How do I deal with a negative Box 5 figure because Easy MTD VAT won't submit the associated VAT return?

HMRC do not permit a negative number for Box 5 and as such look upon a VAT return as follows:

  • Box 3 bigger than Box 4 = Payment.
  • Box 4 bigger than Box 3 = Refund.

In order for Easy MTD VAT (as a result of a HMRC stipulation) to permit the VAT return to be submitted, the Box 5 figure in your Excel spreadsheet or CSV file must be positive. Therefore, if Box 4 > Box 3, the Box 5 figure must be calculated by deducting the Box 3 value from the Box 4 value.

If your VAT figures are stored in an Excel spreadsheet, both scenarios (Box 3 > Box 4, and Box 4 > Box 3) can be calculated correctly using the following formula in the cell where the Box 5 figure should appear:


Where Box3 is the cell where the Box 3 figure is located, and Box4 is the cell where the Box 4 figure is located. A real world example would be something like this:


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