UK VAT Rate History By Graph In-Depth Details

The Value-Added Tax, more commonly referred to as VAT, is a consumption tax that is calculated based on the value that is added to products and services throughout the production and distribution processes.

It is one of the most significant sources of money for the government of the United Kingdom, producing billions of pounds every year. Over the course of its existence, the value-added tax (VAT) rate has been subject to numerous adjustments, with varying rates being in effect at various points in time.

History of the VAT rates in the UK:

VAT RateEffective DateEnd Date
10%April 1, 1973June 17, 1974
8%June 18, 1974November 17, 1974
12.5%November 18, 1974March 17, 1975
15%March 18, 1975June 17, 1979
8%June 18, 1979June 30, 1980
15%July 1, 1980March 31, 1981
12.5%April 1, 1981January 31, 1983
15%February 1, 1983January 31, 1991
17.5%February 1, 1991December 31, 2008
15%January 1, 2009December 31, 2009
17.5%January 1, 2010December 31, 2010
20%January 4, 2011Present

Following the United Kingdom’s accession into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, the introduction of VAT occurred. The initial value-added tax rate was 10%, and it was imposed on the vast majority of products and services. This rate was intentionally kept at a low level in comparison to those of other European countries in order to make the United Kingdom a more competitive member of the EEC.

The value-added tax rate was initially raised to 8% in 1974, but this shift was only temporary because it was quickly raised once more, this time to 12.5% within the same year. After being raised to 15% in 1975, the rate stayed at that level until 1979, when it was lowered to 8%. Prior to that year, it had been at 15% since 1975. Nonetheless, this decrease lasted for just a brief period of time, and in 1980, the rate was hiked again up to 15%.

The rate of value-added tax (VAT) was subject to a range of changes during the course of the subsequent years, ranging from 12.5% to 17.5%, with the rate of 15% being utilized for the majority of the time between 1983 and 1991. The rate was raised to 17.5 percent in 1991, where it remained until it was reduced in 2008.

During the height of the global financial crisis in 2009, the rate of value-added tax in the United Kingdom was cut to 15% in order to stimulate the economy. However, this decrease was only intended to be temporary, and in 2010, the rate was hiked once more to 17.5%. The rate has been kept at its present level of 20% since it was raised in 2011.

The rate of value-added tax, or VAT, is subject to periodic adjustment by the government of the United Kingdom in order to accomplish certain economic goals. For instance, in the year 2020, the value-added tax (VAT) was temporarily lowered in order to provide assistance to both businesses and customers during the COVID-19 epidemic.

This discount was only supposed to be temporary, but it was later extended, but it has already run out, and the VAT rate is back to where it was before the epidemic, which is 20%.

Temporary Changes to VAT Rates in Response to Economic Crises:

As a measure to alleviate the effects of economic downturns, the government of the United Kingdom has implemented temporary adjustments to the VAT rate. During the global financial crisis that began in 2009, the government made a temporary reduction in the VAT rate, bringing it down from 17.5% to 15%. The purpose of this was to encourage more spending on the part of consumers and to give the economy a boost.

The temporary reduction was originally scheduled to expire on December 31, 2009, but its duration was later extended to expire on December 31, 2010. It was projected that the cut will cost the Treasury somewhere in the neighborhood of £12.4 billion.

In a similar vein, the government stated in 2020 that the rate of value-added tax (VAT) for the hospitality and tourism industries will temporarily be reduced to 5%. This was done as a response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had particularly severe effects on these sectors.

The date on which the lower rate would have been invalid was initially planned to be the 12th of January 2021; however, this date has since been moved to the 30th of September 2021. It is anticipated that the cut cost the Treasury somewhere in the neighborhood of £4.1 billion.

The Debate Over VAT and its Role in the UK Economy:

The value-added tax, also known as VAT, is a difficult subject, and there is dispute concerning the role it plays in the economy of the UK.

People who are in favor of the value-added tax (VAT) contend that it is a just tax because it is based on consumption rather than on income or wealth. They also say that it is a reliable source of revenue for the government and is less susceptible to changes in the economy compared to other types of taxes.

However, many who are opposed to VAT believe that it is regressive, which means that it has a greater impact on households with lower incomes than it does on households with higher incomes.

Additionally, they believe that it places a hardship on small firms and that the complexity of the VAT system can lead to errors as well as fraud in the system.

There is also controversy on the effect that value-added taxes have on global commerce. Because the VAT system in the UK is based on the VAT system in the EU, there are fears that it may create barriers to commerce with countries that are not members of the EU once the UK leaves the EU.

VAT Compliance and Enforcement in the UK

Businesses in the UK have significant challenges when it comes to complying with VAT regulations. If a company’s annual revenue is greater than the threshold set for VAT registration (which is presently £85,000), the company is required to register for VAT.

Additionally, it is the responsibility of the company to collect value-added tax (VAT) from customers and to provide HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with periodic VAT returns.

HMRC has the authority to conduct investigations into companies that are suspected of not complying with tax laws, and it also has the authority to levy penalties and fines for corporations that do not comply.

The penalties can be substantial, with fines reaching up to one hundred percent of the VAT that is payable in some circumstances. A VAT fraud hotline is also available for use by businesses in order to report any suspected instances of VAT fraud to HMRC.

HMRC offers guidance and support on VAT compliance to ensure that businesses are able to adhere to the legislation governing VAT. In addition, companies have the option of seeking the guidance of professional advisors, such as accountants and tax consultants, in order to guarantee that they are acting in accordance with the rules.


Over the course of its existence, the value-added tax rate has been subject to periodic adjustments to reflect alterations in both the economy and the fiscal policies of the government. The current rate of 20% is relatively high when compared to rates in the past; hence, any future modifications to the rate will have substantial repercussions for both consumers and enterprises.

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