Monthly Archives: June 2016

VAT After Brexit

By   June 27, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere have been many articles anticipating what would happen to Indirect Tax if the UK left the EU. Now the deed has been done we thought it would be a good idea to summarise what we actually know. This can be done very succinctly; “not very much”.  

UK VAT legislation derives from the Euro-wide Principal VAT Directive (“PVD”) and consequently has the largest European dimension of any tax. 

There are many factors which will impact on the future of VAT in the UK.  The main one being which model the UK follows for trading with the EU, or whether it can negotiate a completely new model.  Very broadly, and without going over ground that I’m sure has been covered many times since the vote, the four options are:

  • Membership of the EEA
  • Negotiated bilateral agreement
  • Advanced Free Trade Agreement
  • WTO membership

Each option is likely to result in differing VAT scenarios for trade, reporting and compliance. Until we understand what agreements will be made, it is likely that VAT life will go on in much the same way as it has done without the need for businesses to make any changes. Without a crystal ball it is impossible to say what the implications for Indirect Tax are, however, it is more than likely that any business which is involved in the following areas should be prepared for significant changes in the future:

  • Dispatches to the EU or acquisitions from the EU. It is likely that these will become exports and imports
  • Supplies of services to the EU or the purchase of services from the EU
  • Expenses incurred in the EU
  • Distance Selling
  • Triangulation
  • Financial services and insurance
  • Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme (TOMS)
  • MOSS supplies
  • Outsourcing and offshoring

It is likely that a domestic government may wish to reverse certain ECJ decisions imposed on the UK with which it disagrees. Leaving the EU will allow the UK freedom to set its own VAT rates and introduce its own legislation, although, practically and politically, it is not anticipated that the UK model will differ too sharply from the existing rules. At this stage however, this is mainly guesswork.

So, with a lot of negotiations in prospect, we are holding fire until we have more concrete information.  It could be a bumpy ride, but one which isn’t about to start for some time.

In the meantime, we will keep you informed about any proposals and the introduction of any definite changes.

Watch this space!

VAT – Charities and donations. Latest from the courts

By   June 22, 2016

Earth_Western_Hemisphere_transparent_background (2)What is a donation?

In the widely anticipated case of Friends of the Earth Trust Ltd (TC05165) the issue was; what constitutes a donation for VAT purposes? This is a perpetually thorny issue for charities.

True donations are outside the scope of VAT which usually produces a beneficial outcome for charities as no output tax is due on these payments. However, if any consideration is provided by a charity then it is likely that a taxable supply is being made.  This subject often creates disputes and is another difficult area with which charities and NFP bodies have to contend.

This case is slightly unusual as the appellant was arguing that payments received from the public are taxable supplies.

Background

The charity incurred input tax on the expenses of training of street fundraisers (chuggers) who were used to sign up members of the public to a commitment to make regular direct debit payments to the charity. I am sure we have all encountered this type of fundraising.

The recovery of this input tax was dependent on whether the money collected in this way represented taxable supplies made by the charity, or were simply donations.  If it was non-business income (donations) it was not possible to recover the relevant input tax.

Contentions on the consideration point

Supporters of the charity who paid £3 or more per month received a magazine and various other benefits. Those paying less than £3 received no benefits.

The charity contended that taxable supplies were being made, albeit that the supply was wholly or overwhelmingly zero rated (the supply of printed matter). Further, there was a direct and immediate link between the expenditure on the training of the fundraisers and the benefits obtained (by a certain class of supporter). This would mean that there would be no output tax on the payments, but recovery of the relevant input tax.

HMRC formed the view that the direct debit payments were donations and as a result a non-business activity such that the attributable input tax was irrecoverable.

The Decision

The Tribunal, citing, inter alia, the FTT’s decision in The Serpentine Trust Ltd v The Commrs for Revenue and Customs, decided that..it is quite clear when viewed objectively that the £3 minimum monthly payment was not “for” the magazine and benefits, or in other words a quid pro quo for them. The magazine and benefits were quid cum quo, the transaction being that the payment was a gift to the appellant to be used in its charitable work and that the appellant would send the supporter free copies…”.

