Key VAT Terms Every Business Owner Should Know

Key VAT Terms Every Business Owner Should Know

Read our handy guide to the most common VAT terms and find out what they mean and why they matter for your business.

If you run an ecommerce business, you’ve probably noticed there are an almost endless number of terms related to VAT compliance that you need to wrap your head around. So to make things a bit easier, we’ve put together a list (with definitions) of some of the most common VAT terms you’re likely to encounter.

Annual Accounting VAT Scheme

The Annual Accounting VAT Scheme is a taxation method that allows eligible businesses to report and pay their VAT to the government on an annual basis, rather than the standard quarterly or monthly intervals. This scheme simplifies VAT compliance for small businesses and reduces administrative burdens by providing more time between VAT submissions.

Cash Accounting VAT Scheme

The Cash Accounting VAT Scheme is a method of accounting for VAT where businesses account for VAT on their sales and purchases based on when the actual cash is received or paid, rather than when invoices are issued or received. This scheme can provide businesses with greater flexibility in managing their cash flow, as they only need to remit VAT to tax authorities when they have received payment from their customers.

EC Sales List (ESL)

EC Sales Lists (ESL) are a reporting requirement within the European Union for businesses engaged in cross-border transactions of goods and services. They’re used to keep track of VAT transactions within the EU.

Exempt supplies

Exempt supplies refer to goods or services that are not subject to VAT in a particular jurisdiction. These supplies are typically excluded from the tax base, meaning that businesses do not charge VAT on them, and consumers do not pay tax when purchasing them.

Flat Rate VAT Scheme

The Flat Rate Scheme is a simplified VAT scheme used by businesses in some countries, where they pay a fixed percentage of their gross turnover as VAT to the tax authorities, instead of calculating and reporting VAT on each individual sale and purchase. This scheme is designed to simplify VAT accounting for small businesses and reduce administrative burdens.

Import One Stop Shop (IOSS)

The Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) is an online portal established to streamline and simplify the process of reporting and remitting Value Added Tax (VAT) for distance sales of imported goods valued at less than €150.

Import VAT

Import VAT is a levy imposed on products bought in one country and subsequently brought into another. Specifically within the context of the European Union (EU), import VAT refers to the tax obligation applied to items purchased from nations outside the EU and then brought into the union's jurisdiction.

Input VAT

Input VAT refers to the amount of tax paid by a business on its purchases of goods and services. It’s called ‘input’ because it is the tax a business can typically deduct or offset from the VAT it collects from its customers. In many countries, businesses can subtract the input VAT they've paid from the output VAT they've collected, resulting in the net VAT they owe to the government.


Intrastat is a system used by European Union (EU) member states to collect and report statistical data on the trade of goods between EU countries. It helps monitor and analyze the movement of goods within the EU's single market.

Margin VAT Scheme

The Margin VAT Scheme is a tax scheme used in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, that allows businesses to calculate and pay VAT on the profit margin of certain second-hand goods, rather than on the full selling price. This scheme is often applied to goods like antiques, artwork, and collectibles, and it helps reduce the tax burden on businesses when selling these types of items.

One Stop Shop (OSS)

The One Stop Shop (OSS) scheme is a simplified and centralized system within the European Union (EU) that streamlines VAT reporting and payments for businesses engaged in cross-border sales of goods and services. It allows businesses to fulfill their VAT obligations in multiple EU member states through a single online portal, reducing administrative burdens and promoting tax compliance.

Output VAT

Output VAT is the amount of value-added tax that a business charges and collects from its customers when they purchase goods or services. It represents the tax liability of the business, which must be reported and remitted to the government.

Place of Supply

Place of Supply refers to the location where a particular supply of goods or services is deemed to have taken place for tax and regulatory purposes. It’s a crucial concept in taxation and is used to determine which jurisdiction's tax laws apply and how much tax should be levied on a transaction. The rules for determining the place of supply vary by country and can depend on the nature of the transaction and the parties involved.

Postponed VAT accounting

Postponed VAT accounting is a tax mechanism where businesses in the United Kingdom (UK) are allowed to defer the payment of VAT on imports from the European Union (EU) until their next VAT return, rather than paying it upfront at the point of entry. This system was introduced as a result of Brexit and is designed to help ease cash flow for businesses importing goods from the EU into the UK.

Reverse charge

The reverse charge is a tax mechanism in which the responsibility for reporting and paying VAT shifts from the supplier to the recipient of goods or services. It’s often used to combat tax fraud and ensure that VAT is properly collected in business-to-business transactions.

