Although the United Kingdom adopted the practice of vat or value added tax in 1973, the country’s traders now pay taxes on goods and services as per vat act 1994. The act puts several vat rules and regulations into place for efficient tax collection on taxable sales made in the UK.
The 1994 VAT act explains the meaning of value added tax on goods and services, specifies applications and exclusions for this tax as well as puts down a system of collecting and paying those taxes to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Department or the hmrc. The act specifies that goods that are imported into the UK with the aim of selling them again are subject to vat. This tax is slotted in 3 different vat rates. Although the vat act was established in 1994, the vat rates have changed over the years. Several eu countries such as Germany, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Italy, Greece, etc have also implemented their own version of the vat act that is quite similar in principle, although their vat rates too differ according to their classifications.
Vat rates in the UK are broadly based in 3 slabs. The standard vat rate in 2010 was 17.5% but is all set to increase to 20% from January 4, 2011. The reduced vat rate is 5% and there are also certain goods and services related to foods, children, hospitals, etc that attract zero vat rate or are vat exempt. The vat act 1994 also specifies on how a trader in the UK can join the vat system by turning into a vat registered trader. Currently, once a trader achieves a vat threshold limit of £70K in taxable sales then that trader can apply for vat registration, although that move can be made before reaching the limit too.
The vat act also specifies the format of a vat invoice and the details that a vat registered trader needs to incorporate within that invoice. A trader will need to display the vat number, vat rate and total vat amount in each vat invoice. The trader will also need to file vat returns at the intervals specified by hmrc vat. The beauty of vat is that if any trader has imported goods or services into the UK after paying vat on the same in another eu country then that vat amount can be claimed back with an appropriate vat refund application.
Each eu country has similar rules based on their interpretation of the vat act. Although the language might be different, most rules are still the same. For example, traders in Poland need to issue a faktura invoice, which is the same as a vat invoice, except that it is issued in the Polish language. Most traders do end up hiring vat agents that have a thorough knowledge on eu vat and uk vat rules along with complete knowledge of the vat act and its amendments so as to efficiently calculate and pay vat, file returns and claim vat refunds.
The vat act was introduced to lay down the provisions of following the system of vat in the UK. Several other countries too have now switched over to vat as a way of collecting taxes on goods and services. In the UK, however, traders need to pay taxes on goods and services as per vat act 1994 while also paying heed to regular changes in the act.