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Required Information
A VAT invoice is not just any old invoice that you might issue to your customers. It must include certain information in order to be acceptable as a valid VAT invoice that your customers can use to recover input tax. It is therefore important to make sure that your VAT invoices fulfil all the required criteria and that the VAT invoices you receive from your suppliers do likewise. The required information is as follows:

  • your VAT registration number
  • your name and address
  • your customer’s name and address
  • a tax-point date
  • the date of issue (if different)
  • a unique identifying reference
  • the type or types of supply (eg sale, lease, process)
  • a description of each type of goods or services supplied

For each separate description you must show:

  • the quantity of goods or extent of the services
  • the charge for each type of item, excluding VAT
  • the total invoice charge, excluding VAT
  • each different rate of VAT
  • the total VAT for each different rate
  • the total amount of VAT charged, in sterling
  • the rate of any cash discount offered

However, you only need to give VAT invoices to other VAT registered persons for goods or services on which you have charged VAT. No VAT invoice is necessary if you:

a) make only zero-rated or exempt supplies, or
b) make supplies to non-registered persons

If you do include zero-rated or exempt supplies on a VAT invoice, you must make it clear that no VAT has been charged on them.

Retail Sales
If you make retail sales, you only need to issue a VAT invoice if your customer asks for one. If you make retail sales and the charge you make for the individual supply is £100 or less, you are only obliged to show your VAT registration number, your name and address, tax point date, a description of the goods or services supplied and, for each different VAT rate applicable, the total payable in sterling, including VAT, and the rate of VAT charged. Exempt supplies must not be included on a VAT invoice of this kind.

If you make retail sales and the charge you make for an individual supply exceeds £100, you may give your customer a modified VAT invoice provided they agree to accept this instead of a full VAT invoice. On a modified VAT invoice you are allowed to show the VAT-inclusive amount for each type of product or service you supply instead of the VAT-exclusive amount. At the foot of the invoice you must show separately the total VAT-inclusive value for supplies on which VAT has been charged, the value of any zero-rated supplies, the value of any exempt supplies, the value excluding VAT of those supplies and the VAT payable.

If you make retail sales and accept payments by credit card you may use the credit card voucher as a VAT invoice provided it shows your VAT registration number, your name and address, the date of sale, the VAT-inclusive charge, the rate of VAT, and a description of the goods or services supplied.

You must ensure that your tax-point dates are valid. A basic tax-point will arise when goods are sent, taken away by the customer or made available for their use. For services it will be when all work is completed. However, the basic tax-point will usually be superseded by the actual tax-point, which will be when you issue your VAT invoice. It can also be when you receive payment from your customer. This could be earlier than the basic tax-point if you issue your invoice (or the customer pays) before the goods are sent or the service is performed. It can also be later than the basic tax-point if you issue your invoice within 14 days.

An actual tax-point can never be more than 14 days later than a basic tax point unless the VAT Business Centre for your area has agreed to extend the 14 day deadline. You may need to request this if you routinely issue invoices at the end of each month.

The tax-point rules are more flexible for continuous supplies of goods or services. Here a tax-point is created every time you issue a VAT invoice or receive a payment, whichever happens first. If payment is made in regular instalments, such as by direct debit, you may issue a VAT invoice up to one year ahead to cover all payments due in that period and you do not have to account for output tax on that invoice until the payment is due or it has been received, whichever occurs first.

Other Points
If you issue your customers with pro-forma invoices in advance of goods or services being supplied, they should be clearly marked “This is not a VAT invoice”. Once the supply has been made or you receive payment, then they must be replaced by a proper VAT invoice.

Credit notes for cancelled or amended invoices, price reductions or returned goods must include the same information as VAT invoices. They should also include the reference number of the original VAT invoice they relate to.

For amendments it is common to issue a new VAT invoice with the words “This invoices cancels and replaces invoice xxx” It is important to mention the reference number of the cancelled invoice so there is no confusion as to which one is cancelled.

Acumen Tax Solutions
2 Purley Bury Avenue, Purley Oaks, Surrey CR8 1JB
Tel: 020 3669 5270 Mobile: 07813 582890 E-mail:

For information of users: Although every care has been taken in compiling this material, it only provides an overview and does not take the place of an individual consultation. We strongly advise all users to consult the detailed legislation or seek professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or this firm.

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