The Chairman stated that the evidence, when viewed in the round, is simply not consistent with the transaction objectively being one where the person was paying a subscription for the magazine and other benefits. And that it was a donation to support the appellant’s charitable activities. The fact that the taxpayer only provided the benefits if the minimum payment of £3 was made did not turn the payment into value given in return for the magazine and other benefits. It still retained its character as a donation. It was just as consistent with the transaction being one whereby the taxpayer undertook to send a free copy of the magazine where donations were made above a certain level.

The Tribunal therefore concluded that the payments were donations to the taxpayer and so the relevant input tax on the fundraising costs was not claimable.

This case demonstrates the uncertainty over the distinction between taxable supplies and donations and that every case is decided on precise facts.  Please contact us if this has rung any alarm bells, or perhaps provided an opportunity to review a charity or NFP body’s income. Our charity services here

VAT – Latest from the courts: A round up of partial exemption

By   June 20, 2016

court (2)The partial exemption calculation

The calculation is required to quantify the amount of input tax a partly exempt business is able to claim. A partly exempt business is one which makes a mixture of taxable and non-taxable (eg; exempt) supplies. Input tax attributable to exempt activities is not recoverable.

With certain businesses HMRC accept that the usual “partial exemption standard method” based on taxable turnover versus exempt turnover is either impractical, distortive, or inappropriate. In such cases the business submits an application for a partial exemption special method (PESM). This may be based on many various factors such as; floorspace, staff numbers, transaction counts, management accounting etc (or any combination). If HMRC accept that the proposal is fair and reasonable, a formal agreement will be entered into by both parties.

The question in this case was when a PESM is agreed with HMRC is there a requirement to round up figures to a whole percentage point?

According to the CJEU decision in Kreissparkasse Wiedenbrück the answer is no. It was decided that, via EC legislation, in cases where there is a PESM agreement in place there was no obligation to round up.

The view was that as a significant amount of PESMs are “sophisticated” (compared to the partial exemption standard method) they achieve a more accurate allocation of input tax between taxable and exempt activities and rounding would counter this accuracy.

Full case here

Please contact us if your business is partly exempt and you either have a PESM in place, are in the process of agreeing one, or feel that your input tax recovery is suffering by the use of the standard method.

VAT Quickie – HMRC change bank details for payments

By   June 13, 2016

bank (2)HMRC’s new bank details

Most taxpayers who pay electronically will not be affected by the change.  However, if a business pays its VAT using HMRC’s IBAN and BIC need to use the new IBAN and BIC with immediate effect.  This change will mainly affect overseas businesses. It is observed that HMRC’s efforts to publicise this change have not been very successful.

Details for Overseas payments:

Account Number (IBAN) GB36BARC20051773152391

BIC BARCGB22

Account Name: HMRC VAT

HMRC banking address:

Barclays Bank PLC
1 Churchill Place
London
United Kingdom
E14 5HP

 

VAT Tax Point Planning – Applications for Payment

By   June 13, 2016
calendar yank (2)Further to my previous article on tax points, I look at a specific planning point.

General
Applications for payment can be used to defer the date when output tax is accountable to HMRC and avoids the supplier having to account (and pay) VAT if the relevant supply becomes a bad debt.

Approval

No formal approval to use applications for payment is required from HMRC.  This is because this VAT planning simply uses the “Time of Supply” (tax point) legislation.

Technical

No output tax is due until a tax point is crystallised.  Broadly speaking, for the supply of services, a tax point is created at the earlier of; invoice date, receipt of payment, or completion of the work.  Consequently, in order to be of benefit, the services in question have to be a “continuous supply of services”.  This is defined as “services are supplied for any period for a consideration the whole or part of which is determined or payable periodically or from time to time”.  Therefore, if an application for payment is issued rather than an invoice, output tax is only due when payment is received.  This means if the debt becomes bad, no VAT is payable on it so long as the service is continuous.  An application for payment is only of benefit if there is ongoing work (continuous supply of services) since, as above, there is a tax point created when the job is complete, regardless of the invoicing or payment position.  Another relevant issue is; that under the existing VAT legislation, there is no requirement to issue a proper VAT invoice to an unregistered client/customer (unless specifically requested to do so by the client).

