ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

UK VAT after the transitional period

Helpsheets and support

Published: 08 Oct 2019 Updated: 31 Dec 2020 Update History

This guide is intended to help you understand how the UK’s VAT rules are changing from 1 January 2021.

UK VAT rules up to 31 December 2020

Under the UK’s VAT rules:

  • VAT is charged on most goods and services sold within the UK and the EU.
  • VAT is payable by businesses when they bring goods into the UK. There are different rules depending on whether the goods come from an EU or non-EU country.
  • Goods that are exported by UK businesses to non-EU countries and EU businesses are zero-rated, meaning that UK VAT is not charged at the point of sale.   
  • Goods that are exported by UK businesses to EU consumers have either UK or EU VAT charged, subject to distance selling thresholds.
  • For services the ‘place of supply’ rules determine the country in which you need to charge and account for VAT. 

Changes to VAT rules from 1 January 2021

The UK continues to levy VAT and the rules relating to UK domestic transactions continue to apply to businesses as they did previously. VAT procedures on the whole remain as those prior to 31 December 2020, but there are some changes to the VAT rules and procedures for transactions between the UK and EU member states. 

Webinar: VAT tips for SMEs

Neil Warren joins the Tax Faculty in this webinar focusing on VAT for SMEs covering: business splitting, compensation and termination fees and the flat rate scheme.


Importing goods from the EU

The existing rules for imports from non-EU countries now apply to imports from the EU, but with some changes. The government will introduce ‘postponed accounting’ for import VAT on goods brought into the UK with effect from 1 January 2021. This means that UK VAT registered businesses importing goods to the UK will be able to account for import VAT on their VAT return, rather than paying import VAT on or soon after the time that the goods arrive at the UK border.

This important relaxation applies to imports from the EU and non-EU countries. 

However, customs declarations and the payment of any other duties will still be required. Customs duty (tariffs) will apply to some goods and excise duties will continue to apply to tobacco, alcohol and certain energy products.

Customs and excise duty payments can be deferred to be settled monthly with a duty deferment account. Businesses need to register with HMRC to open a duty deferment account and will need to provide a bank guarantee.

From 1 January 2021, VAT on imported goods with a value of up to £135 is collected at the point of sale not the point of importation. This means that UK supply VAT, rather than import VAT, will be due on these consignments.

Online marketplaces (OMPs) involved in facilitating the sale of imported goods, are responsible for collecting and accounting for the VAT, even when the goods are in the UK at the point of sale.

For goods sent from overseas and sold directly to UK consumers, the overseas seller is required to register and account for the VAT to HMRC. Overseas sellers also remain responsible for accounting for the VAT on goods in the UK when sold directly to UK consumers.

Business-to-business sales not exceeding £135 in value are also be subject to the new rules. However, where the business customer is VAT registered and provides its registration number to the seller, the VAT will be accounted for by the customer by means of a reverse charge. 

HMRC support:

Exporting goods to the EU

VAT registered UK businesses continue to be able to zero-rate sales of goods to EU businesses. EU member states will treat goods entering the EU from the UK in the same way as goods entering from other non-EU countries. This means import VAT and any customs duties (tariffs) are due when the goods arrive in the EU. 

Businesses may be able to use the Common Transit Convention (CTC) to complete some customs procedures away from the border and defer import VAT and customs duties until goods reach their final destination. A guarantee may be needed to cover import VAT or customs duties while the goods are being moved, but new procedures are being implemented to minimise the number of businesses that will require a guarantee.

Prior to the end of the transition period businesses that had a low value of sales (up to about £70,000 per annum) to other EU member states could benefit from the distance selling thresholds. Sales below the distance selling thresholds are subject to UK VAT unless the supplier has decided to register for VAT in the country of destination. From 1 January 2021, this facility is no longer available, but all such sales are zero rated exports.

UK VAT registered businesses no longer have to complete an EC Sales List. Instead, UK businesses exporting zero-rated goods to EU businesses need to retain evidence to prove that goods have left the UK. Such evidence is already required for exports to non-EU countries. However, businesses in Northern Ireland will still need to complete EC Sales Lists. 

HMRC support:

Supplying services to the EU

The supply of services to customers in the EU from 1 January 2021 is treated the same as those to any customer outside the EU.

The VAT treatment will be covered by the VAT ‘place of supply’ rules. The rules continue to apply broadly as they did previously, but subject to some changes shown below.   

For UK businesses supplying digital services to non-business customers in the EU, the ‘place of supply’ continues to be where the customer resides. VAT on those services is due in the EU member state in which the customer resides.

