Monthly Archives: September 2016

Bad Debt Relief (BDR) – Avoiding the VAT burden

By   September 20, 2016

relief_maiden_fontana_di_trevi_romaVAT Basics

Anything which can relieve the burden of VAT is to be welcomed. BDR is a useful tool if a business is aware of it and understand when it may be claimed.

It is at the very least frustrating when a client does not pay, and in some cases this situation can lead to the end of a business. At least the VAT charged to the client should not become a cost to a supplier.  The BDR mechanism goes some way to protect a business from payment defaulters.

Under the normal rules of VAT, a supplier is required to account for output tax, even if the supply has not been paid for (however, the use of cash accounting or certain retail schemes removes the problem of VAT on bad debts from the supplier).

There is specific relief however:

Conditions for claiming BDR

The supplier must have supplied goods or services for a consideration in money, and must have accounted for and paid VAT on the supply. All or part of the consideration must have been written off as a bad debt by making the appropriate entry in the business’ records (this does not have to be a “formal” procedure). At least six months (but not more than three years and six months) must have elapsed since the later of the date of supply or the due date for payment.

Records required

Various records and evidence must be kept (for four years from the date of claim), in particular to identify:

• The time and nature of the supply, the purchaser, and the consideration
• The amount of VAT chargeable on the supply
• The accounting period when this VAT was accounted for and paid to HMRC
• Any payment received for the supply
• Entries in the refund for bad debts account
• The accounting period in which the claim is made.

Procedure for claiming BDR

The claim is made by including the amount of the refund in Box 4 of the VAT Return for the period in which the debt becomes over six months old.

Repayment of refund

Repayment of VAT refunded is required where payment is subsequently received or where the above conditions have not been complied with.

Refund of input tax to debtor

Businesses are required to monitor the time they take to pay their suppliers, and repay input tax claimed if they have not paid the supplier within six months. Subsequent payment of all or part of the debt will allow a corresponding reclaim of input tax. This is an easy assessment for HMRC to make at inspections, so businesses should make reviewing this matter this a regular exercise.

Finally, there is tax point planning available to defer a tax point until payment is received for providers of continuous supplies of services. Please see here

 

(Apologies for the bad image pun, it is a “Relief”)

VAT – Latest from the courts: treatment of web-based introductions

By   September 14, 2016

notes-money-2First Tier Tribunal (FTT) – What intermediary services may be exempted?

Background

The provision of intermediary services (putting those who require a financial product in touch with those who provide them) is exempt from VAT if certain conditions apply.  Broadly, the requirement is mainly the need to provide something more than just the introduction, eg; negotiation of credit. If a business acts as a mere conduit or in an advertising capacity its supplies will be standard rated.

The case

In the FTT case of Dollar Financial UK Limited TC05334 (Dollar) the applicant received web-based services from overseas The Reverse Charge was applied to these supplies (details of the Reverse Charge here). Dollar provides “payday loans” which are themselves exempt from VAT.  As Dollar was unable to recover all of the VAT on the Reverse Charge it represented a VAT cost to the business.  However, if the supplies were exempt there would be no need to apply the Reverse Charge and so the loss would be avoided.

The FTT was required to consider what precisely the suppliers (so called lead generators) provided to Dollar in return for a commission based on the value of the loan.  The lead generators operated websites which are mainly comparison sites and which referred potential borrowers to loan providers such as Dollar. HMRC formed the view that these services did not amount to intermediary services and hence were subject to the Reverse Charge.

The FTT ruled that there were differences between the two examples of services received by Dollar.  In one example it was decided that despite;

  • there being no legal relationship between the lead generator and the potential borrower
  • that the leads were sold to the lender offering the best commission
  • that the assessment for loan suitability was quick, only involved only a few basic checks, and did not require any judgment or discretion, and
  • that only 1% of the introductions resulted in offers of loans to borrowers,

the appellant was acting as more than a mere conduit or in an advertising capacity, and was providing exempt introductory services. Consequently, there was no need to apply the Reverse Charge.

In the other example, the Tribunal considered that a single supply of online chat assistance was more akin to an outsourced, principally back-office function which did not amount to intermediary services and was therefore standard rated such that Dollar must apply the Reverse Charge.

Commentary

This case demonstrates the need to identify precisely what is being provided by a business’ suppliers and to review contracts intently.  A small change in the circumstances between one supply and another may result in different VAT treatment. This is a comprehensive judgement and it is worth reading in its entirety if a business is involved in these type of transactions.  We recommend that advice is sought by those businesses which could be affected by this case; either as supplier or recipient.

Latest from the courts – Recovery of VAT on cars purchase

By   September 14, 2016

car-showroom-2Input tax incurred on the purchase of cars

There is a specific blocking order (Value Added Tax (Input Tax) Order 1992) which prohibits the recovery of input tax incurred on the purchase of cars. The block applies if there is any private use of the car whatsoever (even one mile).  HMRC’s approach has been that unless a business can demonstrate that there is no private use the input tax is disallowed.  Previous case law, notably Elm Milk Limited relied on the terms of the insurance covering the car (whether private use was permitted) and inter alia, the physical security of the car.

