Author Archives: Marcus Ward

VAT – Latest on the Nesquik case

By   February 23, 2018

Latest from the courts

I covered the Nesquik first Tier Tribunal (FTT) case here Well, legal matters have since moved on and the case reached the Upper Tribunal (UT) recently. Nestlé UK Limited the manufacturer of Nesquik appealed against the FTT’s decision that its fruit flavoured products are subject to 20% VAT despite the chocolate flavour being zero rated.

Unfortunately for Nestlé , the UT decision went against it and banana and strawberry Nesquik remains standard rated. Similar contentions (to those in the FTT case) were advanced by the taxpayer, however the UT dismissed Nestlé’s appeal.

The Tribunal recognised that there is not currently a logical and consistent regime which applies to VAT on food (there is a long list of examples which include gingerbread men, smoothies, various types of crisps, not to mention Jaffa cakes….).  I think most advisers could not agree more with the judge and I echo the comments I made after the FTT case: the entire legislation relating to food needs a complete overhaul.

Full details of the case here

Digitisation of the VAT Retail Export Scheme – Update

By   February 23, 2018

What is the VAT Retail Export Scheme (VAT RES)?

The VAT RES allows:

  • overseas visitors (generally, persons who live outside the EC) to receive a refund of VAT paid on goods exported to destinations outside the EC
  • retailers to zero-rate goods sold to entitled customers when they have the necessary evidence of export and have refunded the VAT to the customer

Such treatment is subject to a number of conditions:

  • the customer must be entitled to use the scheme
  • the goods must be eligible to be purchased under the scheme*
  • the customer must make the purchase in person and complete the form at the retailer’s premises in full
  • the goods must be exported from the ECby the last day of the third month following that in which the goods were purchased
  • the customer must send the retailer or the refund company evidence of export stamped by Customs on an official version of Form VAT 407, an approved version of Form VAT 407 or an officially approved invoice
  • the retailer or the refund company must not zero-rate the supply until the VAT has been refunded to the customer

Typically, a retailer will charge UK VAT to an overseas visitor until the visitor has returned the appropriate documentation which has been suitably stamped at the port of departure from the UK.

* Certain goods are excluded from VAT RES. These include; motor vehicles for personal export, boats sold to visitors who intend to sail them to a destination outside the EC, goods over £600 in value exported for business purposes, goods exported as freight or unaccompanied baggage, unmounted gemstones, bullion, goods consumed in the UK and goods purchased by mail order including those purchased over the Internet. (This list is not exhaustive).

Full details of VAT RES scheme here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-704-vat-retail-exports/vat-notice-704-vat-retail-exports

VAT RES is a voluntary scheme and retailers do not have to operate it. Those who do must ensure that all the conditions set out in the above notice are met. In certain areas (such as the West End of London) businesses which offer VAT RES have a commercial/price advantage over those shops which do not.

So what is new?

HMRC has recently (this month) provided an update on their project to digitise the VAT RES system, to improve the efficiency for both retailers and travellers, and also to help reduce fraud. Details here

https://www.att.org.uk/sites/default/files/180213%20VAT%20Retail%20Export%20Scheme.pdf

We are able to advise further on this matter if required.

VAT: Latest from the courts – Hastings Insurance Place Of Supply

By   February 22, 2018

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of Hastings Insurance the issue was where was the place of supply (POS) of services?

The POS rules determine under which VAT regime the supply is treated, whether the associated input tax may be recovered and how the services are reported. Consequently, determining the POS for any supply is vitally important because getting it wrong may not only mean that tax is overpaid in one country, but it is not declared in the appropriate country so that penalties and interest are levied. Getting it wrong also means that the input tax position is likely to be incorrect; meaning that VAT can be over or underclaimed.  The rules for the POS of services are notoriously complicated and even subtle differences in a business’ situation can produce a different VAT outcome.

Background

Hastings is an insurance services company operating in the UK.  The appeal relates to whether the appellant was able to recover input tax it incurred in the UK which was attributable to supplies of; broking, underwriting support and claims handling services made to a Gibraltar based insurance underwriter (Advantage) which supplied motor insurance to UK customers through Hastings. In order to obtain credit for the relevant input tax, the supply to Advantage must have a POS outside the EU, eg: the recipient had a place of belonging in Gibraltar and not the UK. HMRC argued that Advantage belonged in the UK so that the input tax could not have been properly recoverable.  Consequently, the issue was where Advantage “belonged” for VAT purposes.

