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VAT registration: Tips for deregistration

4th Sep 2017
Independent VAT Consultant
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Close-up of green emergency exit light sign

In the final article of this series on VAT registration, Neil Warren highlights some potential tips and pitfalls with deregistration.

Reasons for deregistering

A business will always deregister for one of two reasons:

1. Compulsory deregistration

The business has ceased to trade and has no intention of making future taxable sales. The deregistration date is the final day of trading, although there is scope on the deregistration form VAT7 to extend this date and therefore capture some final purchase invoices for input tax purposes, eg in relation to professional fees.

2.Voluntary deregistration

The business expects that its taxable sales in the next 12 months will be less than the deregistration threshold, ie £83,000, which has been the relevant figure since 1 April 2017. This is the key point with voluntary deregistration, namely that historic turnover is irrelevant and it is always about future sales.

Remember that voluntary deregistration can only be requested from a current or future date: it can’t be applied for on a retrospective basis (VAT Notice 700/11, para 3.4).

Example 1

Mike and Betty are VAT registered as a partnership trading as architects and have no employees. The total annual fees of the partnership are £120,000 and they both work full time in the business. On 31 July 2017, Mike decided to retire from active work and from then on Betty will be the only fee earner, Mike will be a sleeping partner.

All things being equal, expected sales in the next 12 months will be £60,000 so the business can deregister on 31 July 2017. This might be worthwhile if many clients are unable to claim input tax eg private individuals or business customers making exempt sales.

Output tax liability on assets

A big downside of deregistering is there may be output tax due on the final VAT return in relation to assets and stock which are still owned on the final day in the VAT club (VAT Notice 700/11, section 7). 

However, there is good news that might avert a potential liability:

  • No output tax is due on an asset if input tax was not claimed when it was purchased, eg a computer bought from a friend who is not VAT registered. The exception is when standard-rated goods were obtained VAT free as a result of taking over a business as a going concern.
  • The output tax payable is based on the market value of the asset on the date of deregistration, ie it takes into account depreciation, damage to the goods, obsolescence etc.
  • No output tax is due on goods that are zero-rated or exempt.
  • No output tax is due on intangible assets eg goodwill.
  • If the total of output tax calculated in respect of all assets and stocks comes to less than £1,000, it is a de minimis amount and no declaration is needed on the final return.

Example 2

Mike and Betty from the earlier example deregistered from VAT on 31 July 2017. The partnership only has two assets:

  • A car bought for £15,000 plus VAT a year ago, but no input tax was claimed because the vehicle was available for private use.
  • An expensive computer system they purchased for £6,000 plus VAT in July 2016.

No output tax is due on the car because input tax was not claimed when it was purchased. With regard to the computer, applying a 25% rate of depreciation gives a market value of £4,500 + £900 VAT at July 2017. This is less than the de minimis VAT figure of £1,000, so no declaration is due on the final VAT return.

Post deregistration expenses

On its final VAT return, a business must account for output tax on unpaid sales invoices, even if it uses the cash accounting scheme. It can also claim input tax on unpaid purchase invoices (VAT Notice 731, para 6.12).

Once the final VAT return has been submitted, it is not too late to make a claim for business expenses. Form VAT427 can be used to claim input tax on purchase invoices that are dated after deregistration but relate to the period when the business was registered, eg accountancy fees.

Bad debt relief

What happens if some sales invoices are written off as a bad debt as they are not expected to be paid by the customer? The good news is that bad debt relief can be claimed up to four years after deregistration on the very useful form VAT427.

Tip: This form has to be completed in full online and then printed to be signed and submitted, so make sure you have all the information to hand before starting the process. A half-completed form can’t be saved.

Change of legal entity

If a business changes its legal entity, eg from a sole trader to a limited company, the sole trader business will deregister and the new entity will become registered on the same day.

There is a way for the new entity to retain the same VAT number as the previous owner, which is done by completing form VAT68 and submitting it to HMRC with the usual form VAT1.

The only downside is that the new entity is taking over the potential VAT liabilities of the previous owner, eg in relation to errors for the previous four years under the error correction rules.

This might create an unwanted VAT debt for the new owner, so a fresh start with a new VAT number is often the best route.


That’s it for Neil Warren’s series on VAT registration. You can view all four articles here. If you have anything you’d like Neil to cover in future do let us know in the comments below.

Replies (4)

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By Fitzz
06th Sep 2017 11:23

I have a position where a service business normally has 2/3 client contracts in a year but these expired and, although the intention was to win more business, it did not do so. We are now 6 months on and the decision has been made to close down. When did the company cease to trade for VAT purposes? Were they right to claim input tax on (fairly minimal) activities in the 6 months?

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By plwwolvo
06th Sep 2017 11:51

I am the trustee of a cricket club .I 2007 we sold some land andwith the proceeds built a new clubhouse £350k , on which we recovered VAT on the various inputs .We have drink stocks of c.£2.6k.Our turnover is less than £80k fora few years .If we deregistered would we pay VAT on the value of the clubhouse + stocks or is there any time limit as the building was built 10 yeares ago
Any help appreciated

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By AndrewV12
06th Dec 2018 10:11

I always thought if you held stock and assets for over 10 years there was no additional vat to pay on desegregation.

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By MegaMatts
16th Jan 2020 16:11

Many thanks for this article Neil

Your advice on voluntary deregistration seems very clear cut (although having read numerous articles and forums I now know VAT is an absolute mine field!!!) however, despite planning to remove 2 staff and closing 1-2 days a week from February, our accountant says HMRC are extremely unlikely to approve our deregistration request until 4 consecutive VAT returns show cumulative reported sales below the threshold....

His recommendation is that we submit our Q4 VAT in March (which will show 12mth sales modestly in excess of the threshold) and that we draw HMRC's attention to the fact our latest two quarters sales were lower and will remain such over the next 12mths due to a restructure/downsizing.

This contradicts your advice but it is his experience that the majority of deregistration requests get declined until the 12mths cumulative sales fall within the threshold (which is absolutely mad!!). Has HMRC's approach changed in the 2yrs since your article was published??


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