Monthly Archives: August 2016

VAT Latest from the courts – HMRC’s bad ‘phone service

By   August 18, 2016

phone smashed (2)As we know, late payment of VAT results in a Default Surcharge. Details of DS here

However, if a taxpayer has a reasonable excuse the DS will not be due. In the interesting recent case of McNamara Joinery Ltd here

The appeal was on the grounds that HMRC itself caused the default. The business was successful in the appeal on the grounds that its agent could not contact HMRC to arrange a time to pay agreement because of HMRC’s poor telephone service. Anyone who has attempted to contact HMRC by telephone will appreciate that this isn’t a one-off case!


The appellant had a previous history of submitting returns on time, but making late payments late such that the period in question would give rise to a DS if the return or payment was late. Appreciating that the business would not have sufficient funds to meet the VAT payment due, it instructed its agent to contact HMRC on its behalf in an attempt to arrange a “time to pay” (TTP) agreement. The agent attempted to do this two days before the payment was due. However, there were significant problems with the telephone service and the agent was unable to get through as the line kept “going dead” (It appears from later comments made by HMRC that this was due to the volume of calls made at the end of the VAT period). A TTP agreement was subsequently reached, but only after the due date which HMRC argued was too late to avoid the DS.


On the subject of reasonable excuse, the FT Tribunal observed that “A reasonable excuse is normally an unexpected event, something unforeseeable, something out of the appellant’s control. Insufficiency of funds is not regarded as a reasonable excuse although the reason for the insufficiency might be. It is unfortunately part of the hazards of trade that debtors fail to keep promises to pay. These submissions cannot be regarded as establishing for the appellant a reasonable excuse for the late payment.”
It continued “However, faced with the problem of not having received promised payments, the appellant through its agent did all that it could do in the circumstances…., its agent tried repeatedly to contact HMRC by telephone but was unsuccessful until 12 February 2016 when a time to pay agreement was made and subsequently the arrangements made were adhered to. In the Tribunal’s view this repeated failure to contact HMRC was unexpected and unforeseeable”. Therefore the taxpayer had a reasonable excuse and the DS was removed.

The Judge did not accept HMRC’s submission that the appellant should have been aware that there was a likelihood that there would be a large volume of calls being made to HMRC on the days immediately prior to the due date and that as a result the appellant could reasonably have expected delays in being able to make contact. HMRC do not publish times when their lines are likely to be busy. Rather than expecting delays it is reasonable for a taxpayer to expect telephone calls to HMRC to be answered without delay. In the Tribunal’s view HMRC were in a better position than the appellant to know when there is a likelihood of a large volume of calls and they should have arrangements in place to deal with the higher volume of calls promptly.

So HMRC lost this case because they failed to answer the phone.

Lessons to be learned

  1. One cannot rely on HMRC answering their own phones, even though they are fully aware that there will be an increased demand at certain times. They do not have arrangements in place to deal with the known demand. They do not have a reasonable excuse for not dealing with taxpayers!
  2. When attempting to contact HMRC it is a very good idea to keep an accurate log.
  3. If it is likely that a business is experiencing cashflow issues, contact HMRC as soon as possible and do not leave it to the last moment.
  4. It is possible to arrange a TTP agreement with HMRC.
  5. A business should take advice from their advisers as soon as possible to avoid DSs. This may avoid both a TTP position and/or a DS.

VAT Input Tax recoverable in each Member State – A country by country guide

By   August 17, 2016

europe pins (2)VAT incurred in other EC Member States may be recovered in certain circumstances. However, some claims are specifically blocked by Member States. Unfortunately, there are differences between each Member State’s domestic legislation.

For full details of how to make a claim for VAT incurred abroad, please see here 

Here is a summary of VAT which cannot be claimed via the refund system:


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• The purchase, hire, operation and repair of passenger motor vehicles, except driving school vehicles, taxis and hire car vehicles;

• Entertainment expenses, except for business meals where the purpose of the meeting and the identity of the participants are documented.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Manufactured tobacco;

• Spirits, except those intended for resale or supply in respect of a service (e.g. bars, hotels and restaurants);

• Accommodation, meals and beverages under an accommodation or a catering contract, unless these costs are incurred by a company’s staff effecting outside supplies of goods or services or by taxable persons who in turn supply the same services for consideration;

• Entertainment expenses (although expenses incurred in respect of an advertising event may be recoverable);

• Generally; the purchase of motor vehicles used for passenger transport and goods and services relating to such vehicles (although in some cases a 50% restriction applies and there are exceptions depending on use).


