6 min read

How to remove bottlenecks in your vat return process

Learn how to streamline your VAT return with these actionable tactics - so your team can spend less time on arduous admin and more time adding value to your business.
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By Luke McMullen
Marketing Manager

At Expensemate, we know all too well the administrative burden placed upon accounts departments when trying to keep VAT efficient (or compliant) books.

After all, that very pain point is what lead to the creation of Expensemate.

As you are well aware, until the sales and purchase ledgers are closed, the VAT return cannot be finalised. Fine-tuning these systems is the key to a timely close.

When we start to examine the process, bottlenecks quickly become apparent with some of these being seemingly outside the control of the finance department or even the organisation. For example:

  • Chasing employees for missing expense reports and receipts
  • Waiting on other departments to enter data or approve information
  • Chasing suppliers for invoices

In this article, we explore how to address some of the core issues, based on our experiences managing the books for the Rix Group.


How to resolve external bottlenecks in the VAT return process

It’s all too easy to become accepting of the notion that external issues are outside of our control.

The most common hurdle finance departments need to overcome is receiving supplier invoices late. After all, you can’t process what you don’t have.

Our top tip for reducing these instances is to insist that suppliers invoice you electronically – this benefits everybody, saving your supplier’s postage costs and saving your department’s processing time. Not to mention the benefits associated with reducing your reliance on paper.

Dependent on your relationship with your suppliers, you may be in a position to insist on credit terms from the date of receipt of invoice – this will provide an incentive for your suppliers to invoice you promptly, allowing you to get them in earlier and the close process finalised sooner.

How to resolve internal bottlenecks in the VAT return process

When we switch the focus to the constraints within our own business, we’re really asking the question: “How can we change the way we process and approve invoices to make it more efficient?”.

We feel this can be broken down into two distinct categories: communication and technology.

Better communication to optimise your VAT returns

Communication amongst your team is key to understanding those bottlenecks that are unique to your organisation.

Hold team meetings with the goal of identifying the parts of the process that create delays. Ask questions such as:

  • Are invoices sat around waiting to be approved?
  • Are there invoices that haven’t arrived yet?
  • Are there costs that we are unsure as to where to allocate?

Encourage ‘buy-in’ across the team by brainstorming together about how those issues could be resolved rather than making unilateral decisions from the word go.

Come armed with potential solutions yourself to get the conversation started and work back from the end result to determine what holds each process up.

Communicate clear and achievable objectives for closing down the sales and purchase ledgers, and how each individual’s role fits within that plan so that everyone is working towards the same goal.

Actively promote the benefits to the organisation of a shorter shut down so that employees have a clear understanding.

Enhance your VAT returns with technology

The chances are, if you weren’t already using a digital accounts package, then as a result of the government’s drive to “Make Tax Digital”, you will be now.

We’re strong advocates of the many intuitive accounting packages such as Xero, Sage, and Quickbooks.

These products really come into their own when paired with invoice capture software or expense management platforms.

Dext (formally Receipt Bank) or SAP Concur are handy for scanning and processing invoices from multiple vendors automatically, with very little human intervention required.

Expensemate, on the other hand, is designed specifically for managing expenses from the card transaction through to the finance team’s reconciliation, as it compiles company-wide spend into one centralised platform that can integrate seamlessly with your accounting package.

These tools not only reduce processing time but also streamline the approval process, allowing the month-end close and VAT return to be completed sooner.

A closer look at how Expensemate can help

The age-old issue of piles of paper receipts, often unauthorised, often without context and with no uniform expense report accompanying them will be a familiar concept that adds hours to the month-end workload. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Our holistic suite of services consists of a payment card linked to an app and web-based management portal created with the sole purpose of saving your business hours of time on low-value administrative tasks.

For employees, the payment card sends an instant push notification to the app, prompting immediate receipt capture to create a digital record of the expense. This process completely removes the need for arduous expense reports, freeing up the employee’s time to focus on the job in hand.

For managers, the app enables heightened control through pre-set spending limits and spend category restrictions on the card. This, paired with authorisation of employee expenses whilst on the go, offers the confidence, flexibility, and convenience required to streamline the expense process.

For accountants and administrators, the web-based management portal will transform back-office processes with automated VAT calculations, real-time data, and the ability to proactively monitor and analyse an individual’s spend well before the month-end.


Finding efficiencies starts with taking a step back and looking at your processes holistically. Start by understanding the specific problems that cause inefficiencies. Only then can you begin to move forward.

We are big advocates of technology as the answer to addressing these problems in the digital age. Expensemate, amongst other products, offers you the ability to remove the bottlenecks that cause inefficiencies in your VAT return process, freeing up your team’s time to focus on higher-value tasks.


Learn more about Expensemate
About the author
Luke McMullen

Luke is leading Expensemate's content revolution, tasked with delivering helpful and educational content to finance teams across the country.

With more than 10 years of experience in marketing, he's worked with some big brands across multiple sectors and industries.

Luke is leading Expensemate's content revolution, tasked with delivering helpful and educational content to finance teams across the country.

With more than 10 years of experience in marketing, he's worked with some big brands across multiple sectors and industries.

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