Category Archives: EC

Brexit: The future of Customs arrangements

By   August 21, 2017

In a paper called Future Customs arrangements: A Future Partnership Paper the Government have given us some idea of what the UK’s relationship with the EU may look like after Brexit.

It is a paper which is part of a series which sets out the key issues and forms part of the Government’s stated vision for the relationship (called a “partnership” in the document) and is said to explore how the UK and EU will “work together” with respect to Customs. The aim is to facilitate the “most friction-less trade possible in goods between the UK and the EU”.  It is noted that this approach is purely “aspirational” and represents the first steps in exploring the position. However, it does inform on the Government’s thinking. The two main approaches may be summarised as:

  1. The Streamlined Arrangement

A highly streamlined customs arrangement between the UK and the EU, streamlining and simplifying requirements, leaving as few additional requirements on EU trade as possible. This would aim to;

  • continue some of the existing arrangements between the UK and the EU
  • put in place new negotiated and potentially unilateral facilitations to reduce and remove barriers to trade
  • implement technology-based solutions to make it easier to comply with Customs procedures

This approach involves utilising the UK’s existing third country processes for UK-EU trade building on EU and international precedents, and developing new innovative facilitations to deliver as friction-less a Customs border as possible.

  1. A New Partnership

A new customs partnership with the EU, aligning the UK’s approach to the Customs border in a way that removes the need for a UK-EU Customs border. One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU.

This is of course unprecedented as an approach and could be challenging to implement and the UK Government will look to explore the principles of this with business and the EU.

The document also considers that the Government would seek to introduce an interim period for implementing changes to Customs arrangements.

Discussions with affected businesses will continue before the publication of a Customs Bill in the autumn.

We will monitor this situation and bring you information on any developments. In the meantime, those businesses which carry out cross-border transactions in goods may want to review their current procedures in anticipation of the changes which will surely be introduced in one form or another.

Alas, as with anything Brexit related, nobody can be sure what the future holds and there will be a great deal of uncertainty until we know the actual outcome and consequently, the impact on business.

VAT EU Claims – A Reminder

By   August 9, 2017

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 procedure.  Details of how this process works and what may be claimed are set out in my previous article

The deadline for these claims is 30 September 2017.

Any applicant must not be registered or registrable in the Member State from which they are claiming a refund, nor must they have a permanent business establishment in that EU country. There are a number of other rules to be considered as well, so it pays to ensure that the claim is valid before time and effort is expended in compiling a claim.  We are happy to advise on this.

Applications relating to VAT incurred in the year 2016 must be submitted by 30th September 2017 and there is no leeway to extend this deadline.

 

Incoterms. What are they, how can they be of use for VAT?

By   August 3, 2017
VAT – Cross border sales of goods

Incoterms stands for International Commercial Terms. These are published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and describe agreed commercial terms. These rules set out the responsibilities of buyers and sellers for the supply of goods under a contract. They are very commonly used in cross-border commercial transactions in order that both sides in a transaction are aware of the contractual position. They help businesses avoid costly misunderstandings by clarifying the tasks, costs and risks involved in the delivery of goods from sellers to buyers. The latest terms were published in 2010 and came into effect in 2011.

The use of Incoterms for assistance for VAT purposes

One of the most difficult areas of providing VAT advice is obtaining sufficient detailed information to advise accurately and comprehensively.  Quite often advisers are given what a client believes to be the arrangements for a transaction. This may differ from the actual facts, or the understanding of the other party in the transaction.

Pragmatically, this uncertainty about the details may be increased if; a number of different people within an organisation are involved, it is a new or one-off type of transaction, there are language difficulties, or communication and documentation is less than ideal. In such cases, incoterms will provide invaluable information which gives clarity and certainty and usually give a sound basis on which to advise. This enables the adviser to establish the place of supply (POS) and therefore what VAT treatment needs to be applied.

So what is this set of pre-defined international contract terms?

They are 11 pre-defined terms which are subdivided into two categories:

Group 1 – Incoterms that apply to any mode of transport are:

EXW – Ex Works (named place)

The seller makes the goods available at their premises. This term places the maximum obligation on the buyer and minimum obligations on the seller. EXW means that a buyer incurs the risks for bringing the goods to their final destination. The buyer arranges the pickup of the freight from the supplier’s designated ship site, owns the in-transit freight, and is responsible for clearing the goods through Customs. The buyer is also responsible for completing all the export documentation.

