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Get a VAT number in just three days

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Neil Warren shares his key tips to help get a VAT number from HMRC as soon as possible, based on his recent experience with a client’s application.

9th Nov 2021
Independent VAT Consultant
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Big shock

In my article: Flat rate scheme saves the day, I explained how a private client needed to register for VAT following an unexpected sales boost for his business.

The client now has his VAT number and – pause for dramatic effect – it came through just three days after the application was submitted to HMRC. The client was thrilled because I had told him that HMRC were quoting a twenty-day turnaround period to deal with online applications, but that it could take longer. What have I learned from this experience?

1. Apply online

I decided to apply for the VAT number online because it averts the risk of an application going missing in the post and also HMRC quotes ten fewer days for dealing with online submissions – 20 days compared to 30 days estimated. I have a concern that every piece of postal VAT correspondence seems to now go to the same address, namely: BT VAT, HMRC, BX9 1WR. I hope they have got a big letter box in that building, wherever it is.

2. Complete the form with the client on the telephone

An accountant who deals with a lot of VAT applications told me that her preferred route was to do the application online but with the client on the end of a telephone line to answer the questions that required a knowledge of the business in question.

The other advantage of this is that you can quote the client’s email address during the process because he is on the end of the phone line to give you the authorisation code sent to his email address by HMRC at the beginning of the process. This keeps your own email address out of the equation for, say, receiving quarterly reminders about completing returns.  

3. Be clear about dates

A lot of delays with VAT registration applications are caused by confusion with dates. For clarity, two questions need to be considered before the form is completed:

  • What is the compulsory date of registration?
  • Do I want to register earlier than the compulsory date – up to four years ago?

If the answer to the second question is ‘no’ – then the compulsory date is a fait accompli – end of story. No other dates are relevant.

Letter from HMRC

My client received a very well-written message from HMRC when he was issued with his VAT number. It helpfully told him that he needed to account for output tax on some past sales because we had applied for a retrospective registration date. It promised to send more information about the flat rate and annual accounting schemes, and an EORI number, if relevant to the business. It also covered issues with agents – including the 64-8 procedure – as well as Making Tax Digital and its rules and requirements.

Overall, I would give the letter nine out of ten!

Conclusion

I realise that my application did not involve any property-related supplies, where delays are much more common because of the extra VAT complexities involved.  

I hope my positive experience with the VAT registration process is repeated by many other accountants – it may indicate that HMRC’s post-Brexit crisis is in the past.

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Replies (24)

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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
09th Nov 2021 22:25

Just so I understand, you didn’t do anything special, you just filled in the standard online VAT application form?

Thanks (9)
Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Roland195
10th Nov 2021 09:35

I thought it was just me here - how else would you do it & surely three days is nothing special, I've had them the following day in some cases.

Thanks (4)
Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Arlene0612
10th Nov 2021 10:17

Absolutely! Which century have you been in? This is no novely - it's just normal!!

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Arlene0612
10th Nov 2021 10:17

Absolutely! Which century have you been in? This is no novelty - it's just normal!!

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By Carl London
09th Nov 2021 23:51

Whatever next... submitting self-assessment tax returns online?!

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
10th Nov 2021 09:43

I had a similar conversation a few months with a VAT specialist saying it took weeks and weeks to get a number and how this was a massive issue and would delay the purchase of a building with the opt to tax (hence the specialist)

I filed in the normal online form (its been there for as long as I can remember, 15 years or so, could be 20?) and got it in a couple of days as normal.............proceeded to fill in the rest of the forms.

Did another one for client recently, again no drama. Filed in form Thursday, VAT number ready on the portal for Monday morning.

Thanks (0)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Charityguy
10th Nov 2021 10:08

Did you also arrange the correct option to tax forms at the same time and the VAT5L, I have seen HMRC issue a VAT registration when an OTT was applied for but they had not issued the OTT... therefore no evidence of taxable supplies.
I hope you did it right!

Thanks (1)
Replying to Charityguy:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
10th Nov 2021 11:09

I did exactly what I was told by the VAT specialist who seemed happy with it all. Cant recall what all the forms were, but they signed off on it and the building got bought some months ago.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Charityguy
10th Nov 2021 11:17

Ah ok I thought you did a DIY... lol and ditched the "specialist"

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By Duggimon
10th Nov 2021 10:05

Tips on getting a VAT number in three days:

1: Fill out the same form as everyone else.
2: Be lucky.

Thanks (4)
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By petestar1969
10th Nov 2021 10:16

I'm confused.

I've applied for a few VAT numbers recently, using the online option via my agent gateway and none of them have taken more than a few days to come through...

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By Arlene0612
10th Nov 2021 10:17

Er? Where have you been? This is NORMAL!!!

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By practice for sale
10th Nov 2021 10:26

Oh dear, and there was me thinking I was somehow 'lucky'. Applied Monday 8th Nov, vat number through on Wednesday 10th Nov.

From the other replies, this now seems to be the norm. Rare but true - congrats to HMRC for getting a system that works at the speed businesses need. Shame banks can't open bank accounts that quick...

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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
10th Nov 2021 10:27

Phew, it wasn’t just me - I read it 3 times before I posted!

It’s these old-school experts/specialists doing everything old-skule.

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By Bud69
10th Nov 2021 10:29

Really, we did that and have been waiting 6 months for a VAT number!! Finally got one last week!

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By rememberscarborough
10th Nov 2021 10:29

For me the key is getting the right SIC code. There are a number, especially to do with construction and property, that throw up all sorts of red flags with HMRC and delay the issue of VAT numbers. Sometimes, if I'm not sure, I just use a general one that seems to work for me.

Thanks (1)
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By bendybod
10th Nov 2021 10:56

I had the same experience. I was gobsmacked!!

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By [email protected]
10th Nov 2021 11:37

We are having immense problems apply for agent services for our clients, errors, clients not receiving their letters with codes, having to re apply then spending hours phoning HMRC

its frustrating, a time waste and very confusing!

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By David Gordon FCCA
10th Nov 2021 12:39

The last thing I would do is give VAT or HMRC the client's email address.
I am the client's agent.
1)
A sure as God made little green apples if my office does not get the e-stuff sooner or later time sensitive information will be missed by the client.
2)
Sadly there is too much evil out there. We have e-received outrageous stuff purporting to come from HMRC. Fortunately we are now well experienced in spotting this criminal junk.

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By Breckmans
10th Nov 2021 12:54

I was hoping for some new, little known way for applying. I have been registering clients for thirty year without issue until recently. Now I regularly get a letter from HMRC saying that they think my client is not in business! I always get there in the end but it is a pain. I am in the arts/entertainment industry.

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Replying to Breckmans:
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By Rgab1947
10th Nov 2021 13:32

With Covid probably true if in the Arts

Thanks (1)
Replying to Rgab1947:
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By Breckmans
10th Nov 2021 14:42

There were a lot of producers in the development stages during COVID.

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By Winnie Wiggleroom
10th Nov 2021 13:24

Its hit and miss, had one last month where they asked for more info, emailed them back within an hour, 30 days later they wrote to the client to say they would not proceed as they did not have what they had asked for! This was property related which seems to be a major delay factor

Thanks (0)
Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
10th Nov 2021 14:08

Winnie Wiggleroom wrote:

Its hit and miss, had one last month where they asked for more info, emailed them back within an hour, 30 days later they wrote to the client to say they would not proceed as they did not have what they had asked for! This was property related which seems to be a major delay factor

I’ve had this on a PAYE registration as I was backdating it into the previous year.

Thanks (0)