Completing your VAT returns online

Since April 2012 all VAT-registered businesses must submit their VAT returns online and pay any VAT due by “electronic means”.  There are very few exceptions to this requirement, mainly for those who genuinely find it impractical to use the internet.

Setting yourself up online

If you are already using the internet and have used other online HMRC services, for instance, you may already be submitting PAYE or Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) returns, corporation tax returns, or self-assessment returns online, it is a matter of adding the VAT Online service to your existing HMRC services.  You can do this on the “Your HMRC Services” page once you have logged into HMRC Online.

If you have not used any of HMRC’s online services before you need to enrol with HMRC Online and during that procedure, you can also enrol for VAT Online.


Tablet on table

To enrol with HMRC Online you need to go to the HMRC website In the top left hand of the Home page, there is a “Do it Online” section.  Click on the “Register (new users)” box and follow the instructions.

In the course of the enrollment process, you will be asked to set up a password.  You will also be given a User ID, which is a string of numbers or numbers and letters.  You must make a note of this User ID as you will need the ID as well as your password to get back into any HMRC Online services.   This is the only time you will be shown this ID.

If you are enrolling for VAT Online either as an existing HMRC Online user or as a new user you will need to have 5 pieces of information.  Have these ready before you start the enrollment process.

  • Your VAT Registration Number
  • The postcode of your principal place of business
  • The date you first registered for VAT
  • The final month of the last VAT return submitted
  • The figure in box 5 of the last VAT return submitted


  1. Your “principal place of business” is the address shown on your Certificate of VAT Registration or on your paper VAT returns.
  2. The date you first registered is also shown on your Certificate of VAT Registration.  If you have lost your Certificate you can ask HMRC to send you confirmation of this date.
  3. If you have not yet submitted a VAT return the website tells you what to enter for the last two pieces of information.


If all the information entered is correct you will be enrolled for Online VAT.  You will be sent an Activation Code.  You will need this to use some of the Online VAT services.  You do not have to wait for the Activation Code to be able to submit VAT returns online.

Once you are enrolled you can file your VAT returns either by using the free service provided on the HMRC website or, if your VAT returns are generated by your accounting software, you may be able to file the returns using that software.


What if I can’t file online

If you do not have access to the internet or do not wish to file the returns yourself, we recommend that you ask your accountant or tax agent if they can file VAT returns on your behalf.  Most accountants and tax agents should be able to do this for you.  It is also a service that we offer.

If your agent files the VAT returns online you will still have to pay the VAT by electronic means.


Electronic Payment

At the same time as having to submit VAT returns online, you will have to pay future VAT liabilities using “electronic” means.  This is not quite what it means in that you can still pay by cheque but you have to use special Bank Giro payslips to pay it into a bank rather than send the cheque to HMRC.  Paying by electronic means extends the payment deadline by up to seven calendar days.  However, HMRC must be in cleared funds by the seventh day so you must allow for clearing times, weekends and bank holidays.  Note that HMRC cannot currently accept “faster payments” as offered by some banks and building societies so you need to find out what the normal clearance time for electronic payments is.

Perhaps the easiest method of payment is to set up a direct debit to HMRC.  This can be done through the Online VAT services once you have your activation code.  Paying by direct debit also delays the payment by another 3 days on top of the 7 given above.

Payments can also be made by:

  • Internet or telephone banking
  • BACS
  • Debit or credit card using the BillPay service
  • Bank Giro using the pre-printed slips obtained from HMRC.

Step-by-step guidance is given on the HMRC website and there are also online demonstrations that you can follow to show you how to enrol and use the online services. You can also ring us for help and advice.


Tel:    01823 664411
Mob: 0771 3574333