Monthly Archives: April 2016

VAT – Latest from the courts; use and enjoyment provisions

By   April 25, 2016

mobile (2)Telefonica Europe Plc and Telefonica UK Limited 

The VAT Use and Enjoyment provisions set out an additional layer of rules which establish the place of supply of certain services. They apply to; telecommunications and broadcasting services; electronically supplied services (for business customers); hired goods; and hired means of transport. Broadly, effective use and enjoyment takes place where a recipient actually consumes the services, regardless of any contractual arrangements, payment, or beneficial interest. The intention of this provision is to correct instances of distortion which remain as a result of considering only where the provider and the customer belong. HMRC give the example of supplies such as telecommunications services which are actually consumed outside the EC, to be subject to UK VAT. Of course, the converse is that it would be distortive for there to be no EC VAT on such services where they are consumed in the UK.

In the Upper Tribunal case of Telefonica Europe Plc and Telefonica UK Limited the dispute involved the way in which the appellant calculated the value of its mobile telephone services which were used and enjoyed outside the EC (and thus UK VAT free). Over a number of years Telefonica had an agreement with HMRC whereby the amount of outside the EC supplies was calculated by reference to revenue, ie; comparing call, text and data income relating to non-EC supplies to total income.

HMRC subsequently formed the view that this method of calculation was distortive because higher charges were made to non-EC users than EC consumers.  HMRC proposed a “usage methodology” which used call times, texts sent and volume of data used. As may be expected, this resulted in a lower percentage of supplies that were outside the scope of UK VAT thus increasing HMRC’s VAT take.

The appellant contended that the usage methodology was contrary to EC and UK VAT legislation.  Not surprisingly, the UTT rejected this argument, deciding that Telefonica had not established that HMRC’s proposal was unlawful.

So then the outcome would be expected to be that the usage methodology should be used, but no.  It was decided that the most accurate method would be one based on the time a customer has access to the network outside the EC; which differs from both the usage and revenue methods. 

This type of dispute is quite common and also appears regularly in partial exemption situations. There are nearly always alternative ways to view apportionment calculations and it pays to obtain professional advice; not only to ensure that a fair result is achieved, but as assistance with negotiations (which may avoid having to go to Tribunal).  

VAT Latest from the courts: Stocks Fly Fishery – single or multiple supply?

By   April 19, 2016

Fly_fishing_rods (2)As many will know, there is a significant amount of case law concerning what may be treated as a composite supply at one VAT rate, and what are separate supplies at different VAT rates.  The latest in this series is the First Tier Tribunal case of Stocks Fly Fishery

The appellant is a trout fishery  in the Forest of Bowland. They argued that they supplied standard rated fishing and a distinct zero rated supply of fish for human consumption.

They provided two types of daily ticket which was required to fish the reservoir. The first was a sporting ticket, which entitled an angler to fish, but any fish caught must be returned to the water. The second was a take ticket which also enabled a person to fish but any fish caught (up to a certain number) may be taken away for food.  A take ticket was more expensive than a sporting ticket. The more fish that were taken away, the more expensive the take ticket was.  The taxpayer formed the opinion that it made two supplies; one of fishing which was agreed to be standard rated, and one of food for human consumption (the trout) which was zero rated. The value of the zero rated element was said to be the difference between the sporting ticket price and that of the take ticket.

The issue was whether the ability to take away the fish for food was a separate supply, or ancillary to the substantive supply of fishing.

The appellant cited  Hughes v Pendragon Sabre Ltd (t/a Porsche Centre Bolton) while HMRC relied on Chalk Springs Fisheries (1987) (LON/86/706) Roger Cambrai Haynes (1988) (LON/87/624) and Card Protection Plan Ltd v Commissioners of Customs and Excise.

As an observation, the chairman in the Chalk Springs Fisheries case stated “…No trout is, in my view, supplied to him at all. Instead the fisherman must go out and catch them, if he can.”  This was obviously quite unhelpful to the appellant. Additionally, the chairman was obliged to follow the well-known Card Protection Plan case which sets out guidance on matters such as this.

