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VAT record keeping
VAT record keeping

Which VAT records you must keep and how to keep them correctly

Steven Anderson avatar
Written by Steven Anderson
Updated over a week ago

Value Added Tax (VAT) is a significant aspect of the UK's tax system, and proper record keeping is crucial to comply with VAT regulations. The UK tax authority, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), places a strong emphasis on maintaining accurate and detailed VAT records. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of VAT record keeping in the UK, including the essential records that businesses must maintain.

1. Importance of VAT Record Keeping:

Accurate VAT record keeping is essential for businesses registered for VAT. It not only ensures compliance with HMRC regulations but also facilitates smooth tax audits and minimizes the risk of penalties or fines. VAT records allow businesses to reconcile their VAT liability, claim input tax credits, and provide evidence of their financial transactions


2. VAT Records that Must Be Kept:

a. Sales Invoices:

  • Copies of all VAT invoices issued to customers should be retained.

  • Invoices must include supplier and customer details, invoice dates, descriptions of goods/services, and VAT amounts.

b. Purchase Invoices:

  • Retain copies of all purchase invoices received from suppliers.

  • Purchase invoices should include supplier and business details, invoice dates, descriptions of goods/services, and VAT amounts.

c. VAT Returns:

  • Keep copies of all VAT returns submitted to HMRC, including adjustments made during the return period.

d. Bank Statements:

  • Maintain records of all bank statements, showing VAT-related transactions.

  • Bank statements serve as supporting evidence for VAT transactions.

e. Intrastat Records:

  • Maintain records if involved in the import/export of goods within the EU.

  • Intrastat records provide details of goods movement between EU member states.

f. Records of Goods Supplied or Received:

  • Keep records demonstrating the movement of goods, such as delivery notes, dispatch notes, and goods received notes.

  • Records should include quantity, nature, and value of the goods.

g. Retail Schemes:

  • Maintain records required for retail schemes, capturing relevant data (e.g., daily gross takings, VAT-inclusive and VAT-exclusive sales).

3. Record Keeping Period:

VAT records must be retained for at least six years, starting from the end of the VAT accounting period in which the transactions occurred. The records must be kept in a format that allows for easy retrieval and inspection by HMRC if required.

4. Digital Record Keeping:

Since April 2019, VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold (£85,000 in 2021/2022) must maintain digital records and submit their VAT returns using compatible software. The use of digital record keeping software ensures accuracy, reduces errors, and streamlines the VAT reporting process.

5. Penalties for Inadequate Record Keeping:

Failure to maintain accurate VAT records can result in penalties or fines from HMRC. The penalties vary based on the severity of the offense, ranging from fixed penalties to percentage-based penalties on the VAT due.


Proper VAT record keeping is a legal obligation for businesses registered for VAT in the UK. Maintaining accurate and complete records not only ensures compliance but also helps businesses monitor their financial transactions and claim appropriate VAT credits. By following the guidelines provided by HMRC and leveraging digital record keeping solutions, businesses can streamline their VAT reporting processes and minimize the risk of penalties.

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