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Goods or services intended for making VAT-exempt supplies;

• Goods or services intended for “non-business” supplies;

• Entertainment expenses;

• Motorcycles or passenger cars (with less than five seats, excluding the driver’s seat), although certain exceptions apply;

• Goods or services related to the maintenance of a motorcycle or passenger car; and

• Goods that have been confiscated by the State or a building that has been demolished because it was unlawfully constructed.


VAT cannot be recovered on;

• Entertainment expenses;

• Purchase and lease of aircraft, vessels, cars and means of personal transport for leisure purposes;

• Supplies exempt from VAT via The Croatian VAT Act Articles 39, 40 and 114;

• Supplies of goods exempt from VAT via The Croatian VAT Act Articles 41 (1) and 45 (1) (2) – (intra-Community supply of goods);

• VAT charged in contravention of the provisions, ie; VAT charged when it should not have been.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Non-business supplies; if a supply has both business and non-business purposes, VAT can be reclaimed only on the business portion of the supply;

• Supplies or imports of passenger cars;

• Certain second-hand goods, e.g. cars and antiques for which the VAT margin scheme is used;

• Business entertainment and hospitality expenses, except the provision of

entertainment to employees;

• Supplies used or to be used to make a supply in Cyprus; and

• Goods and services, such as hotel accommodation, purchased for resale and that are for the direct benefit of travellers.

Czech Republic

VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Entertainment expenses.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Meals for the owner and staff of a business. However, VAT on meals incurred for business purposes is partly refundable;

• The acquisition and running of places of residence for the owner and staff of a business;

• The acquisition and operating costs connected to holiday homes for the owner and staff of a business;

• Entertainment expenses, representation costs and gifts. However, VAT on business entertainment is partly refundable;

• The driving of foreign tourist buses;

• The acquisition, repair and operation of motor vehicles designed for the conveyance of not more than nine persons; and

• Payments in kind to the staff of a business. No more than 25% of VAT may be recovered on restaurant bills and no more than 50% of VAT on hotel accommodation.

• There is a right to deduct a specific amount of VAT for companies that lease

passenger cars if:

• The leasing period is at least six months; and

• The vehicle is used for business purposes for at least 10% of the mileage.


A VAT refund is available if an Estonian company can make a similar VAT deduction on its business expenses. This limits the VAT deduction, for example, on meals and entertainment expenses. VAT on accommodation costs is deductible if the trip is not for leisure purposes.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Immovable property that the taxable person or its staff uses as a residence, nursery, recreational or leisure facility, as well as goods and services connected with it or its use;

• Goods and services related to transport between the place of residence and place of work of the taxable person or its staff;

• Goods and services used for business entertainment purposes and business gifts;

• (With some exceptions) Passenger cars, motorcycles, caravans, vessels intended for recreational or sports purposes and aircraft with a maximum permissible take-off weight not exceeding 1,550 kg, or on goods and services related to their use;

• Purchases intended for the private consumption of the entrepreneur or his personnel;

• Purchases related to exempt sales of investment gold;

• Purchases of taxable goods and services for direct benefit of passengers made in the name of a foreign travel service company; and

• Purchases that are VAT-exempt, but have erroneously been charged with VAT.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Accommodation costs incurred on behalf of the management or staff of a company. (VAT is recoverable when such expenses are incurred for the benefit of persons not employed by the company, provided the expenses are incurred in the interest of the company or when it supplies the same services for consideration);

• The supply, import, leasing, repair and maintenance of most cars for passenger transport and other related costs, such as petrol. (However, 80% of VAT on diesel fuel can be recovered and VAT is recoverable when the cars are purchased by a car dealer for resale or by a person who hires out cars.);

• Goods transferred without remuneration or for remuneration that is much lower than their normal price, unless the value of the goods is very low (except business gifts whose collective value does not exceed EUR 65, including VAT, per beneficiary per year); and

• Domestic transport of passengers and related expenses (except for public transport supplies and transportation from home to work, subject to conditions).

If French VAT has been incorrectly charged, a foreign taxable person can, in principle, obtain a refund (unless a corrected invoice has been issued—a specific procedure applies for a supplier to issue a corrected invoice).


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Supplies of goods and services that are not used for business purposes, including gifts; or

• Supplies of services acquired or goods imported connected to certain exempt activities.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Intra-community supplies and exports.