Implementation

Sending applications for payment (rather than invoices) may be done on a job by job basis or for all services from a selected date – although, the benefit will only be obtained for those jobs which are continuous.  The VAT accounting system is required to recognise and report receipts of fees rather than applications for payment or invoices raised (although if invoices are issued on the day payment is received the tax point will be the same date).  Additionally, the system needs to be able to identify completion tax points since these cannot be deferred by the use of application for payment.

Documentation

A request for payment must clearly state; “This is not a VAT invoice” and it may also be helpful if it appears distinct from “usual” invoices. It should state that it is an application/request for payment. It is also helpful if it does not show the supplier’s VAT number.

Cons

If the recipient of the services is VAT registered, it may complicate their accounting and will delay the date on which input tax may be recovered.  This should not affect individuals or non-VAT registered clients.  As considered above, it will also affect the accounting for the supplier and may add complexity.

Summary

This is relatively simple, yet effective VAT planning.  It cannot be challenged technically by HMRC, although the actual operation will be examined at an inspection.

Please contact me if this matter is of interest.

 

VAT – Time of supply (Tax Point). The Rules

By   June 10, 2016

calendar apple-desk-working-technology (2)Although one of the “VAT basics”, it is sometimes quite difficult to establish the date for a tax point, and there is a great deal of case law which suggests that this seemingly straightforward exercise can throw up difficulties.

The time at which a supply of goods or services is deemed to take place is called the tax point. VAT must normally be accounted for in the VAT period in which the tax point occurs and at the rate of VAT in force at that time. Small businesses may, however, account for VAT on the basis of cash paid and received.

Although the principal purpose of the time of supply rules is to fix the time for accounting for, and claiming VAT, the rules have other uses including

  • calculating turnover for VAT registration purposes;
  • establishing the period to which supplies (including exempt supplies) are to be allocated for partial exemption purposes, and;
  • establishing when and if input tax may be deducted.

The tax point for a transaction is the date the transaction takes place for VAT purposes. This is important because it crystallises the date when output tax should be declared and when input tax may be reclaimed. Unsurprisingly, get it wrong and there could be penalties and interest or VAT is declared too early and input tax claimed late – both situations are to be avoided, especially in large value and/or complex situations.

The time of supply rules

Basic tax point (Date of supply)

Goods

The basic tax point for a supply of goods is the date the goods are removed, ie; sent to, or taken by, the customer. If the goods are not removed, it is the date they are made available for his use.

Services

The basic tax point for a supply of services is the date the services are performed.

Actual tax point
In the case of both goods and services, where a VAT invoice is raised or payment is made before the basic tax point, there is an earlier actual tax point created at the time the invoice is issued or payment received, whichever occurs first.

14 Day Rule
There is also an actual tax point where a VAT invoice is issued within 14 days after the basic tax point. This overrides the basic tax point.

Continuous supply of services 
If services are supplied on a continuous basis and payments are received regularly or from time to time, there is a tax point every time:

  • A VAT invoice is
  • a payment is received, whichever happens first.

Deposits

Care should be taken when accounting for deposits. The VAT rules vary depending on the nature of the deposit. In some circumstances deposits may catch out the unwary, these could be, inter alia; auctions, non stakeholder/escrow/solicitor accounts in property transactions, and refundable/non-refundable deposits. There are also other special provisions for particular supplies of goods and services, for eg; TOMS.

Summary

The tax point may be summarised (in most circumstances) as the earliest of:

  • The date an invoice is issued
  • The date payment is received
  • The date title to goods is passed, or services are completed.

Some brief examples:

Situation Tax point
No invoice needed Date of supply
VAT invoice issued Date of invoice
VAT invoice issued 15 days or more after the date of supply Date the supply took place
Payment or invoice issued in advance of supply Date of payment or invoice (whichever is earlier)
Payment in advance of supply and no VAT invoice yet issued Date payment received

There are certain exceptions, so care should be taken when establishing a tax point.

Planning

Tax point planning can be very important to a business. the aims in summary are:

  • Deferring a supplier’s tax point where possible
  • Timing of a tax point to benefit both parties to a transaction wherever possible
  • Applying the cash accounting scheme (or withdrawal from it)
  • Using specific documentation to avoid creating tax points for certain supplies
  • Correctly identifying the nature of a supply to benefit from certain tax point rules
  • Generating positive cashflow between “related” entities where permitted
  • Broadly; generate output tax as early as possible in a VAT period, and incur input tax as late as possible
  • Planning for VAT rate changes
  • Ensure that a business does not incur penalties for errors by applying the tax point rules correctly.