The POS rules set out where a person “belongs”.

A taxable person belongs:

  • where it has a business establishment, or;
  • if different, where it has a fixed establishment, or;
  • if it has both a business establishment and a fixed establishment (or several such establishments), where the establishment is located which is most directly concerned with the supply

Further details on this point are explained here

Contentions

It was not disputed that Advantage had a business establishment in Gibraltar. The question was whether it also had a fixed establishment in the UK and, if so, whether the supplies of services were made to that fixed establishment rather than to its business establishment in Gibraltar. HMRC contended that Advantage had a fixed establishment in the UK which was “more directly concerned with the supply of insurance” such that the POS was the UK. This was on the basis that Advantage had human and technical resources in the UK which were actually used to provide its services to UK customers. Hastings obviously argued to the contrary; that Advantage had no UK fixed establishment and that services were supplied to, and by, Advantage in Gibraltar.

Technical

It may be helpful to look briefly at CJEU case law which considered what an establishment other than a business establishment is. It is: “characterised by a sufficient degree of permanence and a suitable structure in terms of human and technical resources”, where looking at the location of the recipient of the supply, “to enable it to receive and use the services supplied to it for its own needs” or, where looking at the location of the supplier, “to enable it to provide the services which it supplies”. 

Decision

The FTT concluded that the input tax in dispute is recoverable because it was attributable to supplies made to Advantage on the basis that it belonged outside the EU (as interpreted in accordance with the relevant EU rules and case law). After a long and exhaustive analysis of the facts the summary was;

  • The appellant’s human and technical resources, through which it provided the services to Advantage, did not comprise a fixed establishment of Advantage in the UK, whether for the purposes of determining where Advantage made supplies of insurance or where the appellant made the supplies of its services.
  • Even if, contrary to the FTT’s view, those resources comprised a fixed establishment in the UK, there is no reason to depart from the location of Advantage’s business establishment in Gibraltar as the place of belonging/supply in the circumstances of this case.

Summary

If this case affects you or your clients it will be rewarding to consider the details of the arrangements which are helpfully set out fully in the decision. This was, in my opinion, a borderline case which could have been decided differently quiet easily.  A significant amount of the evidence produced was deemed inadmissible; which is an interesting adjunct to the main issue in itself. Whether HMRC take this matter further remains to be seen.  It is always worthwhile reviewing a business’ POS in depth and we are able to assist with this.

VAT: HMRC announce changes to import and export procedures

By   February 21, 2018

People get ready.

HMRC have announced that long overdue changes have been made to the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.

It has been developing a new system for processing customs declarations for imports and exports. The current system; CHIEF will be replaced by the Customs Declaration Service (CDS).  A phased launch of CDS will begin from August 2018.

Why CDS is replacing CHIEF

CHIEF is one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated electronic services for managing customs declaration processes, but it’s nearly 25 years old and can’t be easily adapted to new requirements.

The decision to replace CHIEF with CDS was made before the EU referendum however CDS will be scaled to handle any potential increases in the volume of declarations that may result from the UK’s exit from the EU.

How this will affect importers and exporters

If a business imports goods into, or exports goods to outside the EU, it (or its agent) will be currently using CHIEF to:

  • process declarations for goods entering and leaving the UK or EU through ports and airports
  • calculate and pay the correct duty and taxes
  • complete customs information electronically.

You will still be able to do these things on CDS, but there will be differences:

  • CDS will be accessed on G‌OV‌.U‌K through a Government Gateway account
  • CDS will offer several new and existing services in one place – for example, it will be possible to: view previous import and export data on pre-defined reports, check the tariff, apply for new authorisations and simplifications, and check a business’ duty deferment statement
  • online help will include self-service tools, guides and checklists
  • some additional information will be required for declarations in order to align with the World Customs Organisation Kyoto Convention, currently being implemented in the UK through the Union Customs Code (UCC).

When will a business need to start using CDS?

CDS will be phased in between August and early 2019, with CHIEF continuing to run during this time to aid the transition. A business or its agent will be informed by its software provider when it needs to provide the additional information in order to start making declarations on CDS.

HMRC has stated that it will keep businesses updated as the system develops. There will also be regular updates about CDS on GOV.UK.

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

VAT: Timeshare is exempt

By   February 19, 2018

Latest from the courts

The Fortyseven Park Street Ltd (FPSL) Upper Tribunal case.