• The supply, import or intra-community acquisition of tobacco products that are destined for use in non-taxable transactions;

• The supply, import or intra-community acquisition of alcoholic beverages that are destined for use in non-taxable transactions;

• Entertainment expenditure, including expenditure on hospitality and amusement;

• The acquisition, leasing or hire, modification, repair or maintenance of passenger vehicles with up to nine seats, pleasure boats except if they are used for the sale, leasing or transportation of persons for a fee;

• Accommodation, food, transport and entertainment expenses incurred for company personnel or representatives;

• The supply of goods and services in connection with real estate located in Greece (in certain circumstances);

• Expenses unrelated to the business activity of the claimant; and

• Incorrect VAT invoicing.

• If the VAT imposed is used for both taxable and exempt transactions, a refund will be granted only in respect of the taxable transactions.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Use of goods or the services directly for exempt supply of goods and/or services; or

• Use of goods or services for purposes other than taxable business activities, except when the goods or services are entirely used in the interest of achieving taxable objectives.

• Motor fuels and other fuels, goods that are necessary directly for the operation of passenger cars;

• Passenger cars, motorcycles above 125 cc, yachts, sporting and leisure boats;

• Residential buildings (except where a taxable person engaged in the leasing of such buildings opted for taxation of the rental);

• Purchases of goods and services related to the construction and renovation of residential buildings;

• Food and beverages;

• Services received in connection with the operation and maintenance of passenger cars;

• Services of restaurants and other public catering services;

• Entertainment services;

• Taxi services;

• Parking services and highway tolls, with the exception of parking services used and highway tolls paid for a motor vehicle whose gross weight is equal to 3.5 tons or more (including buses); and

• 30% of telephone and mobile phone costs and services related to data submission by internet protocol.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Petrol except diesel;

• Food, drink, hotels/accommodation or other personal services (as from 1 July 2007, VAT on accommodation is recoverable if certain stringent conditions are satisfied);

• Entertainment expenses; and

• The purchase, hire or importation of passenger motor vehicles (VAT on motor vehicles used for certain purposes is recoverable).


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Entertainment expenses.

• It is possible to deduct VAT paid on cars/fuel/maintenance used for the company’s business. The percentage deduction set by Italian VAT legislation is 40% in the case of both private and business use. The deduction is 100% if exclusively used for business purposes.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• The acquisition of unused immovable property and services received in relation to the construction, reconstruction, renovation, restoration or repair of immovable property;

• Goods and services purchased for personal use;

− Rental, maintenance and repair of a passenger car if these services are not used for business purposes. If the vehicle is used for business purposes, VAT can be recovered for the business use (in proportion to that use), but the claimant must provide supporting documentation with the application (e.g. route description in Latvian or English);

− Purchase of fuel, lubricants and spare parts intended for a passenger car if they are not used for business purposes;

− Expenses for recreation activities;

− Catering (including restaurants);

− Health improvement activities; and

− Entertainment.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• The purchase or lease of a passenger car;

• Transport of passengers by cars (taxi services);

• Entertainment and representation expenses. However, where a taxable person is established in the EU, 75% of the VAT incurred on entertainment and representation expenses (goods and

services) is refundable;

• The supply of goods or services on which VAT does not have to be accounted for;

• Goods supplied to another EU member state if the supply of these goods would have been subject to the zero rate; and

• Goods exported from the EU if the supply of these goods would have been subject to the zero rate.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Supplies on which VAT has been charged by mistake;

• Goods or services that are VAT exempt.

• Goods or services used for private purposes.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Tobacco or tobacco products, except those intended for resale;

• Alcoholic beverages, except those intended for resale or for the supply of catering;

• Works of art, collectors’ items and antiques, except those intended for resale;

• Non-commercial motor vehicles (and goods and services for the purpose of

repairing, maintaining and fuelling non-commercial motor vehicles), except those intended for resale, charter/hire, driving instructions or for the purpose of the carriage of goods or passengers for consideration;

• Vessels or aircraft, except those intended for resale or charter/hire for the purpose of the carriage of goods or passengers for consideration;

• Purchases relating to the provision of hospitality or entertainment, subject to certain exceptions; and

• Purchases relating to the provision of transport or entertainment to employees, subject to certain exceptions.

The Netherlands

VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Supplies of goods and services that are not used for business purposes;

• Supplies acquired or imported in connection with an exempt business activity;

• Food and drinks in restaurants, hotels and cafes;

• Business entertainment in excess of EUR 227 per year per person;

• Employee benefits in-kind in excess of EUR 227 per year per person;

• VAT on costs for the lease or rental of cars (these are limited to an 84% VAT refund – a 16% adjustment is made for private use).


