Category Archives: Land & Property

VAT: Latest from the courts –zero rating of sub-contractors’ supplies

By   August 8, 2017

In the First Tier Tribunal case of Summit Electrical Installations Ltd the issue was whether supplies in respect of student accommodation made by an electrical sub-contractor were eligible for zero rating as supplies in the course of construction of buildings designed as a series of dwellings. Alternatively, were they, as HMRC contended; standard rated supplies in the course of construction of a building used for a Relevant Residential Purpose (RRP)?


The appellant was appointed as the electrical subcontractor working to a main contractor on a development known as Primus Place in Leicester. This development is a seven storey block of student accommodation comprising 140 studio flats and associated facilities. Floors one to six are similar in layout with the majority of the studio flats being the same size. There are also a number of larger studios on some floors. On the ground floor there is a communal reception, cycle store, and laundry. In addition management offices, stores, bins and plant rooms are situated on the ground floor. Each of the studio flats was fitted out with a bathroom pod (a unit including shower, sink and toilet) installed in the corner of the room. In addition there was a small kitchenette with dish washing sink, countertop, cooker, fridge and microwave. Through a doorless stud wall is an open plan sleeping area and walk in cupboard.

The planning permission was granted subject to one relevant condition which provided that at the development: “…no person other than a full time student attending the University of Leicester or DeMontfort University…shall occupy these flats at any time”.

The main contractor provided a zero rating certificate to the appellant. This certificate certified that the developer of the site intended to use the buildings for a relevant residential purpose, namely student living accommodation.


In this case the distinction between the construction of dwellings and RRPs is that sub-contractors may zero rate their supplies if the work is in respect of dwellings, but those same supplies are standard rated if what is being constructed is a RRP. It is useful to consider the distinction here.

Relevant Residential Purpose

RRP means use as:

(a) a home or other institution providing residential accommodation for children

(b) a home or other institution providing residential accommodation with personal care for persons in need of personal care by reason of old age, disablement, past or present dependence on alcohol or drugs or past or present mental disorder

(c) a hospice

(d) residential accommodation for students or school pupils

(e) residential accommodation for members of any of the armed forces

(f) a monastery, nunnery or similar establishment, or

(g) an institution which is the sole or main residence of at least 90 per cent. of its residents

but not use as a:

hospital or similar institution

prison or similar institution, or

hotel, inn or similar establishment

Clearly, by the above definition, student accommodation is deemed to be a RRP. Therefore, the Tribunal was asked to consider whether the accommodation would also qualify as dwellings, and if so, whether “designed as a dwelling” takes precedence. The definition of a dwelling is as follows (“Note 2” as referred to below).


A building is designed as a dwelling or a number of dwellings where in relation to each dwelling the following conditions are satisfied:

(a) the dwelling consists of self-contained living accommodation;

(b) there is no provision for direct internal access from the dwelling to any other dwelling or part of a dwelling;

(c) the separate use, or disposal of the dwelling is not prohibited by the term of any covenant, statutory planning consent or similar provision; and

(d) statutory planning consent has been granted in respect of that dwelling and its construction or conversion has been carried out in accordance with that consent.


The judge ruled that the accommodation qualified as dwellings for the purpose of zero rating such that the sub-contractors supplies could also be zero rated. This was the case even though the planning permission contained a condition restricting their use to students of the universities only. The building also qualified as a RRP but via VAT Act 1994, Schedule 8, Group 5, note 2 – designed as a dwelling takes precedence over RRP.

NB: The Tribunal also found that HMRC guidance which sets out that in similar circumstances it is the main contractor who determines which type of zero rating applies to a particular development has no basis in law. It is the responsibility of the sub-contractor to determine whether it is working on a dwelling or a RRP building regardless of the main contractor’s position.


HMRC appeared to have relied solely on para (c) of Note 2 (above) to disqualify the accommodation from being dwellings, on the basis that the planning permission prohibited occupation by any other person than students of the universities, but the judge was having none of that. The decision was hardly unexpected, but the comments on there being no legal basis to support HMRC’s published guidance is helpful and provides clarity.

As always, when analysing supplies of construction services (plus associated goods) and transactions involving land and property it pays to get proper VAT advice. There are many traps for the unwary and the values involved are usually high.  The cost of getting it wrong can be very harmful to a business.

