Monthly Archives: July 2015

VAT – Intrastat; what is it? If you don’t know, you may be committing a criminal offence…

By   July 15, 2015

Although often viewed as a necessary evil, Intrastat can be used by a business to obtain valuable information on markets in the EC. …Oh, and it may be quite useful to understand it to avoid getting a criminal record!  In this article I summarise the basics, provide useful links and look at the pros and cons of the regime. export B&W

So, what is Intrastat?

Intrastat is the name given to the system used for collecting statistics on the trade in goods between all 28 Member States of the EC. If certain conditions are met a business must, by law, submit monthly Intrastat Supplementary Declarations (SDs). Intrastat does not cover services, nor is it required for exports to recipients outside the EC.

The data collected under the Intrastat system forms a large part of overall UK trade statistics totals which in turn are an important part of the UK Balance of Payment account and an important indicator of the health of ‘UK plc’. This data is published at uktradeinfo and is used by a wide range of government and international organisations and is particularly useful in helping businesses gauge import penetration and establish new markets for their goods.

Intrastat responsibilities

If a VAT registered business trades with any of the other EC Member States, it will have a responsibility to report the trade to HMRC. How detailed that report is required to be depends on the value of its trade with other EC Member States for either purchases (arrivals) or sales (dispatches). If a business’ trade in goods falls below the Intrastat thresholds then EC Sales Lists may be required.

Reporting Thresholds for SDs

The limits are:

  • £1,500,000 for arrivals, and;
  • £250,000 for dispatches

In a calendar year.

Intrastat should not be confused with EC Sales Lists which are used to collect information on all sales from UK VAT registered businesses to business recipients in other EC Member States.  A guide to EC Sales Lists here

Classification of goods for Intrastat

Finding the right commodity code for goods is one of the most important aspects of Intrastat. An online classification tool, the Intrastat Classification Nomenclature (ICN) is available to assist businesses find the right commodity code for its goods. Here

The ICN is a fully searchable facility which can be used by everyone from beginner to expert.

Value for SDs

Only the value of goods are included in SDs (plus any related freight or insurance charges where they form part of the invoice or contract price of the goods).

The value does not include:

  • Commission, legal and financial services
  • Insurance, freight and/or carriage (unless it is included with the cost of the goods)
  • Labour
  • Goods bought and sold within the EU but which do not actually enter or leave the UK
  • Maintenance costs
  • Repairs

Submission of SDs

This may be done online or offline (which is preferred for large amounts of data).

Online submission details here

Offline submissions are via pre-prepared Excel spreadsheets available here

Via an email attachment – the file must be converted into the message format Electronic Data Interchange for Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT). Details here

Deadlines for submission of SDs

Intrastat declarations must be submitted on a monthly basis. Complete and accurate declarations must be received by the 21st day of the month following the reference period to which they relate.

Now, the scary part.


It is perhaps surprising that if you fail to submit SDs by the due date, or send data that is inaccurate, a business will be committing a criminal offence (Statistics of Trade [C&E] Regulations 1992).

Penalties may be levied in cases where SDs are persistently late, missing, inaccurate or incomplete.

Although the penalty regime is a criminal one and could result in proceedings in a Magistrates Court, HMRC state that it normally prefers to “compound” alleged offences. This involves the offer of an administrative fine in lieu of Court proceedings. However, an administrative fine is only offered when, after receiving a Warning of Possible Criminal Proceedings letter, a business has brought its Intrastat declarations completely up to date. If any declarations remain outstanding Court proceedings will be instigated.

The plus side.

How to use Intrastat for your business

It is possible for a business to find out about; trade markets, competition, suppliers, customers and competitors using data collected via Intrastat.  Additionally, the information may be used to create a bespoke data table to suit a business’ specific needs. Information here

Intrastat pros and cons

Yes, businesses are being used as unpaid providers of trade information as well as unpaid collectors of tax.  It then does seem rather draconian that HMRC “coerce” businesses to provide information on pain of a criminal record. But the information is then there for a business trading within the EC to use for its commercial advantage.  It’s another chore on the VAT checklist I’m afraid.

