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Moving from paper to online VAT Returns and paying electronically

Virtually all VAT-registered businesses must submit their VAT Returns online and pay any VAT due electronically. This guide explains what action you need to take to start submitting your VAT Returns online. It also tells you where you can get more information and advice.

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You must submit your VAT Returns online

All VAT businesses are now required to submit online VAT Returns and pay any VAT due electronically. 

Using the online service is quick and easy. However, if you need help with enrolling for VAT Online or submitting your VAT Return online, see the section later in this guide on help and support.

Find out how to sign up to use the VAT online services


Features of VAT Online

The VAT Online filing service has a number of useful features that you need to be aware of, to get the best from the service:

  • Security - all transactions are 100 per cent secure as they're encrypted to the highest commercial standards. You get a unique User ID and create a password to keep your details safe. This allows only you - or someone you authorise - to have access to that information.
  • Speed - going through the online registration and enrolment process (which you need to do once only) takes just a few minutes. You'll be able to submit your return as soon as you've signed up to VAT Online services - you don't have to wait for an Activation Code to arrive in the post.
  • Convenience - the online service is available day and night, whenever is best for you.
  • Accuracy - there are automatic checks to help reduce errors, meaning there's less chance of having your return sent back to you to be corrected or for clarification. In particular, the service automatically calculates and enters for you the figures for boxes 3 and 5 (based on the information you have entered on the online form for boxes 1, 2 and 4).
  • Reliability - you don't have to worry about your return being lost or delayed in the post as you'll get an on-screen acknowledgment - including a unique submission receipt reference number - when you submit your return. You can print this out, if you wish, along with a copy of the completed return.


Submitting your return online

The first step to submitting your VAT Return online is to sign up for VAT online services. You need to do this whether you choose to use commercial software or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) free online service. Alternatively, you can use an accountant, bookkeeper or other agent to submit your returns online, in which case your agent will need to sign up for VAT online services on your behalf.

Find out how to sign up to use the VAT online services

Read more about how to submit your VAT Return online

Read more about using an accountant to submit your returns online.


Paying your VAT electronically

You must pay any VAT due electronically. The due date will be shown on your return and you must make sure that cleared funds reach HMRC's bank account by this date. If your payment clears later than this, you may be liable to a surcharge for late payment.

There are various ways to pay including, Direct Debit, internet/telephone banking, Faster Payments or debit and credit cards over the internet. You can also pay by cheque at a bank or building society using a Bank Giro paying-in slip which should be obtained from HMRC (these are pre-printed with your unique details). Since some of these methods can take a little time to set up, you should choose which method you want to use, and set it up, well in advance of the filing and payment deadline. You can use the VAT payment deadline calculator to help you decide when to set up and arrange payments.

Find out about the different ways to pay your VAT electronically

Find out more about the VAT payment deadline calculator


Exemptions from doing your VAT online

You may not have to submit your VAT Return online or pay your VAT electronically if any of the following applies:

  • you're subject to an insolvency procedure - but if you're subject to an approved Voluntary Arrangement, administration or trust deed you may submit online if you want to
  • HMRC is satisfied that your business is run by practicing members of a religious society, whose beliefs prevent them from using computers
  • HMRC is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for you to submit online, for reasons of age, disability or remoteness of location

If you feel that any of these criteria applies to your business, you should contact the VAT Helpline on 0300 200 3700.


What if I’m having difficulties filing online?

If you are having difficulties filing online then support is available. You could consider using an agent to submit your online return, getting assistance from friends or family, or using the facilities of a public library. In appropriate cases it may be possible for HMRC to complete the return on your behalf from information given over the telephone. If you want to find out more about the available options then please contact the VAT Helpline.


Help and support

Step-by-step guides

You can get help with using HMRC's VAT online services in the following guides, which can be printed off.

Beginner's guide to signing up to use the VAT Online service (PDF 106K)

Beginner's guide to completing your VAT Return online (PDF 78K)

YouTube videos

You can watch videos on YouTube that show you how to enrol for VAT online and how to submit your VAT Return online.

Watch a video explaining how to enrol for VAT Online (Opens in new window)

Read a narrative of the video ‘How to enrol for VAT Online’(PDF 33K)

Watch a video showing how to submit your VAT Return online (Opens in new window)

Read a narrative of the video ‘How to submit your VAT Return online’ (PDF 36K)

Online demonstrator

There is also an online demonstrator, which takes you through the process of signing up for VAT Online, submitting a return, and setting up an online Direct Debit.

View the online demonstrator - Introduction to VAT

VAT helplines

You can also get help over the telephone from:

  • VAT Online Services Helpdesk - for help with all VAT Online services including signing up for VAT Online and submitting your VAT Returns, EU refunds, EC Sales Lists, and Reverse Change Sales Lists
  • VAT Helpline - for general VAT enquiries when you can’t find the answer on HMRC's website.

VAT Online Services Helpdesk

VAT Helpline