How to complete a VAT return

The VAT (Value Added Tax) is a tax applied to consumer goods and services in the United Kingdom. In some circumstances, you are entitled to claim back the VAT applied to your purchases. For example, If you own a business that purchases supplies to produce goods that will then be sold to the public, you are required to complete a VAT return every three months. Read on to find out how to complete a return and claim back the VAT tax from the HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs). VAT return forms can be completed online or by mail, see the link in the Resources section for more details.

Calculate the total amount of VAT you have charged on sales to customers and other profits. Make sure you include: sales to staff such as meals or vending machine profits, any sales of assets such as equipment or machinery, profits made from the rental of goods, and any other profits you have accrued from business activities. Enter this value into Box 1.

Calculate the VAT due on purchases you have made from other European Union (EU) nations. Enter this amount in Box 2. You may be able to claim back this amount later in the return form.

Add the figures in Box 1 and Box 2, and enter the total into Box 3. This is the amount of VAT due to the HMRC.

Calculate the amount of VAT that you have paid that is reclaimable. This includes the VAT applied to purchases that were used to produce consumer goods, and any VAT that was paid or is outstanding on imports from outside the EU. From this figure, deduct the VAT on any credit notes you have received, and the VAT on any invoices that are more than six months old. Enter the remaining total in Box 4.

Examine the numbers in Box 3 and Box 4. If the number in Box 3 is higher, you must pay the difference to HMRC. If the number in Box 4 is higher, you are entitled to a refund from the HRMC. Subtract the smaller number from the larger number, and enter the remainder in Box 5.

Calculate your total sales for the three-month period. This includes total sales on which you charged VAT, i.e. the figure in Box 1. Enter this value in Box 6.

Calculate the total value of purchases made for the period, including purchases on which you paid the VAT (the figure in Box 4). Don't include expenses such as salaries and taxes, or any expenses to which the VAT is not applied. Enter this figure in Box 7.

Calculate the total value of goods and any associated service charges you provided to persons or organisations outside of the EU. Enter this value in Box 8. This value should also be included in the total you entered in Box 6.

Calculate the total value of goods you acquired from countries within the EU. Enter this value in Box 9. This value should also be included in the total you entered for Box 7.


Completing a VAT return is a complex procedure for some businesses. Read the full document published by the HMRC "Filling in your VAT return" for further information. See the link in the Resources section. If you are submitting a VAT return online, you must enter negative values with a minus sign, i.e. -56.47. If you are filling out a paper form, enclose any negative figures in brackets, i.e. (56.47).

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About the Author

Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.

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