Monthly Archives: July 2016

VAT – Latest from the courts: impact of outside the scope income

By   July 25, 2016

carpark (2)Outside the scope (of VAT)  income leads to loss of input tax: Upper Tribunal (UT) decision

In the recent UT case of VCS it was decided that input tax relating to outside the scope activities of the appellant was not recoverable.

Background

VCS is a car park operator, which manages and operates car parking for its clients on private land. Inter alia, providing parking control services, including the issue of parking permits and enforcement action (solely at the discretion of VCS).

In practice, most of VCS’s revenue is derived not from providing parking permits, but from parking charge notices (“PCNs”) which it issues to motorists who are in breach of the rules for parking in the car parks. In the period considered, approximately 92% of VCS’s income came from PCNs, and just 8% from parking permits. In March 2013 the Court of Appeal (CoA) decided that the PCN revenue was not subject to VAT. This was because VAT is chargeable only in respect of revenue from the supply of goods or services. The CoA held that the PCN revenue was not earned in respect of supplies of services liable to VAT. Rather, the PCN revenue represented damages for breach of contracts between VCS and the motorists and/or damages for trespass by the motorists.

Decision

The UT agreed with the First-tier Tribunal’s decision that that VCS was not entitled to recover input tax that related to outside the scope (PCN) income and that it was reasonable to assume that since 92% of the income generated by VCS was outside the scope of VAT, only 8% of the input tax incurred on its costs should be deductible.

Commentary

It is clear that there is a direct link between the general overheads of the business in respect of which VCS incurred input VAT and both VCS’s taxable supplies of parking permits and the PCN income.  The appellant’s contention that a taxable person (such as VCS) is entitled to deduct all the input tax if the goods or services are used to any extent for the purposes of taxed transactions was doomed to failure and the chairman stated that “…we accept HMRC’s interpretation of Article 168 PVD. Accordingly, where purchased goods or services are used by a taxable person both for transactions in respect of which VAT is deductible (ie; taxable supplies) and for transactions in respect of which VAT is not deductible (ie; where the transactions do not constitute economic activity or do not constitute taxable supplies (even though they may be transactions undertaken in the course of a taxable person’s business) or where the supplies are exempt), VAT may only be deducted in so far as (that is, to the extent that) it is attributable to taxable supplies.”.

There are no surprises in this decision, but it serves as a timely reminder that not only is “VAT free” income not always a beneficial treatment, but any income that does not relate to a business’s’ taxable supplies can create costs and complexities, whether it be outside the scope, non-business, or exempt.

Outside the scope income can be received by any business in certain circumstances, and it must be recognised in its VAT reporting as this case demonstrates that not all input tax may be recovered and there is no de minimis for input tax attributed to outside the scope and non-business, it is simply not input tax.

Full case Vehicle Control Services Limited (VCS)

Customs Duty – Latest from the courts: Amoena (UK) Ltd

By   July 21, 2016

Supreme_Court_(-2140124132)In this month’s case of Amoena (UK) Ltd the Supreme Court considered whether Customs Duty was payable on a mastectomy bra imported by the taxpayer. For a change, this report is not on VAT.

It was decided that no customs duty was payable on such imports.

The issue was whether the bra should be classified via the Combined Nomenclature as a “brassiere” and as such subject to  duty at 6.5%, or as an “‘orthopaedic appliance” in which case no Customs Duty would be payable.

The evidence presented by on behalf of the taxpayer was that the bra is an “artificial part of the body” or “other appliance worn to compensate for a defect or disability” such that it was an orthopaedic appliance.  The Supreme Court decided in the taxpayer’s favour.  This case has progressed along the appeal route and the decisions have swayed back and forth.

Initially, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) found that the correct classification should be as a brassiere. The Upper Tribunal reversed the decision and ruled that no Customs Duty was payable.  The Court of Appeal then upheld the FTT’s initial decision that Customs Duty was payable at import. Finally, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal.

If nothing else, this case demonstrates the need for perseverance and the value of fighting for what you believe. I think the correct (and most beneficial for a lot of people) result was reached.

Full case here 

 

VAT – The “business” of shooting; a tale

By   July 15, 2016

shoot (2)Sometimes one is involved in a dispute which goes to the core of the tax.  This is a case which highlights basic VAT principles, HMRC’s approach to an issue and the lengths to which a taxpayer has to go to defend his position.

Are you sitting comfortably?

