You will have to register for VAT if your taxable sales are likely to be above the current VAT threshold. You will then have to charge VAT at the standard rate on the goods you sell - this is known as 'output tax'. You will be able to reclaim any VAT you pay on purchases - this is known as 'input tax'.

Every quarter you will pay HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) the difference between:

  • all the output tax you have charged
  • all the input tax you have paid on your purchases

Nearly all businesses have to pay their VAT bill electronically - for example by direct debit or online banking. HMRC allows you some time at the end of each quarter before you have to pay the VAT due. So, for example, the VAT due on sales made in months one, two and three would be paid at the end of month four. Your VAT return will show your payment deadline date.

Businesses that are having trouble making their VAT payments, or are worried that future payments will cause them problems, can ask for help from the HMRC Business Payment Support Service. If your business needs this financial assistance to tide it over, HMRC will look at your situation and discuss temporary options that could help out. These could include letting you make payments over a longer period and waiving late payment surcharges. To discuss payment problems with HMRC you can call the Business Payment Support Service Helpline on 0300 200 3835.

Most of the goods and services you offer will be standard rated, but books are zero rated. Delivery charges (for local deliveries and for online or mail order sales) are subject to the same VAT rate as the goods you're supplying.

Further information

You can contact the VAT Helpline on 0300 200 3700 to request further guidance if you need it. Helpful leaflets, including VAT Notice 700/1 Should I be Registered for VAT? and Notice 700/24 Postage and delivery charges, are available on the Gov.uk website.

You will have estimated your monthly sales income. Now decide whether you must register for VAT. If so estimate the approximate amount of VAT that you will have to pay every quarter.

Alternative flat rate scheme

You might be interested in an optional flat rate scheme (FRS) for eligible small businesses. Under this scheme you continue to issue tax invoices to VAT registered customers, but the VAT payable every quarter is calculated as a percentage of your VAT-inclusive turnover. You apply the appropriate flat rate percentage for your type of business. This scheme cannot be used with the retail schemes, the margin scheme for secondhand goods or the cash accounting scheme. You can find full details of the FRS, who can use it, and the flat rate percentages in VAT Notice 733, Flat rate scheme for small businesses. It will help you to decide whether or not the scheme is suitable for you.

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