For UK businesses supplying insurance and financial services, the input VAT deduction rules change from 1 January 2021, as supplies that were previously exempt become outside the scope with recovery, thereby aligning with the existing rules for supplies of such services to customers outside the EU. 

HMRC support:

Sales of digital services

After 31 December 2020, all supplies of digital services to consumers in EU member states are liable for VAT in the consumer’s member state. The £8,818 annual threshold for cross borders sales of digital services to EU consumers no longer applies. 

Organisations will have to charge VAT at the rate where the customer is based and declare those sales to the relevant EU member state. 

UK businesses that had been using the UK VAT MOSS union scheme can continue to use the system but must register for the VAT MOSS non-union scheme in an EU member state. 

For businesses wanting to continue using MOSS, they must register for the scheme by the 10th day of the month following their first sale after the UK leaves the EU. For example, register by 10 February 2021 if a sale is made in January 2021. 

UK businesses will only be able to register after 31 December 2020. 

Alternatively, organisations can register in each EU Member State where they make sales. Check the EU’s Europa website for further information about registering for VAT in EU member states. 

Non-UK businesses that had previously used UK VAT MOSS non-union scheme will now need to register for the scheme in an EU member state. 

Non-UK businesses need to declare sales of digital services to UK consumers by registering for VAT in the UK and declaring the sales via a UK VAT return. 

To declare the VAT charge, businesses can register for VAT in each EU member state where sales are made or register for the VAT MOSS non-union scheme in an EU member state of their choice.  


The UK VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) is an online service that allows EU businesses that sell digital services to consumers in other EU member states to report and pay VAT via a single return and payment in their home member state.

As of 1 January 2021, businesses are no longer able to use the UK’s MOSS scheme to report and pay VAT on sales of digital services to consumers in the EU. Businesses that sell digital services to consumers in the EU have to register for the MOSS non-union scheme in one of the remaining 27 EU member states. ICAEW understands many businesses are considering doing so in Ireland.

Under the non-union MOSS scheme, businesses wishing to use the scheme must register by the 10th day of the month following a sale. For example, if you make a sale in January 2021 you will need to register by 10 February 2021. Alternatively, a business can register for VAT in each EU member state where sales are made.

More on MOSS

Businesses can use the UK’s VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) to declare sales of digital services to consumers in the EU. Businesses can use the UK’s MOSS portal in the normal way to submit and pay returns for the period to 31 December 2020.

This return should include supplies made between 1 October 2020 and 11pm on 31 December 2020 (the Q4 2020 return). The normal submission deadline of 20 January 2021 still applies.

Businesses are not be able to use the UK’s MOSS portal to declare VAT on sales of digital services to UK and EU consumers that are made after 11pm on 31 December 2020.

To allow businesses to register for the VAT MOSS non-union scheme, they are being automatically deregistered from the UK MOSS system with effect from 1 January 2021. Businesses will still be able to access the system after deregistration to: 

  • submit a return for the final quarter of 2020 (the facility of submit returns will be withdrawn on 31 January 2021);
  • view and amend previously submitted returns, with any amendments to these returns being made by 31 December or directly with the EU member state concerned and not via the MOSS system after this date; and
  • update registration details until 31 December 2024. 

Further guidance

You can find further information on registering for the MOSS non-Union scheme on the EU Commission’s website and paying VAT when you sell digital services to EU consumers from 1 January 2021 on gov.uk. HMRC has also updated guidance about VAT on the supply of digital services and VAT MOSS.

EU VAT refund system

Prior to the end of the transition period, a UK business could recover VAT incurred in other EU countries using an electronic system. However, businesses are no longer able to use that system.

UK businesses can claim refunds of VAT from EU member states, but it will need to be done using the existing refund system for non-EU businesses.

The way in which the refund system operates varies across each EU country, so businesses will need to check the precise requirements in each EU country where they incur VAT. 

Further support:

EU VAT Registration Number Validation service

The EU VAT Registration Number Validation service allows businesses to check if a customer or supplier’s VAT number is valid. UK businesses will be able to continue to use the EU VAT number validation service to check the validity of EU businesses, but UK VAT registrations will cease to be included. HMRC has developed a service to ensure that UK VAT numbers can continue to be validated.

HMRC guidance on supplies between GB and Northern Ireland

Further support

ICAEW Know-How from the Tax Faculty

This guidance is created by the Tax Faculty, recognised internationally as a leading authority and source of expertise on taxation. The Faculty is the voice of tax for ICAEW, responsible for all submissions to the tax authorities. Join the Faculty for expert guidance and support enabling you to provide the best advice on tax to your clients or business.