Monthly Archives: December 2017

VAT – A Christmas Tale

By   December 12, 2017
Well, it is Christmas…. and at Christmas tradition dictates that you repeat the same nonsense every year….
Dear Marcus

My business, if that is what it is, has become large enough for me to fear that HMRC might take an interest in my activities.  May I explain what I do and then you can write to me with your advice?  If you think a face to face meeting would be better I can be found in most decent sized department stores from mid September to 24 December.

First of all I am based in Greenland but I do bring a stock of goods, mainly toys, to the UK and I distribute them.  Am I making supplies in the UK?

If I do this for philanthropic reasons, am I a charity, and if so, does that mean I do not pay VAT?

The toys are of course mainly for children and I wonder if zero rating might apply?  I have heard that small T shirts are zero rated so what about a train set – it is small and intended for children. Does it matter if adults play with it?

My friend Rudolph has told me that there is a peculiar rule about gifts.  He says that if I give them away regularly and they cost more than £150 I might have to account for VAT.  Is that right?

My next question concerns barter transactions.  Dads often leave me a food item such as a mince pie and a drink and there is an unwritten rule that I should then leave something in return.  If I’m given Tesco’s own brand sherry I will leave polyester underpants but if I’m left a glass of Glenfiddich I will be more generous and leave best woollen socks.  Have I made a supply and what is the value please?  My feeling is that the food items are not solicited so VAT might not be due and, in any event; isn’t food zero-rated, or is it catering? Oh, and what if the food is hot?

Transport is a big worry for me.  Lots of children ask me for a ride on my airborne transport.  I suppose I could manage to fit 12 passengers in.  Does that mean my services are zero-rated?  If I do this free of charge will I need to charge air passenger duty?  Does it matter if I stay within the UK, or the EU?  My transport is the equivalent of six horse power and if I refuel with fodder in the UK will I be liable for fuel scale charges?  After dropping the passengers off I suppose I will be accused of using fuel for the private journey back home.  Somebody has told me that if I buy hay labelled as animal food I can avoid VAT but if I buy the much cheaper bedding hay I will need to pay VAT.  Please comment.

Can I also ask about VAT registration?  I know the limit is £85,000 per annum but do blips count?  If I do make supplies at all, I do nothing for 364 days and then, in one day (well night really) I blast through the limit and then drop back to nil turnover.  May I be excused from registration?  If I do need to register should I use AnNOEL Accounting?  At least I can get only one penalty per annum if I get the sums wrong.

I would like to make a claim for input tax on clothing.  I feel that my red clothing not only protects me from the extreme cold but it is akin to a uniform and should be allowable.  These are not clothes that I would choose to wear except for my fairly unusual job.  If lady barristers can claim for black skirts I think I should be able to claim for red dress.  And what about my annual haircut?  That costs a fortune.  I only let my hair grow that long because it is expected of me.

Insurance worries me too.  You know that I carry some very expensive goods on my transport.  Play Stations, Mountain Bikes, i-pads and Accrington Stanley replica shirts for example.  My parent company in Greenland takes out insurance there and they make a charge to me.  If I am required to register for VAT in England will I need to apply the reverse charge?  This seems to be a daft idea if I understand it correctly.  Does it mean I have to charge myself VAT on something that is not VATable and then claim it back again?

Next you’ll be telling me that Father Christmas isn’t real……….

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

Deregistration – When a business leaves the VAT club

By   December 11, 2017

This article considers when and how to deregister from VAT and the consequences of doing so.

General points

Deregistration may be mandatory or voluntary depending on circumstances. Although it may be attractive for certain businesses too deregister if possible, this is not always the case. The main reason to remain registered is to recover input tax on purchases made by a business. This is particularly relevant if that business’ sales are:

  • to other VAT registered businesses which can recover any VAT charged
  • supplies are UK VAT free (eg; zero rated)
  • made to recipients outside the UK and in some cases the EU

Businesses which make sales to the public (B2C) are usually better off leaving the VAT club even if this means not being able to recover input tax incurred.

A business applies for deregistration online through its VAT account, or it can also complete a form VAT7 to deregister by post.

NB: These rules apply to businesses belonging in the UK.  There are different rules for overseas business which are outside the scope of this article.

The Rules

Compulsory deregistration

A business must deregister if it ceases to make taxable supplies. This is usually when a business has been sold, but there may be other circumstances, eg; if a business starts to make only exempt supplies, or a charity stops making business supplies and continues with only non-business activities or when an independent body corporate joins a VAT group. In such circumstances there is a requirement to notify HMRC within 30 days of ceasing to make taxable supplies.

We have seen, on a number of occasions, HMRC attempting to compulsorily deregister a business because either; it has not made any taxable supplies (although it has the intention of doing so) or it is only making a small amount of taxable supplies. In the first example, as long as the business can demonstrate that it intends to make taxable supplies in the future it is entitled to remain VAT registered. This is often the position with; speculative property developers, business models where there is a long lead in period, or business such as exploration/exploitation of earth resources.