I have to charge myself VAT?!

By   July 1, 2015

Sea import b&W

I have to charge MYSELF VAT?!

How comes?!

Well, normally, the supplier is the person who must account to the tax authorities for any VAT due on the supply. However, in certain situations, the position is reversed and it is the customer who must account for any VAT due. Don’t get caught out!

Here are just some of the situations when you have to charge yourself VAT:

Purchasing services from abroad

These will be obtained free of VAT from an overseas supplier. What is known as the ‘reverse charge’ procedure must be applied. Where the reverse charge procedure applies, the recipient of the services must act as both the supplier and the recipient of the services. On the same VAT return, the recipient must account for output tax, calculated on the full value of the supply received, and (subject to partial exemption and non-business rules) include the VAT charged as input tax. The effect of the provisions is that the reverse charge has no net cost to the recipient if he can attribute the input tax to taxable supplies and can therefore reclaim it in full. If he cannot, the effect is to put him in the same position as if had received the supply from a UK supplier rather than from one outside the UK. Thus creating a level playing field between purchasing from the UK and overseas.

Accounting for VAT and recovery of input tax.
Where the reverse charge procedure applies, the recipient of the services must act as both the supplier and the recipient of the services.  On the same VAT return, the recipient must
      1. account for output tax, calculated on the full value of the supply received, in Box 1;
      2. (subject to partial exemption and non-business rules) include the VAT stated in box 1 as input tax in Box 4; and;
      3. include the full value of the supply in both Boxes 6 and 7.
Value of supply: The value of the deemed supply is to be taken to be the consideration in money for which the services were in fact supplied or, where the consideration did not consist or not wholly consist of money, such amount in money as is equivalent to that consideration.  The consideration payable to the overseas supplier for the services excludes UK VAT but includes any taxes levied abroad.
Time of supply: The time of supply of such services is the date the supplies are paid for or, if the consideration is not in money, the last day of the VAT period in which the services are performed.

Purchasing goods from another EC Member States

Something similar to reverse charge; called acquisition tax, applies to goods purchased from other EC Member States. These are known as acquisitions (they are imports if the goods come from outside the EC and different rules apply). The full value of the goods is subject to output tax and the associated input tax may be recovered by the business acquiring if the goods are used for taxable purposes. If you‘re not already registered for VAT in the UK and acquire goods worth £82,000 or more in the UK from other EC countries, you will have to register for VAT in the UK on the strength of the value of the acquisition tax. A business will also have to complete an Intrastat Supplementary Declaration (SDs) if its acquisitions of goods from the EC exceed an annual amount – currently £1.5 million.

Intrastat_flow_diagramMore details on Intrastat Supplementary Declarations here


















Any goods on hand at deregistration with a total value of over £1,000 on which input tax has been claimed are subject to a self supply. This is a similar mechanism to a reverse charge in that the goods are deemed to be supplied to the business by the business and output tax is due. However, in these circumstances it is not possible to recover any input tax on the self supply.

Flat Rate Scheme

There is a self supply of capital items on which input tax has been claimed when a business leaves the flat rate scheme (and remains VAT registered).

Mobile telephones

In order to counter missing trader intra-community fraud (‘MTIC’), supplies of mobile ‘phones and computer chips which are made by one VAT registered business to another and valued at £5,000 and over are subject to the reverse charge. This means that the purchaser rather than the seller is responsible for accounting for VAT due.

Land and buildings…. and motor cars

There are certain circumstances where land and buildings must be treated as a self supply… but that is a whole new subject in itself… as is supplies in the motor trade.

Even if the result of a self-supply or reverse charge is VAT neutral HMRC is within its rights to assess and levy penalties and interest in cases where the charge has not been applied; which always seems unfair.  However, more often than not simple accounting entries will deal with the matter…. if the circumstances are recognised and it is remembered to actually make the entries!