Most jurisdictions require companies to provide proof of export for VAT purposes. In an EXW shipment, the buyer is under no obligation to provide such proof, or indeed to even export the goods. It is therefore of utmost importance that these matters are discussed with the buyer before the contract is agreed.

FCA – Free Carrier (named place of delivery)

The seller delivers the goods, cleared for export, at a named place. This can be to a carrier nominated by the buyer, or to another party nominated by the buyer.

It should be noted that the chosen place of delivery has an impact on the obligations of loading and unloading the goods at that place. If delivery occurs at the seller’s premises, the seller is responsible for loading the goods on to the buyer’s carrier. However, if delivery occurs at any other place, the seller is deemed to have delivered the goods once their transport has arrived at the named place; the buyer is responsible for both unloading the goods and loading them onto their own carrier.

CPT – Carriage Paid To (named place of destination)

The seller pays for the carriage of the goods up to the named place of destination. Risk transfers to buyer upon handing goods over to the first carrier at the place of shipment in the country of Export. The Shipper is responsible for origin costs including export clearance and freight costs for carriage to named place (usually a destination port or airport). The shipper is not responsible for delivery to the final destination (generally the buyer’s facilities), or for buying insurance. If the buyer does require the seller to obtain insurance, the Incoterm CIP should be considered.

CIP – Carriage and Insurance Paid to (named place of destination)

This term is broadly similar to the above CPT term, with the exception that the seller is required to obtain insurance for the goods while in transit. CIP requires the seller to insure the goods for 110% of their value.

DAT – Delivered At Terminal (named terminal at port or place of destination)

This term means that the seller covers all the costs of transport (export fees, carriage, unloading from main carrier at destination port and destination port charges) and assumes all risk until destination port or terminal. The terminal can be a Port, Airport, or inland freight interchange. Import duty/VAT/customs costs are to be borne by the buyer.

DAP – Delivered At Place (named place of destination)

The seller is responsible for arranging carriage and for delivering the goods, ready for unloading from the arriving conveyance, at the named place. Duties are not paid by the seller under this term. The seller bears all risks involved in bringing the goods to the named place.

DDP – Delivered Duty Paid (named place of destination)

The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the named place in the country of the buyer, and pays all costs in bringing the goods to the destination including import duties and VAT. The seller is not responsible for unloading. This term places the maximum obligations on the seller and minimum obligations on the buyer. With the delivery at the named place of destination all the risks and responsibilities are transferred to the buyer and it is considered that the seller has completed his obligations.

Group 2 – Incoterms that apply to sea and inland waterway transport only:

FAS – Free Alongside Ship (named port of shipment)

The seller delivers when the goods are placed alongside the buyer’s vessel at the named port of shipment. This means that the buyer has to bear all costs and risks of loss of or damage to the goods from that moment. The FAS term requires the seller to clear the goods for export. However, if the parties wish the buyer to clear the goods for export, this should be made clear by adding explicit wording to this effect in the contract of sale. This term can be used only for sea or inland waterway transport.

FOB – Free On Board (named port of shipment)

FOB means that the seller pays for delivery of goods to the vessel including loading. The seller must also arrange for export clearance. The buyer pays cost of marine freight transport, insurance, unloading and transport cost from the arrival port to destination. The buyer arranges for the vessel, and the shipper must load the goods onto the named vessel at the named port of shipment. Risk passes from the seller to the buyer when the goods are loaded aboard the vessel.

CFR – Cost and Freight (named port of destination)

The seller pays for the carriage of the goods up to the named port of destination. Risk transfers to buyer when the goods have been loaded on board the ship in the country of export. The shipper is responsible for origin costs including export clearance and freight costs for carriage to named port. The shipper is not responsible for delivery to the final destination from the port (generally the buyer’s facilities), or for buying insurance. CFR should only be used for non-containerised sea freight, for all other modes of transport it should be replaced with CPT.

CIF – Cost, Insurance and Freight (named port of destination)

This term is broadly similar to the above CFR term, with the exception that the seller is required to obtain insurance for the goods while in transit to the named port of destination. CIF requires the seller to insure the goods for 110% of their. CIF should only be used for non-containerised sea freight; for all other modes of transport it should be replaced with CIP.

 Allocations of costs to buyer/seller via incoterms

Summary Chart

Incoterms Chart

 

VAT: More on agent/principal – Latest from the courts

By   July 3, 2017

Lowcost Holidays Ltd

There is a very important distinction in VAT terms between agent and principal as it dictates whether output tax is due on the entire amount received by a “middle-man” or just the amount which the middle-man retains (usually a commission). It is common for the relationship between parties to be open to interpretation and thus create VAT uncertainty in many transactions.

