What is a VAT Receipt and What to Do If You’ve Lost One

VAT receipts are required to support your claim for VAT on expenses on your VAT returns. In the event of an HMRC inspection, the tax-man will ask to see all VAT receipts to support any claim for input VAT you make for the quarters that they are inspecting. If you can’t present valid VAT invoice, they may make you pay back VAT you have claimed, as well as penalties.

In this guide, I’ll explain more about VAT receipts, what they look like and what to do if you have lost one.

Updated 3 August 2021

1. What is a VAT receipt?

A VAT receipt is normally provided by anyone you buy from that is VAT registered. Just like a normal receipt, a VAT receipt will have details of what you bought but also some additional information they are legally required to provide.

2. What Should a VAT Receipt Show?

A valid VAT receipt that you can claim the VAT back on must show:

  • an invoice number;
  • the seller’s business name and address;
  • the seller’s VAT number;
  • the date and/or tax point if different from the invoice date (that means the time of supply);
  • the customers business name and address;
  • a description of the goods or services supplied;
  • total amount excluding VAT;
  • the total amount of VAT charged (net price);
  • Rate of VAT charged;
  • the total amount including VAT (gross price).

3. Why Do You Need Vat Receipts?

VAT receipts are legally required as part of your VAT record-keeping. Businesses cannot claim back VAT on expenses unless they have a VAT receipt.

All your VAT receipts are evidence of what you have bought and exactly how much VAT you have paid. That way, in the event of an inspection by HMRC you’ll be able to prove how much VAT you have paid and claimed back on expenses on your VAT returns.

If you have concerns about the validity of a VAT number on a VAT receipt, then you can check a UK VAT Number online.

Things like delivery notes, purchase orders and emails are probably not going to have sufficient information to be considered a VAT receipt.

4. Simplified VAT Invoices

For certain transactions, providing all the information legally required can be onerous. To help, retailers and businesses can issue simplified VAT receipts for transactions of £250 including VAT. A simplified VAT invoice contains less information but should still include:

  • the seller’s business name and address;
  • the seller’s VAT number;
  • an invoice number
  • the date and/or tax point if different from the invoice date (that means the time of supply);
  • a description of the goods or services supplied;
  • the total amount including VAT (gross price);
  • Rate of VAT charged per item.

You may have noticed that you have been given these types of receipts when you shop in places like Tesco or Sainsburys.

Yes, it is a legal requirement for anyone who is VAT registered to provide a VAT receipt. All VAT registered businesses are required to keep a log of all their sales and purchases, along with issuing VAT invoices for every sale they make. If you haven’t been issued with a VAT receipt for something you have bought, then go back to your supplier and request one. If they are not forthcoming with providing a VAT receipt, then ask for their VAT number and use a VAT number checker to confirm it is a valid number.

6. How Long Should You Keep Your VAT receipts

You are required to keep your VAT receipts for at least 6 years (or 10 years if you use VAT MOSS). That’s quite a long time, so having an efficient way to store your VAT receipts will help keep you organised and make sure you have all the legal documentation you need to claim back all the VAT you are entitled to.

7. How to Store Your VAT receipts

Recent changes mean you can now keep your VAT receipts electronically or on an HMRC approved bookkeeping system, like Xero. Alternatively, you can choose to store paper copies. Whichever method you choose just make sure it is backed up and safely stored.

8. VAT Receipts on Expenses of £25 or Less

Even though you are required to keep VAT receipts, for transactions of £25 or less you can claim back VAT without a receipt. That’s things like:

  • Telephone calls made from public or private telephones,
  • Payments made through coin-operated machines like car parks but not on-street meters which are not subject to VAT;
  • Commercial tolls.

9. How to get a VAT receipt from Amazon

Amazon VAT receipts can be found by going online rather than the app then choosing the order you need the receipt for. If a VAT receipt is available, the option to print an invoice will appear.

10. How to Get a VAT Receipt from Uber

You generally don’t get a VAT receipt from Uber because the drivers are self-employed so are not usually VAT registered. If you have used Uber for business reasons, then you can find a copy of your Uber receipt in your app. You need to select “Your Trips” and then view the journey you want a receipt for.

11. How to Get a VAT Receipt from Ebay

If you buy from a VAT registered Ebay Seller then they are legally obliged to provide a VAT receipt. If you have not been sent one automatically then you should contact the seller and request one for your records. If the seller is not VAT registered but you have paid for a valid business expense, then keep the invoice of receipt as evidence for your taxes.

12. How to Get a VAT Receipt from TFL

There is no VAT charged on TFL services including buses, tubes and trains, as this type of travel is VAT exempt. Therefore you won’t get a VAT receipt from TFL but you will get a receipt that you should keep on file as part of your usual business record-keeping.

13. How to Work Out VAT on a Sainsburys Receipt

Sainburys generally provide simplified VAT receipts. You’ll notice that the VAT rate applicable to each item you bought is noted line-by-line. There is also a total for all the VAT you have paid at the bottom of your receipt. To work out how much VAT you have paid, if different tax rates have been applied, you’ll need work out the VAT included in each item you want to claim for.

For example, if you bought batteries from Sainsburys for £10 they should be marked as standard-rated (20%) and include VAT of £1.67 (£10 x 20/120).

14. Lost VAT Receipts

It’s easy to lose VAT receipts and really common when people buy little things from retailers like Sainsburys, Tesco or the local corner shop. If you have lost a VAT receipt, then you may not necessarily have to lose out on claiming back the VAT on what you have bought.

HMRC will accept alternative evidence if you have lost your VAT receipt, allowing you to claim back VAT. You need to provide alternative information to support your claim such as a bank statement or credit card to prove the transaction. That is proof that you have paid.

For the odd few lost VAT receipts of small value like £10 or £15, this approach should be absolutely fine. But if you are consistently losing VAT receipts then you should take steps to prevent this from happening. In the event of a VAT inspection, HMRC will not look kindly upon lots of missing VAT receipts. They may even start to assume that you are doing something untoward and start investigating you even closer or even personally. For that reason, always ask for a VAT receipt upfront and do all you can to avoid losing any of your receipts.

About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek, money nerd and creator of www.goselfemployed.co - the UK small business finance blog for the self-employed community. Here she shares simple, straight-forward guides to make self-employment topics like taxes, bookkeeping and banking easy to understand.