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Goods and services, the acquisition of which resulted from a donation or free provision of services;

• Lodging and catering services, with some exceptions;

• The deductibility of input VAT on the purchase (lease) of passenger cars is limited to 60%, but not exceeding PLN 6,000 per car.

• The purchase of engine fuel, diesel oil and gas for passenger cars or other motor vehicles.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Accommodation, food and drinks (except in the case of specific events);

• Entertainment expenses;

• Purchase, hire, importation and repairs of vehicles, boats, and aircraft (unless these assets are used in specific activities). However, it is possible to recover VAT incurred on commercial cars and trucks;

• Fuel expenses (50% of the VAT on diesel is recoverable and 100% if certain

vehicles are involved);

• Tobacco; and

• Travel expenses, including tolls (except in the case of specific events).


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Invoices on which VAT was unlawfully charged;

• Acquisitions that can be VAT exempt;

• Acquisitions made by tour operators that apply the margin scheme in the Member State in which they are established;

• Tobacco products and spirits, except those intended for resale or for supply during the performance of a catering service and;

• Acquisitions of passenger vehicles and fuel (with some exceptions).

Slovak Republic

VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Supplies of goods and services where the application of VAT was not in compliance with the Slovak VAT legislation;

• Supplies of goods that are or may be exempt from VAT (intra-Community supply of

goods, export of goods); or

• Supplies made under the tour operator margin scheme.


VAT cannot be recovered for:

• Yachts and boats for sport and amusement, fuel, lubricants, spare parts and related services;

• Aircraft and fuel, lubricants, spare parts and connected services;

• Cars and motor bikes and fuel, spare parts and related services;

• Accommodation, meals and beverages, unless these costs are incurred by a taxable person in the course of supplies made as part of their economic activity and;

• Entertainment expenses.


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Entertainment expenses;

• Food and drinks, tobacco;

• Jewels and precious stones;

• VAT on accommodation, restaurant and travel expenses will be refundable only to the extent the expenses are deductible for personal and corporate income tax purposes.

• VAT incurred on car rentals and fuel will be refundable only if the car is exclusively used for business activities.

• If not exclusively used for business activities, refunds of VAT on car purchases, car importations and car leases will be possible, but only if the car can be considered an investment good for Spanish VAT purposes (ie; it must be used for at least one year within the company), and only for the proportion that the vehicle is used for business purposes (a business use of at least

50% will be required).


VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Permanent accommodation;

• Travel services (only applicable to persons supplying travel services);

• Unreasonable entertainment services;

• Purchase of motor vehicles; and

• Car rentals (these are 50% refundable), with certain exceptions for vehicles intended to be sold or leased by a taxable person whose particular economic activity involves the sale or leasing of motor vehicles, vehicles intended to be solely used for passenger transport for hire or reward and vehicles intended to be used for driving license education and transport of the deceased.

United Kingdom

VAT cannot be recovered on:

• Non-business supplies (if a supply covers both business and non-business use VAT can be reclaimed on the business element of the supply);

• Supplies the claimant intends to use for carrying on an economic activity in the

U.K. or that the claimant intends to export from the U.K. (i.e. economic activities, the place of supply of which is the U.K.);

• Business entertainment and hospitality expenses and other expenses on which the recovery of VAT is restricted in the U.K.;

• Goods and services purchased for resale (e.g. as part of package holiday) and which are for the direct benefit of travellers;

• VAT that has been incorrectly invoiced or where VAT has been charged on the dispatch of goods to another Member State, or the export of goods outside the EU;

• The purchase or import of passenger motor vehicles, unless used wholly for business purposes and

• Certain second-hand goods, such as antiques, for which a tax invoice will not be issued.

• Not more than 50% of VAT can be recovered on the lease of passenger motor vehicles not used solely for business purposes.

Please contact us if you have any queries on claiming overseas VAT.

Reclaiming VAT Overseas

By   August 16, 2016

exhibit (2)Refunds of VAT for UK businesses incurring other EC Member States

If a business incurs VAT in another EC Member State it is possible to recover it.  It is not claimed on a UK VAT return, but via a special claim process which I have set out below. Unfortunately, this procedure is likely to be unavailable after Brexit. I hope that this is a timely reminder as well as a guide as the deadline for the year of the claim is 30 September.