It appears to me that this uncertainty has increased as a result of the growing amount of on-line sales and different parties being involved in a single sale.

By way of background, I looked at this issue at the end of last year here

The case

On a similar theme, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of Lowcost Holidays Ltd the issue was whether the Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme (TOMS) applied to Lowcost’s activities.

Background

Lowcost was a travel agent offering holiday accommodation in ten other EU Member States, and other countries outside the EU, for the most part to customers based in the UK. The issue between the parties is whether Lowcost provided holiday accommodation to customers as a principal, dealing in its own name, under article 306 of Directive 2006/112, the Principal VAT Directive and therefore came within TOMS or whether it acted solely as an intermediary or agent (in which case TOMS would not apply and the general Place Of Supply rules apply).

Decision

The FTT found in favour of the appellant. HMRC had argued that Lowcost was buying and selling travel and accommodation as principal, however, the FTT decided that the contracts which Lowcost entered into with; hotels, transport providers and holidaymakers were clear that the arrangement was for the appellant acting as agent. The helpful Supreme Court case of SecretHotels2 (which I commented on here) was applied in this case. The main point being that the nature of a supply is to be determined by the construction of the contract – unless it is a ‘sham’ and great weight was given to the terms of Lowcost’s contracts rather than what HMRC often call the “economic reality”.  Specifically highlighted to the court was the fact that Lowcost set the prices for the holidays, which HMRC pointed out would be inconsistent with an agency arrangement. The FTT decided that this was outweighed by the actual terms of the contracts.

Consequently, as Lowcost acted as agent (for the providers of the services not the holidaymaker) the Place Of Supply was determined by reference to where the supply was received under the general rule.  In this case, this is VAT free when the services were received by principals located outside the UK.

As with all TOMS and agent/principal matters it really does pay to obtain professional advice.

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.

Background

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.

Decision

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.

Commentary

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: 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.

Law

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.”

 Decision

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.

Commentary

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.

Information

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.

Reporting

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.

Deferment

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.

Warehousing

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.

Summary

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: Latest from the courts – are services by a CIC business?

By   May 19, 2017

This case considers the perpetual difficulty of deciding whether activities represent a business… or not.

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of Healthwatch Hampshire CIC (HH) here the issue was whether HH made taxable supplies by way of business to a Local Authority – Hampshire County Council (HCC)

Background

Under certain prescribed new arrangements, local authorities, including HCC, were required to enter into contractual arrangements with a body corporate, which was required to be a social enterprise and a Community Interest Company (CIC) for the provision of various services.

These services comprised, inter alia:

  • Promoting, and supporting, the involvement of local people in the commissioning, provision and scrutiny of local care services
  • Information, signposting and advice
  • Advocacy services

HH is a company limited by guarantee but is not a charity. It is however non-profit making in its objectives, and any profits which do arise can only be spent for the benefit of the local community.  HH was formed by a consortium comprising; three organisations all of which are charities. These charities effectively carried out the work via a sub-contract arrangement and charged HH with the addition of VAT.  The issue is the VAT treatment of HH’s charge to HCC. Was this a business activity on which VAT is charged? Or, as HMRC contended, was the money paid to HH was outside the scope of VAT because it represented something which was not consideration for taxable supplies and thus non-business.

This was important as if the services provided by the CIC are deemed to be non-business, the VAT charged to HH by the three consortium members would represent an absolute VAT cost as it could not be VAT registered and therefore not able to recover the input tax.

Technical Note

Because of the special VAT rules which apply to local authorities, input tax incurred by them may be recovered if it relates to their non-business activities (their statutory activities). This is via VAT Act 1994, s33 and this legislation turns “normal” VAT rules on their head. In this particular case, if HH charged HCC VAT, HCC would be in a position to recover it meaning that VAT would be neutral for all parties.

Decision

The matter of whether HH’s activities amounted to a business was considered with significant references to the Longridge On The Thames.  Case commentary here

As a starting point, the judge commented on previous CJEU cases that it “…would seem to be a clear demonstration that simply because an activity is normally carried on by the state does not automatically mean that, per se, it cannot be economic activity”.  It was also decided that we have come to the conclusion that HH is not a body governed by public law.”  So this strand of HMRC’s argument did not lead anywhere.

