Category Archives: HMRC Publications

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.

VAT: How well did HMRC perform?

By   January 15, 2018

The Public Accounts Committee has published its report on HMRC’s Performance in 2016–17. Things are far from rosy…

The report highlights concerns for customer service from growing challenges facing HMRC. It states that HMRC is undertaking 15 major transformation programmes and comments that “With Brexit it faces additional pressures and is having to consider how to change priorities. It needs to be clear about what it will do differently, or not do, and what the impact will be on customer service.”

“Together with the Treasury, HMRC has to make tough decisions on how it allocates limited resources to its operations to increase tax revenues, protect performance levels, prioritise its transformation and estate programmes, and invest in measures to tackle tax evasion, fraud and error.”

Comments from the Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP do not hold back:

“HMRC’s transformation programme would have been less risky had it not attempted to do everything at the same time. What was already a precarious high-wire act is now being battered by the winds of Brexit, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Action arising from allegations in the so-called Paradise Papers could also significantly increase the authority’s workload.  HMRC accepts something has to give and it now faces difficult decisions on how best to use its limited resources—decisions that must give full consideration to the needs of all taxpayers. In particular we are concerned about the effect on people simply trying to pay their fair share. HMRC’s customer service has improved on the appalling levels of recent years but its claims about call-answering times don’t stack up. Any new deterioration would be wholly unacceptable.”

There are concerns too about the impact of changes in the welfare system, which could increase the financial risks faced by vulnerable Tax Credits claimants. At the same time, the level of Tax Credits fraud and error has gone up and is only going to get worse.

These are serious, pressing challenges for HMRC, requiring swift and coordinated action in Government. As a matter of urgency the authority must set out a coherent plan and demonstrate it is fit for the future.”

Conclusions and recommendations

Specifically, there are eight conclusions and recommendations which are summarised below:

  • The ‘Paradise Papers’ leak suggests potentially serious and extensive allegations of tax evasion and avoidance.

Recommendation: HMRC should obtain the information from the ‘Paradise Papers’ as soon as possible, and report back to the Committee by March 2018 to set out its response, including any additional revenue likely to be at stake.

  • HMRC is unclear how far it can close the tax gap with existing resources.

Recommendation: HMRC should set target levels for reduction of the tax gap, including for the SME sector, and set out how HMRC will be more responsive to emerging risks.

  • HMRC’s transformation programme is not deliverable as planned due to unrealistic assumptions, and increased pressure from the additional workload caused by Brexit.

Recommendation: HMRC should report back to the Committee by March 2018 with clear plans on how it will manage the many challenges it faces due to Brexit and its ongoing transformation programmes and update its original assumptions and amend its forecasts for its transformation programme, particularly those concerning customer demand for its various services.

  • The committee is not convinced that HMRC will obtain value for money from long-term leases, without break clauses, for its new estate of 13 large regional centres.

Recommendation: HMRC and the Government Property Unit should use their strong negotiating position to ensure they gain sufficient flexibility in the terms for the four regional centre leases yet to be signed, and should examine ways to build in greater flexibility from the eight regional centre leases already signed.

  • The committee recognises the improvements in customer service since the unacceptable levels of 2015−16, but are concerned about HMRC’s ability to maintain this level of performance.

Recommendation: HMRC should ensure it continues to deliver a consistent and reasonable level of service to all its customers. The committee will be monitoring performance and will return to this issue.

  • The average time it takes for customers to speak to an adviser when they call is longer than HMRC claims.

Recommendation: HMRC should introduce a new set of measures that better reflect the actual experience of customers. Automated telephony time should be included within the five minute speed to answer target.

  • Vulnerable people receiving Tax Credits are at increased risk of financial problems as they transfer to Universal Credit.

Recommendation: HMRC to report back to the committee by March 2018 to explain how it will take care of the interests of vulnerable people receiving Tax Credits. This should include how it will work with DWP to manage claimants’ transition to Universal Credit, and protect them against aggressive departmental activity to reclaim overpayments due to error and fraud.

  • We are alarmed to hear that the level of Tax Credits error and fraud has risen and is only going to get worse.

Recommendation: HMRC should set out its strategy for tackling Tax Credits error and fraud, given the additional risks posed by transfer to Universal Credit, including a cost-benefit analysis of its approach.

From a VAT perspective, it does seem that customer service has slightly improved from what was a completely awful level the year before. Unfortunately, this service is still unacceptable and frankly, I also find that the time waiting for a telephone call to be answered as stated by HMRC is highly dubious. Personal experience insists that they still have a great deal of work to do in this area and this is reinforced by discussions with other advisers in all areas of tax.