My next article will look at precisely what VAT is recoverable in each Member State in a country by country guide – here

Claim Process

Gone are the days when a business had to make claims directly to the Member State where VAT was incurred; using numerous, complicated forms, in the language of the Member State of claim, and then waiting months, if not years to hear anything.

Now, a simple online claim to HMRC is all that is required.  HMRC then coordinate payment for a business from the relevant country.  This is a practical overview of the procedure.

All applications must be submitted using the electronic online system.  You must be VAT registered in the UK to obtain a refund.

In order to make a claim a business must meet the following conditions:

  1. you must not be registered, liable or eligible to be registered in the Member State of Refund
  2. you must not have any fixed establishment, seat of economic activity, place of business or other residence in the Member State of Refund
  3. during the refund period you must not have supplied any goods or services in the Member State of refund with the exception of;

a) transport services and ancillary services

b) any goods or services where VAT is payable by the person to whom the supply is made (the reverse charge).

By submitting your application you are declaring that you meet these conditions.

How do I claim?

A separate online application is required for each Member State from which you wish to claim. In order to start an application you must access the relevant online services section and enter standard data into the required fields, along with invoice for expenditure you wish to reclaim.

Period application covers

The refund period must not be more than one calendar year or less than three calendar months.  Generally refund periods do not have to cover strict calendar quarters. However, some Member States have their own requirements, and details of these can be obtained from the relevant tax authority.

Minimum amount that may be claimed

If the refund application relates to a period of less than a calendar year, but not less than three months the minimum amount claimable is EUR 400 or the equivalent in national currency.

If the refund application relates to a period of a calendar year or the remainder of a calendar year the minimum amount claimable is EUR 50 or the equivalent in national currency.

Invoices included on the application

Invoices relating to supplies of goods or services with a tax point during the period of the refund application should be included.  Additionally, a business may claim for invoices not included in a previous application as long as they relate to the same calendar year.

VAT which cannot be included on a claim

A claim cannot include VAT which has been;

  1. incorrectly invoiced,
  2. invoiced in respect of goods despatched to another Member State or exported from the EC
  3. incurred in respect of non-business activities

Information required from invoices being claimed

  1. Name and address of your supplier
  2. Except in cases of importation the VAT identification number or tax reference number of the supplier and the prefix of the Member State of Refund
  3. Date and number of the invoice or importation document
  4. Taxable amount and amount of VAT expressed in the currency of the Member State of refund
  5. The amount of deductible VAT expressed in the currency of the Member State of refund
  6. Where applicable the deductible proportion
  7. Nature of the goods and services acquired, described according to the following expenditure codes: Fuel, Transport Hire, Road Tolls, Travel Expenses (taxi, public transport), Accommodation, Food and Restaurant Services, Admissions to Fairs and Exhibitions, Luxuries/Amusements/Entertainment.

If an invoice includes items covering more than one expenditure code the code relating to the highest proportion of expenditure is the one that should be used.

Restriction of applications in respect of partial exemption

A business must apply the appropriate recovery rate for the goods or services purchased against each invoice or importation on your application, and show the amount of VAT recoverable in the appropriate box. The recovery rate to be applied is the last percentage appropriate to the refund period covering the invoice date.  Following an annual adjustment, you will not be required to amend refund applications already submitted. The invoices can only be entered once and the percentage to be used is that covering the invoice date.

Restriction of applications in respect of non-business expenses

Expenditure incurred in another Member State that relates to non-business activities is not claimable under the refund scheme.

Language needed on the application

Member States generally require the application to be in their own language they may allow the use of a second language in the free text fields, and English is a common option. The language(s) required by the Member State of Refund will be displayed on the electronic portal as you complete the application.

Invoices which may be required to be submitted electronically

A business may be requested to submit invoices with values of EUR 1,000 or more (EUR 250 or more in the case of fuel) with the application. All other invoices should be retained as they may be requested at a later date by the Member State of Refund.

Claim updates

A business will be informed electronically at the following key stages of the process.

  1. If your application fails basic validation checks by the electronic portal
  2. When HMRC forwards your application to the Member State of Refund
  3. When the Member State of Refund receives the application
  4. If the Member State of Refund requires additional information from you
  5. When the Member State of Refund makes its decision

Time limits for submitting an application

Applications must be submitted to HMRC at the latest by 30 September of the calendar year following the refund year and will only be considered submitted if the applicant has completed all of the required standing data fields (see above).

Time limits for the Member State of refund to process an application

The Member State of Refund must notify the applicant of its decision to approve or refuse the application within four months of the date they first received the application.

