Where do I find free information on VAT as it operates in the UK?

Article posted by Sandra Strong, on behalf of Strong and Herd LLP

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I  have been asked where to find “free” information on VAT tax in the UK.

Assuming that it is not covered in one of our free Essential Guides, in my opinion the best (or only) free resources are as follows: -

1 Legislation.

You need to use the search facility.  It really is of more use if you know which Act or Statutory Instrument you are looking for.  Some UK VAT law sits in tertiary legislation – something published by the tax office.  See below.

2 HMRC website

Lots of information, but an absolutely useless search engine.  It is better to search using Google.

3 VAT Public Notices

Some of these contain parts that have the force of law (tertiary legislation).  Such parts are highlighted with a box and the wording “This paragraph has the force of law.”.  The rest is merely HMRC’s opinion which they may not stand by when making a decision or within the tax tribunal. 

4 VAT HMRC Internal Manuals

These are useful but again pretty hard to search.  They have been “improved” to assist readability and, in my opinion, made worse as a result.  Large parts are not public for “protection of the revenue”.  None of the HMRC VAT manual has the force of law and if HMRC does not stand by what they have in their manual, apart from taking a case through judicial review (very expensive and, when it comes to it, relatively low chances of winning), there is very little recourse.  

5 Cases

The best free resource is Bailii.   There is lots and lots of information on there and, of course, not just VAT.  Hence you do really need the case details to find the report.  Otherwise it is an excellent resource.  

I hope that this helps.  Don’t forget, if you have an issue you want to talk through, we’re always up to a five minute phone call, especially if there’s a chance we’ll get some work from it!

This article has also been published on Strong and Herd’s website, which provides more information and advice.