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Not all businesses need to straight away, but if you do register for VAT then you may be able to reclaim VAT you paid on purchases you made before registering.

Businesses don’t need to register for VAT until their turnover reaches the VAT registration threshold for the previous 12 month period. But, even if you don’t need to register just yet, you’ll still pay VAT on most of the goods and services that you buy for your business. In this article, we’ll explain the rules, restrictions, and how to reclaim VAT on pre-registration purchases. Just be aware that you might need to pay a penalty if you fail to register for VAT at the right time!

How far back can I reclaim VAT paid before registering?

There’s a time limit on how far back you can go to reclaim the VAT on purchases made before registering. The time limits are different for goods and services.


Restrictions on reclaiming VAT on goods bought before registering

You can only reclaim VAT on goods that you buy specifically for business use. To reclaim the VAT on purchases that you made before registering, the goods must still be owned, used, or in stock, including goods bought to make other goods that you still have.

For example

You bought a laptop 3 years ago to help you run your business, and paid £1,000 + VAT, for a total of £1,200. At the time you weren’t VAT registered, but now you are. As long as you still use the laptop for business purposes and have the original receipt, you’ll be able to claim back the £200 of VAT that you paid.

Reclaiming VAT on services purchased before registering

You can claim back VAT for services that you purchased up to 6 months before you became VAT registered, as long as those services relate to your business. Again, you’ll need receipts!

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Are there any exceptions on reclaiming VAT?

Not all goods and services are eligible for VAT, so there may be some purchases where you have nothing to reclaim. There are also restrictions on goods that you’ve already used up, such as petrol or electricity, and goods that you sold or supplied before you registered for VAT.

Exceptions also apply for the VAT on any services which relate to goods that you disposed of before becoming VAT registered.

How do I reclaim VAT incurred before registering?

Once you identify which services and goods you can claim VAT back on, you’ll need to provide proof of cost and date of purchase. You must also provide evidence that these purchases are still relevant for your business today. For instance, you will need:

  • Invoices and receipts
  • A description of what the goods or services are
  • Date of purchase
  • A summary of how they still relate to your business

You’ll need to include any claims for pre-registration purchases on the first VAT return that you submit once you register.

Our online accountancy services include a VAT Returns service. Talk to an advisor about how we can help by calling 020 3355 4047, or get an instant online quote.

About The Author

Elizabeth Hughes

A content writer specialising in business, finance, software, and beyond. I'm a wordsmith with a penchant for puns and making complex subjects accessible. Learn more about Elizabeth.

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20th January 2023 10:09 pm

If I claim VAT back on pre-registration expenses, will I also have to pay VAT on invoices paid to me within the pre-registration period?

19th March 2023 4:30 pm

I have pre-registration goods purchases, but the receipts are not in the company name – is this an issue when trying to claim the pre-registration vat back? thanks.

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