 

VAT – What records must be kept by a business?

By   January 9, 2018

Requirements for VAT records by taxable persons

I thought that it may be useful to round-up all the record-keeping requirements in one place and focus on what HMRC want to see. It is a good time to review record-keeping requirements as Making Tax Digital (MTD) is on the horizon. More on MTD in a later article.

General requirements

Every taxable person must keep such records as HMRC may require. Specifically, every taxable person must, for the purposes of accounting for VAT, keep the following records:

  • business and accounting records
  • VAT account
  • copies of all VAT invoices issued
  • VAT invoices received
  • certificates issued under provisions relating to fiscal or other warehouse regimes
  • documentation relating to acquisitions of any goods from other EC countries
  • copy documentation issued, and documentation received, relating to the transfer, dispatch or transport of goods by him to other EU countries
  • documentation relating to imports and exports
  • credit notes, debit notes and other documents which evidence an increase or decrease in consideration that are received, and copies of such documents issued
  • copy of any self-billing agreement to which the business is a party
  • where the business is the customer party to a self-billing agreement, the name, address and VAT registration number of each supplier with whom the business has entered into a self-billing agreement

Additionally

HMRC may supplement the above provisions by a Notice published by them for that purpose. They supplement the statutory requirements and have legal force.

Business records include, in addition to specific items listed above, orders and delivery notes, relevant business correspondence, purchases and sales books, cash books and other account books, records of daily takings such as till rolls, annual accounts, including trading and profit and loss accounts and bank statements and paying-in slips.

Unless the business mainly involves the supply of goods and services direct to the public and less detailed VAT invoices are issued, all VAT invoices must also be retained. Cash and carry wholesalers must keep all till rolls and product code lists.

Records must be kept of all taxable goods and services received or supplied in the course of business (standard and zero-rated), together with any exempt supplies, gifts or loans of goods, taxable self-supplies and any goods acquired or produced in the course of business which are put to private or other non-business use.

All records must be kept up to date and be in sufficient detail to allow calculation of VAT. They do not have to be kept in any set way but must be in a form which will enable HMRC officers to check easily the figures on the VAT return. Records must be readily available to HMRC officers on request. If a taxable person has more than one place of business, a list of all branches must be kept at the principal place of business.

Comprehensive records

In addition, we always advise businesses to retain full information of certain calculations such as; partial exemption, the Capital Goods Scheme, margin schemes, TOMS, business/non-business, mileage and subsistence claims, promotional schemes, vouchers, discounts, location of overseas customers, MOSS, and distance selling amongst other records. The aim is to ensure that any inspector is satisfied with the records and that any information required is readily available. This avoids delays, misunderstandings and unnecessary enquiries which may lead to assessments and penalties.

If you have any doubts that your business records are sufficient, please contact us.

Ding Dong – Avon calling (for VAT)

By   December 21, 2017

Latest from the courts

The CJEU case of Avon Cosmetics Limited considered the validity and completeness of a specific UK derogation called a “Retail Sale Direction”.

Background

Avon Cosmetics Limited (‘Avon’) sells its beauty products in the UK to representatives, known colloquially as ‘Avon Ladies’, who in turn make retail sales to their customers (‘direct selling model’). Many of the Avon Ladies are not registered for VAT. As a result, their profit margins would not normally be subject to VAT. As an example; an Avon Lady may buy goods from Avon at £50 and sell them at £70. In HMRC’s eyes, the £20 difference is not taxed.

“Lost VAT” Derogation

That problem of ‘lost VAT’ at the last stage of the supply chain is typical of direct selling models. In order to deal with the problem, the UK sought and obtained a derogation from the standard rule that VAT is charged on the actual sales price. In Avon’s case that derogation  allowed HMRC to charge Avon VAT, not on the wholesale price paid by the unregistered Avon Ladies, but instead on the retail price at which the Avon Ladies would go on to sell the products to the final consumer. However, the way the derogation is applied does not take into account the costs incurred by the unregistered representatives in their retail selling activities, and the input tax that they would normally have been able to deduct had they been VAT registered (‘notional input tax’). In particular, where Avon Ladies buy products for demonstration purposes (not to resell but to use as a selling aid) they cannot deduct VAT on those purchases as input tax.  The result is that the disregarded notional input tax in relation to such costs ‘sticks’ in the supply chain and increases the overall VAT charged on the direct selling model over that charged on sales through ordinary retail outlets.

