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It currently takes around a month for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to process applications for VAT registration, although it can take longer if they need to carry out additional checks.
You must start keeping records and account for VAT from the date when you were required to register, even if you have not received your VAT registration number and certificate. If you are registering voluntarily, you must account for VAT from the date you asked for on your application form.
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Provided your application for VAT registration is successful, you will receive a VAT registration certificate which includes your VAT registration number.
If you submitted your application online, you will get your certificate online through the ‘Your HMRC services’ page. You can then print it off if you want. If you asked a tax agent or adviser to submit your application on your behalf, your certificate will be sent directly to you in the post.
If HMRC decides that your application is fraudulent, it will be turned down.
HMRC aims to process 70 per cent of applications within 10 working days and most are processed within a month.
Sometimes, however, HMRC will carry out additional checks on an application. You will be notified if this is the case with your application. These additional checks are usually completed within three months.
Between applying for VAT registration and receiving your VAT registration number, you must still account for and pay any VAT due. You become liable for VAT from the date you must be registered or asked for your voluntary registration to start, not the date that you actually apply for registration or the date you receive your VAT registration number.
You may also reclaim any VAT you pay on your purchases from the date you must be registered, so you must also keep records of any invoices where your suppliers have charged you VAT.
Until you receive your VAT registration number you must not charge VAT, or show VAT on your invoices. To make sure that you do not lose income in the period after you applied for VAT registration but before you receive your VAT registration number, you should increase your prices by an amount equivalent to the VAT rate relevant for your goods or services, and explain to your customers why you are doing so.
Once you receive your VAT registration number you can then reissue those invoices, amended to show your VAT registration number and the VAT charged. This will make sure that your VAT-registered customers may reclaim the VAT that they have paid.
If you have applied for voluntary registration, you must start accounting for VAT from the registration date you asked for on your application form.