Decision

The FTT decided that the essential feature of the transaction was fishing and the dominant motive of anglers going to the fishery was to fish, regardless of which type of ticket was purchased. Therefore, the right to fish had to be regarded as constituting the principal service and the right to kill and keep the trout fish, if caught, should be regarded as ancillary to that principal purpose. Therefore there was a single standard rated supply of fishing.

It is always worth reviewing whether supplies made by a business can, and ought, to be treated separately, or as a single bundle. The existence of such a massive amount of case law on this subject indicates that this issue will continue to run and run.

Please contact us should this matter raise any concerns or present a possible opportunity.

VAT – The Capital Goods Scheme (CGS)

By   April 13, 2016

Yacht (2)The CGS

If a business acquires or creates a capital asset it may be required to adjust the amount of VAT it reclaims. This mechanism is called the CGS and it requires a business to spread the initial input tax claimed over a number of years. If a business’ taxable use of the asset increases it is permitted to reclaim more of the original VAT and if the proportion of the taxable supplies decreases it will be required to repay some of the input tax initially claimed. The use of the CGS is mandatory.  

How the CGS works

Normally, VAT recovery is based on the initial use of an asset at the time of purchase (a one-off claim). The CGS works by applying a longer period during which the initial recovery may be adjusted if there are changes in the use of the asset. Practically, the CGS will only apply in situations where there is exempt or non-business use of the asset. A business using an asset for fully taxable purposes will be covered by the scheme, but it is likely that full recovery up front will be possible with no subsequent adjustments required. This will be the position if, say, a standard rated property is purchased, the option to tax taken, and the building let to a third party. The CGS looks at how capital items have been used in the business over a number of intervals (usually, but not always; years).  It adjusts both for taxable versus exempt use and for business versus non business use over the lifetime of the asset. Example; a business buys a yacht that is hired out (business use) and it is also used privately by a director (non-business use). However, a more common example is a business buying a property and occupying it while its trade includes making some exempt supplies.  

Which businesses does it affect?

Purchasers of certain commercial property, owners of property who carry out significant refurbishment or carry out civil engineering work, purchasers of computer hardware, aircraft, ships, and other vessels over a certain monetary value who incur VAT on the cost.  (As the CGS considers the recovery of input tax, only VAT bearing assets are covered by it).

Assets not covered by the scheme

The CGS does not apply if a business;

  • acquires an asset solely for resale
  • spends money on assets that it acquired solely for resale
  • acquires assets, or spends money on assets that are used solely for non-business purposes.

Limits for capital goods

Included in the CGS are:

  • Land, property purchases – £250,000 or over
  • Refurbishment or civil engineering works costing £250,000 or over
  • Computer hardware costing £50,000 or over (single items, not networks)
  • From 2011, aircraft, ships, and other vessels costing £50,000 or more.

Assets below these (net of VAT) limits are excluded from the CGS.

The adjustment periods

  • Five intervals for computers
  • Five intervals for ships and aircraft
  • Ten intervals for all other capital items

Changes in your business circumstances

Certain changes to a business during a CGS period will impact on the treatment of its capital assets. These changes include:

  • leaving or joining a VAT group
  • cancelling your VAT registration
  • buying or selling your business
  • transferring a business as a going concern (TOGC)
  • selling an asset during the adjustment period

Specific advice should be sought in these circumstances.

Examples

  1. A retailer purchases a brand new property to carry on its fully taxable business for £1 million plus £200,000 VAT. It is therefore above the CGS limit of £250,000. The business recovers all of the input tax on its next return. It carries on its business for five years, at which time it decides to move to a bigger premises. It rents the building to a third party after moving out without opting to tax. Under the CGS it will, broadly, have to repay £100,000 of the initial input tax claimed.  This is because the use in the ten year adjustment period has been 50% taxable (retail sales) for the first five years and 50% exempt (rent of the property for the subsequent five years).
  2. A company purchases a helicopter for £150,000 plus VAT of £30,000. It uses the aircraft 40% of the time for hiring to third parties (taxable) and 60% for the private use of the director (non-business).  The company reclaims input tax of £12,000 on its next return. Subsequently, at the next interval, taxable use increases to 50%. It may then make an adjustment to increase the original claim: VAT on the purchase £30,000 divided by the number of adjustment periods for the asset (five) and then adjusting the result for the increase in business use: £30,000 / 5 = 6000 50% – 40% = £600 additional claim