VAT – Are overpayments subject to output tax?

By   June 19, 2017

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

Latest from the courts

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

VAT treatment of deposits and advance payments

By   June 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advance payments and deposits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Returnable deposits

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

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

Forfeit deposits

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

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

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

Continuous supplies

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

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

Credit and conditional sales

This is where the rules can get rather more complex.

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

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

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

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

Credit sales where finance is provided to the customer

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

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

Credit sales involving a finance company

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

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

Hire purchase agreements

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

Loan agreements

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

Specific areas 

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

Cash Accounting Scheme

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


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

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

Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme (TOMS)

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

VAT Registration

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

Flat Rate Scheme

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


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

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

VAT Latest from the courts – White Goods claims by housebuilders

By   February 27, 2017

house-under-construction (2)Recovery of input tax on goods included in the sale of a new house.

The recent Upper Tribunal (UT) case of Taylor Wimpey plc considered whether builders of new dwellings are able to recover input tax incurred on certain expenditure on goods supplied with the sale of a new house. We are aware that there are many cases stood behind this hearing and it is understood that the appellant’s claim amounts to circa £60 million alone. Unfortunately, the UT ruled against the appellant.

The rules

Before considering the impact of the case, I thought it worthwhile to look at the rules on this matter.

There is in place a Blocking Order (“Builders’ Block”) which prohibits recovery of input tax on goods which are not “building materials”. In most cases it is simple to determine what building materials are; bricks, mortar, timber etc, but the difficulty comes with items such as white goods (ovens, hobs, washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators etc) carpets, and similar.  So what are the rules?

These are set out in HMRC’s VAT Notice 708 para 13.2

There are five criteria:

  • The articles are incorporated into the buildings (or its site)
  • the articles are “ordinarily” incorporated by builders into that type of building
  • other than kitchen furniture, the articles are not finished or prefabricated furniture, or materials for the construction of fitted furniture
  • with certain exceptions, the articles are not gas or electrical appliances
  • the articles are not carpets or carpeting material

To qualify as building materials, goods have to meet all of these criteria

Examples of specific goods are given at VAT Notice 708 para 13.8 

The case

Generally, Taylor Wimpey’s argument was that under the VAT law in force at the time of the claim it was entitled to recover the VAT paid on these items and the Builders’ Block did not prevent it from recovering input tax on these goods. The VAT was properly recoverable as it was attributable to the zero rated sale of the house when complete. Taylor Wimpey further contended that if the Builder’s Block did apply, it was unlawful under EU law and should therefore be disapplied.  Additionally, there was a challenge on the meaning of “incorporates … in any part of the building or its site” and the meaning of “ordinarily installed by builders as fixtures”.

The Builders’ Block which prevents housebuilders from reclaiming VAT on such goods was challenged on the basis that the UK was not allowed to extend input tax blocks, as it had done in 1984 (white goods) and 1987 (carpets).

The decision

The UT ruled that the block could be extended in relation to supplies which were zero-rated and that the block properly applied to most of appellants’ claim.  The UT held that only goods “ordinarily installed” in a house were excepted from the block, but that exception does not cover white goods and fitted carpets supplied since the appropriate rule changes.


This ruling was not really a surprise and, unless Taylor Wimpey pursues this further it provides clarity.  It demonstrates that technology and the requirements of a modern house purchaser have moved on significantly since the 1970s and 1980s.  I doubt many houses built in the 1970s had dishwashers or extractor hoods.  The ruling does bear reading from a technical viewpoint as my summary does not go into the full reasons for the decision.  If you, or your client have a claim stood behind this case it is obviously not good news as claims for white goods are extremely limited.  If you have mistakenly claimed for white or similar goods, it would be prudent to review the position in light of this case.  The decision also affects claims via the DIY Housebuilder’s Scheme.  Details of this scheme here


VAT – Overseas Holiday Lets: A Warning

By   January 16, 2017
hotel-room-key-397946_960_720 (2)Do you, or your clients, own property overseas which you let to third parties when you are not using it yourself?

It is important to understand the VAT consequences of owning property overseas.

The position of UK Holiday Lets

It may not be commonly known that the UK has the highest VAT threshold in the EC. This means that for many ‘sideline’ businesses such as; the rental of second or holiday properties in the UK, the owners, whether they are; individuals, businesses, or pension schemes, only have to consider VAT if income in relation to the property exceeds £83,000 pa. and this is only likely if a number of properties are owned.

