Monthly Archives: November 2014

Bad Debt Relief (BDR) – Avoiding the VAT burden.

By   November 27, 2014

debt-relief-pillUnder the normal rules of VAT, a supplier is required to account for output tax, even if the supply has not been paid for (however, the use of cash accounting or certain retail schemes removes the problem of VAT on bad debts from the supplier).

There is specific relief however:

Conditions for claiming BDR

The supplier must have supplied goods or services for a consideration in money, and must have accounted for and paid VAT on the supply. All or part of the consideration must have been written off as a bad debt by making the appropriate entry in the business’ records (this does not have to be a “formal” procedure). At least six months (but not more than three years and six months) must have elapsed since the later of the date of supply or the due date for payment.

Records required
Various records and evidence must be kept (for four years from the date of claim), in particular to identify:
• The time and nature of the supply, the purchaser, and the consideration
• The amount of VAT chargeable on the supply
• The accounting period when this VAT was accounted for and paid to HMRC
• Any payment received for the supply
• Entries in the refund for bad debts account
• The accounting period in which the claim is made.

Procedure for claiming BDR
The claim is made by including the amount of the refund in Box 4 of the VAT Return for the period in which the debt becomes over six months old.

Repayment of refund
Repayment of VAT refunded is required where payment is subsequently received or where the above conditions have not been complied with.

Refund of input tax to debtor
Businesses are required to monitor the time they take to pay their suppliers, and repay input tax claimed if they have not paid the supplier within six months. Subsequent payment of all or part of the debt will allow a corresponding reclaim of input tax.

Finally, there is tax point planning available to defer a tax point until payment is received for providers of continuous supplies of services

VAT – Medical practices and property

By   November 18, 2014

This article is specific to medical practices (or any other professional practice which makes predominantly exempt supplies) which wants to buy or improve property.

Website Images School0001_3 Registration when purchasing practice property – what you need to know:

The majority of the services provided by medical practices are exempt from VAT.  Good news one would think; there is no need to charge VAT on most goods and services supplied, and no need to deal with VAT returns, records and inspections.  Additionally, there is no exposure to the increasingly widely applied and swingeing penalty regime. However, there is one often repeated question from practices; “How can we reclaim the VAT we are charged?”  This is an even more pressing question when the VAT incurred (input tax) is on significant expenditure such as purchasing a property of undertaking a major refurbishment. This article looks at the basic VAT rules applying to practices and what opportunities are available. The first point to make is that if a practice only makes exempt supplies (of medical services) it is not permitted to register for VAT and consequently cannot recover any input tax.  Therefore we must look at the types of supplies that a practice may make that are taxable (at the standard or zero rate).  If any of these supplies are made it is possible to VAT register regardless of the value of them.  This is called a voluntary registration and provides the practice with the ability to reclaim, at least some, input tax.  Of course, if taxable supplies are made, the value of which exceeds the current turnover limit of £81,000 pa, registration is mandatory. Examples of services and goods which may be taxable are;

  • Drugs, medicines or appliances that are dispensed by doctors to patients for self-administration
  • dispensing drugs against an NHS prescription is zero-rated.
  • drugs dispensed against private prescriptions is standard-rated.
  • Signing passport applications.
  • Medico legal services that are predominately legal rather than medical – for example; negotiating on behalf of a client or appearing in court in the capacity of an advocate.
  • Clinical trials or market research services for drug companies that do not involve the care or assessment of a patient.
  • Paternity testing.
  • Certain rental of rooms
  • Providing professional witness evidence
  • Any services which are not in respect of; the protection, maintenance or restoration of health of a patient.

So what does VAT registration mean?

Once you join the “VAT Club” you will be required to file a VAT return on a monthly or quarterly basis.  You will have to issue certain documentation to patients/organisations to whom you make VATable supplies.  You may need to charge VAT at 20% on some services and the range of services which may become VATable in the future is likely to grow.  You will be able to reclaim VAT charged to you on purchases and other expenditure subject to partial exemption rules (see below).  You will have to keep records in a certain way and your accounting system needs to be able to process specific information.

