Monthly Archives: July 2014

Follower Notices – a new HMRC weapon with a potentially dire impact on taxpayers

By   July 17, 2014

From Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2014 (expected within the next week) HMRC has a new weapon which challenges a taxpayer’s basic right to have its case heard by a Court.

This is by the introduction of “Follower Notices”. The new power allows HMRC to order one taxpayer to settle their dispute when, in HMRC’s view, a decision in another case is relevant to the issues in the first taxpayer’s case.  Since taxpayer’s circumstances are unlikely to be identical to another’s, the question of which decisions are relevant involves difficult decisions on issues of interpretation and questions of fact. These are points that ought to be considered by the Court, not unilaterally by one of the parties to the litigation.

A Follower Notice gives the taxpayer 90 days to concede its dispute and pay HMRC’s estimate of the tax due. The taxpayer has only limited rights to challenge the notice, and even then any such challenge is considered by HMRC and not the Court.

If the taxpayer does not concede following HMRC’s issue of a Follower Notice, additional penalties are levied. These penalties not only significantly increase the amount which the taxpayer has at stake in the dispute but must be challenged separately.

It is clear that the changes intend to reduce the backlog of similar disputes. However, these new rules are completely one-sided and has created an environment for yet further litigation and acrimony.

Please contact Marcus if you would like to discuss this further.

Changes in VAT policy relating to the transfer of a going concern (TOGC) of buildings

By   July 16, 2014

HMRC has announced two important changes to the transfers of a businesses as a going concern (TOGC) rules as they relate to property after the case of Robinson Family Ltd.  These may be summarised as follows:

  1. Where the transferor of a property rental business grants a lease and retains a ‘sufficiently small’ reversionary interest in the property transferred the transaction will be a TOGC for VAT purposes if the usual conditions are satisfied. HMRC now accept that the surrender of a lease can be a TOGC for VAT purposes. This will apply where a tenant who is sub-letting premises subsequently surrenders its interest in the property together with the benefit of the sub-lease. In these cases HMRC accept the landlord has acquired the tenant’s business.
  1.  There is also a change in the treatment of TOGCs of new residential and relevant charitable buildings. The first grant of a major interest in residential or relevant charitable property by the ‘person constructing’ is zero-rated. HMRC has historically taken the view that ‘person constructing’ status does not move to a person acquiring a completed building that is the subject of a TOGC. HMRC now accepts that a person acquiring a completed residential or charitable development as part of a TOGC inherits ‘person constructing’ status and is capable of making a zero-rated first grant of a major interest in that building. This also applies in respect of ‘person converting’ status (for buildings converted from non-residential to residential use) and ‘person substantially reconstructing’ status (for substantially reconstructed listed buildings).

Please contact us if you have sold property in the past that may now benefit from TOGC treatment – claims are possible for overpaid VAT and SDLT.

For our property services please see here

Taxpayer loses in “TNT” claims lead case.

By   July 9, 2014

In the recent FTT case of Zipvit the court considered retrospective claims by businesses in cases where Royal Mail (and Parcelforce) had treated individually negotiated supplies of postage etc as exempt. In the previous ECJ case of TNT it was ruled that these services should have been standard rated. The claims (said to be over £1billion in total stood behind Zipvit) were made on the basis that recipients of these services could reclaim the VAT as input tax that should properly have been charged by the Royal Mail.
The three salient points where:

1. Where the supplies taxable? – On this point the court agreed with the taxpayer, the UK legislation must be read with the same restrictions as in the relevant EC Directive.
2. Was VAT due from, or paid by, the appellant? – Curiously, the judge did not agree with either party and stated that both had been labouring under a misapprehension. No further submissions were requested however, and on this point the appeal failed.
3. Lack of VAT invoice – Although HMRC have the discretion to accept alternative evidence to support an input tax claim, it was not obliged to. The FTT supported HMRC’s refusal and noted that there would, in any event, be a windfall for the applicant. The appeal was dismissed.

The judge commented that it was likely that this case would be appealed to a higher court.
If you have an appeal stood behind Zipvit, or have previously received exempt supplies from Royal Mail or Parcelforce in respect of individually negotiated contracts – please contact us for further information.

