How and when to register for VAT

3 min read

If you’ve started up a business in the UK, understanding how to register for VAT and when to register for VAT are important pieces of information. You’ll need to be comfortable with the VAT registration process before you begin charging VAT and submitting your first VAT return. 

Registering for VAT is a relatively straightforward process. But if you’re unsure, you may choose to delegate this task to your bookkeeper or accountant.

When to register my business for VAT?

Before we jump into our quick guide to VAT registration, we need to establish whether you need to. There are three basic qualifiers for VAT registration:

  • You have turned over more than the £85,000 taxable income threshold over the last 12 months.
  • You expect to exceed the £85,000 taxable income over the next 30 days*.
  • You have chosen to register for VAT voluntarily. You may do this for several reasons, including the desire to be seen as a larger and more profitable business or you expect to be paying significantly more VAT than you earn, potentially leading to a sizeable VAT refund.

*If you notice that you’re about to cross the threshold in the next 30 days, but aren’t registered, you’ll have 30 days to do so and should register for VAT immediately. The date you noticed is the effective starting date, not the date you exceeded the threshold. For example, if you realise on 1 April that you’re about to cross the VAT threshold, you have until 1 May to do so and your VAT registration date will be 1 April.

How to register my business for VAT? A step-by-step guide

To assist the process of dealing with the business reality of your VAT responsibilities, we’ve created a quick and easy step-by-step small business guide for VAT registration. 

Simply tick off the following checklist and you’re ready to start charging VAT. You’ll be able to submit a VAT return to claim back any VAT you’ve paid for business expenses and purchases.

Step 1: Go to Online Portal

The HMRC have a handy portal for this exact purpose. Step one is to visit the VAT registration page here.

Step 2: Sign up for a new Government Gateway account

Now you’ve arrived, you need to simply create a ‘Government Gateway’ account, if you don’t have one already. It’s through the Government Gateway that all online VAT registrations and returns will take place and is alternately known as your online VAT account.

  • If you already have a Government Gateway account, log in here.

Step 3: Start your registration process

Once logged in, you’ll be led through a VAT registration process with automated prompts.

Step 4: Enter relevant details and apply for VAT registration

Now all you need to do is enter your relevant sole trader or business details as instructed and submit your VAT registration.

Step 5: Receive your VAT Registration Number

You’re almost done. Once you’ve submitted your VAT registration online, you’ll receive a VAT number. This VAT number is your ticket to charging and receiving VAT as well as submitting a VAT return and creating VAT inclusive invoices. 

Congratulations, you’re now a VAT registered business! You’ll now receive a VAT certificate from the HMRC within 30 days of having registered for VAT.

Using an agent to register for VAT

Alternately, you may also choose to have your bookkeeper or accountant register for VAT on your behalf. If you’re already in consultation with an advisor or agent, it may be simpler to have them register you for VAT alongside other business advisory tasks.

If you’re still unsure as to how to register for VAT or when to register for VAT, using an agent is a foolproof method to remaining compliant with the HMRC.