The court decided in the taxpayer’s favour; which appears to be common sense all round.  The supplies were by way of business despite the arrangements having features which may not necessarily be found in a more commercial environment (including the fact that LAs were legally required to outsource certain of its functions) . Ultimately, consideration was flowing in both directions; HCC paid for supplies which it required and those were supplied by a third party such that VAT was properly chargeable.  The fact that HCC met its statutory obligations in structuring transactions in this way did not preclude them being an economic activity.

Action

This case (and Longbridge) demonstrates that where charities, LAs, CICs, NFP entities and similar bodies are concerned, it is crucial to review all agreements from a VAT perspective. It is insufficient to assume the correct VAT treatment is how it is desired and slight differences in arrangements can, and do, produce different VAT outcomes. After Longbridge HMRC are looking more closely at similar arrangements (not limited to LAs) and we expect more of these types of cases to be heard in the future.

For more on the EC aspect of business/non-business please see here

VAT: Latest from the courts – Brockenhurst College

By   May 19, 2017

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has released its decision in Brockenhurst College here

Unusually, it has gone against the Advocate General (AG) Kokott’s opinion (here) and concurs with previous decisions reached by the UK courts. This is good news for the taxpayer and other providers of educational services. The decision has been referred back to the Court of Appeal (CoA) for it to consider points such as the distortion of competition and the fulfilment of a separate function, however, it is likely that this will not affect the decision by the CJEU and HMRC’s appeal will be dismissed.

Background

The case considered two types of supply made by Brockenhurst College:

  • The supplies made from its restaurant, used for training chefs, restaurant managers and hospitality students. The claim was made on the basis that these were exempt supplies of education and not standard rated supplies of catering
  • Tickets for concerts and other live performances put on by students as part of their educational courses. These were similarly claimed to be exempt.

Students were enrolled in performing arts and catering and hospitality courses.  As part of their course of study they were required to run a restaurant and stage live performances. Persons not enrolled on the relevant courses would pay for and attend these events. The services were usually supplied to a limited public including; parents, siblings, friends etc, and were supplied at a reduced cost as part of the practical element of the students’ education. The appellant argued that the experience was invaluable to their studies and should be regarded as ‘closely related’ to the principal supply of education.  HMRC considered that the services in question were supplied to third parties in return for payment. Consequently, the services, whilst of benefit and practical experience to the students were separate VATable supplies made to third parties and the supplies cannot, therefore, be closely related to the supply of education to the student.

The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) concluded that the supplies in question were exempt as being closely linked to education because:

  • the College was an eligible body and so its principal supplies were exempt supplies of education
  • the supplies were integral and essential to those principal exempt supplies
  • the supplies were made at less than their cost
  • the supplies were not advertised to the general public. Instead, there was a database of local groups and individuals who might wish to attend the restaurant or performances
  • the supplies were not intended to create an additional source of income for the College

HMRC disagreed with the conclusion on the basis that the supplies were outside the education exemption because the students were not the beneficiaries of the supplies in question, but only benefitted from making them. HMRC appealed to the Upper Tribunal (UT).

The UT rejected HMRC’s argument and agreed with the FTT. It held that the supplies were closely related to the exempt supplies of education because they enabled the students to enjoy better education. The requirement in the domestic law for the supplies to be for the direct use of the student was met because they were of direct benefit to him.

HMRC subsequently appealed to the CoA which referred it to the CJEU.

The AG’s opinion was that closely related transactions are to be regarded as independent supplies to the principal supply, but do not include the supply of restaurant or training services supplied to third parties who are not themselves receiving the principal supply of training. The third parties pay for their own consumption (of either the catering or performance) and do not pay for the provision of education. It is very rare that the CJEU makes a decision that goes against the AG’s opinion.

CJEU Decision

The CJEU ruled that activities consisting of students of a higher education establishment supplying, for consideration and as part of their education, restaurant and entertainment services to third parties, may be regarded as supplies closely related to the principal supply of education and accordingly be exempt from VAT – provided that those services are essential to the students’ education and that their basic purpose is not to obtain additional income for that establishment by carrying out transactions which are in direct competition with those of commercial enterprises liable for VAT, which it is for the national court to determine.

Action

We understand that there are a number of cases stood behind Brockenhurst.  Any other colleges, FE, universities or other eligible bodies carrying out similar activities to Brockenhurst need to consider their tax position. It is possible that retrospective claims may be made, depending on specific circumstances. Treating such supplies as exempt may also impact on a body’s partial exemption position and could create business/non-business implications. This may also impact on activities like hairdressing, motor maintenance and beauty treatments which colleges provide on a similar basis to the activities in this instant case.

We are happy to discuss the implications of this case with you.