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HM Revenue and Customs Brief 29/14 - Amendments to online filing VAT returns


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Issued 28 July 2014

VAT: Amendments to regulations for online filing of VAT returns

Who needs to read this

VAT registered businesses who are unable to file their VAT returns online for reasons of age, disability or remoteness of location.


The vast majority of businesses were legally mandated to file their VAT returns online from 1 April 2012. Most have found it easy to make the transition from paper filing to online filing. However, some businesses contacted HMRC to explain their difficulties in filing VAT returns online. In such circumstances, we advise businesses of a range of digital assistance options to help them to meet their legal obligations. Such options include using public libraries, using computers owned by friends and family, using the services of an agent or, if none of these options are appropriate, using the existing Filing by Telephone service ('telephone filing').

First Tier Tribunal ruling

In response to appeals against the requirement to file online, the First-tier Tribunal (in the case of L.H. Bishop Electrical Co. Ltd. A F Sheldon t/a Aztec Distributors) ruled that UK VAT law failed to take account of a person's ability to comply on account of:

  • age
  • disability
  • computer illiteracy (linked to age)
  • remoteness of location

And, as such, was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The judge also held that HMRC could not rely on the fact that telephone filing had been made available to certain businesses to cure the aforementioned human rights breach as it had not been legislated for or properly publicised.

Changes to legislation

Following a formal consultation exercise, Regulation 25A of VAT Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/2518) has been amended to:

  • enable HMRC to make a Commissioners' direction approving telephone filing as an alternative method of electronic filing for use by businesses that satisfy HMRC that it is not reasonably practicable for them to use the current method of online filing
  • provide an additional exemption from electronic filing for businesses that satisfy HMRC that it is not reasonably practicable for them to use an online channel with the result that such businesses will be able to file on paper


Changes to legislation took effect from 1 July 2014.

Further information

For further information please contact the VAT Helpline on Telephone: 0300 200 3700. The Helpline is available Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. If you have hearing difficulties you can use the Textphone service on 0300 200 3719.

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Crown Copyright 2014.

A licence is needed to reproduce this article and has been republished for educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by permission of HM Revenue & Customs.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2014-08-04 15:52:18 in Tax Articles

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