UK businesses owe £4.4bn in overdue Corporation Tax and VAT as they struggle to find cash to pay

15 January 2018

Firms owe record high £1.89bn in Corporation Tax and further £2.5bn in VAT

UK businesses currently owe HMRC £4.37 billion in overdue corporation tax and VAT as many struggle to find the cash to pay their tax bills, says Funding Options, the online business finance supermarket.

The total value of corporation tax in arrears hit a record high £1.89 billion in 2016/17 – rising from £1.82 billion in 2015/16 – with a further £2.48 billion in overdue VAT payments.

Funding Options explains that late payments by clients remains a major factor disrupting cashflow – often leaving companies unable to meet tax liabilities. Late payments are a persistent problem for many, despite numerous Government moves to try to reduce payment delays.

For example, recent research by Funding Options found that in the construction sector, companies are now having to wait an average 69 days to get paid – an 8% increase on the previous year.

VAT bills may have to be paid to HMRC before companies receive payment from their customers. This is because most businesses have to pay VAT bills quarterly based on the amounts charged on their invoices over that period, rather than the amounts they have received.

If a business pays its tax bills late, HMRC can impose a range of penalties, including director disqualifications, asset seizures, and even winding-up petitions.

Funding Options says the figures suggest that many companies are facing challenges funding the payments from working capital or accessing bank lending to meet their tax liabilities on time.

It adds that the figures highlight the need for businesses to plan ahead to ensure they have sufficient available capital to meet their tax liabilities, with increasing numbers using alternative finance as a solution.

Conrad Ford, Founder of Funding Options (, says:

“Businesses simply can’t afford to miss tax deadlines. The consequences could be severe.”
“HMRC expects all companies to make timely payments of tax due, so businesses need to be forward-thinking. It’s essential to factor in the possibility of late payments by clients into their financial planning.”
“This is not about failing companies: even very successful businesses could see their cashflows come under intense pressure if their invoices are not paid promptly and a tax bill becomes due before payment hits their bank account.”
“Inability to pay on time is likely to be a particular problem for SMEs who may struggle more than larger companies to access bank lending to smooth out peaks and troughs in cashflow.”
“Alternative finance is attractive because solutions can be closely tailored to a business’ specific requirements. Many products allow businesses to spread the cost of tax bills over a longer timeframe.”