BlogOct 31, 2023
Postponed VAT Accounting: What is it and How Does it Work?
The Blue dot Team
The Blue dot Team
Postponed VAT accounting, also known as import VAT on your VAT return, manages your VAT payments and records if you import goods into the UK or Northern Ireland. This process can help your cash flow because you can use it to avoid paying VAT upfront – essentially, you declare and recover your VAT from your imports on the same VAT return.
According to HMRC, you can use postponed VAT accounting if your business is registered for VAT and if you are importing into the UK from anywhere outside of the country, or if you are importing into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and EU. This regulation came into effect on 01 January 2021 and can be used by any company importing goods into the UK.
Normally, when you import goods from abroad, you have to pay your VAT to Customs as the goods enter the country and this can be an expensive process. If you’re eligible for postponed VAT accounting, however, you don’t need to pay Customs when your items come into the country; instead, you declare and pay for the VAT in your next VAT return.
The impact of this process is significant for the business as you declare your VAT as payable and as a deductible in the same return, which means your cash flow isn’t affected.
Postponed VAT accounting makes a significant difference to companies that import goods from around the world, supporting their continued growth without placing a heavy cost burden on their bottom line.
There are several key benefits to taking advantage of postponed VAT accounting. These include:
Any company registered for VAT in the UK can take advantage of postponed VAT accounting. You can immediately start using the system without having to follow an extensive application process or having to submit any paperwork.
You do, however, have to meet several key requirements.
Once you’ve decided to take advantage of postponed VAT accounting, you will need to follow several steps to manage the process:
Step 1: Notify every company and freight forwarder you work with so they are aware of the fact that you use postponed VAT accounting.
Step 2: Ensure you include your Economic Operators Registration and Identifier (EORI) number on your customs declaration forms alongside your UK VAT registration number. When you submit your VAT return, this information will be used to cross-check your imports and VAT duties.
Step 3: Gather all the required paperwork and documentation required to submit your postponed VAT accounting form to HMRC. Delivery companies such as DHL make it easier for you to manage this process by helping you with the relevant paperwork. DHL has actually made it mandatory for companies to use postponed VAT accounting. Keep meticulous records of all your imports as a reference.
Step 4: Register for the Customs Declaration Service as this is the primary platform that monitors the movement of goods in and out of the UK. This will ensure that all your imports are allocated to postponed VAT accounting, and the service will provide you with an online breakdown of your imports that you can download and use to complete your VAT return. These are usually available to download by the sixth day of each month.
Step 5: Double-check your records against the form provided by HMRC to ensure your imports and VAT charges match. Then log into your VAT portal online to submit your VAT return.
Step 6: When you submit your VAT return, you will need to tick the box that confirms you’re using this process, provide your EORI number, include the VAT due on your sales and outputs, include the VAT you’ve reclaimed on purchases and other inputs, and then include the total value of all your purchases and inputs excluding the VAT amount. These account for boxes 01, 04 and 07 on your VAT return form.
There are some key things you need to consider when you’re managing your postponed VAT accounting:
Here are some of the most common questions companies ask when it comes to postponed VAT accounting.
What is PVA?
This is simply the abbreviation of postponed VAT accounting and is how this process is most commonly referred to in tutorials and documentation.
How does this benefit the small business?
PVA is beneficial for reducing the burden of VAT on your cash flow if you import goods into the UK. Instead of lengthy payment processes, creating a deferment account, or having goods held at customs until you can pay VAT, you simply submit your PVA to HMRC in one VAT return.
Is Customs duty included in PVA?
No, it’s not! So, you will potentially need to open a deferment account to handle any unexpected Customs charges.
Do I need to use PVA if my imports are less than £135?
No – there are different rules for VAT on imported goods that sit below the threshold of £135. You can find out more here.
Your business can benefit from postponed VAT accounting as it reduces the time you spend on admin, improves the import process through customs, minimises admin, and gives you a smoother cash flow. The latter benefit is perhaps the most significant – if you take advantage of this process, you won’t have to pay VAT in advance and then wait for HMRC to reimburse you, and this can really take the edge off your cash flow.
You can also streamline and transform your entire VAT processes with Blue dot’s world-leading VAT recovery platform! The first truly AI-driven expense analysis platform in the market, Blue dot’s technology combines advanced AI and Large Language Models (LLMs) with deep tax expertise to analyse each and every invoice and expense report at a contextual level and assess VAT eligibility with accuracy not possible before. This enables businesses to maximise their VAT recovery potential over all of their expenses while gaining a fully transparent and digital audit trail.