The UK rate of VAT changes at the start of January 2011. Only a couple of years ago we saw the rate reduce to 15% and then return again to 17.5% a year later. On both occasions many people were confused and this change will probably be no different. It is important to grasp the main issues in order to avoid getting into trouble over this. Here is a summary of the key points to help you keep on track with the changes.

  1. On January 4th 2011 the UK VAT rate changes from 17.5% to 20%. From that date on VAT registered businesses must charge the new 20% rate of VAT on all goods and services they provide, although VAT exempt businesses or those using existing lower rates will experience no change.
  2. It may be though that you do work for a customer before January 4th but invoice after that date. In that case you can choose to use the 17.5% VAT rate for that invoice. Obviously, future invoices will need to charge VAT at 20%.
  3. If someone has paid you a deposit you should account for the VAT on the deposit at the date on which it was paid (which may well be at 17.5%), and on the final payment at the rate which applied on the date of delivery or collection.
  4. The new fraction for working out the VAT from the gross amount paid is 1/6 e.g. a bill for £120 including VAT will include VAT of £20. This is 1/6 of £120 and, of course, 20% of £100.
  5. You may well have two VAT rates that apply to your VAT quarter. You simply need to make sure that the appropriate items have VAT charged at the correct rate.
  6. If you give a customer an invoice at the wrong rate you need to cancel this and issue another invoice at the correct rate.
  7. If you return goods or otherwise issue a credit note after 4th January but for services or goods provided before that date, then the credit note should show a VAT rate of 17.5% as did the original invoice.
  8. If you use Fuel Scale charges, you should note that these are being amended to reflect the change of rate.
  9. If you are on the VAT Flat Rate Scheme, then you should check the new percentage to use as these are changing from January 4th too.
  10. If you are on one the special schemes for VAT you should check the guidance that applies to you as soon as possible.

That’s a very simplified version of the new rules and you probably don’t want to know every detail. However, you can find the full HMRC guidance on their website. You can also bookmark this page for a regularly updated summary of all tax rates and allowances. Good luck and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your accountant if you are confused. After all, that’s what we are there for.

About the Author:

Ian Marlow runs HFM, a London tax and accounting business serving clients both resident in, and outside, the UK. For more detailed tax information and access to their excellent free monthly tax newsletter, go to the HFM website

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