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Virtually all VAT registered businesses are legally required to submit their VAT Returns online and pay any VAT due electronically, apart from a very small number that are exempt.
This guide sets out how to sign up and enrol for VAT online services, which is the first step to submitting your VAT Return online and lists the other things you can do online.
The VAT Online service is a quick, convenient, reliable and secure way of taking care of many of your VAT tasks.
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You can use HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC's) online services to carry out the following tasks:
Your agent, bookkeeper or accountant can carry out the following tasks online for you:
Before you can use VAT online services, you'll need to sign up with HMRC Online Services or the Government Gateway.
If you used the online service to register your business for VAT after 30 October 2012, you have already been signed up for VAT Online.
If you did not use the online service to register your business for VAT, you will need to enrol for VAT Online. To do this you will need the following five pieces of information about your business:
You will be able to find the first three pieces of information on your certificate of registration or for businesses required to submit online from April 2012, in the letter HMRC sent to you in February 2012 notifying you that you must submit online returns. The fourth and fifth items are on the last VAT Return you submitted.
If you have recently registered your business for VAT and have not yet submitted a return, you will need to select N/A for the 'final month of last VAT Return submitted' and enter 0.00 (zero) for the 'Box 5' figure on last VAT Return submitted.
If the box 5 figure for your last return submitted was a negative figure, you should enter the numbers without the minus sign (so it in effect becomes a positive amount).
If you don’t have a UK postcode and you receive VAT Returns and other correspondence from the HMRC office in Aberdeen, please use the postcode AB10 1ZP.
If you are based in the Channel Islands, please use your own postcode.
If you’re having technical problems with HMRC’s Online Services or if you need information about the five facts necessary for you to enrol, you can telephone the VAT Online Services Helpdesk.
To submit your EC Sales List (ECSL) using the online service you will need an Activation Code (also known as an Activation PIN). You'll be sent this through the post as part of the sign up process for ECSL, in an envelope marked 'Government Gateway'.
Your Activation Code can take up to a week to arrive and is only valid for 28 days. If you don't activate the service within that period, you'll have to log on with your User ID and password, sign up again for ECSL and wait for a new Activation Code to arrive by post.
If you lose your Activation Code before the 28 days have expired, then a new one can be requested online. Just log into the Government Gateway with your User ID and password. Under your Services List, follow the 'Activate' link under 'Action' and follow the 'Request a new Code' link.
You may have already signed up for other HMRC Online Services, such as Self Assessment Online or PAYE Online for employers. To add VAT Online to the services you use, take the following steps:
When you've enrolled for VAT Online, you can start using some of the services immediately, such as submitting your VAT Return, if one is due.
When you enrol for VAT online services you can also arrange to receive free email reminders to let you know when your VAT Returns are due, which HMRC strongly recommends you do - otherwise you won't receive a prompt from HMRC and you'll have to set up your own reminder system (for example mark up your calendar or diary with the relevant dates).
You'll need to provide an email address which HMRC will use to remind you that your VAT Return is due. About six weeks before the return due date, HMRC will e mail you a reminder.
To receive email reminders, log in to the VAT Online service and go to the 'At a glance' page. Scroll down to the 'Maintain email address' section, and select 'Add email address'. Then select 'Add email address', again from the 'VAT messages' section. You'll then be prompted to add your email address. HMRC will send you a confirmation code by email and you should input that code online by selecting 'Confirm email address' from the 'Maintain email address' section.
You can get help with using HMRC's VAT online services in the following guides, which can be printed off.
You can watch videos on YouTube that show you how to enrol for VAT online and how to submit your VAT Return online.
There is also an online demonstrator, which takes you through the process of signing up for VAT Online, submitting a return, and setting up an online Direct Debit.
You can also get help over the telephone from:
You can read a summary of all the support available to help you switch to online VAT Returns, including help available from third parties.