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VAT return

Businesses registered for VAT are required to submit VAT returns periodically. Most commonly VAT returns need to be submitted every three months, and these months will be based on the accounting period for the business. Some businesses may decide to file their VAT returns monthly or annually.

Since April 2019, the UK government has implemented the Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative for VAT. MTD requires businesses to keep digital records and submit VAT returns using compatible software. This aims to make tax administration more effective, efficient, and easier.

What is a VAT Return?

A VAT return is a form you need to submit to HMRC, usually every three months. It records:

  • The total sales and purchases your business has made

  • The amount of VAT you owe HMRC

  • The amount of VAT you can reclaim

  • The net VAT amount to be paid to or reclaimed from HMRC

Key Components of a VAT Return

A VAT return comprises several key elements, which include:

  1. Output Tax: This is the VAT you charge on your sales of goods and services.

  2. Input Tax: This is the VAT you pay on your business purchases and expenses.

  3. Total VAT Due: The difference between your output tax and input tax.

Deadlines and Payments

VAT returns are usually submitted quarterly, and each return covers a three-month accounting period. The deadline for submitting your VAT return is one month and seven days after the end of the accounting period. For example, if your accounting period ends on 31 March, your return is due by 7 May.

You must also pay any VAT you owe by this deadline. Late submissions or payments can result in penalties and interest charges.


Understanding and completing VAT returns is a crucial aspect of running a VAT-registered business. By keeping accurate records, meeting deadlines, and using the right tools, you can manage your VAT obligations effectively and avoid unnecessary complications. If you’re unsure about any aspect of VAT returns, consider seeking advice from a tax professional or accountant.


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