Making Tax Digital

Please use the menu below to access the latest information on MTD.

The technical team are always interested in receiving feedback from members on MTD and hearing about their practical experiences.  Please email this to atttechnical [at] using the subject title ‘Making Tax Digital’.

Timetable for Making Tax Digital


MTD will be mandatory for VAT purposes from April 2019 for the majority of businesses with taxable turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000):

  • Businesses in MTD will have to keep digital records and use software to submit their VAT returns to HMRC.
  • For now, businesses will only have to submit the same data to HMRC under MTD as they currently do (i.e. the summary nine boxes from the VAT return), and not underlying transactional details or the contents of their digital records.
  • MTD will be available on a voluntary basis for businesses below the VAT threshold.

It was announced on 16 October 2018 that mandation of MTD for VAT will be delayed by six months for a small number of businesses with more complex requirements.  MTD for VAT will now not be mandatory until 1 October 2019 for businesses that fall into any of the following categories:

  • trusts;
  • not for profit organisations that are not set up as a company;
  • VAT divisions;
  • VAT groups;
  • public sector entities required to provide additional information on their VAT return (such as Government departments and NHS Trusts)
  • local authorities;
  • public corporations;
  • traders based overseas;
  • those required to make payments on account; and
  • annual accounting scheme users.

In order to be deferred until 1 October 2019, affected businesses need to have received a letter from HMRC confirming that this is the case (see ‘Making Tax Digital – HMRC letter to deferred businesses’ below for more details).

All other businesses with taxable turnover above the VAT threshold will continue to be mandated from April 2019.

Other taxes

The Government have stated that they will not widen the mandatory scope of MTD beyond VAT before the system has been shown to work. 

At the Spring Statement 2019 it was confirmed that MTD will not be further extended until at least April 2021, either to bring income tax within the scope of MTD, or businesses who are voluntarily registered for VAT.

HMRC have indicated that they will consult on Corporation Tax prior to making any decision as to whether or not to bring it into MTD.


Detailed VAT Timetable

Commencement of MTD for VAT

The exact date that businesses who will be subject to MTD for VAT from 1 April 2019 will come into the new rules will depend on their quarterly return date.  The rules will apply to the first ‘prescribed accounting period’ starting on or after 1 April 2019.  The commencement dates will be a follows:

VAT quarter ends Start of first return subject to MTD

1 April 2019


1 May 2019

Feb/May/Aug/Nov 1 June 2019

For those businesses subject to the six month deferral set out above, MTD will apply to the first ‘prescribed accounting period’ starting on or after 1 October 2019, meaning commencement dates will be as follows:

VAT quarter ends

Start of first return subject to MTD


1 October 2019

Jan/April/July/Oct 1 November 2019
Feb/May/Aug/Nov 1 December 2019

Those on the annual accounting scheme will come into MTD on the start of the first annual accounting period starting after 1 October 2019. 

Enrolling into MTD for VAT – timetable

When enrolling yourself or clients into MTD for VAT it is vital that you get the timing right. Once signed up, HMRC will expect all future VAT returns to be filed through MTD software – including those for current / previous periods which have not yet been submitted. Further, there are additional restrictions on the sign up periods, particularly for businesses who pay by Direct Debit.

The CIOT have prepared an illustration to show the sign up periods for businesses on staggers 1, 2 and 3, as well as those on monthly returns. If a business signs up at the wrong time, a number of problems can arise, and using this guide should help ensure that such problems are avoided.

More information on the steps agents need to take to sign clients up for MTD for VAT can be found here

HMRC pilots

MTD for VAT pilot

The MTD for VAT pilot started in early April 2018, initially with a very small number of simple businesses, and has grown from there. 

Currently, the MTD for VAT pilot is open to all businesses.  This includes those mandated to join MTD for VAT on 1 April and 1 October 2019.

Businesses that pay VAT by direct debit will not be able to sign up for the MTD for VAT pilot in the 15 days leading up to the VAT return submission date.

More information on signing up to the pilot can be found:

  • here for agents; and
  • here for businesses.

The current list of MTD for VAT compatible software products can be found here on GOV.UK together with information on who the software is for (i.e. businesses and/or agents) and key features.  This list also sets out those suppliers who are working towards producing suitable MTD for VAT software.  Both lists will be updated as testing progresses.

MTD for Income Tax pilot

MTD for Income Tax trials entered their public beta testing phase on 15 March 2018. Taxpayers can access the service here

To take part in the pilot, businesses will need to record their income and expenses in an MTD compliant software package which lets them send quarterly income tax updates to HMRC.  At the end of the accounting period, they will need to send a final report to confirm their income and expenses for the year. If they need to claim allowances and reliefs, they can do this within that final report. They will then be able to see a tax calculation for the year in their business tax account as well as through their software.

Likewise, agents that sign clients up to the pilot (including clients whose digital records are being kept by the agent and clients that keep their own digital records) will need a software package that lets them send the updates to HMRC on their clients’ behalf.

The current list of MTD for Income Tax compatible software products is set out on GOV.UK here. We understand that there are a number of other products at various stages of development and HMRC have said that they will continue to add to this page as new products become available.


Agent Services Account (ASA) and Services for Agents

In order to access the new MTD services and to supply updates on behalf of clients, agents will need a new Agent Services Account (ASA).  This is in effect a new Government Gateway to access the new service.  Each agency will have just one account per firm, and will be able to set up staff with administrator or assistant access to the account.  Many firms may already have created an ASA in order to submit Trust Registration Service returns. 

A basic outline of the ASA and how to set one up can be found here.  A longer form article in September’s Tax Adviser magazine can be found here.



