Most countries have some form of sales tax. Currently in the UK you do not have to become VAT registered until you or your business is turning over in excess of £58,000 p.a.
You can choose to become VAT registered if you wish, even if your turnover is much lower. It could save you a lot of money and even help your cash flow temporarily.
Paying VAT is simply unavoidable no matter what your drinking buddy says; they can and will catch you. Pleading ignorance is no excuse. Some individuals and businesses choose to become VAT registered long before they are turning over anywhere near the threshold precisely for the reason that it does give the impression that you are turning over at least £58,000 (in the UK). Being VAT registered means ...