Getting a tax point wrong by even one day can be very costly. This is particularly relevant in respect of property transactions. Also, a significant savings may be made by careful tax point planning.

In my next article I shall look at how the tax point rules may be used for beneficial VAT planning in a specific example.

VAT Latest from the courts – what is a business?

By   June 8, 2016

hungary (2)In the CJEU case of * * takes a deep breath * * Lajvér Meliorációs Nonprofit Kft. and Lajvér Csapadékvízrendezési Nonprofit Kft the court considered whether these Not For Profit companies were making taxable supplies (economic activity). This then dictated whether input tax incurred by them was recoverable.

As a starting point, it may be helpful to look at what the words “economic activity”, “business”, “taxable supplies” and “taxable person” mean:  The term “business” is only used in UK legislation, The Principal VAT Directive refers to “economic activity” rather than business and since UK domestic legislation must conform to the Directive both terms must be seen as having the same meaning.  Since the very first days of VAT there have been disagreements over what constitutes a “business”. I have only recently ended a dispute over this definition for a (as it turns out) very happy client.  In the UK the tests were set out as long ago as 1981 and may be summarised as follows:

Is the activity a serious undertaking earnestly pursued?
Is the activity an occupation or function, which is actively pursued with reasonable or recognisable continuity?
Does the activity have a certain measure of substance in terms of the quarterly or annual value of taxable supplies made (bearing in mind that exempt supplies can also be business)?
Is the activity conducted in a regular manner and on sound and recognised business principles?
Is the activity predominately concerned with the making of taxable supplies for a consideration?
Are the taxable supplies that are being made of a kind which, subject to differences of detail, are commonly made by those who seek to profit from them?

If there is no business, an entity cannot be making taxable supplies.

In EC Legislation,  Article 9(1) of Directive 2006/112 provides: that “a ‘Taxable person’ shall mean any person who, independently, carries out in any place any economic activity, whatever the purpose or results of that activity.”

The case

The case involved the Not For Profit companies constructing and operating a water disposal system. When complete, it was intended to charge a “modest” fee to users of the system.  The companies engaged in economic activities that were not intended to make a profit and only engaged in a commercial activity on an ancillary basis.

The majority of the funding for the work was provided by State (Hungarian) and EC aid.  The Hungarian authority formed the view that, because a nominal fee was charged this did not amount to an economic activity and so there was no right to deduct input tax incurred on the costs of getting the system operational.  The CJEU went straight to judgement and decided that the construction and operation of the system could rightly be regarded as an economic activity and found for the taxpayer. It also provided a very helpful and clear summary in respect of “business” by commenting that “… the fact that the price paid for an economic transaction is higher or lower than the cost price, and, therefore, higher or lower than the open market value, is irrelevant for the purpose of establishing whether it was a transaction effected for consideration …”.

NB: The one area that the CJEU did refer back to the National Court however, was whether the transaction at issue in the case was a wholly artificial arrangement which did not reflect economic reality and was set up with the sole aim of obtaining a tax advantage.

It is interesting to compare this finding with the UK case law above, especially the points concerning “a certain measure of substance in terms of the quarterly or annual value of taxable supplies made” and “sound and recognised business principles”. I strongly suspect that what constitutes a business will continue to occupy advisers and HMRC and throw up disputes until the end of time (and/or the end of VAT….).

Full case here

VAT Schemes Guide – Alternative ways of accounting for tax

By   June 1, 2016

2013-12-01 Bury St Eds Xmas Fair0020 (2)There are a number of VAT Schemes which are designed to simplify accounting for the tax.  They may save a business money, reduce complexity, avoid the need for certain documentation and reduce the time needed to deal with VAT.  Some schemes may be used in combination with others, although I recommend that checks should be made first.

It is important to compare the use of each scheme to standard VAT accounting to establish whether a business will benefit.  Some schemes are compulsory and there are particular pitfalls for certain businesses using certain schemes.

I thought that it would be useful to consider the schemes all in one place and look at their features and pros and cons.