Challenge

The appeal by Avon concerns the interpretation and validity of the Derogation.

In particular

  • whether there is an obligation to take into account the notional input tax of direct resellers such as the Avon Ladies
  • whether there was an obligation for the UK to bring the issue of notional input tax to the EC’s attention when it requested the Derogation, and
  • what would be/what are the consequences of failing to comply with either of those obligations?

Result

The CJEU found that neither the derogation authorised by Council Decision 89/534/EEC of 24 May 1989 authorising the UK to apply, in respect of certain supplies to unregistered resellers nor, national measures implementing that decision infringe the principles of proportionality and fiscal neutrality. Therefore, output tax remains due on the ultimate retail sale value, but there is no credit for any VAT incurred by the Avon Ladies.

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 – Autumn 2017 Budget. (No excitement)

By   November 23, 2017

Thankfully there were no VAT surprises in the Budget. The potential reduction of the VAT registration limit considered here did not occur.

There was no change in the VAT registration and deregistration thresholds which will remain at £85,000 and £83,000 respectively.

It is unlikely that these will change before March 2020 at the earliest.

Most of the other VAT measures announced in the budget were already known.

However, as always, the devil may be in the detail.

So, as you were for now.

 

 

VAT – Work on farm buildings

By   November 14, 2017

I am quite often asked if there are any VAT reliefs for farming businesses carrying out work to farm buildings.

Indeed, there are some areas of the VAT rules which may be of assistance to owners of farms and farm buildings. Clearly, the best position is to avoid VAT being charged in the first place. If this is not possible, then we need to consider if the VAT may be recovered.

Repairs and Renovations of Farmhouses

The following guidelines apply to businesses VAT registered as sole proprietors or partnerships. Where the occupant of the farmhouse is a director of a limited company (or a person connected with the director of the company) it is unlikely that any VAT incurred on the farmhouse may be recovered. The following notes are provided by HMRC after consultations with the NFU:

  • Where VAT is incurred on repairs, maintenance and renovations, 70% of that VAT may be recovered as input tax provided the farm is a normal working farm and the VAT-registered person is actively engaged full-time in running it. Where farming is not a full-time business for the VAT-registered person, input tax claimable is likely to be between 10%–30% on the grounds that the dominant purpose is a personal one.
  • Where the building work is more associated with an alteration (eg; building an extension) the amount that may be recovered will depend on the purpose for the construction. If the dominant purpose is a business one then 70% may be claimed. If the dominant purpose is a personal one HMRC would expect the claim to be 40% or less, and in some cases, depending on the facts, none of the VAT incurred would be recoverable.

Other farm buildings

As a general rule, when VAT is incurred on non-residential buildings, then, as long as they are used for business purposes, it would be expected that 100% of the VAT is recoverable. Care should be taken if any buildings are let and it may be that planning is necessary in order to achieve full recovery.

It should be noted that if any work to a building which is not residential results in the building becoming residential, eg; a barn conversion, then the applicable VAT rate should be 5%. If the resulting dwelling is sold then generally the 5% VAT is recoverable. If the dwelling is to be lived in by the person converting it; the VAT incurred may be recovered, but the mechanism is outside the usual VAT return and a separate claim can be made. In these circumstances it is not necessary for the “converter” to be VAT registered.

As may be seen, in many cases it will be necessary to negotiate a percentage of recovery with HMRC.  We can assist with this, as well as advising on VAT structures and planning to ensure as much input tax as possible is either not chargeable to you, or is recoverable.

VAT Simplification (We can but hope)

By   November 13, 2017

This month The Office Of Tax Simplification has published a document called “Value added tax: routes to simplification”. This includes 23 recommendations on how VAT may be simplified in the UK.   This is the first Office of Tax Simplification review to focus specifically on VAT and it takes a high level look at areas where simplification of either law or administration would be worthwhile.

The report specifically covers the following areas:

  • VAT registration threshold
  • VAT administration
  • Multiple rates
  • Partial exemption
  • Capital Goods Scheme
  • The option to tax
  • Special accounting schemes

The dominant issue that came out of the report is the level of turnover above which a business is required to pay VAT, known as the VAT threshold. At £85,000, the UK has the highest VAT threshold in the EU. The report considered a range of options for reform, in particular setting out the impact of either raising or lowering the threshold to avoid the current “cliff edge” position (many business restrict growth in order to avoid VAT registration, creating a “bunching” effect.  For example, lowering the threshold may create less drag on economic growth but would bring a larger number of businesses into the VAT system. Alternatively, a higher threshold could also result in less distortion but it would clearly raise less tax.

