Since April 2019, VAT registered businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold need to keep digital records for VAT purposes using the Making Tax Digital (MTD) protocols. This means that businesses must keep their records digitally (for VAT purposes only) and provide their VAT return information to HMRC through MTD compatible software.

Businesses with a turnover under the VAT registration threshold (currently £85,000) are not mandated to use the MTD for VAT service but can opt to do so if they wish. There is also an exception for certain businesses that have until their first VAT Return period starting on or after 1 October 2019 to start using MTD for VAT. This includes businesses that are part of a VAT group or VAT division, use the annual accounting scheme or that make payments on account.

HMRC also has a number of other relaxations to help businesses adapt to MTD. For example, HMRC has agreed to give businesses until 1 April 2020 (or 1 October 2020 for deferred businesses) to make sure there are digital links between software products. This means that during the first year of MTD for VAT, businesses who use more than one software programme to keep their VAT records and prepare and file returns will not be required to have digital links between those software programmes. After this time, bridging or MTD-compatible software will be required so that this information can be digitally sent to HMRC with no manual intervention.

HMRC has updated its guidance for businesses that need to update exceptionally complex or legacy IT systems. These businesses may qualify for a time-limited extension to their 2020 deadline for having full digital links in place. An application needs to be made to HMRC and the qualifying criteria must be met.