It should be noted that, unlike other types of rental of homes, holiday lettings are always taxable for VAT purposes.

Overseas Holiday Lets

Other EC Member States have nil thresholds for foreign entrepreneurs.  This means that if any rental income is received, VAT registration is likely to be compulsory. Consequently, a property owner that rents out a property abroad will probably have a liability to register for VAT in the country that the property is located.  Failure to comply with the domestic legislation of the relevant Member State may mean; payment of back VAT and interest and fines being levied. VAT registration however, does mean that a property owner can recover input tax on expenditure in connection with the property, eg; agent’s fees, repair and maintenance and other professional costs.  This may be restricted if the home is used for periodical own use.

Given that every EC Member State has differing rules and/or procedures to the UK, it is crucial to check all the consequences of letting property overseas. Additionally, if any other services are supplied, eg; transport, this gives rise to a whole new (and significantly more complex) set of VAT rules.

A final word of warning; I quite often hear the comment “I’m not going to bother – how will they ever find out?”

If an overseas property owner based in the UK is in competition with local letting businesses, those businesses generally do not have any compulsion in notifying the local authorities. In addition, I have heard of authorities carrying out very simple initiatives to see if owners are VAT registered. In many resorts, income from tourism is vital and this is a very important revenue stream for them so it is well policed.

Please contact us if you are affected by this matter; we have the resources to advise and act on a worldwide basis.

VAT Latest from the courts – Application of Capital Goods Scheme

By   November 10, 2016

justice28-2Should the costs of a phased development be aggregated, and if so, do the anti-avoidance provisions apply?

In the case of Water Property Limited (WPL) the First Tier Tribunal was asked to consider the application of; the Capital Goods Scheme (CGS) and the anti-avoidance provisions set out in the VAT Act 1994, Schedule 10, para 12.

A helpful guide to the CGS is here


WPL purchased land and buildings formerly used as a public house, subject to planning permission to convert the ground floor into a children’s day care nursery and the upper floor into residential flats. The planning permission was subsequently granted. WPL paid £210,000 plus £37,500 VAT on the acquisition of the ex-pub in March 2013. The children’s nursery business was kept separate from the property development business to enable the children’s nursery business to be sold at a date in the future and for the leasehold reversion to be retained as an investment by WPL.  The value of the building contract for the nursery was £209,812.34 including VAT. The value of the contract for the residential flats was £161,546.42 including VAT. The consideration for the acquisition and each phase of development was below £250,000 (the threshold at which land and buildings become CGS items) but combined, they exceeded the £250,000 limit. WPL exercised an option to tax on the property and entered into a lease with Smile Childcare Limited (SCL).  SCL was established to carry on a business of the provision of nursery care for infant children. It was jointly owned by Mr and Mrs Waters. Mrs Waters as the operator of the children’s nursery.

WPL recovered input tax on costs incurred in respect of the nursery, but not the flats. It was accepted by the appellant that SCL and WPL were “connected” within the meaning of VAT Act 1994, Schedule 10, para 13 and that the activity of carrying on the business of a nursery was an exempt activity.


HMRC formed the view that the option to tax should be disapplied by virtue of the anti-avoidance legislation meaning that no input tax was recoverable. This is because the property was, or was intended to become, a CGS item and the ‘exempt land test’ is met. This test is met if, at the time the grant is made, the grantor, or a person connected with the grantor expects the land to be used for an exempt purpose.

So the issue was whether the land constituted a CGS item.  That is, whether the value of the two elements forming the phased development should be aggregated.


The FTT allowed the taxpayer’s appeal against HMRC’s decision. It was decided that the acquisition and development costs were financed through different means; there were separate contracts for each phase; there was no overlap in the works* and HMRC had not identified any evasion, avoidance or abuse and considered that the costs did not need to be aggregated.  In addition, it was concluded that WPL had relied on HMRC guidance in determining that there was no requirement to aggregate the cost of the phased development provided that there was no overlap in time.

