To a degree, VAT planning may be considered as something of an abstract concept. It may be straightforward, or very complex, but what does all successful VAT planning have in common? What process should be applied in order to get the right solution and to ensure that nothing is missed? Well this is my technique and it helps me to focus on what is necessary:
The planning process may be broken down into four distinct elements:
Planning process – The four As
One must initially obtain all relevant information and consider the appropriate legislation, case law and HMRC documents etc – Ascertainment
In my experience, the most difficult part of this is obtaining all of the relevant information. It is not always clear if you have received everything available – so it is often difficult to establish what is relevant and what is not. The skill is asking the right questions of course. Any competent VAT adviser should be able to “get the answer” if (s)he has the full picture.
Then one must analyse the information – Analysis
Whether it is reading contracts closely, considering EC legislation, reviewing audit trails, searching case law, looking at documentation or carrying out calculations a full analysis is vital in the process of delivering accurate, useful and relevant advice.
The next step is to use the analysis to construct some various alternatives on how to proceed – Alternatives
The most appropriate solution may present itself immediately, or various structures may need to be considered in detail in order to find some workable alternatives. It is important not to miss anything at this point and to communicate properly with one’s client. Consideration is required of a client’s attitude to, inter alia; complexity, risk, time invested and tax in general in order to properly tailor VAT advice.
Finally, consideration is given to the alternatives and a decision made on what action to take – Action
This is another point at which good communication with one’s client is important. The client needs to understand the technicalities, the risks, the impact on business, the resources required etc in order to make an informed decision. A good adviser will also be aware of the appropriate level of assistance required with implementation. I also find it helps if the worst case scenario is explained in each alternative and the level of resistance form HMRC one is likely to encounter. I also always bear in mind that most people do not “speak VAT jargon”, spend their waking hours studying indirect tax legislation or reviewing VAT cases, so clear and straightforward English is needed! (Also, I find my diagrams and flowcharts created at meetings a help, even if just to amuse clients with my artistic skills!)
© Marcus Ward Consultancy Ltd 2015