Understanding and properly planning for Value Added Tax (VAT) is crucial for any business operating in the United Kingdom. VAT can have a significant impact on cash flow, pricing strategy, and overall profitability. Unfortunately, many businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), often overlook this essential element of financial planning – so listen up! Here are some essential budgeting tips to help you effectively manage your VAT obligations and maximise financial efficiency.

Know the Rates

Before diving into budget planning, it's important to be familiar with VAT rates. There are currently three primary rates, depending on your goods and services: standard (20%), reduced (5%), and zero (0%). Some items (incl. postage stamps and certain transactions) are also VAT-exempt. Keep yourself updated on current VAT rates, as they can have immediate effects and significant impact on your business operations.

Incorporate VAT into Pricing

It's essential to factor VAT into your product or service pricing. For example, if you sell a product for £100 and the VAT rate is 20%, the total cost to the consumer would be £120. It would be a mistake to consider the entire £120 as your revenue: £20 of that is owed to HMRC. Make sure that your pricing strategy always accommodates these tax requirements – any oversight could be detrimental to your business.

Keep a Separate VAT Account

Consider opening a separate bank account exclusively for your VAT income. Every time you receive payment for your product or service, immediately transfer the appropriate VAT portion into this account. This practice not only makes it easier to meet your VAT obligations but also prevents accidental spending of funds that are not truly part of your operational budget.


One of the fundamental aspects of VAT planning is meticulous record-keeping. Maintain accurate and complete records of all sales, purchases, VAT invoices, and other tax-relevant documents. Accounting software platforms such as AbraTax offer built-in VAT features that make this task more manageable. Proper record-keeping will be invaluable when it comes to filing VAT Returns and can protect you in case of an audit.

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Cash Flow Management

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, and VAT can significantly impact it. Businesses are sometimes required to pay VAT before they receive payments from customers, causing temporary cash shortages. Budget accordingly to ensure that you always have sufficient funds to meet your VAT obligations, taking into consideration invoice terms and seasonal fluctuations.

In the event that your business has filed a VAT Return on a product or service which was not paid for, HMRC has a provision for relief from VAT on bad debt. Assuming you meet the conditions stipulated and have waited at least 6 months from the payment due date, you may be able to reclaim a VAT payment.

Claim Input VAT

Don't forget that you can also claim back the VAT on eligible business expenses, commonly referred to as Input Tax or Input VAT. Essentially, Output VAT is the quarterly tax you pay on your sales, whereas Input VAT is a deductible sum corresponding to VAT you have already paid in purchases for your business.

Always keep the original VAT invoices for purchases, as these are required to claim back the VAT from HMRC. Claiming your Input VAT can provide an overall substantial saving in your VAT obligations and should be factored in as a positive boost to your budget.

Regularly Review and Update

Tax laws and VAT rates can change. Regularly review your VAT planning strategies to ensure they remain compliant and efficient. If you deal with complex transactions or operate in multiple VAT jurisdictions, you might want to consider consulting a VAT specialist. For the UK, AbraTax’s HMRC-recognised MTD bridging software is kept fully updated, offering simple and cost-effective long-term compliance for your business’s VAT returns.


VAT planning doesn't have to be a complicated affair – but it should be an integral part of your business's financial blueprint. By understanding VAT rates and incorporating them into your pricing, managing your cash flow, keeping robust records, and setting aside a dedicated VAT fund, you can avoid unexpected financial mishaps and stay on best terms with HMRC. Effective VAT budgeting not only helps in maintaining compliance but also in building a financially stable and sustainable business.

If you found this article helpful, why not check out our other guides and tax top tips?

Disclaimer: We aim to offer educational articles on our blog, focusing on tax-related topics. However, it's important to note that over time, the relevancy of this content might diminish, and we cannot guarantee accuracy. While these articles serve as a tool for enhancing tax knowledge, they are not a replacement for expert advice in accounting, taxation, or legal matters, given the unique nature of each individual's situation. Should you require personalized assistance, we encourage contacting HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).