As a consequence, as each part of the development fell below the £250,000 limit, there were no CGS items.  Therefore the fact that the parties were connected was irrelevant and the anti-avoidance provisions did not apply such that the option to tax could not be disapplied meaning that the recovery of the input tax was appropriate. The Chairman also commented that the appellant had a legitimate expectation to rely on the guidance provided by HMRC (in this case the provision of a copy of Public Notice 706/2).


There is often uncertainty on the VAT position of land and property developments of this kind, and the interaction with the CGS is rarely straightforward.  This is not helped by HMRC’s interpretation of the rules.


If any business or advisers with clients which have been;

  •  forced to use the CGS as a result of aggregation
  • subject to the application of the anti-avoidance provisions
  • assessed despite relying on HMRC’s published guidance

they should seek advice and review their position. We can advise in such circumstances.

 * As per PN 706/2 Para 4.12 as follows
 “What if the refurbishment is in phases?
If you do this you will need to decide whether the work should be treated as a whole for CGS [capital goods scheme] purposes or whether there is more than one refurbishment. If you think that each phase is really a separate refurbishment then they should be treated separately for CGS purposes. Normally there is more than one refurbishment when:
· There are separate contracts for each phase of work, or;
· A contract where each phase is a separate option which can be selected, and;
· Each phase of work is completed before work on the next phase starts…”

VAT – Latest from the courts: Craft fair pitches standard rated

By   October 17, 2016

2013-12-01 Bury St Eds Xmas Fair0020 (2)The Upper Tribunal (UT) case of Zombory-Moldovan (trading as Craft Carnival)


In the past, the rent of stall at craft fairs have generally been treated as an exempt right over land. In fact, in this instant case, the First Tier Tribunal agreed with the appellant that supplies made to stallholders to sell their goods were the equivalent to a right to occupy land and therefore exempt from VAT.

However, in this decision, the UT overturned this analysis and found that the supply was standard rated.


The reasons given were that what Craft Carnival supplied went beyond the mere use of a plot of land for a specific period and amounted to the use of a pitch at an event in order to “offer certain goods for sale”.  The test in the previous “Temco” case on this point stated that an exempt supply amounts to a “relatively passive activity linked simply to the passage of time and not generating any significant added value”.  Craft Carnivals had “very real and significant responsibilities beyond the bare provision of an appropriately-sized plot”. This, being a single supply (it was decided) meant that the entire charge was subject to VAT at the standard rate.

The appellant’s website stated that “In addition to the erection of marquees, which are hired for the duration of a fair, Mrs Zombory-Moldovan arranges for the provision 45 of other necessary temporary facilities including portable toilets, electrical generators and security fencing. She also employs between five and seven members of staff to act as ticket sellers and car park 3 marshals. Before the fair takes place Mrs Zombory-Moldovan would have issued a press release and advertised the event in local newspapers and on Craft Carnival’s website and booked a children’s entertainer, such as a magician, to encourage families to attend.”


Any business or charity which provides similar supplies must review their VAT responsibilities in light of this decision immediately. This case is likely have far-reaching implications for both organisers and those businesses which sell goods in fairs and similar events.  This may encompass; trade fairs, exhibitions and even, possibly, high end car-boot sales type events. We await HMRC’s response to their victory in this case and how wide-ranging they consider the decision to be.

Please contact us if this decision affects your or your client’s businesses.

VAT liability of a dwelling formed from more than one building

By   September 6, 2016 (2)HMRC has issued a policy paper: Revenue and Customs Brief 13(2016)

This brief explains the change in policy relating to the treatment of dwellings that have been formed from either the construction of new buildings, or from the conversion of non-residential buildings into a dwelling. HMRC now accepts that single dwellings can be formed from more than one building.

Please contact us if this change affects you in relation to current, or past developments.

VAT – Partial Exemption: What Is It? What do I need to know?

By   August 10, 2016

commercial property interior (2)As part of our guides to VAT basics, we take a brief look at partial exemption and how it affects a business.

The first point to make is that partial exemption is often complex and costly. In some cases it may be avoided by planning and in others it is a fact of life for a business which needs to be managed properly.

The Basics

The VAT a business incurs on its expenditure is called input tax. For most businesses this is reclaimed from HMRC on VAT returns if it relates to standard rated or zero rated sales (referred to as “taxable supplies”) that that business makes. Exempt supplies are not to be confused with non-business income which are dealt with under a different regime.