Brief technical overview

In general terms the provision of a “timeshare” in the UK is standard rated for VAT. This is because HMRC regard supplies of this type to be similar to hotels, inns, boarding houses and are treated as “serviced flats” (other than those for permanent residential use). The appellant sought to argue that what it provided was not “similar” to a hotel or boarding house.

Background

The issue in the FPSL case was whether “Fractional Interests” (akin to timeshares) in a property amount to an exempt supply of that property. The Fractional Interests entitled FPSL’s clients up to 21 days a year in block of apartments in Mayfair.

The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) determined that here were three main issues:

  • The FTT decided that the supplies of the Fractional Interests fell within the exemption from VAT provided for the leasing or letting of immovable property.
  • However, the FTT further found that the land exemption was excluded because the grant of the Fractional Interests was the provision of accommodation in a similar establishment to an hotel.
  • The therefore FTT dismissed FPSL’s argument that under the principle of fiscal neutrality the supplies of the Fractional Interests should be treated in the same way (exempt) as more traditional timeshare interests.

Decision

The UT decided that the relevant interests provided amounted to an exempt supply of the property. This was on the basis that the judges concluded that the grant of the Fractional Interest was the grant of a right to occupy a residence and to exclude others from enjoying such a right, and was thus within the concept of the “letting of immovable property”.  It was also found that the supply was a passive activity and not outside the land exemption by reason of FPSL having added significant value to the service despite providing; certain additional facilities, services (eg; concierge) and benefits to clients – this was not, it was decided, a situation where the appellant had actively exploited the asset to add value to the supply (which may have made it taxable). The UT also ruled that as the concierge was provided by a third party, it could not be combined to form a single supply made by FPSL thus emphasising the fact that this was a more passive activity.

It was noted that there was a distinction in this case from supplies of boutique hotels (which are standard rated hotel accommodation) because residents were contracting for the supply of a long-term right to occupy an apartment and not a series of short-term stays and that the high amount paid for the Fractional Interest brought with it certain financial obligations which are not found in the hotel industry.

Commentary

This is an interesting case and the decision somewhat surprising.  There is a subtle distinction between what was provided here and serviced flats or hotel accommodation, but the UT found it sufficient to apply exempt treatment. If you, or your clients may be affected by this decision, please contact us.

The ABC of VAT

By   February 12, 2018

VAT Basics

Jargon Buster

Unfortunately, VAT is littered with phrases, acronyms and jargon which can be impenetrable to people that have to deal with the tax.  I have explained the main terms used below and tried to demystify the gobbledygook!

Accounting period

This is the period of time reported in your VAT Return, usually three months.

Acquisitions

Goods brought into the UK from other EC countries (different from goods brought into the UK from outside of the EC; which are known as imports).

Capital Goods Scheme (CGS)

A mechanism for spreading the input tax incurred on certain goods exceeding £50,000 or property exceeding £250,000 of standard-rated cost.

Consideration

Something that is done or given in exchange for something else. Consideration can be in monetary or non-monetary form. If there is no consideration there is no supply.

Corporate body

An incorporated body, eg; a limited company, limited liability partnership, friendly, industrial or provident society.

Distance sales

When a business in one EC country sells and ships goods directly to consumers in another EC country, eg; internet sales.

Exempt supply

A supply that is exempt from VAT by law eg; rent, insurance and financial services.  It is not a taxable supply and generally does not allow the recovery of VAT incurred on associated expenditure.

Exports

Goods sent to countries outside of the EC.

Dispatches

Goods sent to another EC country.

Imports

Goods brought into the EC from countries outside of the EC.

Input tax

Refers to the VAT you pay on your purchases – goods or services you use when running your business.

Invoice

Document provided by a taxable person to customer/client. It must contain certain information.

New building

A commercial building less than three years old where a freehold disposal is compulsorily standard-rated.

Non-residential

A building not used as a dwelling.

Option to tax

Changes the supply of a commercial property from exempt to standard rated.  This is done solely to recover or avoid input tax attributable.

Output tax

Refers to the VAT you charge on your sales which your clients/customers pay you.

Outside the scope of VAT

Goods and services that are completely outside the scope of VAT altogether, eg; taxes, supplies in other countries, TOGCs and wages paid to employees.

Partial exemption

A business which incurs input tax relating to both taxable and exempt activities is partially exempt and will probably not be able to recover all of its input tax.

Place of supply

The country where a supply of goods or services is deemed to be made for VAT purposes. This is the country in which VAT must be accounted for.

Reduced rate

The rate applied to essential goods and services, such as gas and electricity for residential purposes. Currently at 5%.

