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What can I do about a bad debt?

23 September 2009 No Comment

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Can I claim tax relief and claim back my VAT?

Any business with a bad debt will naturally try to take steps to try to recover it. However, eventually you have to take a view on these things and perhaps write it off. If you go about this the right way you can claim bad debt relief and your tax bill may be reduced, and you could also claim back the VAT (assuming you’re registered for VAT).

Go about it the wrong way and there is a risk that you will lose out even more. I’ve seen that happen and I’ve seen the VAT office recover VAT which was reclaimed in good faith, but which was reclaimed incorrectly.

Firstly, be commercial! Make an effort to recover the debt. Send reminders to the client, or to the administrator or to the receiver. Be persistent. If after 6 months you are getting nowhere, then you can consider bad debt relief. No tax relief will be allowed until 6 months after the invoice date.

Assuming that writing off the debt is your only option, you then have to generate a document (a copy of the original invoice will do) and mark it “Bad Debt”. This “expense” is then shown in your books as though you had bought something. It is not a negative invoice, nor is it a credit note, it is simply an expense and there is a special “bad debt” category for this type of expense.

Like any other expense, it goes through the books, leads to a reduced profit, and in turn to a reduced tax bill. And if there was VAT on the original document, then there is VAT relief on the corresponding bad debt. Treat it as you would any other expense from a VAT registered supplier.

Just be sure to try 6 times over 6 months to recover the debt. At the point where you write it off as a bad debt you must inform the client that you consider this to be a bad debt and, accordingly, you are claiming bad debt relief. That way, the tax man and the VAT man will be content that you have followed the rules.

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 by The Proactive Accountant Dot Com