Legislation

It was noted that since the introduction of VAT in the UK, the relevant legislation has grown so that it is now spread across 42 Acts of Parliament and 132 statutory instruments while still retaining some of the complexities of the pre-1973 UK purchase tax system.

Brexit

The report notes that: unlike income taxes, the VAT system is largely prescribed by European Union rules, so Brexit may present an opportunity to consider areas which could be clarified, simplified, or just made easier. It is not clear at present how Brexit will unfold so this review does not embrace aspects of the VAT system which are part of the Brexit negotiations, such as financial services, or focus specifically on cross-border trade.

Recomendations

The summary of the 23 recommendations are reproduced here:

  1. The government should examine the current approach to the level and design of the VAT registration threshold, with a view to setting out a future direction of travel for the threshold, including consideration of the potential benefits of a smoothing mechanism.
  2. HMRC should maintain a programme for further improving the clarity of its guidance and its responsiveness to requests for rulings in areas of uncertainty.
  3. HMRC should consider ways of reducing the uncertainty and administrative costs for business relating to potential penalties when inaccuracies are voluntarily disclosed.
  4. HM Treasury and HMRC should undertake a comprehensive review of the reduced rate, zero-rate and exemption schedules, working with the support of the OTS.
  5. The government should consider increasing the partial exemption de minimis limits in line with inflation, and explore alternative ways of removing the need for businesses incurring insignificant amounts of input tax to carry out partial exemption calculations.
  6. HMRC should consider further ways to simplify partial exemption calculations and to improve the process of making and agreeing special method applications.
  7. The government should consider whether capital goods scheme categories other than for land and property are needed, and review the land and property threshold.
  8. HMRC should review the current requirements for record keeping and the audit trail for options to tax, and the extent to which this might be handled on-line.
  9. HMRC should establish a target to update guidance within a short, defined, period after a legal change or new policy takes effect.
  10. HMRC should explore ways to improve online guidance, making all current information accessible, and to gauge how often queries are answered by online guidance.
  11. HMRC should review options to reduce the uncertainty caused by the suspended penalty rules.
  12. HMRC should draw greater attention to the facility for extending statutory review and appeal time limits to enable local discussions to take place where appropriate.
  13. HMRC should consider ways in which statutory review teams can deepen engagement with business and adviser groups to increase confidence in the process, and for providing greater clarity about the availability and costs of alternative dispute resolution.
  14. HMRC should consider introducing electronic C79 import certificates.
  15. HMRC should consider options to streamline communications with businesses, including the process for making payments to non-established taxable persons.
  16. HMRC should looks at ways of enhancing its support to other parts of government (for example, in guidance) on VAT issues affecting their operations.
  17. HMRC should review its process for engaging with business and VAT practitioner groups to see if representation and effectiveness can be enhanced.
  18. HMRC should explore the possibility of listing zero-rated and reduced rate goods by reference to their customs code, drawing on the experience of other countries.
  19. HMRC should consider ways of ensuring partial exemption special methods are kept up to date, such as giving them a limited lifespan.
  20. The government should consider introducing a de minimis level for capital goods scheme adjustments to minimise administrative burdens.
  21. The government should consider the potential for increasing the TOMS de minimis limit and removing MICE businesses from TOMS.
  22. HMRC should consider updating the DIY House builder scheme to include clearer and more accessible guidance, increased time limits and recovery of VAT on professional services.
  23. HMRC should consider digitising the process for the recovery of VAT by overseas businesses not registered in the UK.

Next Steps

The Chancellor of the Exchequer must now respond to the advice given.

Commentary

A lot of the areas identified have long been crying out for changes and the recommendations appear eminently sensible and long overdue. As an example, the partial exemption de minimis limit has been fixed at £7500 pa for 23 years and consequently the value of purchases it covers has reduced significantly with inflation.  A complete read of the report with prove rewarding as it confirms a lot of beliefs that advisers have long suspected and highlights areas the certainly do require simplification. I am particularly pleased that the complexities of both partial exemption and TOMS have been addressed. Fingers crossed that these recommendations are taken seriously by the government and the Chancellor takes this advice on-board. I am however, not holding my breath. It is anticipated that the early indications of the government’s thinking may be set out in the next Budget.