Taxable supplies

Taxable supplies refer to goods or services that are subject to VAT, and for which the supplier is legally required to collect and remit the tax to the government. These supplies are typically consumed or used by individuals or businesses, and the tax is added to the purchase price, making the end consumer responsible for paying the tax.

Tax point

A tax point, also known as a ‘taxable event’ or ‘taxable moment’, refers to the specific time or event that triggers a tax liability. It determines when a taxpayer becomes obligated to pay a particular tax, such as VAT. This timing can vary depending on the type of tax and the relevant tax laws and regulations in a given jurisdiction.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

VAT is a consumption tax imposed on the value added to goods and services at each stage of production or distribution. It is ultimately borne by the end consumer, making it an indirect tax. VAT is a significant source of revenue for governments and is collected by businesses on behalf of the tax authorities.

VAT accounting

VAT accounting is a financial system where businesses track and report the VAT they collect from customers on their sales and pay the VAT they incur on their purchases to the government. It involves maintaining records of VAT transactions, calculating the net VAT liability, and submitting periodic VAT returns to tax authorities.

VAT audit

A VAT audit is a review and examination of a business's Value Added Tax (VAT) records and transactions by tax authorities to ensure compliance with VAT regulations, accuracy of reporting, and proper payment of VAT liabilities.

VAT compliance

VAT compliance refers to the adherence to all relevant regulations, reporting requirements, and financial obligations related to VAT imposed by a government. It involves accurately calculating, collecting, and remitting VAT, as well as maintaining proper records and submitting timely VAT returns to ensure legal and financial compliance.

VAT group

A VAT group is a legal arrangement in some countries where two or more legally independent businesses join together for VAT purposes. This allows them to be treated as a single entity for VAT transactions, simplifying accounting and often resulting in VAT benefits such as sharing credits and liabilities within the group.

VAT invoice

A VAT invoice is a formal document issued by a business when making a taxable sale. It includes specific information required by tax authorities, such as the VAT registration number of the seller and buyer, the VAT rate, and the amount of VAT charged.

VAT liability

A VAT audit is a review and examination of a business's Value Added Tax (VAT) records and transactions by tax authorities to ensure compliance with VAT regulations, accuracy of reporting, and proper payment of VAT liabilities.

VAT number

A VAT number is a unique identification code assigned to businesses by tax authorities to track and manage their Value Added Tax (VAT) obligations. It’s used for tax reporting, invoicing, and cross-border trade within the European Union and in some other countries that have a VAT system.

VAT penalty

A VAT penalty is a financial penalty imposed by tax authorities on individuals or businesses for non-compliance with Value Added Tax (VAT) regulations, such as late or incorrect VAT filings, underreporting of VAT liabilities, or other violations of VAT laws.

VAT rate

Different goods and services can be subject to varying VAT rates. These rates are often categorized as standard, reduced, or zero-rated, with each carrying a different percentage of VAT. Understanding the applicable VAT rate for your products or services is crucial to accurate tax calculations.

VAT recovery

VAT recovery refers to the process by which businesses reclaim the Value Added Tax (VAT) they’ve paid on eligible expenses, goods, or services. This helps companies reduce their overall VAT liability and recover the tax they’ve incurred during their business operations.

VAT registration

VAT registration refers to the process by which a business or individual officially enrolls with the government to become a VAT taxpayer. Once registered, they’re authorized to collect VAT on taxable goods and services they provide, and can also typically claim back VAT paid on business-related expenses. This registration ensures compliance with tax regulations and allows for the proper reporting and remittance of VAT to tax authorities.

VAT return

A VAT return is a periodic report businesses submit to tax authorities, summarizing the VAT collected on sales and paid on purchases during a specific period. It helps determine the amount of VAT owed to or refunded by the government.

VAT software

VAT software is a specialized computer program or application designed to assist businesses in managing and automating their VAT-related processes. It helps in calculating, reporting, and filing VAT returns accurately and efficiently, ensuring compliance with tax regulations.

VAT threshold

The VAT threshold is the minimum level of taxable turnover or sales a business must reach in a specified period before it’s required to register for and charge Value Added Tax (VAT) on its goods and services in many countries. Once a business's turnover exceeds this threshold, it becomes obligated to collect and remit VAT to the government.

Zero-rated supplies

Zero-rated supplies refer to goods or services that are subject to a 0% value-added tax (VAT). This means that while they are still taxable items, no tax is actually collected on them, making them effectively tax-free for consumers.

Do you need help with your VAT compliance? Book a free call with one of our VAT experts to find bespoke solutions for your business, optimize your VAT costs, and reach millions of new potential customers.

April 2, 2024
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when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries
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