Monthly Archives: June 2017

VAT – Extent of healthcare exemption. Latest from the courts

By   June 26, 2017

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) the case of The Learning Centre (Romford) Ltd (TLC)  the exemption for healthcare was considered.


The appellant provides day-care to vulnerable adults with learning difficulties (referred to as students). Both directors have relevant qualifications and a great deal of experience in providing the care which the company provides. The taxpayer provided their students with education, activities, and entertainment during working hours Monday to Friday, providing meals and, where required, assistance with eating, administering medication, and personal care. They also provided the transport to bring the students to and from their homes and the facility. The education provided was geared towards teaching the students independent living.

While HMRC accepted that what the appellant provided was ‘welfare services’ within the meaning of the Value Added Tax Act 1994, Schedule 9, Group 7 Item 9 and Note (6), exemption applied only where it was supplied by a specified type of entity. Those entities are:

1) A charity

2) A state-regulated private welfare institution or agency, or

3) A public body.

The appellant was not a charity: it was a company which ran the business for profit. As a privately owned company, it was not a public body either. The only possible category for the appellant was ‘a state-regulated private welfare institution or agency’ and HMRC did not accept that the appellant fell within that category.  Day-care is not regulated in England and as a consequence HMRC decided it is not covered by the exemption.


The FTT found for the appellant. It was noted that day-care is regulated in Scotland and it would be a breach of fiscal neutrality if the VAT treatment of day-care was different North and South of the border.  TLC could rely on the direct effect of the Principal VAT Directive and, as a consequence, could treat its supplies as exempt and deregister from VAT.


It was a logical decision, however, logic does not always play a part in VAT…. It sought to level a playing field that was far from that.  If the decision had been in favour of HMRC the VAT treatment would have been different if the supply had been made:

  • in other areas of the UK
  • by the Local Authority
  • by a charity

contrary to EC law.

There are many businesses which provide similar services and it is imperative that they review their VAT position immediately. We can assist with this.

VAT – Business Entertainment Flowchart. What input tax may I recover?

By   June 26, 2017

VAT – Recovery of input tax incurred on entertainment

One of the most common questions asked on “day-to-day” VAT is whether input tax incurred on entertainment is claimable.  The answer to this seemingly straightforward question has become increasingly complex as a result of; HMRC policy, EC involvement and case law.

Different rules apply to entertaining; clients, contacts, staff, partners and directors depending on the circumstances.  It seems reasonable to treat entertaining costs as a valid business expense.  After all, a business, amongst other things, aims to increase sales and reduce costs as a result of these meetings.  However, HMRC sees things differently and there is a general block on business entertainment.  It seems like HMRC does not like watching people enjoying themselves at the government’s expense!

If, like me, you think in pictures, then a flowchart may be useful for deciding whether to claim entertainment VAT.  It covers all scenarios, but if you have a unique set of circumstances or require assistance with some of the definitions, please contact me.

We have recently carried out a series of presentations, which, amongst other subjects, covered business entertainment. Should you require VAT training or presentations, don’t forget our comprehensive service here which can be tailored to your needs.

VAT -Business Entertainment Flowchart

Business Entertainment flow chart

Download here: VAT Business Entertainment Input tax recovery flowchart

VAT: Is the card game bridge a sport?

By   June 21, 2017

Latest from the courts: Advocate General’s (AG) opinion* on the English Bridge Union (EBU) case.

Certain supplies of services closely connected to sport are exempt from VAT.  Consequently the EBU (a non‐profit making membership‐ funded organisation committed to promoting the game of duplicate bridge) appealed to the ECJ wanting certain fees paid to it to be exempt.  HMRC consider that contract bridge is not a sport so that output tax was due on the supply.  This view was supported by the First Tier and Upper Tribunals. So, the simple question is: Is bridge a sport?  The ECJ hearing has come about due to a referral from the British courts in reference to how it should be applied to bridge.

The AG has looked at how the term “sport” should be defined.  As a starting point, it is clear that games such as football, cricket, tennis and squash are sport.  However, this does not mean that activities which are less strenuous cannot be a sport, and the examples of archery and badminton were given.  The AG was also of the view that sport does not need to include any physical element, meaning that any activity which is characterised by:

  • competition
  • an effort to overcome a challenge or obstacle
  • results in physical or mental wellbeing

may qualify as a sport.

In connection with contract bridge; as a card game it:

  • is dependent on skill and training rather than luck
  • requires considerable mental effort and training to compete at an international level
  • is recognised by the International Olympic Committee as a sport

such that the AG concluded that bridge can indeed be defined as a sport.