Specific considerations

Because doctors usually provide services which attract varying VAT treatment, a practice will be required to attribute VAT incurred on expenditure (input tax) to each of these categories.  Generally speaking, only VAT incurred in respect of zero-rated and standard-rated services may be recovered.  In addition, there will always be input tax which is not attributable to any specific service and is “overhead” eg; property costs, professional fees, telephones etc.  There is a set way in which the recoverable portion of this VAT is calculated.  VAT registered entities which make both taxable and exempt supplies are deemed “partly exempt” and must carry out calculations on every VAT return.

Partial Exemption

Once the calculations described above have been carried out, the resultant amount of input tax which relates to exempt supplies is compared to the de-minimis limits (broadly; £625 per month VAT and not more than 50% of all input tax).  If the figure is below these limits, all VAT incurred is recoverable regardless of what activities the practice is involved in. Therefore, any accounting system must be capable of attributing input tax to the following headings; taxable (at 20% or zero) exempt and overhead (attributable to both taxable and exempt).

VAT registration in summary


  • Recovery of input tax; the cost of which is not claimable in any other way.
  • Potentially, recovery of VAT on items such as property, refurbishment and other expenditure that would have been unavailable prior to VAT registration.
  • Only a small amount of VAT is likely to be chargeable by a practice.
  • May provide opportunities for pre-registration VAT claims.


  • Increased administration and staff time.
  • Exposure to VAT penalties and interest.
  • May require VAT to be added to some services provided which were hitherto VAT free.
  • Likely that only an element of input tax is recoverable as a result of partial exemption.
  • Uncertainty on the VAT position of certain services due to current EC cases.
  • Potential increased costs to the practice in respect of professional fees.

How to register

Practices will need to consider how they should be registered, for example individually as sole proprietors or jointly as partnerships. The legal entity chosen should reflect actual working arrangements, so if several doctors work together in a practice, they would normally be registered together as a partnership. VAT registration will cover all the supplies made by the doctors involved in the registered legal entity. For example, where a doctor is registered as a sole proprietor all the income he or she receives, for both medical and non-medical purposes, is subject to the VAT rules relating to such supplies. It may also be possible to VAT register as a company or an LLP depending on the structure of a practice and associated entities. Registration may be applied for using a form VAT1 on-line.

Specific VAT issues for property transactions


If possible, it would obviously be preferable to purchase a property without VAT.  These properties are likely to be older buildings as new commercial properties (under three years old) will be mandatorily standard rated.  If the property being purchased is residential, then it will be VAT free.  It is also possible for a vendor to “opt to tax” a commercial property, meaning that a unilateral choice has been made to add VAT to the sale price.  If the property is subject to VAT on the sale or long lease then we must consider the ability to recover this. If there is VAT on a property, it may be used as a lever to reduce the agreed sale price. Assuming a VAT registration is in place for a practice the VAT on the purchase will be an “overhead” for partial exemption purposes so the input tax will feed into the partial exemption calculation and some of it will be recoverable.  If the property is >£250,000 then something known as the Capital Goods Scheme (details Capital Goods Scheme – Guide) will apply and the amount of input tax claimed will need to be adjusted annually over a ten year period. If part of the property is to be sub-let to a third party, it is possible for the practice to opt to tax the rent.  This will improve the practice’s ability to recover input tax on the purchase. Alternatively, a third party entity (eg; a company, an LLP or an individual doctor – the entity must not be “connected” to the entity occupying the premises) may purchase the property, VAT register, opt to tax the building itself, and charge rent to the practice which uses the property.  This means that the purchasing party may immediately recover 100% of the VAT incurred on the purchase, but will need to add VAT to the rent to the practice.  Care should be taken with a structure such as this and professional help should be sought.


The sale of a property will be VATable if it has been subject to the option to tax and exempt if there is no option and the property is over three years old.  If the property was purchased by a third party (as above) it may be possible to treat the sale of the building as a VAT free “transfer of a going concern”.


As may be seen; VAT is not straightforward for doctors’ practices but it is worthwhile looking to see if it is possible to reduce or mitigate the actual cost that VAT represents to practices

VAT – Hard or soft? Stiff or floppy?

