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How to Claim Pre-Trading Expenses in the UK

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Starting a new business can be an exciting venture, but it often comes with a multitude of expenses before you even start trading. Understanding how to claim these pre-trading expenses can help reduce your taxable income and save you money. This guide will walk you through the process of claiming pre-trading expenses in the UK, including what qualifies as pre-trading expenses, what cannot be claimed, how to reclaim VAT, and the steps to claim these expenses for your limited company.

What Are Pre-Trading Expenses?

Pre-trading expenses are costs incurred before your business officially starts trading. These expenses are essential for setting up the business and preparing it to commence operations. Common examples of pre-trading expenses include:

  • Market research
  • Advertising and promotional costs
  • Legal and professional fees (e.g., solicitor or accountant fees)
  • Rent for premises and utility bills
  • Equipment and machinery purchases
  • Software and IT expenses
  • Travel costs related to setting up the business

These expenses can be claimed as business deductions, provided they meet certain criteria.

Pre-Trading Expenses You Cannot Claim

While many pre-trading expenses are deductible, some cannot be claimed. These include:

  • Costs not wholly and exclusively for business purposes
  • Personal expenses
  • Expenses that do not meet the criteria set by HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs)

It is crucial to maintain accurate records and ensure that any expenses claimed are legitimate business expenses.

Reclaiming VAT on Pre-Trade Expenditure

If your business is VAT-registered, you can reclaim VAT on pre-trading expenses. To do so, you must meet the following conditions:

  • The goods or services were purchased within four years (for goods) or six months (for services) before your business registered for VAT.
  • The goods are still in your possession or have been used to make other goods that you still have.
  • The services were used to set up your business and are not related to goods that you have already sold.

To reclaim VAT, you need to:

  1. Ensure that you have valid VAT invoices for the expenses.
  2. Include the VAT amount in your first VAT Return.
  3. Keep detailed records of all pre-trading expenses and VAT invoices.

When Does a Business Officially Start Trading?

A business officially starts trading when it begins its primary operations to earn revenue. According to HMRC, this is not necessarily the same as the date of incorporation. Indicators that your business has started trading include:

  • Receiving income from sales or services.
  • Issuing invoices to customers.
  • Incurring operational expenses related to business activities.
  • Advertising your business to attract customers.

Determining the exact start date is essential for accurately reporting expenses and income.

How to Claim Pre-Trading Expenses for Your Limited Company

To claim pre-trading expenses for your limited company, follow these steps:

  1. Record Expenses: Maintain a detailed record of all pre-trading expenses. Include receipts, invoices, and any other documentation that supports your claim.
  2. Identify Eligible Expenses: Ensure that the expenses are wholly and exclusively for business purposes. Only eligible expenses can be claimed.
  3. Include in First Accounts: When preparing your first set of accounts, include the pre-trading expenses as if they were incurred on the first day of trading. This means that these expenses will be treated as business expenses from the start of your trading period.
  4. Submit to HMRC: Include the total amount of pre-trading expenses in your company’s first Corporation Tax Return (CT600). This will reduce your taxable profit and, consequently, your Corporation Tax liability.
  5. Reclaim VAT (if applicable): If your company is VAT-registered, ensure that you reclaim any VAT paid on pre-trading expenses in your first VAT Return.

Additional Tips for Managing Pre-Trading Expenses

  • Separate Personal and Business Expenses: Keep personal and business expenses separate to avoid any complications or disallowed claims.
  • Use Accounting Software: Consider using accounting software to track and manage expenses. This can simplify the process and ensure accurate record-keeping.
  • Consult a Professional: If you’re unsure about any aspect of claiming pre-trading expenses, consult an accountant or tax advisor. They can provide tailored advice and ensure compliance with HMRC regulations.


Claiming pre-trading expenses can provide significant tax benefits and help reduce the financial burden of starting a new business. By understanding what qualifies as a pre-trading expense, keeping detailed records, and following the correct procedures, you can ensure that your business takes full advantage of these deductions. Remember to consult with a professional if you have any doubts or need specific advice tailored to your business needs.

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