What does MTD mean for businesses?

From April 2022, HMRC requires all VAT registered businesses to follow Making Tax Digital rules.

What is Making Tax Digital?

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a government initiative to simplify the UK tax system. Businesses who fall within the new thresholds must use compatible software to keep digital records and submit their tax return. Overall, MTD should make it easier and quicker for taxpayers to get their tax right.

Do all businesses need to register for MTD?

All VAT registered businesses must comply with MTD from April 2022. That includes sole traders, limited companies, partnerships, charitable trusts, and landlords with at least one UK property.

Originally, businesses had to manually sign up for MTD for VAT. Now, HMRC is automatically signing VAT registered businesses up to MTD. As long as you register for VAT, you won’t need to sign up for MTD for VAT separately. If your business isn’t VAT registered, you don’t need to comply with MTD yet but you may need to sign up for making tax digital for self employed.

Does MTD for VAT apply to limited companies?

Yes. As of April 2022, if you run a limited company that’s registered for VAT, you need to follow MTD rules.

When will MTD for VAT be mandatory for my business?

That depends on whether your business is VAT registered. As of 1 April 2024, the VAT registration threshold is £90,000. If you aren’t sure whether your business should be VAT registered, check out our handy guide to VAT. You can also consult our MTD timeline.

MTD for VAT registered above threshold

For businesses above the VAT threshold, MTD has been mandatory since 2019. If your business is above the VAT threshold (previously £85,000, now £90,000 as of 1 April 2024), you should already be following MTD rules.

MTD for VAT registered but under threshold

All VAT registered businesses are required to follow MTD rules as of April 2022. If your business is VAT registered, HMRC will automatically sign you up for MTD for VAT.

MTD for non VAT registered businesses

If you run a business that isn’t VAT registered, you don’t need to follow MTD rules. However, if your turnover goes above the VAT threshold you’ll need to register for VAT and comply with MTD.

If your VAT taxable turnover goes above £90,000 on a rolling 12 month basis, you need to register within 30 days of the month ending where your turnover exceeded £90,000.

You can find out more about registering for VAT on this gov.uk page.

Is Making Tax Digital just for VAT?

Yes, for now.

From April 2026, some businesses that file their tax returns via self assessment will need to register for MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment (ITSA). This will apply to businesses and landlords with total business or property above the £50,000 threshold. Some businesses can sign up voluntarily for MTD for ITSA now.

What are the benefits of Making Tax Digital for businesses?

Making Tax Digital for small businesses has a range of benefits. Using accounting software to submit your VAT return can save you time and help you get your tax right.

According to research by HMRC on MTD for VAT, current participants already feel more confident about filing their return under the new rules.

Benefits of MTD include:

  • Fewer reporting errors
  • Less time spent on paperwork
  • Reliable record keeping
  • Faster returns filing

You can use accounting software to automate manual processes, saving you time and improving the accuracy of your accounts.

What records do businesses need to keep digitally for MTD?

The records you need to keep for your VAT return have not changed. What has changed is where and how these records are stored.

For every item, you’ll need to record:

  • The time of supply
  • The value of supply
  • The tax rate

How can I prepare my business before signing up for MTD?

Start keeping your records digitally. You can do this with MTD compatible software, or MTD bridging software (platforms that connect your spreadsheet to the HMRC system).

The gov.uk website has a handy search tool where you can find MTD compatible software.

How do I sign my business up for MTD?

If you’re registered for VAT you’ll automatically be signed up to MTD for VAT.

You can find out more about how to sign up to MTD for ITSA on the gov.uk website. You’ll have to do this via a software provider, instead of through HMRC.

How to file a MTD VAT return

HMRC-recognised accounting software has an MTD for VAT function, which you’ll need to use to submit your return.

If you still use spreadsheets for recordkeeping, you can use bridging software to file your return. MTD rules require digital linking so that information can transfer between different software.

This transfer must be digital - you can’t copy and paste records from one platform to another. Instead, you’ll need to use spreadsheet formulas to create digital links.

What happens if I don't comply with MTD?

You could face a penalty.

Making Tax Digital penalties are changing from January 2023. HMRC is moving to a points-based system so that penalties are only given to those who regularly make mistakes and miss deadlines. This means taxpayers who make the occasional error will not be penalised.

Points are calculated based on how regularly you submit. You can find more information about making tax digital fines here.

Need more information on Making Tax Digital for businesses?

Filing your MTD VAT return doesn’t need to be complicated. With features like payroll, invoicing, and receipt capture, Xero can help you manage so much more than your VAT returns.

If you want to know more about what Making Tax Digital means for you, check out our MTD resources for business owners. You can also sign up for a free 30-day trial to learn more about how Xero can help you stay MTD compliant.

Start using Xero for free

Access Xero features for 30 days, then decide which plan best suits your business.

  • Included
    Safe and secure
  • Included
    Cancel any time
  • Included
    24/7 online support