in sterling must be converted into sterling for VAT purposes.

You must carry out this conversion when you record the transaction in your VAT accounts, so that your VAT accounts show the transaction in sterling.

See the section in this guide on how to convert foreign currency transactions into sterling.

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Invoicing in foreign currencies

You can invoice for the goods and services that you supply in any currency. However, if there is any UK VAT due on the transaction, then your invoices must also show the following in sterling:

  • the total net value of goods and services at each VAT rate
  • the amount of VAT, if any, at each rate

You do not need to show sterling figures for each line on the invoice.

Advance invoicing

The value in sterling that you show on a VAT invoice must be the value at the time of supply. However, if you issue invoices before you actually make a supply then the date of supply may be in the future. One example is leasing or rental payments. Clearly, you won't be able to convert future foreign currency amounts accurately into sterling, since you don't know what the exchange rate will be.

Advance invoices must therefore be in sterling for VAT purposes, and those sterling amounts will be what you'll have to enter into your VAT records. You can also show your invoice amounts in a foreign currency, but you'll have to make it clear that for VAT purposes, the value of the supply is the sterling figure, and is not a conversion of the foreign currency amount.

See the section in this guide on how to convert foreign currency transactions into sterling.

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How you convert foreign currency transactions into sterling

There are two standard ways to convert your foreign currency transactions into sterling for VAT purposes.

UK market selling rate

You can use the UK market selling rate at the time of the supply. The rates published in national newspapers are acceptable.

Period rate of exchange

You can use the rates of exchange we published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), known as the period rate of exchange. The advantage of these is that you can generally use the same rate for an entire period - usually a calendar month - although you should check to see if there have been any adjustments within the period.

You can use the period rate for all your supplies, or just for a specific type of supply. If you decide to use the period rate just for a specific type of supplies, you should make a note of the details in your records. You don't need to tell HMRC. However, if you change your mind at a later date you'll need to get the agreement of the VAT Business Advice Centre for your area.

Contact HMRC

The rate you use for commercial purposes

You may not want to use one of the above two rates. If you use a different rate for commercial purposes, or a different method of determining a rate, and you also want to use this for your VAT accounting, you may apply in writing to the VAT Business Advice Centre for your area.

Contact HMRC

When deciding whether to let you use such a rate or method, HMRC will take into account:

  • whether your proposed rate or method is based on the UK currency market
  • whether the rate can be verified impartially
  • how often you will update the rate

You can't use forward rates, or methods deriving from forward rates.

Find out the latest period rates of exchange for VAT purposes

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The TOMS

Converting foreign currencies into sterling for VAT purposes is slightly different if you are using the TOMS.

If any of the supplies that you buy in order to resell as TOMS supplies are billed to you in a foreign currency, you'll normally need to convert the cost into sterling to work out your margin.

You must use one of the following five methods to convert to sterling:

  • the Federation of Tour Operators' base rate as published in the Financial Times, applying the rate at the time your supplier costed the goods or services
  • the commercial rate of exchange current at the time the supplies in your brochure were costed
  • the rate published in the Financial Times on the date you pay for the supplies
  • the rate of exchange that applied when you bought the foreign currency that you used to pay for the supplies
  • the period rate of exchange for the time when you paid for the supplies

You must keep documentary evidence relating to the purchase of the currency to show which rate you've used.

Once you have decided which method you want to use, you will only be allowed to change to a different method at the start of your next financial year; that is, no later than the due date of your first VAT return for that financial year. You won't be able to change the method retrospectively.

Find out the latest period rates of exchange for VAT purposes

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