VAT – non-established taxable persons

We have a sizable number of non-resident businesses as clients who have UK VAT registration numbers because they import and sell goods in the UK. Based in the US, HK, Australia, China, etc., as a non-resident business their VAT registration is through the Non-Established Taxable Persons Unit in HMRC’s Aberdeen office [NETPU]. The PPBO for VAT purposes is the Aberdeen office. It means that when HMRC send activation codes for activating some online services they send them out by post which goes first to Aberdeen and then is sent on again by post to the overseas address. It is frequently taking at least a month to be received by the client overseas if it is received at all, by which time the deadline for the activation code has often expired. Having spoken to HMRC about this, they seem quite amenable to switch the PPOB to c/o the UK agent if there is a genuine reason to do so, but we would need to write in for each individual client as a separate process to the online registration itself. It seems quite logical for such non-resident clients looked after by a UK authorised agent to be able to use the UK agent’s address for official correspondence which means that it does get dealt with in a timely manner. Two ways to do it during the online registration process: 1) Use the agent’s UK address directly as the PPOB in the online application [not ideal], or 2) Continue to use Aberdeen as the formal PPOB linked to the overseas address, but have a separate correspondence address facility if required [my preferred solution]. Can you raise this formally as the current system is causing all sorts of problems with changing registration details and even filing EC Sales Lists which also need an activation code.
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Almost two years later this is still a real problem. I have been trying to telephone the NETPU for the last three weeks to find the number permanently engaged (03000 527 458) and I have emailed them at and still not received a reply. I have an overseas client with a very poor command of English who relies on me to submit the VAT returns on time and correctly. Sadly I am spending much of my time apologising for the incompetence of our national tax service. The message this sends out is appalling.