These schemes reviewed here are:

  • Cash Accounting Scheme
  • Annual Accounting Scheme
  • Flat Rate Scheme
  • Margin schemes for second-hand goods
  • Global Accounting
  • VAT schemes for retailers
  • Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme

Cash Accounting Scheme

Normally, VAT returns are based on the tax point (usually the VAT invoice date) for sales and purchases. This may mean a business having to pay HMRC the VAT due on sales that its customers have not yet paid for.

The VAT cash accounting scheme instead bases reporting on payment dates, both for purchases and sales. A business will need to ensure its records include payment dates.

A business is only eligible for the Cash Accounting Scheme if its estimated taxable turnover is no more than £1.35m, and can then remain in the scheme as long as it remains below £1.6m.

Advantages

  • Usually beneficial for cash flow especially if its customers are slow paying
  • Output tax is not payable at all if a business has a bad debt

Disadvantages

  • Is generally not beneficial for a repayment business (one which reclaims more VAT than it pays, eg; an exporter or supplier of zero rated goods or services)
  • Not usually beneficial if a business purchases significant amounts of goods or services on credit

Annual Accounting Scheme

The Annual Accounting Scheme allows a business to pay VAT on account, in either nine monthly or three quarterly payments. These instalments are based on VAT paid in the previous year. It is then required to complete a single, annual VAT return which is used to calculate any balance owed by the business or due from HMRC.

A business is eligible for the scheme if its estimated taxable turnover is no more than £1.35m and is permitted to remain in the scheme as long as it remains below £1.6m.

Advantages

  • Reduces paperwork as only the need to complete one return instead of four (Although it does not remove the requirement to keep all the normal VAT records and accounts)
  • Improves management of cash flow

Disadvantages

  • Not suitable for repayment businesses as they would only receive one repayment at the end of the year
  • If turnover decreases, the interim payments may be higher than under standard accounting

Flat Rate Scheme

The Flat Rate Scheme is designed to assist smaller businesses reduce the amount of time and complexity required for VAT accounting. The Flat Rate Scheme removes the need to calculate the VAT on every transaction. Instead, a business pays a flat rate percentage of its VAT inclusive turnover. The percentage paid is less than the standard VAT rate because it recognises the fact that no input tax can be claimed on purchases. The flat rate percentage used is dependent on a business’ trade sector.

A business is eligible for this scheme if its estimated taxable turnover in the next year will not exceed £150,000. Once using the scheme, a business is permitted to continue using it until its income exceeds £230,000.

If eligible, a business may combine the Flat Rate Scheme with the Annual Accounting Schemes, additionally, there is an option to effectively use a cash basis so there is no need to use the Cash Accounting Scheme. There has been recent case law on the percentage certain businesses’ use for the FRS, so it is worth checking closely.  There is a one percent discount for a business in its first year of trading.

Advantages

  • Depending on trade sector and circumstances may result in a real VAT saving
  • Simplified record keeping; no requirement to separate out gross, VAT and net in accounts
  • Fewer rules; no issues with input tax a business can and cannot recover on purchases
  • Certainty of knowing how much of income is payable to HMRC

Disadvantages

  • No reclaim of input tax incurred on purchases
  • If you buy a significant amount from VAT registered businesses, it is likely to result in more VAT due
  • Likely to be unattractive for businesses making zero-rated or exempt sales because output tax would also apply to this hitherto VAT free income
  • Low turnover limit

Margin Scheme for Second Hand Goods

A business normally accounts for output tax on the full value of its taxable supplies and reclaims input tax on its purchases. However, if a business deals in second-hand goods, works of art, antiques or collectibles it may use a Margin Scheme. This scheme enables a business to account for VAT only on the difference between the purchase and selling price of an item; the margin. It is not possible to reclaim input tax on the purchase of an item and there will be no output tax if no profit is achieved. There is a special margin schemes for auctioneers. A variation of the Margin Scheme is considered below.

