Introduction

Navigating UK VAT regulations as an online trader can be daunting, but Türner & Co is here to simplify the process. With our exclusive focus on UK VAT, we offer tailored services to ensure seamless compliance, allowing you to focus on growing your business.

The UK has the third largest e-commerce market in the world, with a projected worth of £264 billion in 2024. E-commerce sales were 30% of total UK retail sales in 2023 and, with 60 million e-commerce users, only a small proportion of the population are non-digital buyers.
If you decide to trade in the UK, there are strict VAT compliance rules which online traders must follow. These rules also apply to Online Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy etc.

Whilst similar e-commerce VAT rules apply in other countries, particularly in the EU, here at Türner & Co, we took the strategic decision several years ago to focus exclusively on UK VAT. This means our team has unrivalled experience in managing the UK VAT position of online traders. Around a third of our current clients have moved to us from pan-EU ‘one-stop-shop’ compliance providers because they needed UK-specific VAT support for their businesses. This has become increasingly important following the UK’s departure from the EU in 2021 as customs borders increase the complexity and cost of UK-EU trade.

We now work with hundreds of online traders, helping them enjoy a positive experience in the UK e-commerce market. Our goal is to provide you with a smooth VAT compliance journey in the UK, allowing you to focus on what you do best – running your business.

Services offered by Türner & Co

  • Confirmation of UK VAT registration obligation: we determine if your business requires a UK VAT ID number.
  • VAT registration: we manage the entire VAT registration process, including dealing any queries raised by the UK tax authorities – HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
  • GB EORI number: if your business imports goods into the UK, we can obtain a GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number for your business.
  • Acting as your UK VAT agent: our team serves as your dedicated point of contact with HMRC, handling queries and providing expert representation on your behalf.
  • UK import support: we can help your business navigate the complexities and minimise the cost of cross border trade.
  • Preparation and submission of VAT returns: We ensure accurate and timely submission of your VAT returns, helping you avoid penalties and stay compliant. To read more about VAT compliance please click here.
  • Confirmation of Establishment: we provide advice regarding place of establishment rules when selling on an Online Marketplace.

Key VAT registration triggers for online traders

If you are considering e-commerce in the UK, the starting point is to determine if you require a UK VAT registration. You will need a UK VAT ID number if you are doing any of the following:

  • Storing Goods in the UK: If you store goods in a UK warehouse, either a third-party warehouse or an Amazon fulfilment centre, you must register for VAT in the UK. Refer to our guidance here on importing goods into the UK.
  • B2C sales from your own website: if you sell goods directly to UK private customers from your own website and the goods are valued at less than GBP 135 you require a UK VAT registration.
  • Importing goods over GBP 135: if you import consignments of goods into the UK over GBP 135 in value you require a UK VAT ID number. To determine if you are importing goods into the UK, you need to look at the trade terms for the sale which have been agreed with your customer (these are called Incoterms). For more guidance, please see our section on Imports here.

You are not required to appoint a tax representative in the UK. We act as the tax agents for our online traders and manage all queries received from HMRC.

Why UK VAT compliance is critical for online traders

UK VAT rules mean that HMRC can hold Online Marketplaces like Amazon jointly and severally liable for any VAT owed by online traders using their sales platforms.

As a result, Online Marketplaces take steps to ensure their traders have UK VAT ID numbers and are meeting their UK VAT reporting obligations. If Amazon contacts you about your UK VAT position, you should take action to address the query. Failure to respond can mean that Amazon blocks your account in the UK. We support lots of our clients with these issues.

HMRC has established a dedicated team – The Online Selling Compliance Team – to monitor the VAT position of online traders. The team undertakes reviews of online traders, using data obtained from Online Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and other sales channels.
If you are contacted by the Online Selling Compliance Team, it is very important to co-operate. If an online trader or their tax adviser does not respond to HMRC, the Online Selling Compliance Team will notify the Online Marketplace which the trader uses (issuing a Joint & Several Liability Notice). When this happens, the Online Marketplace will block the online trader from selling in the UK until HMRC is satisfied that the trader has fully complied with its UK VAT obligations.

The Online Marketplace may also withhold funds until it is satisfied that the online trader is fully compliant.
Many of our clients have come to us after being ‘blocked’ from trading on Amazon. In many of these cases, the block happened because the Online Selling Compliance Team did not receive a response from the trader’s previous VAT advisors regarding a compliance check.

Our experience of Online Selling Compliance Checks

Here at Türner & Co, our expertise and in-depth knowledge of UK VAT law means we have unrivalled credentials in successfully managing Online Selling Compliance checks. We have saved our clients millions in wrongly assessed VAT, penalties and interest, and have achieved the reinstatement of cancelled UK VAT IDs and blocked Amazon accounts. Just a few examples are:

  • HMRC issued an assessment of GBP 1.4 million to an EU-based trader making margin scheme supplies. We challenged the VAT rate and place of supply rules HMRC had applied, and the assessment was reduced to nil.
  • We challenged the way HMRC had applied acquisitions tax in an assessment and achieved a reduction of GBP 279,000.
  • We reviewed the assessment and successfully challenged the way HMRC had calculated UK VAT on distance sales, reducing the assessment from GBP 28,714 to nil.
  • An online trader of household goods was assessed for GBP 78,293. We identified errors in HMRC’s calculations and technical basis for the assessment and it was reduced to GBP 13,451.
  • We successfully argued against an assessment based on storage of goods in the UK, resulting in a 90% reduction of the assessment.
  • We achieved reinstatement of a client’s UK VAT ID after HMRC wrongfully cancelled its UK VAT registration as a result of a compliance check. We have successfully lifted all bans in trading imposed by HMRC and Amazon and obtained compensation for our clients from HMRC.
  • As a result of our expertise, not a single client has been required to pay the assessment or penalty initially assessed by HMRC. In more than half the compliance checks we have worked on, our clients have not been required to pay anything.

