Making Tax Digital (MTD) is the UK government’s initiative to simplify tax accounting for businesses and individuals.

You might already use HMRC’s online services to complete tasks such as submitting tax returns, but MTD requires you to use software for everyday accounting and asks you to keep digital accounting records.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions around MTD for VAT—and answers to them for you:

Making Tax Digital for VAT means using software for the following tasks:

  • Keeping and maintaining your VAT accounting records
  • Creating VAT Returns
  • Sending the VAT Returns to HMRC.

It means you can no longer submit VAT Returns via the HMRC website. You’ll need to use software instead.

Your accountant can still submit VAT Returns on your behalf, but you’ll still need to use software for your VAT accounting.

In addition to the above, you must keep your VAT accounting records for at least six years (or longer for some VAT schemes).

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In April 2022, a new stage will be introduced.

Making Tax Digital for VAT will apply to all VAT-registered businesses, including those voluntarily registered for VAT.

Originally, MTD for VAT was a legal requirement only for VAT-registered businesses over the registration threshold (currently £85,000).

Since 1 April 2019, businesses have had to comply with MTD for VAT rules if turnover exceeds the VAT threshold (currently £85,000).

But from 1 April 2022, MTD for VAT is also a legal requirement for all VAT-registered businesses—regardless of turnover.

No. MTD for Income Tax will be introduced in April 2024, and MTD for Corporation Tax will be introduced no earlier than April 2026 (although this date has yet to be confirmed by the government).

You can find more information about Making Tax Digital for VAT, Income Tax and Corporation Tax on our MTD hub.

MTD for VAT requires you to keep some records digitally:

  • Your business name
  • The address of your principal place of business
  • Your VAT registration number
  • Details of any VAT accounting schemes that you use
  • Most businesses will need to record for each invoice (or “supply” in the VAT Notice terminology) the time and date of supply (tax point date), the net value (excluding any VAT) and the VAT rate used to calculate VAT.

Some businesses will need to keep more or less information depending on their VAT scheme and circumstances.

If you print or even handwrite invoices or receipts, then you’ll need to transfer the VAT accounting information to your accounting software before you submit your VAT Return.

Remember not to destroy the paperwork because you could require it for other aspects of your accounting.

Currently, if your business turnover is above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000), you need to comply with MTD for VAT rules.

From 1 April 2022, MTD for VAT will be law for all VAT-registered businesses regardless of turnover.

If your business is VAT-registered, MTD for VAT is very likely to affect you, and it isn’t normally possible to opt out.

If you can’t use computers, software, or the internet, you can ask HMRC to digitally exempt your business.

Reasons could include:

  • Age, disability, or remote location
  • Religious grounds that stop you from using computers
  • Any other reasons why using MTD for VAT isn’t practical.

You or your accountant will need to call or write to HMRC to ask them to grant you digital exemption.

You’re also exempt from MTD for VAT if your business is subject to an insolvency procedure.

Until 1 April 2022, if you are exempt from MTD for VAT due to your turnover being less than £85,000, you or your accountant must send your tax return through the HMRC website.

If you’re digitally exempt, then you might be able to file a paper VAT Return but only at HMRC’s discretion.

You or your accountant should contact HMRC to request this option.

In April 2019, MTD for VAT became mandatory for VAT-registered businesses and organisations (including sole traders, partnerships, limited companies, non-UK businesses registered for UK VAT, trusts and charities) with turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000).

Certain organisations that are more complex (such as local authorities, public corporations, trusts, and VAT divisions and groups) had a deferred start date and joined MTD for VAT in October 2019.

These businesses and organisations will be joined by VAT-registered businesses under the VAT threshold from April 2022.

April 2022 is the date that MTD for VAT becomes mandatory for all VAT-registered businesses regardless of turnover.

When MTD for VAT started in April 2019, HMRC gave businesses a soft-landing period, allowing them to continue copying and pasting data for their VAT accounting without penalties until April 2020. Ordinarily, this was prohibited because of MTD’s digital linking rules.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, HMRC decided to extend the soft-landing period to April 2021.

However, this period has ended, and there are no signs HMRC will allow a similar period as of April 2022.

Therefore, any business switching to MTD for VAT needs to ensure digital links are used throughout their VAT accounting.