This, if followed by the ECJ, means that the EBU will be due a refund of output tax declared on competition entry fees charged to its members.

The EBU has always maintained that bridge is a sport and point to the UK Charity Commission which recognises bridge as a sport.  It adopted Parliament’s most recent definition in the Charities Act, updated by Parliament in 2011, which specifically included Mind Sports in the definition of ‘sport’, stating that sports are “activities which promote health or wellbeing through physical or mental skill or exertion”.  Additionally, bridge is seen as an excellent way of improving mental acuity and delaying the onset of dementia, and the social and partnership aspects of bridge are of great benefit to those who may otherwise become isolated.

We now await the court’s decision on whether one needs to wear shorts and get sweaty to be participating in sport.

*  The most important work performed by the Advocates General is to deliver a written Opinion, named “reasoned submission”. The role of the Advocate General is to propose an independent legal solution. It is important to note that the Court is not obligated to follow the Opinion delivered by the Advocate General. Even though the Opinion does not bind the Court it has an impact on the decision in many cases, and in fact, in most cases the ECJ follows it.

VAT – Are overpayments subject to output tax?

By   June 19, 2017

This was the question considered by the Upper Tribunal (UT) in the case of National Car Parks Limited

Latest from the courts

We’ve all been there. We’ve found a NCP pay and display car park and want to park for one hour.  We find a free space and go to the pay and display ticket machine. In this example, the prices stated on the tariff board next to the pay and display ticket machine are: Parking for up to one hour – £1.40. Parking for up to three hours – £2.10. The pay and display ticket machine states that change is not given but overpayments are accepted.

Guess what? As usual, we find that we don’t have the right money and only have a pound and a fifty pence piece, so we have to put them both in the machine.  The machine meter records the coins as they are fed into the machine, starting with the pound coin. When the fifty pence piece has been inserted and accepted by the machine, the machine flashes up ‘press green button for ticket’ which we customer do. The amount paid is printed on her ticket, as is the expiry time of one hour later and we wander off  to attend our business.

So, is VAT due on the overpayment of 10p?

The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) said “yes”.  It held that the excess payments made by the customer to NCP were not voluntary because the customer was required to pay at least the amount specified in order to park their vehicle and, if the customer did not have the correct change, the customer was required to pay an additional amount in order to obtain the right to park. The only sense in which the payment could be said to be “voluntary” is that the customer could decide not to buy a ticket which would mean not parking the car and having to go elsewhere. The taxpayer then appealed to the UT.


Article 2(1)(c) of the Principal VAT Directive (PVD) provides that supplies of services for consideration within the territory of a Member State by a taxable person acting as such are subject to VAT. Article 73 of the PVD provides: “In respect of the supply of goods or services… the taxable amount shall include everything which constitutes consideration obtained or to be obtained by the supplier, in return for the supply, from the customer or a third party, including subsidies directly linked to the price of the supply.”  The provisions of the PVD have been implemented in UK law by the Value Added Tax Act 1994. Section 5(2)(a) of the VAT Act 1994 defines ‘supply’ to include all forms of supply but not anything done otherwise than for a consideration and section 19(4) provides: “Where a supply of any goods or services is not the only matter to which a consideration in money relates, the supply shall be deemed to be for such part of the consideration as is properly attributable to it.”


The UT agreed with the FTT, and so the taxpayer’s appeal was dismissed.  A distinction was made between these overpayments and optional payments such as tips (which are VAT free).  It was stated that the PVD seeks to identify what consideration was received by NCP, not whether the customer could have obtained the same service for less. NCP retained the £1.50 in return for providing the car parking and this was consequently the value of the service provided.


We have recently dealt with a number of cases which dealt with the topic of valuation and have been successful in obtaining a refund of overpaid VAT. Unfortunately for the appellant in this case, it seems that there was little chance of success and they didn’t get to keep all of value of the overpayments. All those 10ps add up…

VAT and Customs Duties. Bringing goods into the UK – A brief guide

By   June 12, 2017

VAT and duty on and imports and acquisitions 

The rules covering bringing goods into the UK are complex and set out in different areas of the legislation and HMRC guidance. I thought it may be helpful bring some of the most salient rules together in one place. Of course, with Brexit, some of the information below may be subject to change. Most likely, acquisitions will take on more of the rules applicable to imports, but we shall see…

If you are bringing goods into the UK it is important to recognise the VAT and duty rules and procedures.  You must ensure that you pay the right amount of VAT and import duties via the correct mechanism.

Goods brought into the UK from other EC countries are called acquisitions rather than imports, and this is an important distinction as we shall see below.

The details and practicalities can be complex and you may want to seek advice or use an agent or freight forwarder to handle your responsibilities, particularly if you are new to international trade or only need to bring goods here occasionally.

