New contractors’ guide to VAT

New contractors’ guide to VAT

One area that new Limited Company contractors need to think about from the start is the on-going tax liabilities of their company. Getting it wrong can potentially result in hefty financial penalties or worse, so it’s advisable to consult an experienced contractor accountant  to get the best advice for your circumstances. One type of tax which will be relevant to most Limited Company contractors is Value Added Tax (VAT).

 

VAT – what it is and where it applies

VAT is charged on the final consumption of a variety of HMRC specified goods and services and is applied to every stage of production and distribution. Most business-related goods and services fall under VAT so the majority of Limited Company contractors are likely to be subject to VAT charges.

 

How VAT is calculated

At its simplest a contractor VAT bill is the balance of the VAT you have charged to clients, minus the VAT you have claimed back on allowable items you purchased. If you have paid out more in VAT than you have charged, HMRC will refund the difference. The standard UK VAT rate is currently 20%. However, there are other rates which could apply depending on the type of goods or services being sold and where (in the world) they’re consumed.

 

VAT Accounting Schemes

HMRC offers schemes designed to help contractors in terms of how VAT is calculated and administered.

There are two options for accounting for VAT available to companies with a taxable turnover of up to £1.35million these are:

  • Cash Accounting – with this option the company only accounts for VAT when their invoice is actually paid. This can be helpful for the cashflow of the business. (Under this scheme you can also only claim back VAT on purchases once you’ve actually paid the invoice.)
  • Annual Accounting – with this option the company only submits one VAT Return a year. Monthly payments of the VAT bill amount are made to HMRC throughout the year. This too can be helpful for cashflow.

 

The Flat Rate Scheme

HMRC offers the Flat Rate Scheme which is designed to make VAT administration easier for many contractors. Rather than claiming VAT on each invoice you pay a percentage of your company turnover. For example 14.5% for an IT consultancy. There are main advantage to this scheme you can continue to charge clients 20% while you give a smaller percentage to HMRC. One downside is that you cannot claim the VAT back on your own business purchases unless they are capital purchases over £2000, which could be an issue for some business types. Another is that if you make a lot of zero rated or VAT exempt sales you’ll still be charged VAT on those sales, even though you’re not charging the client.

 

When you should register for VAT

VAT registration is mandatory for companies who have made taxable sales in the last 12 months above the current VAT registration threshold amount. For the 2013/14 tax year this is £79,000. HMRC usually increases the threshold by around £1,000 each year so for the 2014/15 tax year the threshold is likely to be higher. Even if your sales are unlikely to reach this level you can still voluntarily register your company for VAT. Many contractors choose to do this as it can offer several advantages as claiming back VAT on invoices they receive. If you decide not to register but you believe you’ll exceed the threshold in the near future (if you win a huge contract for example) you should register as soon as possible to remain within HMRC rules.

 

How to register for VAT

You need to apply directly to HMRC to register your company for VAT. This can be done online using their website or by post. You can do this yourself or your Intouch accountant can do this for you on your behalf.

 

Quarterly VAT returns at Intouch

At Intouch we offer Quarterly VAT return administration as a standard part of our comprehensive monthly service package (£98 + VAT per month). Contact us to find out more about our services and how we can help take the stress out of running your business.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Invoicing – what should you include on an invoice?

Invoicing – what should you include on an invoice?

All Limited Company contractors will usually issue invoices to their clients for products or services supplied. Some aspects of invoicing are legally required, for example, if both the contractor and the customer are registered for VAT, by law an invoice must be issued for every single transaction. In addition there are several pieces of information which must be included in all invoices, regardless of the business set-up. For Limited Companies, and those who are VAT registered, there are also other items which must be included in the invoice details in order to be legally compliant.

What minimum information should be included on an invoice?

Some of the items listed will be obvious, but others are less so. It’s worth taking a look to ensure that your own invoices contain all legally required information displayed.

  • The word ‘invoice’ must be clearly displayed
  • Each invoice must have a unique number (the invoice number)
  • Your company name, address and contact information
  • The name and address of the client your are invoicing
  • A description of what you are charging for (the product or service rendered)
  • The supply date(s) of the goods or services
  • The date of the invoice
  • The total amount the client needs to pay
  • When the customer needs to pay (your payment terms)

Although not legally required, you may also want to include information such as your business bank account details and any client reference, to help make it easier for them to pay you.

What additional information should Limited Company invoices include?

Limited Companies must also include the following:

  • Company registration number
  • Address of the company’s registered office
  • The full company name, exactly as it appears on the company’s certificate of incorporation
  • Any business name(s) used in your business
  • The address that legal documents can be delivered to if you’re using a business name
  • You do not have to add the names of directors, but if you do so you must include the names of all the directors

What additional information is needed on invoices for VAT registered companies?

It’s clearly very important to have the right information on any invoices which involve VAT. Invoices of this type must, at minimum, show the company’s VAT registration number and the rate of VAT charged. Other items which should be included will vary slightly. This will depend on whether you are using the Cash Accounting Scheme and whether you are trading nationally or internationally. Speak with your Intouch accountant if you need further advice on this.

Should you get company stationery?

It’s generally worth making the effort to have corporate stationery for your invoices and other documentation. Having your own corporate logo helps project a professional image to your clients and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive to achieve. Creation of simple invoice designs is easy to do. You can use everyday desktop publishing or there are sources of free invoice templates available which can be adapted to your needs. Many invoices are emailed rather than posted now, so it may not even be necessary to go the expense of getting them professionally printed.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.