Non-EU businesses visiting the UK - getting VAT refunds

If you buy goods or services for your business in the UK, you may have to pay VAT on them. You may be able to reclaim the VAT you paid in the UK if you're registered as a business in your own country, and bought the goods or services to use in your business.

There's a Refund Scheme that you might be able to use to reclaim this VAT. What you can reclaim depends on the UK's rules for claiming input tax. This guide explains who can use the Refund Scheme, what you can and can't claim under the scheme, how to make a claim and how you'll be paid.

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Who can use the Refund Scheme?

If you're registered as a business in a non-EU country you can use the Refund Scheme to reclaim VAT paid in the UK as long as all of the following apply:

  • you're not VAT-registered in the UK and you don't have to be, or can't be, VAT-registered here
  • you don't have a place of business or other residence here
  • you don't make any supplies here

But if you do make supplies in the UK, you can still use the scheme if the only supplies you make here are either:

  • transport services related to the international carriage of goods
  • goods and services where the person you're supplying has to pay VAT on them

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What you can and can't reclaim

What you can reclaim VAT on

You can use the scheme to reclaim VAT on certain goods and services you buy for business use in the UK, including:

  • accommodation and meals
  • trade fairs
  • travel costs
  • car rental (but please note you can only reclaim 50 per cent of the VAT charged for hiring or leasing a motor car)
  • other goods and services you buy and use in the UK

What you can't reclaim VAT on

You can't use the Refund Scheme to reclaim VAT on goods or services you buy for resale. This might include things like hotel accommodation you buy to resell.

Also you can't reclaim VAT on:

  • the purchase of a motor car
  • goods and services used for business entertainment
  • goods and services used for non-business activities

Imports

If you bring in goods to use in your business from outside the EU into the UK - these are called imports - you may have to pay VAT on the imports in the UK.

You can use the Refund Scheme to reclaim the VAT you've paid on these imports unless you either:

  • get some other VAT relief when you import the goods
  • have to register for VAT in the UK because you have imported the goods

Find out about importing goods into the UK

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How to claim

You need to complete a VAT 65A form to make your claim and send it to the address on the form.

Go to form VAT 65A - Application for refund of VAT

You must:

  • fill in the form in English using block capitals
  • send the form with proof of the VAT you've paid

You can make a refund claim yourself or you can use an agent, it's up to you. To be able to act for you and receive money on your behalf, your agent will need a letter of authority.

Example of a letter of authority HM Revenue & Customs will accept

'We [name and address of business] hereby authorise [name and address of agent] to:

  • apply for VAT refunds on our behalf
  • receive all communications relating to VAT refunds
  • receive amounts of refunded VAT and/or interest on our behalf, and
  • lodge appeals on our behalf.

We hereby undertake to repay any amounts wrongfully received.

This letter of authority cancels and replaces any previous letters of authority.

Date:

Signature:'

Time limits for making a claim

You must claim your refund no later than six months after the end of the 'prescribed year' when you were charged the VAT. The prescribed year runs from 1 July to 30 June, so you must make a claim by 31 December. If you miss the deadline, you won't be able to make a claim for that year.

Your claim can't be for a period of:

  • more than the prescribed year
  • less than three months - unless that's all that's left of the prescribed year

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How much you can claim

There's no limit to the maximum amount you can claim. But the UK has set the following minimum limits:

  • £130 where the claim is for less than a calendar year, but not less than three calendar months
  • £16 where the claim is for a calendar year, or the remainder of a calendar year

You can include items missed on earlier claims so long as they related to VAT charged in the calendar year of the claim.

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Evidence needed for claims

You must send HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) the original invoices for all the VAT you are reclaiming.

When you make a claim for the first time - and every 12 months after that - you must also send HMRC an official certificate that shows you're registered as a business in your country. This certificate – which must be an original, not a photocopy – must show:

  • the name, address and official stamp of the authorising body
  • your own name and address, including any trading name
  • the nature of your business
  • your business registration number

Each certificate is valid for 12 months from the date it's issued. It covers all the claims you make during that year. Once the certificate runs out you'll need to send a new one with your next claim.

Find addresses and other contact details for HMRC (HMRC – the UK tax authority) in Notice 723A Refunds of VAT in the European Community for EC and non-EC business

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Timescales for dealing with claims

HMRC will normally pay you within six months of receiving your claim, unless they need you to provide more information. Your invoices will be returned to you once HMRC has authorised your claim. If you have any queries about a claim you have submitted, you should contact the VAT Overseas Repayment Unit on Tel 028 7130 5100 if you're phoning from the UK, or on Tel +44 28 7130 5100 if you're calling from outside the UK.

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Payments

You can choose to have your refund paid:

  • by SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Inter-Bank Financial Telecommunications) direct to your own bank
  • to a UK bank
  • by Payable Order direct to yourself or your nominated agent

Payment by SWIFT is faster, less expensive and more secure, so it is a good method to choose. If you choose this method of payment, you should provide the following information on form VAT 65A, and enclose a copy of a bank credit slip:

  • bank account number
  • currency of account
  • bank identification code
  • bank account name
  • bank name
  • bank address

HMRC will make all payments in pounds sterling. If you have to pay bank charges on the transfer they may be deducted from the amount of your refund.

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If your claim is refused

You can help to ensure that your claim won't be refused by making sure:

  • your claim is submitted within the time limit
  • you have taken reasonable care when submitting it
  • you have enclosed all supporting invoices and, where required, the certificate confirming that you are in business in your own country

If your claim is refused HMRC will always tell you why. If you don't agree with HMRC's decision, you can either ask HMRC to review the decision, or you can appeal to an independent tribunal.

Read about what to do if you disagree with an HMRC decision

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Incorrect claims

If HMRC finds your claim isn't correct after the refund has been paid, they'll normally deduct any overpayment from your next refund.

If you've claimed too much, HMRC will get back the amount you've been overpaid by deducting it from the next refund, and you may incur a penalty for sending in an incorrect claim, so you do need to make sure your claim is right.

The UK authorities take a very serious view of false claims. They can recover any refunds obtained by a false claim and can charge you a penalty.

Find out more about penalties for incorrect claims

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More useful links

Read about VAT and international trade