Acquisition of goods from EC Member States

The EC Member States

The 28 EC countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.


If you are UK VAT registered you need to give your supplier your VAT number. This allows the supplier to treat the sale to you as VAT free.  You will need a VAT invoice as with any other purchase. If not UK VAT registered you will pay VAT applicable in the Member State of the supplier.

Accounting for VAT 

You must account for VAT on acquisitions (“acquisition tax”) on your VAT return. VAT is charged at the normal UK rate of VAT for those goods.  You reclaim this acquisition tax in the same way as you reclaim input tax on purchases of supplies within the UK.  So for most businesses the effect is VAT neutral.  In this way there is no difference between buying the goods in the UK or another EC Member State so it rules out cross-border “VAT rate shopping”. There are no Customs Duties to pay on acquisitions.


All VAT-registered businesses must show the total value of goods acquired from other EU Member States in box 9 of their VAT Return.

In addition, those who trade in the EC above the Intrastat exemption threshold in force during the year must also complete a monthly Supplementary Declaration (SD). The threshold is £1.5 million.

Importing goods from outside the EC

Your responsibilities for imports

You are normally responsible for clearing the goods through UK customs and paying any taxes and duties. Your supplier needs to provide the documentation you need to clear the goods through Customs. If you are importing you may have to pay import duty.

You will need to decide whether to use an agent to handle your responsibilities.  Freight forwarders can handle Customs clearance as well as transport. You can find reputable freight forwarders through the British International Freight Association: here 

You need to check what import duty applies

Import duty is based on the type of goods you are importing, the country they originate from and their value. HMRC’s Integrated Tariff sets out the classification of goods and the rates of duty in detail: here

Confirm what paperwork you require from the supplier for Customs clearance

This normally includes an invoice and a copy of the transport documents.  You may need proof of the origin of the goods to claim reduced import duty for goods from certain countries. A valuation document is also normally required for imports above a set value.

Complete an import declaration

You normally declare imports using the Single Administrative Document (SAD).  If you are registered for VAT in the UK you will need an EORI (Economic Operator Registration & Identification) to enable your inbound commercial shipments to be cleared through the automated  CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight). This is made up of your VAT number, plus a further three digits.

Release of goods

You will need to pay VAT and duty to get the goods released. You pay VAT at the normal UK rate for those goods when sold in the UK.


Regular importers are able to defer payment of VAT and duty by opening a deferment account with HMRC. You need to provide security and must agree to pay by direct debit. It is also possible to use your agent or freight forwarder’s deferment account.

Accounting for VAT

HMRC will send you a monthly C79 certificate showing the import VAT you have paid. You must retain this.  Certificates cover accounting transactions made in each calendar month should be received around the 24th of each month following imports logged the previous month.

You can reclaim VAT paid on imports on a C79 in the same way as you reclaim input tax on purchases of supplies within in the UK.  It is not possible to reclaim VAT on any other document, eg; an invoice.  Shipping or forwarding agents can’t reclaim this input tax because the goods weren’t imported to be used in part of their business.

NB: If you import works of art, antiques and collectors’ items they are entitled to a reduced rate of VAT.

You cannot reclaim import duty.

Be aware of special cases

Check whether any goods you are buying are subject to Excise Duty

Excise duty is charged on fuel, alcohol and tobacco products. It is charged on acquisitions from within the EU as well as imports from countries outside the EC. If goods are subject to excise duty, you pay this at the same time as you pay VAT and import duty.

VAT is charged on the value of the goods plus excise duty.


You may want to consider using a Customs warehouse if you expect to store imports for a long time. If you store goods in a Customs warehouse, you will not need to pay import duty and VAT until you remove the goods from the warehouse.

Storage ‘in bond’ like this is often used for products subject to excise duty, such as wine and cigarettes, although it is not limited to these goods.

Re-exported goods

You will also find it beneficial to find out about tax relief if you are planning to re-export goods you import.  There are special Inward Processing Relief (IPR) rules so that you do not have to pay import duty and VAT.  This relief can apply to imports that you process before re-exporting them.

Valuation of imported goods for VAT and Duties

There are six methods of valuing imported goods, however, in the vast majority of cases (over 90%) the “Transaction Method” is used and, in fact, you must use this method wherever possible.

Transaction Value

This is the price paid or payable by the buyer to the seller for the goods when sold for export to the EC adjusted in accordance with certain specific rules.

This may also cover situations where goods are imported from a processor. The “transaction value” may be “built up” or “constructed” by reference to the cost of processing plus any items to be added commonly referred to as “assists”.

