FAQs released (at last!) on VAT registration processing times

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On the principle that it is better to be late than never, HMRC released some FAQs to try and answer such topical questions such as When will I get my VAT registration number? This new set of FAQs does not mention that the current backlog of applications is expected to take until Autumn to clear. Various theories theories have abounded as to the cause of the problem, certainly new anti-fraud measures and inadequate staffing are to blame, but it is also thought that the changes to the MSC rules caused a flood of new company applications at the start of the tax year.

The FAQs: Application processing times for VAT registration, are as follows:

Q. When will I get my VAT registration number?

A.Unfortunately we are currently unable to process applications for VAT registration as quickl...

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Does it really take so long?
I get the impression from recent delays in getting clients registered that when HMRC says "These checks can take up to 15 weeks" they are being a little disingenuous. What it seems to mean is "it can take us up to 15 weeks to do these checks, often because we don't start them for several months!"

A client phoned to chase his VAT number today, which we applied for over a month ago, and was told that his application had not been looked at yet and that the average processing time was 12 weeks.

If HMRC simply have fewer staff processing VAT applications, and each one is now taking longer because of the additional checks they are doing, couldn't they just say so? We could then advise clients accordingly.

I also note that Customs' advice on invoicing before you receive your VAT registration certificate ignores the problems experienced by traders trying to buy VAT-free from other EC states before they can quote their UK VAT number.

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