A day out in the countryside; striding across beautiful landscape, amongst friends, enjoying each other’s’ company and a bit of sport – can this really be the subject of such intense debate with HMRC? Well, unfortunately this seems to be the case when it comes to the operation of a day’s shooting. In the eyes of the taxman, whether or not a profit or a surplus is achieved, shooting, conducted in the course of furtherance of a business is subject to VAT.

This is not usually an issue which shooting syndicates find themselves having to address; they are not concerned with the ins and outs of what constitutes a business for the purposes of the VAT legislation. However, HMRC was pursuing this issue in earnest and they have a team devoted solely to attacking shoots.

Who is HMRC targeting?

HMRC seem to be focusing on syndicate run shoots which are not registered for VAT but who HMRC believe are operating on business principles. If an organisation is operating as a business then it may be liable to register for VAT if certain income thresholds are exceeded. The shoot will then have to charge output VAT on the supplies it makes.  In my case there would have been a significant assessment plus penalties and interest which could double the past VAT bill.

How is HMRC attacking the issue?

HMRC is looking closely at the specific activities of syndicate shoots in order to build an argument demonstrating that the organisation of the shoot is run on “sound business principles”.  The reason that there is room for debate on this matter is that what constitutes a business is not explicitly defined anywhere in the VAT legislation either in UK or EC law. Rather, the issue has been defined in case law.

The defining case was Lord Fisher, which co-incidentally also concerned a shoot. This case is relied upon throughout the VAT world to give guidance on what constitutes a business – and not just in respect of shoots but for all types of activity.

Anyway, back to this syndicate…

I was involved in a battle lasting four years which concerned a local shoot run for over five decades by a group of friends and which was provided only for the benefit of the syndicate members. The shoot was not open to the common commercial market place or members of the public and the shoot did not advertise. HMRC spent a great deal of time trying to understand the finer details of the running of this shoot and concluded that it was a business

We advised The Shoot to appeal to the VAT Tribunal against HMRC’s decision to levy VAT on its activities.

They key to the syndicate’s defence was to demonstrate that no true business would operate commercially in the way that The Shoot does.  If it did, it would be completely unprofitable and would soon be out of business. To demonstrate this effectively, every aspect of the shoot was examined in detail and compared and contrasted with the way a commercial shoot operates. This involved everything from the lunch arrangements, CVs of the gamekeepers and how beautiful the land is, right through to whether chicks or poults are purchased and whether local deer were sold to the highest bidder. However, the most important factor was the demonstration that the syndicate does not have a profit built in to the cost structure and the amounts that the syndicate members contribute. The syndicate is run on a cost sharing basis and is not “an activity likely to be carried out by a private undertaking on a market, organised within a professional framework and generally performed in the interest of generating a profit.”

It all sounds so simple to those familiar with the industry but unfortunately from a VAT ‘business’ perspective it has been a long, stressful and costly argument for the appellant to make.  A few days before the case was to be heard at the Tribunal, HMRC withdrew their assessment and conceded the case.

HMRC had seen the many witness statements filed by the members of the syndicate waxing lyrical about how this was an age-old hobby run by a few friends and in no way could it be considered a commercial business. They had seen the expert witness report written by a specialist in the field. The distinctions made between commercial and syndicate shooting were made very clear. They had also seen the powerful argument which concluded that the shoot “cannot seriously be suggested to amount to a ‘business’ for the purpose of the VAT code”.

What this means?

Of course this victory over HMRC was a fantastic result for the members of the The Shoot, but from a practical point of view quite frustrating in that the case was not heard; denying other entities the benefit of the predicted victory.  Alas, it was one case that HMRC could not afford to lose.

It is therefore likely that HMRC will continue to target other shoots where they think they can ‘win’ or at least not be challenged.

Have you been affected? – What should you do next?

If this makes for frighteningly familiar reading and you or your local syndicate shoot are, or have been, under HMRC investigation then it is vital that you should take professional advice.  As we orchestrated the defence for The Shoot we are the leading advisers in such matters.

 For completeness, the six tests derived from the Lord Fisher case (and others) are: 
  1. Is the activity a serious undertaking earnestly pursued?
  2. Is the activity an occupation or function, which is actively pursued with reasonable or recognisable continuity?
  3. Does the activity have a certain measure of substance in terms of the quarterly or annual value of taxable supplies made?
  4. Is the activity conducted in a regular manner and on sound and recognised business principles?
  5. Is the activity predominantly concerned with the making of taxable supplies for a consideration?
  6. 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?
 The recent case of Lajvér Meliorációs Nonprofit Kft. and Lajvér Csapadékvízrendezési Nonprofit Kft is also helpful in looking at what a business is details here

 

VAT Distance Selling Q & As

By   July 11, 2016

 

aeroplane (2)VAT Distance Selling: What is it and how will it affect my business?