Enabling primary legislation for MTD for businesses for both Income Tax and VAT is included in Sections 60 to 62 and Schedule 14 of Finance (No.2) Act 2017 which received Royal Assent on 16 November 2017.  The explanatory notes to the original Bill can be found here.

In September 2017, the Government launched a consultation on draft secondary and tertiary legislation for MTD for Income Tax. The response submitted by the ATT can be found here. This legislation has not yet been finalised.

The final MTD for VAT Regulations SI 2018/261 were laid before Parliament on 28 February 2018 and will come into force on 1 April 2019. 

The final VAT Notice 700/22: Making Tax Digital for VAT was published on 13 July 2018.  This Notice sets out the detailed requirements of MTD for VAT, including record keeping and digital links.  It also confirms that there will be a soft landing period for certain aspects of the MTD for VAT process during the first year.  For VAT periods commencing between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, businesses or groups who use more than one software programme to keep their VAT records and prepare and file returns will not be required to have digital links between those software programmes.  However, the exception to this is where data is transferred to another product solely for the purpose of submitting the VAT return data to HMRC – this transfer must be digital even during the soft landing period.  This may be relevant for those using a spreadsheet together with bridging software (see below for further discussion of software options including spreadsheets).  

Further information and guidance

Exemption from Making Tax Digital

Businesses do not have to follow the MTD for VAT rules if any of the following apply:

  • It’s not reasonably practicable for them to use digital tools to keep their business records or submit VAT returns due to age, disability, remoteness of location or any other reason (often referred to as ‘digital exclusion’).
  • They are subject to an insolvency procedure.
  • The business is run entirely by practising members of a religious society or order whose beliefs are incompatible with using electronic communications or keeping electronic records.

Where any of the above apply the business has to apply to HMRC to claim an exemption. 

Businesses currently exempt from online filing, or whose taxable turnover is below the VAT registration threshold, are automatically exempt from MTD, and do not need to apply to HMRC.

Further information on when exemption may be available and how to apply can be found in Section 3 of VAT Notice 700/22. If you are making claims for exemption on behalf of your clients, we would like to hear your experiences. Please email us at atttechnical [at]

Making Tax Digital – HMRC letter to deferred businesses

As set out above a number of businesses who would otherwise need to comply with the requirements of Making Tax Digital from 1 April 2019 will be deferred until 1 October 2019.

HMRC has since undertaken a detailed exercise to identify all customers that fall within this group, and has issued letters to every customer affected. A copy of the letter sent to these businesses can be found here for information.

The letter is a specific:

  • direction under Regulation 25A SI 1995/2518 to continue using existing methods to file VAT returns for all periods starting before 1 October 2019 (unless businesses choose to join Making Tax Digital for VAT before then)
  • notification of exemption under Regulation 32B SI 2018/261 from the requirement to keep an electronic account (digital VAT records)

Any business that has a taxable turnover of, or above, the UK registration VAT threshold (currently £85,000) and does not receive a letter (and who does not otherwise qualify for exemption) must comply with MTD from 1 April 2019.

If you or your client are expecting to qualify for deferral, but have not received a letter, you should contact HMRC on the VAT Helpline – 0300 200 3700.

MTD Communications – HMRC letters to businesses affected by MTD for VAT

In November 2018, HMRC started to send out their first wave of what they are calling “encouragement letters” to businesses within the scope of MTD for VAT. The letters are being sent to businesses which are currently eligible to join the pilot.  They are not being copied to the businesses’ agents.

Four versions of the letter are now being used:

  1. Where HMRC are confident that the trader has taxable turnover above the VAT threshold, and HMRC know the software through which the returns are submitted
  2. Where HMRC are confident that the trader has taxable turnover above the VAT threshold, but the return is not submitted through software
  3. Where HMRC believe that the trader might have taxable turnover above the VAT threshold, and HMRC know the software through which the returns are submitted
  4. Where HMRC believe that the trader might have taxable turnover above the VAT threshold, but the return is not submitted through software

HMRC have indicated that they have now issued letters to all mandated VAT businesses and also those businesses trading just below the VAT threshold.


Businesses within MTD are required to use software to keep their records and submit returns to HMRC via their Application Programming Interface (API). 

Our understanding is that are essentially three different types of MTD compliant software:

  • Software packages that can be used to keep digital records and file returns via HMRC’s API.
  • API enabled spreadsheets – spreadsheets with an inbuilt function allowing them to file returns via HMRC’s API.
  • Bridging software which can take return information from an existing spreadsheet and submit this to HMRC via their API.

Where a spreadsheet is used, the relevant data must be digitally transmitted from the spreadsheet or other source where the digital records are kept, directly to HMRC. The summary information for completion of the VAT return must not be physically re-typed into another software package.

The current list of MTD compatible software for VAT can be found here and for income tax here.

Making Tax Digital webinars

The ATT and CIOT have hoisted several successful webinars on MTD.

The most recent of these was held on the morning of 21 February and the recording and slides can be found here.

Previous ATT/CIOT webinars on MTD for VAT were held on:

  • 20 November 2018 (see here for a recording, slides and Q&As)
  • 7 June 2018 (see here for slides and here for Q&As)

Other information and guidance

HMRC have produced a Making Tax Digital for Business – stakeholder communications pack which contains a variety of information for both Income Tax and VAT, including some frequently asked questions.

HMRC have also published the following MTD updates for agents:

An article in which the ATT takes a look at the challenges faced by businesses, advisers (and HMRC) with respect to MTD for VAT can be found here.