Are you struggling to get VAT refunds from uncooperative UK suppliers?

August 30, 2023
Neeraj Nagarkatti

Associate Operating Partner

View profile

If your business is outside the UK and you’ve purchased goods from UK suppliers charging 20% VAT, you might be frustrated when they refuse to invoice you VAT-free.

Even if you have all the necessary documents proving that the items were exported, your UK supplier might still not cooperate.

What’s the situation?

UK suppliers must have the correct documents before they can sell goods without VAT. They need to be cautious to avoid owing VAT for missing paperwork when exporting.

Luckily, there’s guidance called VAT Notice 703 that explains what paperwork counts as proof of export. For example:

• Official evidence: This is a document from the UK tax authority or the UK border force that shows the goods were sent out of the country. It could be a message about the goods leaving, a detailed entry printout, or various other official documents.

• Commercial evidence: This is a document that proves the goods physically left the UK. It could be a shipping bill, an air bill, or other transport-related documents.

What do you have to check?

To make sure a sale of goods is VAT-free, you must provide either official evidence or commercial evidence.

You have a time limit – usually three months from supplying goods – to get proof. It’s the earlier of when the UK supplier sent the goods or you collected them, and when they received payment.

What can you do?

Start by checking VAT Notice 703 for conditions to avoid charging VAT. Then speak to your supplier, especially the accountant handling their VAT, and explain how you meet these rules. Sharing the link can help them understand.

In the future, before you purchase from UK suppliers, speak to their customer service or accounting team about their process for VAT-free billing and exported goods. Ask if they can give you an invoice without VAT. If needed, you can refer them to VAT Notice 703.

How can we help?

If your UK supplier is still not cooperating, gunnercooke Operating Partners can support you by:

– Reviewing your invoices and export documents to strengthen your case for VAT-free billing from the UK supplier.

– Contacting the UK tax authority on your behalf to bolster your case

– Engaging with UK businesses to help get your VAT back

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you: