Motor Trade Made Simple - VAT Explained

Motor Trade Made Simple - VAT Explained

Insert a tyre screeching sound effect here!

Although I can ramble on forever about business issues, ultimately I am here to share knowledge which you find useful and can apply to your own situation and business.

So, if you want me to cover a specific topic or have a particular question, please let me know.

This is where I go off track, I’ve been asked to cover VAT by some of our motor traders, so here we go…


VAT Can Be Complicated……Even For An Accountant!

Firstly, VAT is complicated! Don’t be ashamed if it confuses you. We are not all Will Hunting, people sit exams and become experts in Vat for that reason.

It can be confusing, and people ultimately need advice. If you haven’t dealt with Vat before it is the preverbal minefield.

Why Do I Need to Register for VAT?

Right, the basics, limited company, partnership, limited liability partnership, sole trader you may need to become vat registered.

There are two main reasons; you have breached the vat registration limit, it is beneficial for you / your customer to do so.

You may not need to be vat registered, if you only have vat exempt supplies then congratulations you don’t have to worry, just like Insync, insurance is an exempt supply.

If you have standard rated (20%), reduced rate (5%) or zero rated supplies and your turnover is over £79,000 over a 12-month period.

Then, the turnover has been breached, you need to register for VAT.

This means that you will need to charge VAT at an appropriate rate on your sales, but you can claim VAT back on your expenses if there is VAT on them.

You can also apply to register if you are below the threshold (but HMRC can deny your registration).

Why would you do this? Well, if all your customers are VAT registered, then they can reclaim the vat on your invoices back so they won’t care if you put VAT on your invoices and you can reclaim vat on your expenses.

Or your supply maybe a zero-rated supply this means the rate you apply to sales is 0% (this is different to an exempt supply), which will also enable you to reclaim back vat on your expenses. Result!


How to Apply for VAT

To apply for VAT registration, you can either use HMRC's online services or send paper forms through the post.

Most applications for VAT registration can be completed online, but there are some circumstances where you have to apply by post.

Also don’t forget that when you become Vat registered if you are holding any assets which you purchased in the previous four years in your business like, machinery, furniture etc. you can reclaim this vat back on registration.

This also relates to services applying to these items as well. It’s better off in your pocket than the governments!

How does VAT operate in the Trade?

I will go into more detail regarding other various aspects of VAT, however, let’s now look at motor traders and more specifically second-hand motor traders.

If you buy a second-hand car which has vat on, then the usual accounting rules apply. However, if you buy a vehicle without VAT on, then, the margin scheme will apply, and this will save you money.

How? If the car you buy doesn’t have VAT on it, then you cannot reclaim any VAT, but on the sale of the vehicle, you will have to pay over 20%.

In simple terms the margin scheme allows you to deduct the purchase price of the car from the sales price of the vehicle and you only need to account for vat on the difference between the two.

And heaven forbid if you sell it for less than you paid for it then you don’t have to account for any vat on the sale. Winner kind of!


You can use the scheme if you can meet the following three criteria:

  • You have acquired an eligible vehicle (it must have been driven on the road for business or pleasure and is suitable for future use if repaired, they cannot be new, or from a company who is VAT registered unless they are a car dealer, they can come from auction sites, but you have to establish if it meets the eligible car definition)
  • You calculate the margin correctly, you cannot add your overheads or repair costs onto the costs of the car (but you can claim the vat back on these costs anyway) you can add on MOT costs or accessories that helped sell that car.
  • You keep adequate records, you must keep a stock book which contains the date of the purchase, purchase invoice number, purchase price, name of the seller, Reg number, vehicles description, date of sale, sales invoice number, name of the buyer, sales price, and VAT due on margin.

The VAT Return

Right now how to stick it on the Vat return, Box 1 – the vat on the margin, Box 6 the purchase price of the car, Box 7 the sales price of the vehicle. Done.

More VAT Ramblings Coming Soon…..

As you have asked for it, I will continue down the VAT route as there are plenty more areas to cover but feel free to cut in and stop me if you want me to cover something else. I am here to help.

About The Author

A qualified Accountant, Ben White is the Finance Director of several businesses in both the Property and Financial Services arena including Insync Insurance.  

One of his many assets is his ability to explain complex SME Business and Accounting issues and translate them into plain English.  

Ben’s Blog articles reflect his views and expertise on some of the key issues raised by Insync clients.

Motor Trade Insurance

Insync provides a fresh approach to Trade Insurance combining digital service with personal expertise.

Insync can Compare Motor Trade Insurance from the UK’s leading insurers without the need for fuss or forms and has access to many specialist schemes.

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You can book a review via our website at a time that suits YOUR diary, alternatively call us on 0330 1240730, we would love to hear from you.