Our Services for online traders

  • VAT registration: we handle the entire VAT registration process and manage any queries which HMRC has about your business for you. To learn more about UK VAT registration please click here.
  • VAT returns: we prepare and submit your UK VAT returns. Accurate and timely submission of VAT returns minimises the risk of HMRC assessments and trading interruptions. We ensure your VAT returns meet the requirements of Making Tax Digital for VAT. To learn more about VAT compliance and MTD for VAT, please click here.
  • Advice on trading terms and UK implications: Our experts provide guidance on Incoterms and their VAT implications, ensuring clarity on who is responsible for VAT. To learn more about importing goods into the UK, click here.
  • Online Selling Compliance checks: we represent your interests and manage HMRC Online Selling Compliance checks.
  • VAT advisory: We provide assistance with all UK VAT matters, such as applicable VAT rates and invoicing requirements, or correcting historic positions if things have gone wrong.

Why Choose Türner & Co?

  • Unrivalled expertise: our team of UK advisors has extensive knowledge and experience in UK VAT regulations, especially as they apply to online traders.
  • Proactive approach: we stay ahead of regulatory changes and advise you on best practices to maintain compliance.
  • Risk mitigation: our services help protect your business from potential shutdowns on major online platforms due to VAT non-compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I’m an online trader selling to UK customers, do I need to register for VAT?

You may need to register for UK VAT in the UK. Our team can assist with the VAT registration process and ensure you comply with all relevant VAT obligations.

What are my obligations if an Online Marketplace reports all my VAT?

You may still require a UK VAT registration even if there is no UK VAT to report.

Do I need to register for VAT if I only sell small-value items to the UK via my webshop?

Yes, if you sell goods valued at GBP 135 or less to UK private individuals, VAT registration in the UK is required.

I intend to store goods in the UK, what do I need to consider?

Storing goods in the UK triggers a requirement for VAT registration. You must account for VAT on sales from the point these goods are sold in the UK. You may also be importing goods into the UK and we can support you with this process to ensure import VAT is not a cost to your business. We can guide you through the process of VAT registration and compliance.

What about customs duty and import VAT?

When importing goods into the UK, you may be liable for customs duty and import VAT. This will depend on the value of the goods and the terms of sale (Incoterms®). Our team can provide detailed advice on these obligations.

How do I get a VAT ID number?

To obtain a UK VAT ID number, you must submit a VAT registration application to HMRC. Türner & Co can handle the entire process on your behalf and answer any queries which HMRC has about the application.

How quickly will I get a VAT ID number?

The time frame for obtaining a VAT ID number can vary, but it generally takes around 8-10 weeks. Complex applications may take longer.

When do I submit VAT returns?

UK VAT returns are typically filed quarterly. We can assist with the preparation and submission of these returns, ensuring they are accurate and timely.

When do I charge UK VAT on my sales?

We can provide comprehensive, tailored advice about when UK VAT needs to be charged to your customers.

Amazon has blocked my account, what do I do?

If Amazon has blocked your account, contact us immediately. We can assist in resolving the issue with HMRC and help reinstate your account by ensuring VAT compliance.

Amazon has withheld my funds because I am not established in the UK, what do I do?

If Amazon has withheld funds, contact us immediately. We can assist in resolving the issue and help reinstate your account by ensuring VAT compliance.

My previous tax advisor hasn’t submitted my VAT returns, what do I do?

If your VAT returns have not been submitted, it’s important to address this immediately to avoid penalties and investigation by HMRC. We can help in preparing and submitting any overdue VAT returns and liaise with HMRC to mitigate any potential issues.

What if I sell to customers in Northern Ireland?

Selling to customers in Northern Ireland involves specific VAT rules, especially post-Brexit. We can provide tailored advice based on your particular situation.

Do I need a UK bank account?

No. A UK bank account is not required. HMRC can accept and make payments to non-UK bank accounts.

What are the consequences of non-compliance with VAT for online traders?

Non-compliance can lead to trading restrictions, penalties, and HMRC assessments, potentially impacting your business operations on platforms like Amazon.

How can Türner & Co help if HMRC assesses VAT on my online sales?

We work closely with you to resolve any VAT assessments, ensuring compliance and aiming to reinstate your trading capabilities as swiftly as possible.


Looking for something else?

Head back to VAT or see all the services we offer.

Want to find out more?

Speak to our team and find out how we can get you up and running for your next venture in the UK.

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