The case

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of Zone Contractors Limited TC05330 it was held that VAT was reclaimable on six cars purchased for business use.  The reason for the decision was that the relevant employment contracts specifically and explicitly prohibited any private use of the vehicles.

HMRC claimed that the business had not demonstrated that the use of the cars was monitored and controlled sufficiently to evidence the fact that there was no private use. However the FTT decided that the employment contracts could be relied on and permitted the claims. What is relevant in this case is that the court decided that no reliance could be placed on insurance documentation preventing recovery on the grounds of the policy including cover for use for social, domestic and pleasure and that HMRC could not rely on such documentation to disallow a claim as they had in the past.

Action

If a business has been denied input tax recovery on cars by HMRC, or has refrained from claiming input tax based on previous case law, it may well be beneficial to review the circumstances in light of this case. We can assist in lodging claims where appropriate.  After all, the VAT of £8000 on a £40,000 car is significant; even if only one has been purchased.

Egypt introduces VAT

By   September 9, 2016

egypt-giza_necropolis-2New VAT regime in Egypt

From 8 September 2016 Egypt has introduced VAT to replace its existing sales Tax.

The standard rate for the year ending 30 June 2017 is 13% and it is anticipated the rate from 1 July 2017 will be increased to 14%.

Any business carrying out transactions with Egyptian customers, or in Egypt itself, will need to review their operations to ensure compliance with the new regime.

We can assist with such a review which will need to consider; reporting systems, documentation, processes, budgeting, and contracts etc

VAT liability of a dwelling formed from more than one building

By   September 6, 2016

Barn_Conversion_in_progress_-_geograph.org.uk_-_46609 (2)HMRC has issued a policy paper: Revenue and Customs Brief 13(2016)

This brief explains the change in policy relating to the treatment of dwellings that have been formed from either the construction of new buildings, or from the conversion of non-residential buildings into a dwelling. HMRC now accepts that single dwellings can be formed from more than one building.

Please contact us if this change affects you in relation to current, or past developments.

VAT Latest from the courts – what is an economic activity by a charity?

By   September 5, 2016

Dinghies_at_Longridge_-_geograph.org.uk_-_948243 (2)In the VAT case of Longridge on the Thames (Longbridge) here the Court of Appeal considered previous decisions at the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) and Upper Tribunal (UT) on whether Longbridge carried on an economic activity. This is an important case as it goes some way in determining the meaning of “business” in light of the term “economic activity” used in EC legislation.  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 previously commented on this matter here 

Background

Longbridge is a charity. It uses volunteers to provide boating activities (mainly to young people) on the Thames. The fees charged by Longbridge were often at below cost and the charity relied on donations to continue its operations. It constructed a new building and sought VAT zero rating of these costs on the basis that the building was to be used for non-business purposes. Consequently, it was crucial to the relief claimed that the charity was not carrying out a business in VAT terms.  The FTT and the UT found that the charity’s “predominant concern” was not to make supplies for a consideration and therefore it was not in business. These findings were based on long standing case law, the most salient being; Lord Fisher and Morrison’s Academy Boarding Houses Association. Lord Fisher set out a series of tests which HMRC rely on to determine whether a business exists – considered here and here 

Decision

The Court of Appeal allowed HMRC’s appeal.  It decided that Longridge was carrying on an economic activity and therefore the construction of the new building could not be zero rated.  The decision is worth considering in full, however, the court held that there was a “direct link” between the fees paid and service the recipients received, even if it was subsidised in certain instances and that Longbridge was furthering its charitable objectives.  The requirement for a direct link was clearly demonstrated in The Apple and Pear Development Council case. The establishment of the direct link meant that Longridge was carrying in business (in UK law).

Commentary

The important test for whether an economic activity is being carried on is now; the direct link between payment and service. There is no longer the requirement to consider the test of “predominant concern” and in fact it was stated in the decision by the judges that this test is “unhelpful and may be misleading.” We must now ignore; the motive of the provider of the service, its status as a charity, the amount charged, whether subsidies are received by the charity, and whether volunteers are involved in the relevant activities.

This is a very big change in the analysis of whether a business exists and basically means that previous cases on this matter were wrongly decided.  It brings the UK into line with the EC on the definition of an economic activity and therefore provides clarity on this matter – which has long been an area which has desperately required it.

It means that, unless the decision is reversed at the Supreme Court, we say goodbye to the unloved Lord Fisher tests. However, this may be very bad news for charities and not for profit entities that have relied on these tests to avoid VAT registration and charging VAT on their supplies.  It is likely that many more charities will be dragged into the VAT net.  It remains to be seen whether this case will trigger a renewed targeting effort on charities by HMRC, but what is clear is that charities need to be conscious of this new turn of events and consider their position.  We strongly recommend that any bodies which have had previous discussions with HMRC on this point and any entity which is affected by this decision take professional advice immediately.