What items must be added to the price paid or payable?

You must add the following to the price you pay (unless they are already included):

(a) Delivery costs. – The costs of transport, insurance, loading or handling connected with delivering the goods to the EC border must be included.

(b) Commissions. – Certain payments of commission and brokerage, including selling commission, must be included.

But you can exclude buying commission if it is shown separately from the price paid or payable for the goods.

(c) Royalties and licence fees. – You must include these payments when they relate to the imported goods and are paid by you as a condition of the sale to you of those goods.

(d) Goods and services provided free of charge or at reduced cost by the buyer. –  If you provide, directly or indirectly, any of the following, you must include in the customs value any part of the cost or value not included in the price charged to you by the seller:

  1. materials, components, parts and similar items incorporated in the imported goods including price tags, kimball tags, labels
  2. tools, dies, moulds and similar items used in producing the imported goods, for example, tooling charges. There are various ways of apportioning these charges

iii.          materials consumed in producing the imported goods, for example, abrasives, lubricants, catalysts, reagents etc which are used up in the manufacture of the goods but are not incorporated in them,

  1. engineering, development, artwork, design work and plans and sketches carried out outside the EC and necessary for producing the imported goods. The cost of research and preliminary design sketches is not to be included.

(e) Containers and packing. Include:

  1. the cost of containers which are treated for customs purposes as being one with the goods being valued (that is not freight containers the hire-cost of which forms part of the transport costs), and
  2. the cost of packing whether for labour or materials

Where containers are for repeated use, for example, reusable bottles, you can spread their cost over the expected number of imports. If a number of the containers may not be re-exported, this must be allowed for.

(f) Proceeds of resale. – If you are to share with the seller (whether directly or indirectly) the profit on resale, use or disposal of the imported goods you must add the seller’s share to the price paid. If at the time of importation the amount of profit is not known, you must request release of the goods against a deposit or guarantee.

(g) Export duty & taxes paid in the country of origin or export. – When these taxes are incurred by the buyer they are dutiable. However, if you benefit from tax relief or repayment of these taxes they may be left out of the customs value.


If you are new to acquisitions or importing it may be worthwhile talking to an expert.  This article only scratches the surface of the subject. There can be significant savings made by accurately classifying goods and applying the correct procedures and rates will avoid assessments and penalties being levied. Planning may also be available to defer when tax is paid on imports and acquisitions.

VAT treatment of deposits and advance payments

By   June 5, 2017

One query that constantly reappears is that of the VAT treatment of deposits.

This may be because there are different types of deposits with different VAT rules for each. I thought that it would be helpful for all the rules to be set out in one place, and some comments on how certain transactions are structured, so…

Broadly, we are looking at the tax point rules. The tax point is the time at which output tax is due and input tax recoverable. More on tax points here 

A business may have various commercial arrangements for payments such as:

  • receiving advance payments
  • being paid in instalments
  • credit sales
  • periodic payments for continuous supplies
  • security deposits for goods hired

I consider these below, as well as some specific arrangements:

Advance payments and deposits

An advance payment, or deposit, is a proportion of the total selling price that a customer pays a business before it supplies them with goods or services.

The tax point if an advance payment is made is whichever of the following happens first:

  • the date a VAT invoice for the advance payment is issued
  • the date you the advance payment is received

The VAT due on the value of the advance payment (only, not the full value of the overall supply) is included on the VAT return for the period when the tax point occurs.

If the customer pays the remaining balance before the goods are delivered or the services are performed, a further tax point is created when whichever of the following happens first:

  • the date a VAT invoice for the balance is issued
  • payment of the balance is received

So VAT is due on the balance on the return for when the further tax point occurs.

Returnable deposits

A business may ask its customers to pay a deposit when they hire goods. No VAT is due if the deposit is either:

  • refunded in full to the customer when they return the goods safely
  • kept by you to compensate you for loss or damage

Forfeit deposits

If a customer is asked for a deposit against goods or services but they then don’t buy them or use the services, it may be decided to retain the deposit. Usually the arrangement is that the customer is told/agrees in advance and it is part of the conditions for the sale. This arrangement is known as forfeit deposit. It often occurs when, for example, an hotel business makes a charge for reserving a room.

VAT should be declared on receipt of the deposit or when a VAT invoice is issued, whichever happens first.

If the deposit is retained (because the customer changes their mind about the goods or service and doesn’t want them any more) there is no VAT due as no supply has been made. If output tax has already been declared, the business needs to adjust for the amount of the retained deposit on the next VAT return. If the sale goes ahead, the rules for advance payments above applies.