Q – My internet business is expanding and I am now selling goods all over the EC. Does this create any VAT issues?

A – It could do; if you are selling to individuals (or any other non-business entity) then you should be charging UK VAT regardless of where your customer belongs in the EC. However, when these type of sales reach a certain limit, you will be required to VAT register in each Member State in which the threshold is breached. These are called the Distance Selling rules and apply in situations where the seller is responsible where the supplier is responsible for the delivery of goods B2C; typically mail-order and increasingly goods purchased online (so called “delivered goods”).

Q – What are those limits?

A – Each Members state sets its own limit. However these may be broken down into two categories:

€ 35,000 (or near equivalent in domestic currency) Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Italy.

€ 100,000 (or near equivalent in domestic currency) Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, UK.

Q – What are the practical implications?

A – Each Member State has different rules for VAT registration and filing of returns. All dealings, save for a few Member States, are undertaken in the language of that country, so broadly, there could be 27 sets of rules and many languages to master in order to comply with the Distance Selling rules! Additionally, we find that some business are unaware of these rules, or discover the impact of them after the limits have been reached. This creates penalties for late registration and filing in nearly all Member States. However, mitigation (along the lines of “reasonable excuse” in the UK) in varying degrees is available in some countries. We have found that it is possible, via negotiation to have penalties reduced or removed after making full disclosure of past turnover. As one may expect, the approach varies from country to country.

Q – Do I have any choices?

A – Yes, although it is not necessary to register until the thresholds set out above are breached; it is possible to VAT register there on a voluntary basis rather than accounting for UK VAT. The considerations are usually; the VAT rate in the Member State concerned (compared to the UK) and; administrative simplification, ie; not having to change over from UK VAT to another Member State’s VAT regime when the limit is reached.

Q – But what if I have accounted for UK VAT on these sales already, what can be done about that? I don’t want to have to pay VAT twice to different authorities.

A – In our experience, HMRC do repay UK VAT overpaid if overseas output tax is due, but this sometimes becomes a struggle and HMRC require full explanation and precise evidence to support a repayment.

Q- Do these rules affect sales made to customers outside the EC?

A- No, these are usually zero rated as exports.

Q So I need to identify the location of all of my customers and monitor sales to ensure I comply with the rules and to identify whether to charge VAT, at what rate, and to which authority?

A – Yes, I am afraid so!

Please contact if you would like us to deal with overseas authorities on your behalf, or you would like assistance with technical issues or with language matters

VAT – Latest from the courts: Royal Mail claims (Zipvit)

By   July 4, 2016

post (2)The Upper Tribunal (UTT) decided that VAT incurred on the receipt of certain postal services is not recoverable.

 Brief background

It is estimated that businesses could have recovered more than £220 million of credit for input tax on RM’s postal services had the decision gone in their favour.

It has previously been decided that certain supplies made by Royal Mail (RM), including Parcelforce, to its customers were taxable. This was on the basis of the TNT CJEU case. RM had treated them as exempt. HMRC was out of time to collect output tax, but claims made by recipients of RM’s services were able to make retrospective claims. These claims were predicated on the basis that the amount paid to RM included VAT at the appropriate rate (it was embedded in the charge) and that UK VAT legislation stipulates that the “taxable amount” for any supply, is the amount paid by the customer including any VAT included in the price.

Decision

The UTT has agreed with the verdict in the FTT hearing that the appellant: Zipvit Limited (along with many other taxpayers) was unable to recover input tax claimed to be embedded the value of the supply by RM.  Regardless of the arguments on the embedded input tax point (and interesting comments on the absence of a correspondingly equal amount declared as output tax by RM) the UTT agreed with the overall finding by the FTT.  Although a This is a highly technical issue, the deciding point was the simple fact that as the claimant did not have valid tax invoices to support the claim it was invalid.  Additionally, it was decided that although HMRC may consider alternative evidence, in these circumstances they were not obliged to accept other documentation and that Zipvit’s claim therefore failed.

Action

We are aware of many appeals being stood behind Zipvit. This case clearly is unhelpful for claims, but it may not be the end of the process.  We will advise on any further progress of the appeal when that information is available.

Please contact us if you have any queries on this case.

Full case here Zipvit Limited