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Online VAT Return filings

Changes to Electronic VAT Return Filing Legislation

Ryan Bevan 2 January 2016 No comments


Since 1 April 2012 virtually all VAT registered businesses have been required to submit their UK VAT returns online and pay any VAT due to HMRC electronically. The only exceptions permitted in the legislation were for businesses that were subject to insolvency procedures or businesses run by people who are practicing members of a religious society whose beliefs prevented them from using computers. They could continue to submit paper returns.

Some businesses however had problems filing their VAT returns online and HMRC allowed some of these traders to use a Filing by Telephone service. There were however appeals against the requirement to file online and HMRC lost the case L H Bishop Electric Company Limited in 2013. In this case the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) held that UK VAT law failed to take into consideration a person’s ability to submit returns online on account of age, disability, computer literacy or remoteness of location and this amounted to a breach of human rights. The Tribunal also held that HMRC could not rely on the fact that telephone filing had been made available to certain businesses to remedy the human rights breach since it had not been legislated for or generally publicised.

Following a consultation period HMRC have now amended VAT legislation with effect from 1 July 2014 to allow telephone and paper filing of VAT returns for businesses who are able to satisfy HMRC that it is not reasonably practicable for them to file online.