Online VAT Returns
As of April all VAT returns must be submitted online. Returns for any VAT period beginning on or after 1 April 2012 will need to be submitted online, and payment will need to be made electronically. HMRC will shortly be issuing letters to VAT registered traders explaining the change and offering guidance. To date this process has only affected newly registered traders and those with turnover exceeding £100,000, but that will change in April.
Those on monthly VAT returns will need to move more promptly to register and start using this system.
Registering online is a fairly straightforward process and once set up, the system is user friendly. A variety of useful tools are available:
- Automatic submission acknowledgements that your return has been submitted (to print off and file);
- Email alerts can be set up - they aren't automatic - to remind you when returns are due (you won't be receiving any more paper VAT returns after April);
- Previous VAT returns submitted can be reviewed; and
- There is a "handy sum checker".
As with all systems it is as well to take copies for your files of both the VAT return details submitted and the "submission receipt" generated. If you accidentally submit an incorrect or draft return this can be remedied by contacting HMRC, but be sure to notify any corrections before the due date for your return in order to avoid penalties.
Payment & Deadlines
Being online, worries regarding the post can be eliminated. The deadlines for online filing and payment are more generous, being typically 7 days extra, (or the previous working day if that date falls on a weekend or bank holiday, of which there will be more this year!).
An added bonus is paying by Direct Debit ("DD"). This is taken from your account 1 month and 10 days after the end of the VAT return period - just make sure your return is in on time so HMRC know how much to collect - thus earning 3 more days of cash-flow. The certainty of the payment collection will help mitigate penalties for late payments, but the returns still need to be submitted on time.
Whilst some may be unconvinced by the DD mandate, payments are covered by the DD guarantee and HMRC will only take the amounts shown on the VAT return (and not any other monies they may consider they are owed!).
Help & Guidance
Registration can be accessed at the following website:
Date: 7th February, 2012
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