VAT officers work for HM Revenue & Customs. They are responsible for the collection of VAT for the government. They visit business premises to check that the owners are accounting for VAT correctly and understand the laws. VAT officers collect debts and register new businesses. They could be involved in the prosecution of traders who are suspected of VAT fraud.
Video: - Julie: VAT Officer
Value Added Tax (VAT) is a government tax that businesses have to charge when they supply their goods and services. VAT applies to most goods, but some are zero-rated, for example, books, newspapers and some food items.
If the value of goods or services supplied by a business each year is over a certain amount of money, the business has to be 'VAT registered', unless the goods are free from VAT.
Businesses charge VAT to their customers on what they sell, but also pay VAT to their suppliers for what they buy. They take away the amount of VAT they've paid from the amount they've received, and pay the balance to HM Revenue & Customs. If they've paid more than they've received, they can claim a refund.
Businesses send this information in a 'VAT return'. These payments and refunds, and the records that relate to them, are the things that VAT officers are responsible for checking.
Officers are often responsible for monitoring businesses within a particular local area. Their caseloads can include a very wide variety of businesses, ranging from self-employed sole traders to large national companies. Businesses can send in their VAT returns electronically, if they wish.
Officers visit, on average, about four companies a week. Each case could take anything from a few hours to several days or weeks, depending on the complexity of the business. Usually, VAT officers make visits on their own, but sometimes they go in pairs or even small teams.
They usually arrange appointments in advance, letting the business know which records they will need to see and who they want to speak to. Sometimes, they make unannounced visits. Officers visit businesses that have submitted late or incorrect returns more often than other businesses.
VAT officers examine records and systems, question the person responsible for VAT returns and observe business activity. The responsible person might be the owner, a director or member of staff, or a professional accountant or tax adviser. They sometimes inspect goods on the premises. They do this to make sure that the records are correct and up to date.
VAT officers might need to make adjustments to the amount of VAT owed as a result of their visit and investigations. They must explain the reasons for their decisions. They can also advise on the rules and how to improve their systems.
If the VAT officer cannot conduct the interview during business hours, they might have to arrange an evening appointment. When they return to the office, VAT officers have to summarise each visit in a report. Businesses can appeal against the decisions of the officer if they wish.
Some officers work in 'intelligence' or 'investigations' sections. They receive referrals from officers who think that a business is deliberately not paying the right amount of VAT.
During an investigation, VAT officers interview the trader. If they admit to the fraud and co-operate fully, the officer might be able to resolve the case there and then. If not, they must gather the necessary evidence to prove the fraud.
This could involve interviewing customers of the business and taking their statements. VAT officers have a legal power to enter and inspect premises, inspect and remove records and to take samples of goods. They might then have to go to court to give evidence against the business.
Some VAT officers work in 'missing trader' sections, tracking down people who owe VAT, but have stopped trading and moved away to avoid prosecution.
Senior officers have a wide range of duties, including researching and analysing policy options, and developing and managing projects. They might manage departments and generally support the work of government ministers. Later in their careers, they could conduct major enquiries or take the lead in drafting government policy.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a VAT officer, you'll need:
- Good communication and interpersonal skills to relate well to a very broad range of people.
- The confidence to visit people at their business premises.
- To enjoy giving advice and helping people to complete their VAT records correctly.
- Strong number skills.
- To be able to organise and prioritise your work.
- A friendly, professional telephone manner.
- To enjoy working on your own and as part of a team.
- The ability to remain calm.
- To be able to defuse potential confrontations.
- To follow safety procedures.
- A patient, thorough and methodical approach to checking figures and procedures.
In a number of areas of the country, you are likely to need a driving licence.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries vary depending on role and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
VAT officers earn in the range of £22,500 - £26,000 a year, rising to £28,500 - £32,500 a year. Fast Stream entrant salaries start from around £29,500 a year, rising to around £36,000.
Hours of work
You will usually work a 42-hour week, based around nine to five, Monday to Friday.
Where could I work?
VAT officers are civil servants who work for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Opportunities for VAT officers occur in government offices in some towns and cities around the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the HMRC and Civil Service Jobs websites, in local/national newspapers, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.
Vacancies for the Civil Service General Fast Stream are posted for online application on the Civil Service website, generally between September and November each year for a start date the following year.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry to most posts is for UK nationals or people who meet one of the other Civil Service nationality requirements.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) sometimes recruit at assistant officer level, rather than offer direct entry to VAT officer level. You might be able to transfer locally from work in another area of tax or customs and excise.
It might also be possible to join HM Revenue & Customs through the Civil Service General Fast Stream development programme. Fast Stream civil servants are carefully selected graduates.
To apply, you will need at least a second class honours degree or equivalent. If you have a disability that has prevented you from obtaining a degree, and you can provide evidence of your suitability, the degree requirement might not be applied.
All officers go on a programme of training and development. This covers procedures relating to different goods and industries. Fast Stream entrants receive training for high levels of management.
VAT officers can progress to senior and manager posts after further training and experience.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
Working for HM Revenue & Customs is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
Previous experience working in a customer service position would be really useful for this career.
The usual minimum requirement for direct entry to officer level is:
- 2 A levels
- GCSEs at grade C or above in 3 other subjects
- 2 of the GCSE passes must be in English Language and Maths.
Other qualifications, such as an Edexcel (BTEC) Level 3 National qualification, might be acceptable.
People working at assistant officer level could have some VAT responsibilities. The usual entry requirement is 5 GCSEs at grade C or above (or equivalent), including English Language and Maths.
Some regions only recruit at administrative assistant level. The usual entry requirement is GCSEs in English Language and Maths at grade C or above. Some regions offer a written test or take into account relevant work experience.
To apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream development programme, you'll need at least a second class honours degree or equivalent.
If you have a disability that has prevented you from obtaining a degree, and you can provide evidence of your suitability, the degree requirement might not be applied.
The usual entry requirement for a degree in any subject is:
- 2/3 A levels
- GCSEs at grade C or above in 2/3 other subjects.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- Edexcel (BTEC) Level 3 National qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
However, course requirements vary so check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you do not have the academic entry requirements to enter at administrative assistant level, (GCSEs in English Language and Maths at grade C or above), you might be able to take a test instead. This option will be mentioned on the advertisement if it is available. Some regions only recruit at administrative assistant level, so entrants would need to work their way up to officer level.
If you don't have the usual qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree course, a college or university Access course could be the way in.
These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.
- 7% of people in occupations such as VAT officer work part-time.
- 32% have flexible hours.
Civil Service Jobs
Civil Service Fast Stream
Address: HMRC Civil Service Resourcing, Room LG69/70, 100 Parliament Street, Westminster, London SW1A 2BQ