Registration

Being VAT registered – accounting for output tax on sales and recovering input tax.  A business needs to VAT register when its turnover exceeds certain limits.

Self-billing

Where a customer raises a self-billing document and sends a copy to its supplier with its payment – rather than the supplier issuing an invoice.

Standard rate

A taxable supply subject to UK VAT at the current standard rate of 20%.

Supply

Providing goods or services in return for consideration, normally monetary.

Supply of goods

When exclusive ownership of goods passes from one person to another.

Supply of services

Supply, for consideration, of something provided which is not goods.

Tax period

(Also known as accounting period) The period of time covered by your VAT return. Usually quarterly or monthly.

Taxable person

Any business which supplies goods or services and is required to be registered for VAT.  This includes; individuals, partnerships, companies, clubs, associations and charities etc.

Taxable supplies

Goods and services supplied by a taxable person which are liable to VAT at the standard, reduced or zero rate. They usually permit the recovery of VAT incurred on the costs incurred in making them.

Taxable turnover

Taxable turnover is the total value, net of VAT, of the taxable supplies you make in the UK within one year.  It is used to establish whether registration is necessary.

Tax point (Time of supply)

The date when a business must account for VAT on supplies and when input tax may be reclaimed. This dictates on what VAT return the transaction is accounted for.

Transfer Of A Going Concern (TOGC)

A sale of a business which continues after transfer.  This is a VAT free transaction if certain tests are met.

Zero-rated

Is a taxable supply but subject to UK VAT at a rate of 0%.

VAT Error Disclosure under £10,000 – Draft Letter To HMRC

By   February 12, 2018

Error Correction – belt and braces

If an error is discovered on a past VAT return it is only usually necessary to report it to HMRC (on form VAT652) if it is £10,000 (net of all errors) or more of VAT.

However, because of the current penalty regime it is important to ensure that any adjustment qualifies as an unprompted disclosure. Consequently, we recommend that a letter similar to that below is sent to HMRC in cases where errors below £10,000 have been adjusted on a current return.

“RE: Letter of disclosure; error on return for period XXXX

 We disclose, (on behalf of our above named client), that the VAT return for the period XX/XX contained an inaccuracy.

 Reason, eg; Due to a processing error, three sales invoicing totalling……

 This resulted in the net VAT due for the period being understated by £XX

 As the error is within the limits for correction on the next VAT return, this error has been corrected on the return for the period in which the error was discovered, namely the period XX/XX.  No further action to correct the error is therefore necessary.

 Please treat this letter as an unprompted disclosure of an inaccuracy.  Alternatively, please advise me of any further details that you may require in order that that this letter may be treated as such.”

It is accepted that this course of action may prompt enquiries, but it is our view that that is preferable to having a potential ticking time bomb.

Please contact us should you have any queries on error disclosure.

VAT: Doctors and healthcare professionals

By   January 29, 2018

VAT and Doctors

I have noticed that I am receiving more and more queries in this area and HMRC does appear to be taking an increased interest in healthcare entities. This is hardly surprising as it can be complex and there are some big numbers involved.

(This article refers to doctors, but applies equally to most healthcare professional entities.)

The majority of the services provided by doctors’ practices are VAT free. Good news one would think; no need to charge VAT and no need to deal with VAT records, returns and inspections.

However, there is one often repeated question from practices; “How can we reclaim the VAT we are charged?”

The first point to make is that if a practice only makes exempt supplies (of medical services) it is not permitted to register for VAT and consequently cannot recover any input tax. Therefore we must look at the types of supplies that a practice may make that are taxable (at the standard or zero rate). If any of these supplies are made it is possible to VAT register regardless of the value of them. Of course, if taxable supplies are made, the value of which exceeds the current turnover limit of £85,000 in a rolling 12-month period, registration is mandatory.

Examples of services and goods which may be taxable are:

  • Drugs, medicines or appliances that are dispensed by doctors to patients for self-administration
  • Dispensing drugs against an NHS prescription (zero-rated)
  • Drugs dispensed against private prescriptions (standard-rated)
  • Medico legal services that are predominately legal rather than medical – for example negotiating on behalf of a client or appearing in court in the capacity of an advocate
  • Clinical trials or market research services for drug companies that do not involve the care or assessment of a patient
  • Paternity testing
  • Certain rental of rooms/spaces
  • Car parking
  • Signing passport applications
  • Providing professional witness evidence
  • Any services which are not in respect of; the protection, maintenance or restoration of health of a patient.