Payment method

The refund will be paid in the Member State of Refund or, at the applicant’s request, in any other Member State. In the latter case, any bank charges for the transfer will be deducted by the Member State of Refund from the amount to be paid to the applicant.

Error on applications

The electronic portal provides a correction facility whereby a business can recall the original application and amend existing details.  You may not, however, add new lines.


All Member States take a very serious view of incorrect or false applications. Refunds claimed incorrectly on the basis of incorrect or false information can be recovered and penalties and interest may be imposed and further refund applications suspended.

Applications refused

If the Member State of Refund refuses an application fully or partly they must also notify you of the reasons for refusal.

If this happens you can appeal against the decision using the appeals procedure of that Member State. This means that the normal VAT appeals rules of that Member State on time limits, form of appeal etc., will apply.

Interest on delayed applications

Interest may be payable to you by the Member State of Refund if payment is made after the deadline.  If applicable, it will be paid from the day following the deadline up to the date the refund is actually paid. Interest rates must be the same as those applied to refunds of VAT to taxable persons established in the Member State of Refund under the national law of that Member State.

Claims on UK VAT returns

VAT incurred overseas must not be claimed on a UK VAT return.  If it is, it is liable to an assessment, penalties and interest levied in the UK by HMRC.


VAT – Partial Exemption: What Is It? What do I need to know?

By   August 10, 2016

commercial property interior (2)As part of our guides to VAT basics, we take a brief look at partial exemption and how it affects a business.

The first point to make is that partial exemption is often complex and costly. In some cases it may be avoided by planning and in others it is a fact of life for a business which needs to be managed properly.

The Basics

The VAT a business incurs on its expenditure is called input tax. For most businesses this is reclaimed from HMRC on VAT returns if it relates to standard rated or zero rated sales (referred to as “taxable supplies”) that that business makes. Exempt supplies are not to be confused with non-business income which are dealt with under a different regime.

However, a business which makes exempt sales may not be in a position to recover all of the input tax which it incurred. A business in this position is called partly exempt. Generally, any input tax which directly relates to exempt supplies is irrecoverable. In addition, an element of that business’ general overheads, e.g.; light, heat, telephone, computers, professional fees, etc are deemed to be in part attributable to exempt supplies and a calculation must be performed to establish the element which falls to be irrecoverable.

Input tax which falls within the overheads category must be apportioned according to a so called; partial exemption method. The “Standard Method” requires a comparison between the value of taxable and exempt supplies made by the business. The calculation is; the percentage of taxable supplies of all supplies multiplied by the input tax to be apportioned which gives the element of VAT input tax which may be recovered. Other partial exemption methods (so called Special Methods) are available by specific agreement with HMRC.  A flowchart which illustrates the Standard Method of apportionment is below.

partial exemption flowchart1

Which businesses are affected?

Any business which receives income from the following sources may be affected by partial exemption:

  • Property letting and sales – generally all types of supply of land*
  • Financial services
  • Insurance
  • Betting, gaming and lotteries
  • Education
  • Health and welfare
  • Sport, sports competitions and physical education
  • Cultural services

This list is not exhaustive.

* Most businesses which do not routinely make exempt supplies usually encounter exemption in the area of land and property and it is an easy trap to fall into not to consider VAT when involved in property transactions. This is one area where VAT planning may be of assistance as it is possible in most situations to deliberately choose to add VAT to an exempt supply to avoid a loss of input tax.  This is known as the option to tax, and it is considered in more detail here

De Minimis relief

There is however relief available for a business in the form of de minimis limits. Broadly, if the total of the irrecoverable directly attributable (to exempt suppliers) and the element of overhead input tax which has been established using a partial exemption method falls to be de minimis, all of that input tax may be recovered in the normal way. The de minimis limit is currently £7,500 per annum of input tax and one half of all input tax for the year.

As a result, after using the partial exemption method, should the input tax fall below £7,500 (£625 per month) and 50% of all input tax for a year it is recoverable in full. This calculation is required every quarter (for businesses which render returns on a quarterly basis) with a review at the year end, called an annual adjustment carried out at the end of a business’ partial exemption year. The quarterly de minimis is consequently £1,875 of exempt input tax which represents spending of under £10,000 net; not a huge amount.

Should the de minimis limits be breached, all input tax relating to exempt supplies is irrecoverable.

The value for the de minimis limit has been in place for over 20 years (when it was increased by a huge £25 per month) and it is rather ridiculous that it has not been increased to reflect inflation.  This, coupled with the fact that the VAT rate has increased significantly means that the relief which was once very useful for a business has withered away to such an extent that partial exemption catches even very small businesses which I am sure goes against the original purpose of the relief.