VAT implications of renewable energy sources

By   July 8, 2014

Website MXW0001_5If you own land and install solar panels (which we shall use as an example, although the rules apply equally to any way of generating renewable power), it is relatively straightforward; as you are either consuming the power, or are the provider supplying electricity back to the National Grid.

Where the position may get slightly more complicated is where a solar panel business buy the ‘space’ to install energy producing equipment from someone else. Many businesses are renting the roof space from others upon which to install the solar panels. The businesses may pay the roof owners with ‘free’ electricity in return for renting out this space. Supply of electricity to the owners of the site

For a solar panel business leasing a site, the supply of electricity to the owners of that site is deemed to be a supply of goods.

The business installing the solar panels is the taxable person (if they are, or should be registered for VAT) and they are supplying the owners of the site with a ‘cheap’ supply of electricity in the course of the furtherance of their business.

The supply of electricity for domestic use is a reduced-rate supply under Group 1 of Schedule 7A VATA 1994. The reduced rate of VAT is 5%. If the site owner is using the electricity for domestic purposes then the reduced rate of 5% should apply. If the electricity is being used for business purposes then the supply becomes standard-rated at 20%. However, if there is mixed use, then so long as more than 60% of the use is domestic then the whole supply will be treated as ‘qualifying use’ ie; domestic, and the 5% will apply to the entire amount. Generally speaking, VAT charged at 5% is fully or partly irrecoverable by the recipient.

So in this scenario, the land owner is providing something in exchange for this electricity use; the land owner is giving the solar panel business the use of his land. Therefore this is ‘consideration’ for a service; even if it is ‘non-monetary’ consideration.

This means that the solar panel business will have to calculate a value for this consideration and then charge 5% (or 20%) VAT as necessary, on this amount if they are VAT registered.

The value placed on this non-monetary consideration is not usually a concern for the land owner making the supplies of this land, as this land supply is itself exempt from VAT.

The supply of the land
This is a supply of land by the owner of the site. Unless the land has been ‘opted to tax’ (OTT) then this supply will be exempt from VAT. If the land has been OTT by the landowner – the parties will need to look at the valuation of the (non-monetary) consideration as this will be subject to VAT at 20%. If there is no OTT and the supply is exempt; for a non-VAT registered person, this will have no impact, and this income will not be included in taxable supplies which count towards the VAT registration threshold. If a VAT registered entity makes exempt supplies of land, consideration must be given to his partial exemption position.

VAT consequences of the Feed-In Tariff
In recognition of the higher cost of producing electricity in this manner, people participating in the Feed in Tariff scheme will receive payment under a “generation tariff”. This payment is not consideration for any supply and it is therefore outside the scope of VAT.

Supply of electricity to the electricity board
In addition to the Feed-In Tariff there is the additional income which you may receive from the electricity board ie; the “Export Tariff”. These payments are “consideration for supplies of electricity by people participating in the Feed in Tariff scheme to the electricity company, where they are made by taxable persons in the course of their business”. The export tariff is not outside the scope of VAT and therefore it is a supply of electricity made in the course of the furtherance of your business to the electricity supplier. It will attract standard rated VAT as it is not the supply for domestic use.


A recent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU – the EU’s highest court) case has ruled in favour of the taxpayer after he argued that solar panels installed on his house constituted a business for VAT purposes. This is good news for any people who supply any energy into the grid and are paid a feed-in tariff (FiT) for doing so.

It means that anyone receiving the FiT can VAT register and reclaim (at least some) VAT incurred on the purchase and installation of solar panels plus input tax incurred on any other goods and services relating to the panels.

The supply and installation of “energy saving materials”, including solar panels, is currently subject to a reduced VAT rate of 5% in the UK. The European Commission is currently challenging this policy, arguing that the tax incentive goes beyond the scope of the law. The VAT Directive only allows member states to apply reduced VAT rates to a limited number of goods and services, which are specified in an annex to the directive. So the cost of buying and installing solar panels may increase in the future.

It is anticipated that HMRC will need to deal with “thousands” of extra registration applications resulting in significant additional VAT repayments.