Continuous supplies

If you supply services on a continuous basis and you receive regular or occasional payments, a tax point is created every time a VAT invoice is issued or a payment received, whichever happens first. An article on tax planning for continuous supplies here

If payments are due regularly a business may issue a VAT invoice at the beginning of any period of up to a year for all the payments due in that period (as long as there’s more than one payment due). If it is decided to issue an invoice at the start of a period, no VAT is declared on any payment until either the date the payment is due or the date it is received, whichever happens first.

Credit and conditional sales

This is where the rules can get rather more complex.

  • A credit sale means the sale of goods which immediately become the property of the customer but where the price is paid in instalments.
  • A conditional sale is where goods are supplied to a customer but the goods remain the seller’s property until they are paid for in full.

The tax point for a credit sale or a conditional sale is created at the time you supply the goods or services to your customer. This is the basic tax point and is when you should account for the VAT on the full value of the goods.

This basic tax point may be over-ridden and an actual tax point created if a business:

  • issues a VAT invoice or receives payment before supplying the goods or services
  • issues a VAT invoice up to 14 days after the basic tax point

Credit sales where finance is provided to the customer

If goods are offered on credit to a customer and a finance company is not involved, the supplier is financing the credit itself. If the credit charge is shown separately on an invoice issued to the customer, it will be exempt from VAT. Other fees relating to the credit charge such as; administration, documentation or acceptance fees will also be exempt. VAT is declared on the full value of the goods that have been supplied on the VAT Return for that period.

If goods or services are supplied on interest free credit by arranging with a customer for them to pay over a set period without charging them interest then VAT is declared on the full selling price when you make the supplies.

Credit sales involving a finance company

When a business makes credit sales involving a finance company, the finance company either:

  • becomes the owner of the goods, eg; when a purchase is financed by a hire-purchase agreement
  • does not become the owner of the goods, eg; when a purchase is financed by a loan agreement

Hire purchase agreements

If the finance company becomes the owner of goods, the business is supplying the goods to the finance company and not the customer. There is no charge for providing the credit, so the seller accounts for VAT on the value of the goods at the time they are supplied to the finance company. Any commission received from the finance company for introducing them to the customer is usually subject to VAT.

Loan agreements

If the finance company does not become owner of the goods, the supplier is selling the goods directly to its customer. The business is not supplying the goods to the finance company, even though the finance company may pay the seller direct.  VAT is due on the selling price to the customer, even if the seller receives a lower amount from the finance company. The contract between the customer and the finance company for credit is a completely separate transaction to the sale of the goods.

Specific areas 

The following are areas where the rules on the treatment may differ

Cash Accounting Scheme

If a business uses the cash accounting scheme here it accounts for output tax when it receives payment from its customers unless it is a returnable deposit


Care should be taken with deposits in property transactions.  This is especially important if property is purchased at auction.

These comments only apply to the purchase of property on which VAT is due (commercial property less than three years old or subject to the option to tax).  If a deposit is paid into a stakeholder, solicitor’s or escrow account (usually on exchange) and the vendor has no access to this money before completion no tax point is created. Otherwise, any advance payment is treated as above and creates a tax point on which output tax is due to the extent of the deposit amount. Vendors at auction can fall foul of these rules. If no other tax point has been created, output tax is due on completion.

Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme (TOMS)

TOMS has distinct rules on deposits.  Under normal VAT rules, the tax point is usually when an invoice is issued or payment received (as above).  Under TOMS, the normal time of supply is the departure date of the holiday or the first occupation of accommodation. However, in some cases this is overridden.  If the tour operator receives more than one payment, it may have more than one tax point. Each time a payment is received exceeding 20% of the selling price, a tax point for that amount is created. A tax point is also created each time the payments received to date (and not already accounted for) exceed 20% when added together. There are options available for deposits received when operating TOMS, so specific advice should be sought.

VAT Registration

In calculating turnover for registration, deposits must be included which create a tax point in the “historic” test.  Care should also be taken that a large deposit does not trigger immediate VAT registration by virtue of the “future” test. This is; if it is foreseeable at any time that receipts in the next 30 days on their own would exceed the turnover limit, currently £85,000, then the registration date would be the beginning of that 30-day period.

Flat Rate Scheme

A business applies the appropriate flat rate percentage to the value of the deposit received (unless it is a returnable deposit).  In most cases the issue of an invoice may be ignored if the option to use a version of cash accounting in the Flat Rate Scheme is taken. More on the FRS here and here


Please contact us if you have any queries on this article or would like your treatment of deposits reviewed to:

  • Ensure treatment is correct to avoid penalties, and/or;
  • Establish whether planning is available to properly defer payments of output tax under the tax point rules.