VAT Returns: how to complete your VAT Return box-by-box

At the end of each VAT period - usually every three months - you must complete a VAT Return online. A return tells HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC):

  • how much VAT you charged to your customers, and how much you owe to HMRC on other supplies you've made
  • how much VAT you are entitled to claim back
  • the amount of VAT you must pay to HMRC or the amount of VAT you can get repaid by HMRC
  • the total amount of sales and purchases you have made
  • the total amount of goods sold to customers or purchased from suppliers in other European Union (EU) countries

This guide explains in detail how to complete your return if you are not on the Flat Rate Scheme

On this page:

How to complete your VAT Return

You must fill in every box on your return - don't leave any box blank - but you don't have to fill in Box 3 or Box 5 of your return as these are completed automatically for you based on the information you put in boxes 1,2 and 4. If you need to fill in negative amounts and 'not applicable' boxes when submitting your return you need to:

  • put a minus sign before the figure for negative amounts
  • enter '0.00' for 'none' or 'not applicable'

Find out how to submit your VAT Return

Flat Rate Scheme

The way you fill out your VAT Return is different if you are on the Flat Rate Scheme.

Find out how to complete your VAT Return if you're on the Flat Rate Scheme

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How to complete Box 1 to Box 5

Box 1: VAT due on sales and other outputs

This is the total amount of VAT you charged on sales to customers. You must also include the VAT you need to pay to HMRC for certain other supplies that you've made, such as:

  • sales to staff, for example canteen meals or via vending machines
  • sales of business assets, such as commercial vehicles or machinery
  • hiring or loaning of goods to someone else
  • commission received from selling something on behalf of someone else
  • goods or services, such as products or computer software, that you or your staff take out of the business for personal use
  • gifts or samples you gave to someone that cost you more than £50
  • anything you bartered, exchanged or part-exchanged
  • any goods you bought that the reverse charge procedure applies to
  • fuel scale charges

Take away from this total any credit notes you've issued or debit notes you've received and enter the result in Box 1.

Box 2: VAT due from you (but not paid) on acquisitions from other EU countries

You need to work out the VAT due - but not yet paid by you - on goods that you buy from other EU countries, and any services directly related to those goods (such as delivery charges). Put the figure in Box 2. You may be able to reclaim this amount, and if so remember to include this figure in your total in Box 4.

Box 3: total VAT due

This figure is worked out automatically for you - and is the total of Box 1 and Box 2 added together. It is the amount of VAT that is due to HMRC.

You must not enter the total VAT due figure into Box 3 or any other box on your return.

Box 4: VAT reclaimable on your purchases

This is the VAT you have been charged on your purchases for use in your business. You should also include:

  • VAT you paid on imports from countries outside the EU
  • VAT you paid on goods you removed from a bonded warehouse or free zone
  • VAT due (but not paid) on goods from other EU countries and services directly related to those goods (such as delivery charges) - this is the figure you put in Box 2

Deduct from this total:

  • the VAT on any credit notes you've received
  • the VAT on any supplier invoices over six months old that you haven't paid and that you are obliged to account for as a 'bad debt'

The result is the total VAT you can claim back from HMRC.

Read more about relief from VAT on bad debts in VAT Notice 700/18

Box 5: VAT payable or reclaimable

This is calculated automatically from Box 3 and Box 4 - deducting the smaller figure from the larger one and entering the difference.

Before completing the remaining boxes of your return, please make sure that the figure shown in Box 5 on your return (ie the net VAT due or repayable) is the same as the figure you have calculated. If it isn't, then you have either entered a figure incorrectly in boxes 1, 2 or 4, or there is a fault in your calculations. Please check that you have entered the correct figures, and amend the return as necessary before you click on 'submit', as you can't amend your return after you have submitted it.

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How to complete Box 6 and Box 7

Box 6: your total sales excluding VAT

Enter the total figure for your sales (excluding VAT) for the period, that is, the sales on which you charged the VAT you put in Box 1. Additionally, you should also include:

  • any zero-rated and exempt sales or other supplies you made
  • any amount you put in Box 8
  • goods or services you have supplied that are subject to the reverse charge
  • goods or services that you have purchased that are subject to the reverse charge
  • exports outside the EU

Take off the net amount of any credit notes you issued or debit notes you received.

Don't include:

  • loans, dividends and gifts of money
  • insurance claims

Find information about VAT rates and items that are exempt from VAT or outside the scope of VAT

Reverse Charge Sales List

If you make reverse charge sales - sales to which a reverse charge is applied - you must notify HMRC and send in regular Reverse Charge Sales Lists.

Read more about Reverse Charge Sales Lists

Box 7: your total purchases excluding VAT

Enter the total figure for your purchases (excluding VAT) for the period, including:

  • the purchases on which you paid the VAT you put in Box 4
  • anything you bought that the reverse charge procedure applies to
  • any amount you put in Box 9

Don't include:

  • expenses like salaries and taxes
  • anything outside the scope of VAT like vehicle licences, MOT certificates and local authority rates

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How to complete Box 8 and Box 9

You only need to fill in Box 8 and Box 9 if you've supplied goods to or acquired goods from another EU country.

Box 8: the total value of goods you supplied to other EU countries

Put in the total value of goods you supplied to another EU country and services related to those goods (such as delivery charges). Please note that services related to those goods should only be included if they form part of the overall invoice total. If these, or any other services, have been invoiced separately they should not be included. You should do this for all goods that were physically removed from the UK to another EU country, even if there was no actual sale, or if the sale was invoiced to a person or organisation outside the EU.

Remember to also include this amount in your Box 6 total.

You may also have to complete an EC Sales List (ESL) for supplies to VAT-registered customers in other EU countries.

You should not include in Box 8 the value of goods supplied to customers (including private individuals) who are not registered for VAT where you have not exceeded the 'distance selling' threshold. Each EU country can set its own distance selling threshold which at present must be roughly the equivalent of either €35,000 or €100,000.

More about reporting your EU sales using the EC Sales List

More about distance selling

Find the distance selling thresholds for each EU country on the European Commission website (Opens new window)

Box 9: the total value of goods you acquired from other EU countries

Enter the total value of goods you received from VAT registered suppliers in another EU country and services related to those goods (such as delivery charges). Please note that services related to those goods should only be included if they form part of the overall invoice total. If these, or any other services, have been invoiced separately they should not be included. You should do this for all goods that were physically shipped to you from another EU country, even if there was no actual purchase, or if the goods were invoiced to a person or organisation outside the EU.

Remember to also include this amount in your Box 7 total.

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VAT rate changes

If the VAT rate changes, you complete your VAT Return in exactly the same way. If the rate changes during your return period, you calculate a total for each rate and just add them together to get the figures that go in each.

More about the increase in the standard VAT rate

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More useful links

How to submit your VAT Return

Find out how to complete each box on your return in VAT Notice 700/12

Find out how to complete your VAT Return if you're on the Flat Rate Scheme

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