How to submit your VAT Return online

Virtually all VAT-registered businesses must submit their VAT Returns online and pay any VAT due electronically. This guide explains how to do this. You (or your accountant, bookkeeper, or other agent) can opt to use either the free HMRC VAT Online service or commercial software.

Submitting your return online is quick, convenient, reliable and secure.

On this page:

Using the HMRC online service

You can submit your returns free of charge using the HMRC VAT Online service.

Before you can submit your returns, you must have registered and enrolled for the VAT Online service. Once you've done so, you'll be able to submit your returns straightaway. You do not have to wait for an Activation Code to be sent to you by post.

Find out how to sign up to use VAT online services

Register and enrol as a new user with HMRC Online Services

Log in to VAT Online

Keeping records of VAT Returns submitted online

Once you have submitted your VAT Return to HMRC you will get an on-screen unique submission receipt reference number. It's a good idea to save or print a copy of this on-screen confirmation, as you will only receive an email confirmation of this receipt if you've registered your email address at the signing up stage for VAT online services or at a later date for VAT messages (this is a separate process to setting up an email address to receive the email VAT Return reminder).

A copy of every VAT Return you submit online will be automatically saved on your VAT Online services account for a period of 15 months after submission. You can view your submitted returns from the left hand menu on the 'At a Glance' page by selecting the 'View submitted returns' link. You can also print off a copy of the submitted return and keep it with your other business records.


Using commercial software

If you'd prefer to use a commercial software package to submit your return, there are a number you can choose from.

Using a commercial product is a quick and easy way of submitting your return - you can submit your return almost instantly because the information is sent directly from your accounting software. Once you've checked your return on screen, all it takes is the click of a button to send it to HMRC.

You must have signed up and enrolled for VAT Online to submit your return using commercial software. If you're already signed up and enrolled then you can start submitting at any time.

Find out how to sign up to use VAT online services

Read more about submitting your VAT Return using commercial software

See a list of HMRC-approved VAT Return software


Using an accountant to submit your returns

You can use an accountant, bookkeeper or other agent to submit your returns online. Before they can submit your return online for you, they will have to:

  1. sign up to use HMRC Online Services
  2. enrol for the VAT for Agents online service
  3. set up authorisation to act on your behalf

You will then receive a letter containing a unique Authorisation Code and asking you to confirm the authorisation request. You should pass the code immediately to your accountant, bookkeeper or agent (if you agree the authorisation) and they will enter it online.

The Authorisation Code is valid for 30 days from the date of the letter. If it is not activated within 30 days then step 3 will need to be repeated by your accountant, bookkeeper or other agent and you will receive a fresh Authorisation Code - so make sure you don’t delay giving the code to your accountant, bookkeeper or other agent.

Your accountant, bookkeeper or other agent can choose to submit your return using either HMRC's free online service or a commercial software package.

Find out how to sign up to use VAT online services

Register and enrol as a new user with HMRC Online Services


Submitting your VAT Return online

You must have enrolled for VAT Online before you can submit your VAT Returns online. To submit your return online please follow the instructions below:

  1. When you login, click on the 'Submit a return' link from the 'At a glance' page. The 'Submit a return' screen lets you view those periods for which a return is due.
  2. Select the relevant link in the 'period' column that you wish to submit a return for and you'll be taken to the 'Accounting period'.
  3. Fill in the return on screen, omitting the figures for boxes 3 and 5.You do not need to enter totals for boxes 3 and 5 because the online return will automatically calculate these figures for you, based on the information you entered in boxes 1, 2 and 4.
  4. Before you can submit your completed online return, you'll be asked to read it through to check, and confirm, the figures are correct. Please make sure that the Box 5 figure on the online return (ie the net VAT due or repayable) is the same as the figure you have separately calculated. If it isn’t, then you may have either keyed in some of the earlier box figures incorrectly or there is a mistake in your calculations.
  5. Check that you have entered the correct figures, and amend the return as necessary before you click on 'submit', as you can’t amend the return online after your have submitted it.
  6. Once. you're satisfied that all the figures shown on the online return are correct, you’ll be asked to re-enter your User ID and password on the 'Security check' page for security purposes. When you have done this, you will need to click on 'Submit' to send your return. As soon as your return reaches HMRC's systems you’ll see an 'Acknowledgement' page. This means your VAT Return has been successfully submitted.

It's important you keep a copy of the submission receipt reference number.

By following the on-screen instructions and the 'Download VAT Return' link, you can print a copy of your VAT Return showing confirmation of the receipt of the return by HMRC. This shows the date and time of submission and a unique reference number. You can also print your submission receipt by following the 'Submission receipt' link. The submission receipt will include your submission receipt reference number.

See a demonstration of how to submit your VAT Return online

Read how to complete your VAT Return box-by-box

Read how to sign up to use VAT online services


What to do if you have problems submitting your online return

Check you have completed everything correctly

If the system won't accept your online return it's important to check you have filled in all the relevant boxes in the correct format. Where you do find an error you can normally change things and re-send it.

Check for system errors

If you have checked everything, but HMRC's system won't accept your return, you should check the HMRC website (follow the link below) to see if there are any known problems and what to do if there are.

If you can't find the information that answers your problem on the HMRC website, then contact HMRC's VAT Online Services Helpdesk (follow the link below for contact details).

If you find that you can't submit your return due to a problem with your own computer, your software provider or the HMRC service being unavailable, then you will need to:

  • print or make a note of the error message details
  • check with your commercial software provider as part of your normal support arrangements

If you miss the deadline to submit your return online or to pay your VAT electronically you may be liable to a surcharge. To avoid the possibility of a surcharge for late payment, make sure payment of any VAT due on your return clears to HMRC’s account by the due date.

Find out if there are any current problems with VAT online services

Read about what counts as a reasonable excuse for submitting online returns late

Read about signing up for email reminders from HMRC

Contact the VAT Online Services Helpdesk


Paying your VAT electronically

You must pay any VAT due by an approved electronic method by the due date, which will be shown on your online return. You must make sure that cleared funds reach HMRC's bank account by this date. If your payment arrives later than this you may be liable to a surcharge for late payment.

Read more about how to pay VAT - including how to pay electronically

Find out about deadlines for your VAT Return and payment

Use the VAT Payment deadline calculator


Getting VAT updates

To view VAT Notes, log in to VAT Online and go to the 'At a glance' page and the section headed 'VAT Information'.

Or follow the link below to read all VAT updates.

Read VAT reference material and updates

Read about signing up for email reminders from HMRC


Help and support

Step-by-step guides

You can get help with using HMRC's VAT online services in the following guides, which can be printed off.

Beginner's guide to signing up to use the VAT Online service (PDF 106K)

Beginner's guide to completing your VAT Return online (PDF 78K)

YouTube videos

You can watch videos on YouTube that show you how to enrol for VAT online and how to submit your VAT Return online.

Watch a video showing how to submit your VAT Return online (Opens in new window)

Read a narrative of the video ‘How to submit your VAT Return online’ (PDF 36K)

Online demonstrator

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.

View the online demonstrator - Introduction to VAT

VAT helplines

You can also get help over the telephone from:

  • VAT Online Services Helpdesk - for help with all VAT Online services including signing up for VAT Online and submitting your VAT Returns, EU refunds, EC Sales Lists, and Reverse Change Sales Lists
  • VAT Helpline - for general VAT enquiries when you can’t find the answer on HMRC's website.

VAT Online Services Helpdesk

VAT Helpline

You can read a summary of all the support available to help you switch to online VAT Returns, including help available from third parties.

Read support available to help you move from paper to online VAT Returns (PDF 51K)