Streamlining VAT Returns with Making Tax Digital (MTD): A Practical Guide

Nov 23, 2023

In April 2019, the UK government introduced a revolutionary change in how businesses handle their Value Added Tax (VAT) returns. Making Tax Digital (MTD) mandates that companies having taxable turnover above the VAT threshold; currently £ 85,000, must keep digital records and use compatible software to submit VAT returns. 

MTD aims to modernise the tax system and streamline the VAT return process, reducing errors and making it more efficient for businesses. This practical guide will provide a step-by-step approach to navigating the MTD requirements, emphasising using MTD-compatible software to streamline VAT return submissions. 

Whether you're a business owner, an accountant, or a tax professional, this guide will help you make the most of MTD and ensure compliance.

Understanding Making Tax Digital (MTD)

Before diving into the practical aspects, it's essential to have a solid grasp of what MTD entails.

What is MTD?

MTD is an initiative by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to digitise and simplify the UK tax system. The primary goal is to make tax administration more efficient, accurate, and transparent. VAT-registered businesses must maintain digital records of their financial transactions and use MTD-compatible software to submit VAT returns.

The Benefits of MTD

  • Reduced Errors: By digitising records and automating calculations, the likelihood of manual errors is significantly reduced. This leads to more accurate VAT submissions.
  • Time Savings: MTD-compatible software can streamline the VAT return process, saving businesses time that would have otherwise been spent on manual data entry.
  • Real-time Visibility: With digital records, you have an up-to-date view of your tax liabilities and entitlements, allowing for better financial planning.
  • Eco-Friendly: Going digital reduces the need for paper records, contributing to a more environmentally friendly approach.

Assess Your Business's MTD Obligations

The first step in streamlining VAT returns through MTD is understanding your business's specific obligations. It's important to know if you fall within the scope of MTD and whether your taxable turnover exceeds the VAT threshold.

Check Your VAT Threshold Status

Verify whether your business's taxable turnover exceeds the VAT threshold of £85,000 as of my last knowledge update in September 2029. You can check the current threshold on the official HMRC website.

Exemptions and Special Cases

Certain businesses, such as those with complex VAT arrangements or insolvent companies, may have different obligations or be temporarily exempt from MTD. Consult with your accountant or HMRC for guidance in these situations.

Choose MTD-Compatible Software

Selecting the right MTD-compatible software is crucial to a seamless VAT return process. HMRC maintains a list of approved software, and numerous options are available, ranging from free solutions to advanced accounting software.

Consider Your Business Needs

Evaluate the size and complexity of your business operations. Smaller businesses find essential, free MTD-compatible software sufficient, while larger enterprises may require more robust solutions.

Free Software Options

For smaller businesses, free MTD-compatible software like "HMRC's Making Tax Digital for VAT" can be a cost-effective choice. Ensure it covers your specific VAT needs.

Paid Software Options

Popular paid options include Xero, QuickBooks, and Sage. These solutions often offer more extensive features, integrations, and support.

Step 3: Setup and Register for MTD

Once you've chosen the software that fits your business needs, it's time to set it up and register for MTD.

Software Installation and Configuration

Follow the software provider's instructions to install and configure the MTD-compatible software. Most software packages come with step-by-step setup wizards to simplify the process.

MTD Registration

Register your business for MTD through your chosen software. This usually involves linking your HMRC account with the software. Make sure your digital VAT records are correctly integrated.

Maintain Digital Records

With your MTD-compatible software in place, it's essential to maintain accurate digital records of all your financial transactions.

Regularly Record Transactions

Consistently input income and expenses into your software. The more up-to-date your records, the easier it will be to submit VAT returns accurately.

Categories Transactions

Ensure that all transactions are correctly categorised according to VAT rules. This simplifies the process of calculating your VAT liability.

Step 5: Prepare and Submit VAT Returns

As your VAT period ends, it's time to prepare and submit your VAT return through your MTD-compatible software.

Check and Verify

Before submission, double-check all your figures. Your software should summarise your VAT return, allowing you to review it for accuracy.

Submit to HMRC

Once you are satisfied with the return, use your software to submit it directly to HMRC. The software will generate the necessary information and transmit it securely.

Monitor and Stay Compliant

After submitting your VAT return, the process continues. To ensure ongoing compliance and reap MTD's full benefits, continue monitoring your VAT obligations.

Review VAT Returns

Regularly review your submitted VAT returns to identify any discrepancies or trends. This proactive approach can prevent issues from escalating.

Keep Software Updated

Ensure that your MTD-compatible software is always up-to-date. Software providers release updates to address changes in VAT regulations and improve functionality.

Seek Professional Guidance

If you encounter complex VAT scenarios or face any difficulties, don't hesitate to consult with a tax professional or accountant. They can provide invaluable advice and assistance.


Making Tax Digital has transformed how businesses handle their VAT returns, making it more efficient and less prone to errors. By following this practical guide, you can successfully streamline your VAT return submissions using MTD-compatible software. 

Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just a starter, embracing the digital age of tax management can be a game-changer for your business in the United Kingdom. Stay compliant, embrace the digital revolution, and watch your VAT process become smoother and more manageable than ever.