Since April 2019, the UK has required the submission of VAT returns and the storage of VAT records to be completed in accordance with the requirements of its Making Tax Digital (MTD) regulations.
One of these requirements is that data transfer between software programs be achieved through ‘digital links.’ This requirement was initially waived during a ’soft landing’ period which is set to expire on 1 April 2021. As a result, to remain complaint with MTD requirements, businesses must ensure they can meet the digital link requirement.
What are the basic requirements of MTD?
Under MTD, businesses must digitally file VAT returns using ‘functional compatible software’ which can connect to HMRC’s API. Additionally, businesses must use software to keep digital records of specified VAT related documents.
What is a digital link and when is it required?
A digital link is required whenever a business is using multiple pieces of software to store and transmit its VAT records and returns pursuant to MTD requirements. For example, if a business stores its VAT records in its accounting program but then submits its VAT return using an approved piece of bridging software, the data must be transferred between the accounting and bridging software via a digital link.
A digital link occurs when a transfer or exchange of data is made, or can be made, electronically between software programs, products or applications without the need for or involvement of any manual intervention.
The key to this requirement is that once data has been entered into a business’s software there shouldn’t be any manual intervention in transferring it to another program. This means that data cannot be manually transcribed from one program into another. Additionally, using a ‘cut and paste’ feature to transfer data doesn’t constitute a digital link.
For example, manually typing or copying information from one spreadsheet into another doesn’t count as a digital link but connecting the two spreadsheets using a linking formula does.
Additional examples of digital links include:
- XML, CSV import and export, and download and upload of files
- Automated data transfer
- API transfer
- Transfer of data and subsequent import of data into software by means of email or tangible digital media (i.e. flash drive).
The digital links requirement will apply to all businesses subject to MTD rules, however businesses that fulfill certain requirements can request an extension to delay the requirement.
For more information on MTD, including details on extension requests and criteria see VAT Notice 700/22: Making Tax Digital for VAT on HMRC’s website.
Important dates to remember regarding MTD for VAT
1 April 2019 –Business with annual turnover of £85,000 and over became liable to follow Making Tax Digital rule for VAT
1 April 2021 –Digital links requirement will be enforced
1 April 2022 – Taxpayers with turnover under £85,000 will be required to comply with making tax digital (MTD)
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