By   November 12, 2014

Sssshh at the back, this is important! Cake

Whether cakes and biscuits go hard or soft when stale helps to determine whether they are indeed cakes or biscuits (cakes go hard, biscuits go soft). This is the difference between VAT at 20% and zero rating for some products.

Whether printed matter is stiff or floppy can also result in either 20% or zero rated treatment. In this case, for single sheet products, eg; leaflets; limp is good and hard can result in the VAT hit.

What did you think I was talking about? Stop making your own jokes up!

VAT Jargon Buster!

By   November 5, 2014

Unfortunately, VAT is littered with phrases, acronyms and jargon which can be impenetrable to people that have to deal with the tax.  I have explained the main terms used below and tried to demystify the gobbledygook!

Website Images VAT Logos0009

Accounting period

This is the period of time reported in your VAT Return, usually three months.


Goods brought into the UK from other EC countries (different from goods brought into the UK from outside of the EC; which are known as imports).

Capital Goods Scheme (CGS)

A mechanism for spreading the input tax incurred on computer equipment exceeding £50,000 or property exceeding £250,000 of standard-rated cost.


Something that is done or given in exchange for something else. Consideration can be in monetary or non-monetary form. If there is no consideration there is no supply.

Corporate body

An incorporated body, eg; a limited company, limited liability partnership, friendly, industrial or provident society.

Distance sales

When a business in one EC country sells and ships goods directly to consumers in another EC country, eg; internet sales.

Exempt supply

A supply that is exempt from VAT by law eg; rent, insurance and financial services.  It is not a taxable supply and generally does not allow the recovery of VAT incurred on associated expenditure.


Goods sent to countries outside of the EC.


Goods sent to another EC country.


Goods brought into the EC from countries outside of the EC.

Input tax

Refers to the VAT you pay on your purchases – goods or services you use when running your business.

New building

A commercial building less than three years old where a freehold disposal is compulsorily standard-rated.


A building not used as a dwelling.

Option to tax

Changes the supply of a commercial property from exempt to standard rated.  This is done solely to recover or avoid input tax attributable.

Output tax

Refers to the VAT you charge on your sales which your clients/customers pay you.

Outside the scope of VAT

Goods and services that are completely outside the scope of VAT altogether, eg; taxes, supplies in other countries, TOGCs and wages paid to employees.

Partial exemption

A business which incurs input tax relating to both taxable and exempt activities is partially exempt and will probably not be able to recover all of its input tax.

Place of supply

The country where a supply of goods or services is deemed to be made for VAT purposes. This is the country in which VAT must be accounted for.

Reduced rate

The rate applied to essential goods and services, such as gas and electricity for residential purposes. Currently at 5%.


Being VAT registered – accounting for output tax on sales and recovering input tax.  A business needs to VAT register when its turnover exceeds certain limits.


Where a customer raises a self-billing document and sends a copy to its supplier with its payment – rather than the supplier issuing an invoice.

Standard rate

A taxable supply subject to UK VAT at the current standard rate of 20%.


Providing goods or services in return for consideration, normally monetary.

Supply of goods

When exclusive ownership of goods passes from one person to another.

Supply of services

Supply, for consideration, of something provided which is not goods.

Tax period

(Also known as accounting period) The period of time covered by your VAT return. Usually quarterly or monthly.

Taxable person

Any business which supplies goods or services and is required to be registered for VAT.  This includes; individuals, partnerships, companies, clubs, associations and charities etc.

Taxable supplies

Goods and services supplied by a taxable person which are liable to VAT at the standard, reduced or zero rate. They usually permit the recovery of VAT incurred on the costs incurred in making them.

Taxable turnover

Taxable turnover is the total value, net of VAT, of the taxable supplies you make in the UK within one year.  It is used to establish whether registration is necessary.

Tax point (Time of supply)

The date when a business must account for VAT on supplies and when input tax may be reclaimed. This dictates on what VAT return the transaction is accounted for.

Transfer Of A Going Concern (TOGC)

A sale of a business which continues after transfer.  This is a VAT free transaction if certain tests are met.


Is a taxable supply but subject to UK VAT at a rate of 0%.


© MWCL 2014