Provided the expense or item was originally incurred or purchased specifically for the business, then you can recover the VAT incurred on goods up to 4 years prior to registration and on services up to 6 months prior. This means that if you bought a laptop for personal use 2 years ago, before your business existed, you cannot recover the VAT if you transfer it to the business 2 years later.
However, you could recover the VAT on a laptop purchased 2 weeks before the business was incorporated or registered for VAT, provided it was purchased specifically for the business. Any VAT recoverable on pre-incorporation expenses has to be recovered on your first VAT return and the software we use will work this out for you.
If you choose to join the flat rate scheme you can still recover any VAT incurred on pre-incorporation expenditure.