Voluntary deregistration

A business may apply for deregistration if it expects its taxable turnover in the next twelve to be below the deregistration threshold. This is currently £83,000 which was unchanged in this month’s Budget. It must be able to satisfy HMRC that this is the case. Such an application may be made at any time and the actual date of leaving the club is agreed with HMRC. It should be noted that when calculating taxable income, certain supplies are excluded. These are usually exempt supplies but depending on the facts, other income may also be ignored.

Consequences of deregistration

  • Final return

A deregistered business is required to submit a final VAT return for the period up to and including the deregistration date. This is called a Period 99/99 return.

  • Output tax

From the date of deregistration a business must stop charging VAT and is required to keep its VAT records for a minimum of six years. It is an offence to show VAT on invoices when a business is not VAT registered.

  • Input tax

Once deregistered a business can no longer recover input tax. The sole exception being when purchases relate to the time the business was VAT registered. This tends to be VAT on invoices not received until after deregistration, but were part of the business’ expenses prior to deregistration. Such a claim is made on a form VAT427

  • Self-supply (Deemed supply)

An often overlooked VAT charge is the self-supply of assets on hand at the date of deregistration. A business must account for VAT on any stock and other assets it has on this date if:

  1. It could reclaim VAT when it bought them (regardless of whether such a claim was made)
  2. the total VAT due on these assets is over £1,000

These assets will include items such as; certain land and property (usually commercial property which is subject to an option to tax or is less than three year old), un-sold stock, plant, furniture, commercial vehicles, computers, equipment, materials, etc, but does not include intangible assets such as patents, copyrights and goodwill. The business accounts for VAT on the market value of these assets but cannot treat this as input tax, thus creating a VAT cost.

We usually advise that, if commercially possible, assets are sold prior to deregistration. This avoids the self-supply hit and if the purchaser is able to recover the VAT charged the position is VAT neutral to all parties, including HMRC. It is worth remembering that the self-supply only applies to assets on which VAT was charged on purchase and that there is a de minimis limit. We counsel that care is taken to ensure planning is in place prior to deregistration as it is not possible to plan retrospectively and once deregistered the position is crystallised.

  • Re-registration

HMRC will automatically re-register a business if it realises it should not have cancelled (eg; the anticipated turnover exceeds the deregistration threshold). It will be required to account for any VAT it should have paid in the meantime.

  • Option To Tax

An option to tax remains valid after a registration has been cancelled. A business must monitor its income from an opted property to see whether it exceeds the registration threshold and needs to register again.

  • Capital Goods Scheme (CGS)

If a business owns any capital items when it cancels its registration, it may, because of the rules about deemed supplies (see self-supply above) have to make a final adjustment in respect of any items which are still within the adjustment period. This adjustment is made on the final return.

  • Cash Accounting

A business will have two months to submit its final return after it deregisters. On this return the business must account for all outstanding VAT on supplies made and received prior to deregistration. This applies even if it has not been paid. However, it can also reclaim any VAT provided that you have the VAT invoices. If some of the outstanding VAT relates to bad debts a business may claim relief.

  • Partial exemption

If a business is partly exempt its final adjustment period will run from the day following its last full tax year to the date of deregistration.  If a business has not incurred any exempt input tax in its previous tax year, the final adjustment period will run from the first day of the accounting period in the final tax year in which it first incurred exempt input tax to the date of deregistration.

  • Flat Rate Scheme

If a business deregisters it leaves this scheme the day before its deregistration date. It must, therefore, account for output tax on its final VAT return for sales made on the last day of registration (which must be accounted for outside of the scheme).

  • Self-Billing

If your customers issue VAT invoices on your behalf under self-billing arrangements (or prepare authenticated receipts for you to issue) a deregistering business must tell them immediately that it is no longer registered. They must not charge VAT on any further supplies you make. There are financial penalties if a business issues a VAT invoice or a VAT-inclusive authenticated receipt for supplies it makes after its registration has been cancelled.

  • Bad Debt Relief (BDR)

A business can claim relief on bad debts it identifies after it has deregistered, provided it:

  • has previously accounted for VAT on the supplies
  • can meet the usual BDR conditions 

No claim may be made more than four years from the date when the relief became claimable.

Summary

As may be seen, there is a lot to consider before applying for voluntary deregistration, not all of it good news. Of course, apart from not having to charge output tax, a degree of administration is avoided when leaving the club, so the pros and cons should be weighed up.  Planning at an early stage can assist in avoiding in nasty VAT surprises and we would always counsel consulting an adviser before an irrevocable action is taken. As usual in VAT, if a business gets it wrong there may be an unexpected tax bill as well as penalties and interest.