There are strict rules on what defines a digital link for MTD. According to HMRC, they have two characteristics:

  • Data is transferred electronically between software programs, products, or applications. This could include linked cells in a spreadsheet, such as a formula.
  • The transfer is automated. It doesn’t need manual intervention such as copying over the data by hand or manually moving data between two or more pieces of software. But you can click a button to initiate the process.

The critical difference between MTD for VAT and how you may have been filing VAT Returns before is that you must now use software for your VAT accounting and file VAT Returns using software.

You probably have to use an MTD for VAT feature within cloud accounting software, where data is stored securely online.

If you aren’t using cloud accounting software or are using older software (or even no software at all), you will need to plan an upgrade path to be ready in time for your first full VAT period after April 2022.

MTD for VAT applies if you use VAT schemes offered by HMRC, such as the flat rate, margin, or retail schemes.

If you’re VAT-registered, then you can register for MTD for VAT at any time. This is true even if your business isn’t yet legally required to register for VAT until April 2022.

MTD enrolment is automatic if you’re signing up for VAT for the first time.

However, if you’re voluntarily registered for VAT, the latest you must register for MTD for VAT is before the end of your first full VAT period following April 2022.

To avoid issues with previous VAT Return payments if using direct debit, you must not sign up less than:

  • Seven days before your first MTD VAT Return is due
  • Five days after your first MTD VAT Return is due.

If you don’t pay by direct debit, you must sign-up at least three days before your VAT Return.

If you’re already registered for VAT, your business won’t be enrolled automatically for MTD.

The registration process involves logging in with the Government Gateway account for your business. You might have used this previously when filing VAT Returns via the portal website.

If you don’t have an account, create one with an email address.

Note that once you’re registered for MTD for VAT, you will probably need to activate the MTD functionality in the software.

This will require your MTD login details.

To register for MTD for VAT with HMRC, you’ll need to input the following information when requested upon visiting the MTD for VAT registration website:

  • Your Government Gateway ID and password
  • Your company’s VAT number (which you’ll find on your VAT registration certificate)
  • The date your business became VAT registered (again, found on your VAT registration certificate)
  • The postcode of the principal place of business (the place where your company carries out most of its business activities and/or keeps its financial and business records)
  • The Box 5 amount from your most recent VAT Return, which is to say, the amount of your last VAT Return
  • The month you submitted your most recent VAT Return

You will need to inform HMRC during registration which MTD-compatible software you’re using for your VAT accounting, so you will need to make this decision ahead of time.

Once you’ve registered, when your VAT Return date comes around, you’ll need to file it via the accounting software your business uses, or potentially using bridging software if you calculate your VAT without the benefit of accounting software (e.g. using a spreadsheet).

Your accounting software will also need to be MTD for VAT-ready—and this will almost certainly be the case if you use cloud accounting software, but you should always check with your provider.

VAT Return filing in various accounting software packages varies, but generally, you should look for an option to create a VAT report, return, or something similar.

In most cases, you’ll then need to tell the software to start submitting using the MTD process.

Any adjustments or reliefs must be applied before you click to submit the VAT Return to HMRC.

You can file the VAT Return, or your accountant can do so on your behalf.

They will use their HMRC Agent Services account to do this and will need to register on your behalf with HMRC, so you should discuss this with your accountant well ahead of time.

If you have Sage Accounting, you can send a VAT Return with MTD for VAT.

In addition, here is a video showing the steps required to submit a MTD for VAT Return using Sage Accounting.

For the April 2022 phase of MTD, follow the above steps carefully to get things right from day one and ensure a smooth, penalty-free process.

HMRC will introduce a points-based late submission and late payment sanctions system in April 2022. It differs from the existing penalties system.

In summary, the following will apply:

  • If you miss a submission deadline, you will receive one point.
  • Once your number of points exceeds a threshold in a given period, a penalty of £200 is applied. This threshold depends on how frequently you make a VAT submission. Quarterly submissions have a threshold of four points before the penalty is applied. Monthly submissions have a threshold of five points. Annual submissions have a threshold of two points.

You can find more details in the Penalties for Late Submission policy paper.

We’d love to have a chat with you about your business processes and to ensure you’re complaint for MTD. Request a callback and we’ll be in touch.