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What You Need to Know About VAT? How to Quickly Become an Expert in VAT

Sep 30, 2023 | UK Accounting

It’s time to take charge of your business finances and become a VAT expert! By mastering the intricacies of VAT, you can protect your hard-earned profits and gain a competitive edge in your industry.

VAT Overview

Whether you’re a business owner or a financial professional, understanding VAT is a key skill that can help you save money and make informed decisions.

In this blog, we will break down the key concepts and provide you with what you need to know about VAT to become an expert. This will help you go from feeling overwhelmed and confused to feeling confident about your UK VAT knowledge.

With these essential tips and insights, you can become a savvy business owner who knows how to navigate the VAT landscape. So start your journey to becoming a VAT expert. Read until the end!

What You Need to Know About VAT? – What is VAT?

VAT is a tax charged on the price of goods and services sold by businesses. The current standard VAT rate in the UK is 20%, although some goods and services are charged at a reduced rate of 5% or zero-rated at 0%.

The VAT system is designed to be a self-assessment tax, meaning businesses are responsible for calculating and paying their own VAT liability.

Know the Rules for VAT Registration

Businesses in the UK must register for VAT if their annual turnover is over a certain threshold, which is currently at £85,000. So knowing the rules for VAT registration is vital if you want to advise businesses on whether they need to register for VAT.

Get Familiar with VAT Returns

A VAT return is a form that businesses use to report the VAT they have charged and paid. VAT returns are usually filed quarterly, although some may file monthly or annually. Understanding how to complete a VAT return is essential to become a VAT expert.

Know the VAT Rates and Exemptions

As mentioned, there are currently three VAT rates in the UK: the standard rate, the reduced rate, and the zero rate.

  1. Standard rate (20%) – currently set at 20% and applies to most goods and services.
  2. Reduced rate (5%) – applies to certain goods and services, such as domestic fuel and power, children’s car seats, and mobility aids for the elderly, among others.
  3. Zero rate (0%) – applies to certain goods and services, such as most food, books, and children’s clothes.

In addition, some goods and services are exempt from VAT. These include things like education and training, medical treatment, and financial services.

Keep in mind that businesses supplying VAT-exempt products or services cannot charge VAT on their sales, and at the same time, they cannot claim back any VAT that they paid on their purchases to use in producing VAT-exempt goods or rending VAT-exempt services.

To learn more about VAT rates and exemptions, visit the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website.

Get Familiar with VAT Refunds

In some cases, businesses may be entitled to a VAT refund. This can happen if the amount of VAT they have paid on their purchases is greater than the amount they charged on their sales. If this is the case, the business can claim a refund from HMRC. 

Keep Up-to-Date with VAT Changes

One of the ways to be updated is by visiting the HMRC website. Any changes in VAT rules and regulations will always come from HMRC, so they will be the ones to publish these updates on their website.

Another option is to subscribe to HMRC’s VAT email alerts to receive alerts to any changes.

Seek Out Mentors and Experts

You can seek out a mentor within your company or network or attend VAT conferences and events to meet experts in the field. Furthermore, talking to people who have been working with VAT for years can help you learn about the practical aspects of the tax system.

Practice and Learn from Experience

Finally, becoming a VAT expert requires practice and experience. The more you work with VAT, the more you learn about its complexities and nuances. You can also learn from your mistakes and use them as opportunities to improve your understanding of the tax system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I charge VAT on sales made to customers outside of the UK?

If you are selling goods or services to customers outside of the UK, the VAT treatment will depend on the location of the customer and the nature of the goods or services.

Generally speaking, if the customer is based outside the EU, you will not need to charge VAT. If the customer is based within the EU, you can zero-rate the sale or apply the reverse charge mechanism.

What is Making Tax Digital for VAT? 

Making Tax Digital for VAT is a government initiative that requires VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold to keep digital records and submit their VAT returns using compatible software.

This aims to make tracking tax obligations easier for businesses and reduce errors in VAT returns.

What is the VAT flat rate scheme?

The VAT flat rate scheme is another method of accounting for VAT that simplifies the VAT return process for eligible businesses.

Under the scheme, instead of calculating the amount of VAT you owe based on your actual sales and purchases, you apply a fixed percentage to your turnover. The rate you use depends on the type of business you run.


We covered everything you need to know about VAT, including the basic topics like VAT rates, exemptions, and refunds, and hopefully gave you some insight into how to become a VAT expert. Consult us at Sterlinx Global for VAT compliance.

Related posts:

Most Common Record-Keeping Practices from your UK Tax for a UK-Based Business for Accountancy and VAT

What needs to be included on a VAT invoice? – An Easy Guide for Business Owners

VAT Cash Accounting Scheme: A Helpful Guide for Business Owners

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