Advantages

  • Usually beneficial if buying from (non-VAT registered) members of the public
  • Applies to EC cross-border sales
  • Purchaser will not see a VAT charge
  • Although no input tax claimable on purchases of scheme items, VAT may be claimed in the usual way on overheads and other fees etc

Disadvantages

  • Record keeping requirements are demanding and closely checked, eg; stock records and invoices which are required for both purchases and sales
  • Cannot be used for items purchased on a VAT invoice
  • Can be complex and create a cost if goods exported
  • Although no VAT due on sales if a loss is made, there is no set-off of the loss

Global Accounting

The problem with the Second Hand Goods Scheme is that full details of each individual item purchased and sold has to be recorded. Global Accounting is an optional, simplified variation of the Second Hand Margin Scheme. It differs from the standard Margin Scheme in that rather than accounting for the margin achieved on the sale of each individual item, output tax is calculated on the margin achieved between the total purchases and total sales in a particular accounting period.

Advantages

  • Simplified version of the Margin Scheme
  • Record keeping requirements reduced
  • Losses made on sales reduce VAT payable
  • Beneficial for businesses which buy and sell bulk volume, low value eligible goods

Disadvantages

  • Cannot be used for; aircraft, boats, caravans, horses or motor vehicles
  • Similar to Margin Scheme disadvantages apart from loss set off

VAT Schemes for Retailers

It is usually difficult for retailers to issue an invoice for each sale made, so various retail schemes have been designed to simplify VAT. The appropriate scheme for a business depends on whether its retail turnover (excluding VAT) is; below £1m, between £1m and £130m and higher.

Smaller businesses may be able to use a retail scheme with Cash Accounting and Annual Accounting but it cannot combine a Retail Scheme with the Flat Rate Scheme.  However, retailers may choose to use the Flat Rate Scheme instead of a Retail Scheme.

Using standard VAT accounting, a VAT registered business must record the VAT on each sale. However, via a Retail Scheme, it calculates the value of its total VAT taxable sales for a period, eg; a day, and the proportions of that total that are taxable at different rates of VAT; standard, reduced and zero.

According to the scheme a business uses it then applies the appropriate VAT fraction to that sales figure to calculate the output tax due. A business may only use the Retail Scheme for retail sales and must use the standard accounting procedures for other supplies.  It must still issue a VAT invoice to any VAT registered customer who requests one.  It is a requirement of any scheme choice that HMRC must consider it fair and reasonable.

Examples of Retail Schemes

  • Apportionment
  • Direct calculation
  • The point of sale scheme

There are special arrangements for caterers, retail pharmacists and florists.

Advantages

  • No requirement to issue an invoice for each sale
  • Most schemes are relatively simple to administer once set up. Technology assists in a helpful way with EPOS systems
  • Simplifies record keeping

Disadvantages

  • It is usual for each line sold to need to be coded correctly for VAT liability
  • Smaller businesses without state of the art technology may be at a disadvantage
  • Time and resources required to set up and maintain systems
  • In some cases the calculation depends on staff “pressing the right button”

Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS)

This simplifies cross-border supplies by fixing the place of supply where the tour operator is located (rather than applying the usual place of supply rules).  Tour operators often buy goods and services from businesses in overseas countries and often cannot reclaim the associated input tax. The TOMS resolves this issue by permitting tour operators to calculate the VAT solely on the value they add. This is, in theory, similar to the Margin Scheme above.  The scheme applies to any business that buys in and re-sells; travel, accommodation and certain other services as a principal. It not only affects the normal High Street travel companies, but entities such as; schools, hospitality companies, organisers of events etc.  TOMS is compulsory and it applies to supplies made to/in in the UK as well as overseas.

Advantages

  • Avoids the need for the tour operator to VAT register in every country it makes supplies to/in
  • Effectively gives credit for input tax incurred overseas as well as the UK
  • No VAT shown on documents issued to clients

Disadvantages

  • Often complex calculations and record keeping
  • Very precise and complicated rules
  • Lack of understanding by a number of  inspectors
  • Complexity increases the risk of misdeclaration

Overall

As may be seen, there are a lot of choices for a business to consider, especially a start-up.  Choosing a scheme which is inappropriate may result in VAT overpayment and a lot of unneeded record keeping and administration.  There are real savings to be made by using a beneficial scheme, both in terms of VAT payable and staff time.

We are happy to review a business’ circumstances and calculate what schemes would produce the best outcome.

Please contact us if you require further information.

 

 Marcus Ward Consultancy Ltd 2016