So what does VAT registration mean?

Once you join the “VAT Club” you will be required to file a VAT return on a monthly of quarterly basis. You may have to issue certain documentation to patients/organisations to whom you make VATable supplies. You may need to charge VAT at 20% on some services. You will be able to reclaim VAT charged to you on purchases and other expenditure subject to partial exemption rules (see below). You will have to keep records in a certain way and your accounting system needs to be able to process specific information.

Because doctors usually provide services which attract varying VAT treatment, a practice will be required to attribute VAT incurred on expenditure (input tax) to each of these categories. Generally speaking, only VAT incurred in respect of zero-rated and standard-rated services may be recovered. In addition, there will always be input tax which is not attributable to any specific service and is “overhead” eg; property costs, professional fees, telephones etc. There is a set way in which the recoverable portion of this VAT is calculated. VAT registered entities which make both taxable and exempt supplies are deemed “partly exempt” and must carry out calculations on every VAT return.

Partial Exemption

Once the calculations described above have been carried out, the resultant amount of input tax which relates to exempt supplies is compared to the de-minimis limits (broadly; £625 per month VAT and not more than 50% of all input tax). If the figure is below these limits, all VAT incurred is recoverable regardless of what activities the practice is involved in.

VAT registration in summary

Benefits

  • Recovery of input tax; the cost of which is not claimable in any other way
  • Potentially, recovery of VAT on items such as property, refurbishment and other expenditure that would have been unavailable prior to VAT registration
  • Only a small amount of VAT is likely to be chargeable by a practice
  • May provide opportunities for pre-registration VAT claims

Drawbacks

  • Increased administration, paperwork and staff time
  • Exposure to VAT penalties and interest
  • May require VAT to be added to some services provided which were hitherto VAT free
  • Likely that only an element of input tax is recoverable as a result of partial exemption
  • Uncertainty on the VAT position of certain services due to current EU cases
  • Potential increased costs to the practice in respect of professional fees.

Please contact us if any of the above affects you or your clients.

VAT: More flexibility on VAT rates, less red tape for small businesses

By   January 18, 2018

The European Commission (EC) has today proposed new rules which it is claimed will give Member States more flexibility to set VAT rates and to create a better tax environment to help SMEs flourish.

The proposals are the final steps of the EC’s overhaul of VAT rules, with the creation of a single EU VAT area to dramatically reduce the €50 billion lost to VAT fraud each year in the EU, while supporting business and securing government revenues.

Further details: “Action Plan on VAT – Towards a single EU VAT

VAT: Disclosure of Avoidance Schemes – new rules

By   January 15, 2018

What needs to be disclosed, and by whom?

The Disclosure of Avoidance Schemes (VAT & Other Indirect Taxes) rules came into effect this month. HMRC Notice 799 sets out the new disclosure rules which are wider than the previous rules and now apply to all indirect taxes (ie; Insurance Premium Tax, General betting Duty, Pool Betting Duty, Remote Gaming Duty, Machine Games Duty, Gaming Duty, Lottery Duty, Bingo Duty, Air Passenger Duty, Hydrocarbon Oils Duty, Tobacco Products Duty, Duties on Spirits, Beer, Wine, Made-Wine and Cider, Soft Drinks Industry Levy, Aggregates Levy, Landfill Tax, Climate Change Levy and Customs Duties) – not just VAT.

The Notice contains information on what to do if a person promotes or uses arrangements (including any scheme, transaction or series of transactions) from 1 January 2018 that will, or are intended to, provide the user with a VAT or other indirect tax advantage when compared to adopting a different course of action.

The information includes:

  • What arrangements must be disclosed to HMRC
  • Who has responsibility to disclose notifiable proposals or arrangements to HMRC
  • Deciding who is a promoter of notifiable proposals or arrangements
  • Deciding who is an introducer of a notifiable proposal
  • What the obligations are as a promoter of notifiable proposals or arrangements
  • What the obligations are as an introducer of a notifiable proposal
  • What the obligations are as a user of notifiable arrangements including when there is a responsibility to disclose
  • How to make a disclosure to HMRC

It is crucially important to establish who is required to notify HMRC and of what. The rules do not just cover tax advisers but may also affect businesses directly.  

The effect of disclosure

A disclosure under the new rules has no effect on the tax position of any person who uses the arrangements. However, a disclosed arrangement may be challenged by HMRC or may be rendered ineffective by legislative action by Parliament.

Please contact us if you think any of the above affects you.