In summary – for a business exemption is a burden not a relief.  It represents a real cost in terms of tax payable, time and other resources, and uncertainty. We often find that this is an area which HMRC examine closely and one which benefits from proactive negotiation with HMRC.

International VAT – Complex, expensive and difficult. The triggerpoints

By   August 2, 2016

map-of-the-world-429784_960_720 (2)Further to the recent announcement of our comprehensive and extensive new International tax service offering here  I thought it a good idea to provide a brief guide on when a business or an adviser needs to consider indirect tax when selling overseas. I hope this summary will be of use.  Please contact us if you feel that any issues here are relevant to you or your clients.

International and cross-border transactions can be extremely complex and frustrating (take it from me if you haven’t already experienced it). From the physical movement of goods to the many various types of services, VAT is a minefield. Not only is it very complicated, but different languages, rules and practices can add to the overall issues with dealing with the tax.  This shouldn’t be a barrier to companies doing business across the world and we are here to support and assist you.

We are experienced in advising not only on UK indirect tax, but issues in other EC Member States and matters outside the EC.

Do you know whether you have indirect tax responsibilities in other countries?  Do you know whether you are taking advantage of all available reliefs?

There are often complex and conflicting issues concerning VAT when dealing with customers or suppliers outside these shores.  Although the EC-wide VAT system is supposed to be harmonised, not unsurprisingly, there are significant differences in domestic law and the application of EC legislation.  It is easy to get caught out or not even consider VAT issues outside the UK.  There are special rules for a lot of activities, with the rules for International Services particularly complex.

Experience insists that overseas tax authorities do not mitigate any assessments and penalties simply because your business is based outside their country.  Another twist is that HMRC are simply not interested in any transactions outside the UK so will not assist with taxpayers’ queries.

So what sort of questions should a business be asking itself and in what circumstances could VAT rear its ugly head?

When should I be considering VAT?

  • Exporting goods – Do they properly qualify for zero rating?
  • Dispatching goods to other EC Member States – Are they UK VAT free?
  • Distance Selling (usually online/mail order) – There are special rules for this.
  • Selling goods in the UK which are to be removed from the UK.
  • Retail sales to visiting customers.
  • Electronically supplied services – MOSS
  • Imports – what value? Recovery of import VAT. Customs Duties. Procedures. Reliefs.
  • Acquisitions from other Member States – what are the rules? Self-supplies. Procedures.
  • Provision of services – What is the Place Of Supply (POS)?
  • Provision of services – UK VAT, no VAT, overseas VAT chargeable?
  • Working abroad – What are the rules?
  • Property owned overseas.
  • Overseas businesses owning UK property
  • Purchasing services overseas – VAT free?  Self-supplies
  • Purchasing/hiring transport/vehicles cross border; aeroplanes, yachts, road vehicles etc.
  • Organising trade fairs, exhibitions seminars or training etc– There are special rules.
  • The Performance rules eg; cultural, artistic, sporting – There are special rules.
  • Supplies of electronically supplied services – There are special rules.  MOSS (Mini One Stop Shop) issues.
  • Place of belonging issues.  Where do you belong for VAT purposes?  Where does your customer belong?
  • Intercompany charges/management charges/recharges – Require careful consideration.
  • Filing overseas returns and dealing with overseas authorities’ inspections/investigations
  • Cross-border transactions in used goods (including works of art and cars) – there are special rules.
  • When negotiating contracts or pricing transactions/projects. You need to know the VAT position first otherwise you cannot budget correctly.

How we can help

We can assist whether you have an ad-hoc query or you require a full service in an overseas country.  We can:

  • Deal with overseas authorities on your behalf
  • Resolve disputes with overseas clients/suppliers
  • Analyse cross-border/international positions
  • Advise on international structures
  • Resolve complex international technical problems
  • File overseas declarations/returns and registrations
  • Deal with HMRC on complex POS matters
  • Assist with classification and valuation matters
  • Deal with documentation (which can be complex and demanding)
  • Review and advise on contracts and tenders
  • Liaise with local domestic legal/accountancy advisers in overseas countries
  • Advise overseas businesses making supplies into the UK
  • Assist with e-services matters including MOSS
  • Resolve disputes with HMRC
  • Handle claims for VAT incurred overseas for a UK business and UK VAT claims for overseas businesses
  • Act as a one-stop shop for all of your overseas tax matters.