Danger areas

  • Overlooking CGS at time of purchase or the onset of building works
  • Not recognising a change of use
  • Selling CGS as part of a TOGC
  • Failing to make required CGS adjustments at the appropriate time
  • Overlooking the option to tax when renting or selling a CGS property asset
  • Sale during adjustment period (not a TOGC)
  • Complexities re; first period adjustments and pre-VAT registration matters
  • Interaction between CGS and partial exemption calculations

Summary

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the CGS and in certain circumstances it can produce complexity and increased record keeping requirements.  There are also a lot of situations where overlooking the impact of the CGS or applying the rules incorrectly can be very costly. However, it does produce a fairer result than a once and for all claim, and when its subtleties are understood, it quite often provides a helpful planning tool.

VAT Worldwide update – Gulf Cooperation Council Countries

By   April 7, 2016

bahrain (2)VAT introduction in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The following countries have indicated that they intend to introduce a VAT system for the first time from 1 January 2018:

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This is a likely result of costly military campaigns and a drop in global oil prices. Although it has been agreed that, to limit smuggling and competitiveness, the countries aim to introduce the tax at the same time it is likely that some countries may defer implementation to a later date.  It is thought that healthcare, education, social services and a limited list of food items will be excluded and that introductory rate will be 5%.

Tip: Businesses trading with customers and clients in these countries may need to review their tax obligations, budgets, contracts and other arrangements before the introduction of VAT.

The VAT gap for 2014-15

By   April 6, 2016

gap (2)What is the VAT gap?

The VAT gap is the difference between the amount of VAT that should, in theory, be collected by HMRC, against what is actually collected. The ‘VAT total theoretical liability’ (VTTL) represents the VAT that should be paid if all businesses complied with both the letter of the law and HMRC’s interpretation of the intention of Parliament in setting law (referred to as the spirit of the law).

In other words, VTTL – VAT receipts = VAT gap.

This is HMRC’s second estimate of the VAT gap for 2014-15 (£ billion) and may be summarised as:

Net VTTL £124.9

Net VAT receipts £111.4

VAT gap £13.5

VAT gap 10.8%

The previous year’s figures (2013-2014) estimated the VAT gap at £13.1 billion (11.1% of the VTTL).

The consumer expenditure data accounts for around two thirds of the VTTL. The remaining one third of the VTTL is comprised of government and housing expenditure data, and businesses making exempt supplies.

For those of a statistical nature, the methodology behind the figures is here

VAT – Latest from the courts: Frank A Smart & Son Limited

By   April 4, 2016

farming (2)Recovery of input tax incurred on the purchase of Single Farm Payment Entitlement (SFPE) units.

HMRC often reject claims for input tax as they consider that they relate to non-business activities, or more nebulously the costs are not reflected in the prices of supplies made by the claimant (the so called “cost component” approach).  This very helpful Upper Tribunal (UT) case provides insight into the logic applied by HMRC in reaching a decision to disallow a claim for VAT incurred.

This was a company which farmed land and also paid VAT on the purchase of SFPE units.  These units entitled the company to receive benefits via the EC Single Farm Payment Scheme.  HMRC contended that the receipt of the SFPE payments was non-business, or in the alternative, they were not a cost component of any taxable supply made by the farming company.

The UT refused HMRC’s appeal against the initial FT-T decision in favour of the appellant.  It found that there was sufficient evidence that the purchase of the SFPE units (and the income which resulted in the acquisition of them) was not a separate activity to the farming supplies so the non-business argument did not apply.  Further, the Chairman stated that …it is unnecessary for the company to prove that the cost in question was actually built into the price charged for the supply”. Therefore the cost component contention put forward by HMRC also failed.

The Chairman’s comments appear to go against HMRC’s published guidance on “direct and immediate link with the taxable person’s business”, particularly in respect of holding companies.

If you are aware of any situation where HMRC have disallowed claims for input tax for either non-business or non-cost component reasons please contact us as this case may be of benefit.

Full decision here