VAT: New rules for online sellers of goods

By   December 6, 2017

The European Commission announced on 5 December 2017 that it will introduce simpler and more efficient rules for businesses that sell goods online.

It announced that there has been agreement by Economic and Finance Ministers of EU Member States on a series of measures to improve how VAT works for online companies in the EU. It is intended that the new system will make it easier for consumers and businesses, in particular start-ups and SMEs, to buy and sell goods cross-border online. It will also help Member States to recoup the current estimated €5 billion of VAT lost on online sales every year.

The new rules will progressively come into force by 2021 and will:

  • Simplify VAT rules for start-ups, micro-businesses and SMEs selling goods to consumers online in other EU Member States. VAT on cross-border sales under €10,000 a year will be handled according to the rules of the home country of the smallest businesses, giving a boost to 430 000 businesses across the EU. SMEs will benefit from simpler procedures for cross-border sales of up to €100,000 annually. These measures will enter into force by 1 January 2019.
  • Allow all companies that sell goods to their customers online to deal with their VAT obligations in the EU through one easy-to-use online portal in their own language. Without the portal, VAT registration would be required in each EU Member State into which they want to sell – a situation cited by companies as one of the biggest barriers for small businesses trading cross-border.
  • For the first time, make large online marketplaces responsible for ensuring VAT is collected on sales on their platforms that are made by companies in non-EU countries to EU consumers. This includes sales of goods that are already being stored by non-EU companies in warehouses (so-called ‘fulfilment centres’) within the EU which can often be used to sell goods VAT free to consumers in the EU.
  • Address the problem of fraud caused by a previously misused VAT exemption for goods valued at under €22 coming from outside the EU which can distort the market and create unfair competition. Previously, fraudsters had been able to mislabel high value goods in small packages as having a value under the threshold of €22, making the goods exempt from VAT and creating an unacceptable gap of €1 billion in revenues which would otherwise have gone to the budgets of EU Member States.

The new rules will ensure that VAT is paid in the Member State of the final consumer, leading to a fairer distribution of tax revenues amongst EU Member States. They will help to cement a new approach to VAT collection in the EU, already in place for sales of e-services, and fulfil a core commitment of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy for Europe. The agreement also marks another step towards a definitive solution for a single EU VAT area, as set out in the Commission’s recent proposals for EU VAT reform.

The One Stop Shop for sales of online goods is due to come into effect in 2021 to give Member States time to update the IT systems underpinning the system.

VAT: Time limit for claiming input tax

By   December 4, 2017

                     Portuguese Judiciary 

Latest from the courts.

In the helpful CJEU case of Biosafe (this link is in French, so with thanks to Mr Lees – for my schoolboy French and more helpfully; a translation website) the issue was the date at which input tax can be reclaimed in cases where VAT was charged at an incorrect rate (lower than should have been applied) and this is subsequently corrected by the issue of an additional VAT only invoice.

Background

The two parties to a transaction believed that a reduced rate of VAT applied to the supply of certain goods. The Portuguese tax authorities subsequently determined the correct VAT rate applicable was higher. The recipient refused to pay the additional tax on the grounds that the recovery of the input tax may be time barred.

Decision

Broadly, the CJEU held that VAT may be recovered on the date when a “correcting” (VAT only) invoice is issued, rather than when the initial tax point was created. So the capping provisions applicable in this case where not an issue.

Commentary

This is often an issue, and I come across it usually in the construction industry (where various VAT rates may be applicable). It is an important issue as in the UK we have a four year capping provision. If the initial supply was over four years ago, any claim for input tax will be time barred if this was deemed to be the only tax point.

In my experience, this issue does create some “confusion” in HMRC and is a helpful point of reference if there are any future disagreements on this matter.  It must be correct that the right to recover input tax only arises when there is a document (invoice) issued to support such a claim as it would not be possible to make a claim without evidence to support it. If the original tax point is used as a one-off date which cannot be subsequently moved, it means that the claim for the difference in the two rates of tax (the original incorrect rate and the later, higher rate) could not be made after the capping period; which seems, at the very least, unfair. The later correcting invoice therefore creates a new tax point.

Please contact us if you have any similar input tax claims disallowed as being time barred, or you are currently in a dispute with HMRC on this matter.

 

EC proposes new tools to combat cross-border VAT fraud

By   December 1, 2017

The European Commission has, this week, unveiled new tools to make the EU’s Value Added Tax (VAT) system more fraud-proof and close loopholes which can lead to large-scale VAT fraud. The new rules aim to build trust between Member States so that they can exchange more information and boost cooperation between national tax authorities and law enforcement authorities to fight VAT fraud.

Commentary

One wonders if this is the type of thing that the UK will miss out on after Brexit. Will this increase the threat of fraud? Will fraudsters target the UK? Or will “taking control of our borders” mean that cross-border VAT fraud will be reduced?

We shall just have to wait and see…..