HMRC is pushing ahead with its plans for Making Tax Digital (MTD) for businesses, although some changes concerning non-business income have been put on hold. The first tax returns to be converted to the MTD regime will be VAT returns due for quarters that start on or after 1 April 2019.
If your business is VAT-registered because your annual turnover is at least £85,000, you will be required to submit VAT returns using MTD-compliant software. If you registered for VAT voluntarily and your turnover is still below £85,000, you will be able to submit VAT returns as you do now, either by using accounting software or via the online form.
MTD-compliant software is capable of transferring data to and from HMRC via an application program interface (API). A spreadsheet on its own can’t qualify as MTD-compliant, but if it is used with an API add-on (so-called bridging software), it may comply.
If you use accounting software, your first step in preparing for MTD for VAT should be to contact your accounting software provider to ask when they will issue an MTD-compliant upgrade. HMRC will not provide free software for businesses to comply with the MTD regime.
If you currently keep all your VAT records on spreadsheets and/or paper we need to talk about how you can digitise your systems over the next nine months. We can continue to submit your VAT return on your behalf, but we will need to receive the VAT information from you in a digital fashion (such as on a memory stick) or downloaded from cloud-based accounting software.
It will be possible to claim an exemption from MTD for VAT, based on disability, remoteness from internet connection or religious grounds. However, HMRC must grant an exemption: it won’t be given automatically.