So don’t let tax interfere with your business expanding overseas, we are here to help you.

VAT Latest from the courts – more on composite or separate supplies

By   August 1, 2016

op1 (2)The case of: General Healthcare Group Limited (GHG)

Those that have read my articles in the past will recognise the topic of composite or separate supplies rears its ugly head on many occasions. It is a matter that has occupied businesses, advisers and HMRC since VAT’s inception, and shows no signs of disappearing any time soon.  To put it into the Tribunal chairman’s words:  This is another appeal on the subject of whether a transaction which comprises several different elements should be regarded as a single supply or several distinct and independent supplies.

In the latest episode, a ruling was handed down by the Upper Tribunal (UTT) in the case of GHG.


GHG challenged the decision in the First tier Tribunal (FTT) that it made a single supply of prostheses and operating services via its consultants. Consultants fit prostheses in certain procedures, eg; hip replacements when they operate in GHG hospitals. The prostheses are supplied by GHG which also provide the hospital facilities to enable the independent, self-employed consultants to supply healthcare which includes the fitting of prostheses, to its patients. The FTT (in the lead case of Nuffield Hospital with GHG) decided that there was a single supply of exempt healthcare to the patient in these circumstances. GHG appealed against this decision, contending that there is one supply of exempt healthcare, and a separate zero rated supply of the prosthetics prescribed and fitted by the consultants who performed the operations.

VAT Impact

Treating the prosthetics as zero rated rather than exempt would have no impact on output tax (no VAT would be due in either analysis) but zero rating would enable GHG to recover input tax on the prosthetics in question and an increased amount of VAT incurred on general overheads. It is likely that such a claim, across the board would run into many multi-millions.


The UT dismissed GHG’s appeal, stating that “… from the point of view of the typical patient who requires a prosthesis, GHG makes a single supply of hospital and medical care which includes providing the prosthesis to be fitted by the consultant …”.


The decision appears logical and in line with both EC and UK legislation and past case law and was not really a surprise. In these type of cases it is important to consider what the recipient of the supply thinks (s)he is receiving.  In this case, and having been on the receiving end of a similar procedure (although I hope that I am a few years off a hip replacement) I think it is absolutely accurate to say that the patient would consider that (s)he is receiving a single supply of medical care.  However, I have no doubt that the patient who has just received a new hip would be very unlikely to be thinking of the VAT treatment of their….errr treatment in the slightest…..

The UTT chairman stated that it declined to make any reference to the CJEU.

As always, this is a tricky area, if you have received any questionable rulings from HMRC on single/multiple supplies, or wonder whether there is a different way of analysing your supplies, please contact us as explained above, the matter continues to throw up interesting results.

Full case here 

Our New International Service – VAT, Customs Duty, Sales Tax

By   August 1, 2016

earth (2)Due to a new strategic alliance, we are now able to offer a true worldwide tax, customs duty and excise service.

Gone are the days when you, or your clients, had to deal individually with representatives in different countries, or pay extremely high fees and receive less than immediate service from the big 4. We now act as a one stop shop for nearly every country in the world.  Whether it be;

  • a sales tax issue in Texas
  • a dispute with the authorities in Romania
  • a Customs Duty problem with entering goods into Mumbai
  • appointing a tax representative in Hong Kong
  • a disagreement over tax with a customer in Switzerland, or
  • a requirement to file documents in Russia,

we can do this on your behalf.

Of course, we cover every EC Member State – which may be increasing important after Brexit.

We offer a comprehensive, immediate and very reasonably priced service with total transparency on cost and quick response times.  We can handle all matters including; advice, structuring, support and compliance while dealing with language issues, understanding domestic legislation and dealing with the relevant authorities in each country.  All advice is provided by our very experienced and highly qualified staff with a comprehensive network of contacts.  We understand local practices and customs as well as the precise technical requirements.  Our advice aims to remove uncertainty and provides a definitive view, rather than a business having to rely on hearsay, incomplete or outdated online information, or advice from a customer/supplier which may not be accurate  – all of which we have seen in the past and which can lead to very expensive surprises.

Our service covers the ambit from a small business’ first time cross-border or overseas transaction, to the largest multi-national.

Please contact me should you, or your clients have any international issues, or if you, or they are dissatisfied with current advice in this respect.  We can also act on behalf of other VAT consultancies which do not have worldwide coverage.

In a forthcomingt article we will consider International transactions and triggerpoints for when assistance may be required.