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Why Do I Need to Register for VAT and What Happens if I Don’t

Navigating the world of VAT registration can be a daunting task, but understanding the ins and outs can save your business from costly penalties and fines.

Whether you’re a small business owner or an established company, it’s crucial to be aware of the legal requirements, consequences, and benefits of registering for VAT.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the question, “Why do I need to register for VAT and what happens if I don’t?” by discussing the legal requirements, consequences of not registering, and the pros and cons of voluntary VAT registration to help you make informed decisions for your business.

By diving deep into the world of registering late filing VAT, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complexities and minimise your financial risks. So, let’s start our journey by understanding the legal requirements for registering for VAT.

Short Summary

  • Understanding VAT registration requires knowledge of taxable turnover and the registration threshold.
  • Failing to register for VAT can result in financial penalties, damage business reputation, and HMRC investigations.
  • Voluntary VAT Registration has pros & cons. Reasonable excuses may be accepted by HMRC while managing returns & payments is essential to avoid penalty fees.

Understanding VAT Registration

Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax that is charged on goods and services provided within the UK by registered businesses. Similarly, services and products that are imported from European Union and non-EU countries are also subject to this tax.

It is mandatory to register for VAT if your taxable turnover in a 12-month accounting period reaches the registration threshold.

But what exactly is taxable turnover, and how does the registration threshold come into play?

Taxable Turnover and Threshold

Taxable turnover is defined as the total value of taxable supplies made by an individual or entity in the context of their business activity, excluding VAT.

The threshold for registration for Value Added Tax (VAT) is £85,000 tax year for any 12 months. This means that if your business’s taxable turnover exceeds £85,000 tax year in a 12-month period, you are legally obliged to register for VAT.

So, how does this affect VAT registered businesses?

VAT Registered Businesses

When a business is registered for VAT, it can reclaim VAT it paid on purchases and charge VAT to customers. This allows businesses to potentially increase their profit margin, as they can claim back the VAT they have paid on sales of goods and services used in the course of their business activity.

Businesses that are not VAT registered cannot reclaim any of the VAT they pay. Hence, it is important to register for VAT in order to take advantage of these tax breaks.

Not registering for VAT when required can also lead to serious consequences, including civil evasion penalties and serious late registration and payment penalties.

Consequences of Not Registering for VAT

The repercussions face penalties of not registering for VAT when required can be severe. Failure to register can result in penalties and fines, severe penalties which can become more severe with time.

In addition, not registering for VAT can negatively impact your business’s reputation and may even lead to a tax investigation by HMRC. So, what are the specific penalties imposed on businesses that fail to register for VAT?

Civil Evasion Penalty

The civil evasion penalty is imposed on businesses that fail to register for VAT on time. This penalty is equal to the amount of VAT avoided and increases daily from the date of registration.

HMRC has been known to take mitigating circumstances into account when issuing penalties. In these cases, the minimum penalty amount can be reduced.

The civil evasion penalty serves as a strong deterrent for businesses that may consider evading VAT registration.

Late Payment Penalties

Late payment penalties are another consequence of not registering for VAT. These penalties are calculated at 5% of the tax due.

However, HMRC may waive late registration and payment penalties if there is a reasonable excuse, such as circumstances beyond one’s control or unexpected occurrences. It is essential for businesses to be aware of these penalties and ensure timely registration to avoid incurring additional costs.

Voluntary VAT Registration: Pros and Cons

In some cases, businesses with a turnover below the VAT registration threshold may choose to register for VAT voluntarily. This decision comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which can significantly impact a business’s bottom line.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of voluntary VAT registration, and how they can affect your business’s financial situation.

Advantages of Voluntary VAT Registration

One of the main advantages of voluntary VAT registration is the ability to reclaim VAT on costs and charge customers VAT.

This can potentially increase a business’s profit margin, as they can claim back the VAT they have paid on goods and services used in the course of their business activity in other countries.

Additionally, being VAT registered can improve a business’s credibility and professionalism, and may even allow the new business itself to claim VAT refunds.

Disadvantages of Voluntary VAT Registration

On the flip side, voluntary VAT registration comes with its own set of drawbacks. One of the primary disadvantages is that businesses now must register and remit VAT on their sales, regardless of whether or not they are profitable. This can result in increased prices for customers, potentially leading to a decrease in competitiveness in the market.

Additionally, businesses may require the services of an accountant to prepare and submit VAT returns and manage VAT-related matters.

Reasonable Excuses for Not Registering for VAT

In some cases, HMRC may accept an appeal if there is a reasonable excuse for not registering for VAT on time. While there is no legal definition of a reasonable excuse, specific circumstances that will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To better understand what may constitute a reasonable excuse, let’s examine some examples.

Examples of Reasonable Excuses

Some examples of reasonable justifications for not registering for VAT include serious illness, bereavement, lack of funds to pay any VAT due, and service issues with HMRC online services.

However, it is important to note that deliberately evading VAT is a criminal offense, and businesses should always strive to comply with VAT registration requirements.

Managing VAT Returns and Payments

In order to stay compliant with VAT registration requirements, businesses must effectively manage their VAT returns and payments. This involves maintaining comprehensive and up-to-date records of all suppliers online account,, purchases, sales, and VAT calculations.

Additionally, there are specific deadlines for the payment of VAT liabilities, which must be adhered to in order to avoid penalties.

Submitting VAT Returns

Submitting VAT returns on time is essential to avoid penalties. VAT returns must be submitted to HMRC no later than one month and seven days following the date of the conclusion date of the VAT period.

If a business is unable to pay their VAT bill on time, it is recommended to contact HMRC promptly to discuss possible solutions. Even if payment is not possible at that time, the VAT return should still be submitted to avoid additional penalties.

Handling Late Submissions or Payment Difficulties

In cases where a business faces late submissions or payment difficulties, HMRC may waive the penalties applied for late submission or late payment if there is a reasonable excuse, such as circumstances beyond one’s control or unexpected occurrences.

Businesses in this situation may also be eligible to request a Time to Pay arrangement with HMRC, allowing them to pay back their debt in monthly instalments, usually over a period of up to 12 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the penalty for not registering for VAT?

Not registering for VAT can be a costly mistake, with a penalty of up to 100% of the amount of VAT due. This could be a considerable amount, and should not be ignored.

Is it a criminal Offence to not register for VAT?

It is a criminal offence to not register for VAT as it falls under the Value Added Tax Act 1994 and the Fraud Act 2006. If an individual is found guilty of not registering, they could face a prison sentence and a substantial fine.

What happens if you don’t register for VAT in the UK?

Failing to register for VAT in the UK can be a costly mistake, with potential HMRC action if you are late by 18 months. This penalty can include an additional payment of 15% and a Civil Evasion Tax Investigation if they suspect evasion.

It is therefore important to ensure you stay on top of your registration before the deadline.


In conclusion, understanding the legal requirements, consequences, and benefits of VAT registration is crucial for businesses of all sizes.

Ensuring timely registration and compliance with VAT obligations can save businesses from costly penalties and fines, while voluntary registration can offer additional benefits for certain businesses.

However, it’s important to also consider the potential drawbacks of voluntary VAT registration, and to be aware of the reasonable excuses that may be considered by HMRC in cases of a late filing or submission or payment difficulties.

By staying informed and proactive in managing VAT returns and payments, businesses can minimise financial risks and maintain a full cash flow and strong reputation in the market.

So whether you’re just starting out or looking to expand your business, a solid understanding of VAT registration and its implications can help you make informed decisions that will benefit your business in the long run.

Don’t leave your business’s financial health to chance – stay informed, stay compliant, and stay successful.

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