However, a business which makes exempt sales may not be in a position to recover all of the input tax which it incurred. A business in this position is called partly exempt. Generally, any input tax which directly relates to exempt supplies is irrecoverable. In addition, an element of that business’ general overheads, e.g.; light, heat, telephone, computers, professional fees, etc are deemed to be in part attributable to exempt supplies and a calculation must be performed to establish the element which falls to be irrecoverable.

Input tax which falls within the overheads category must be apportioned according to a so called; partial exemption method. The “Standard Method” requires a comparison between the value of taxable and exempt supplies made by the business. The calculation is; the percentage of taxable supplies of all supplies multiplied by the input tax to be apportioned which gives the element of VAT input tax which may be recovered. Other partial exemption methods (so called Special Methods) are available by specific agreement with HMRC.  A flowchart which illustrates the Standard Method of apportionment is below.

partial exemption flowchart1

Which businesses are affected?

Any business which receives income from the following sources may be affected by partial exemption:

  • Property letting and sales – generally all types of supply of land*
  • Financial services
  • Insurance
  • Betting, gaming and lotteries
  • Education
  • Health and welfare
  • Sport, sports competitions and physical education
  • Cultural services

This list is not exhaustive.

* Most businesses which do not routinely make exempt supplies usually encounter exemption in the area of land and property and it is an easy trap to fall into not to consider VAT when involved in property transactions. This is one area where VAT planning may be of assistance as it is possible in most situations to deliberately choose to add VAT to an exempt supply to avoid a loss of input tax.  This is known as the option to tax, and it is considered in more detail here

De Minimis relief

There is however relief available for a business in the form of de minimis limits. Broadly, if the total of the irrecoverable directly attributable (to exempt suppliers) and the element of overhead input tax which has been established using a partial exemption method falls to be de minimis, all of that input tax may be recovered in the normal way. The de minimis limit is currently £7,500 per annum of input tax and one half of all input tax for the year.

As a result, after using the partial exemption method, should the input tax fall below £7,500 (£625 per month) and 50% of all input tax for a year it is recoverable in full. This calculation is required every quarter (for businesses which render returns on a quarterly basis) with a review at the year end, called an annual adjustment carried out at the end of a business’ partial exemption year. The quarterly de minimis is consequently £1,875 of exempt input tax which represents spending of under £10,000 net; not a huge amount.

Should the de minimis limits be breached, all input tax relating to exempt supplies is irrecoverable.

The value for the de minimis limit has been in place for over 20 years (when it was increased by a huge £25 per month) and it is rather ridiculous that it has not been increased to reflect inflation.  This, coupled with the fact that the VAT rate has increased significantly means that the relief which was once very useful for a business has withered away to such an extent that partial exemption catches even very small businesses which I am sure goes against the original purpose of the relief.

In summary – for a business exemption is a burden not a relief.  It represents a real cost in terms of tax payable, time and other resources, and uncertainty. We often find that this is an area which HMRC examine closely and one which benefits from proactive negotiation with HMRC.

VAT – Time of supply (Tax Point). The Rules

By   June 10, 2016

calendar apple-desk-working-technology (2)Although one of the “VAT basics”, it is sometimes quite difficult to establish the date for a tax point, and there is a great deal of case law which suggests that this seemingly straightforward exercise can throw up difficulties.

The time at which a supply of goods or services is deemed to take place is called the tax point. VAT must normally be accounted for in the VAT period in which the tax point occurs and at the rate of VAT in force at that time. Small businesses may, however, account for VAT on the basis of cash paid and received.

Although the principal purpose of the time of supply rules is to fix the time for accounting for, and claiming VAT, the rules have other uses including

  • calculating turnover for VAT registration purposes;
  • establishing the period to which supplies (including exempt supplies) are to be allocated for partial exemption purposes, and;
  • establishing when and if input tax may be deducted.

The tax point for a transaction is the date the transaction takes place for VAT purposes. This is important because it crystallises the date when output tax should be declared and when input tax may be reclaimed. Unsurprisingly, get it wrong and there could be penalties and interest or VAT is declared too early and input tax claimed late – both situations are to be avoided, especially in large value and/or complex situations.

The time of supply rules

Basic tax point (Date of supply)


The basic tax point for a supply of goods is the date the goods are removed, ie; sent to, or taken by, the customer. If the goods are not removed, it is the date they are made available for his use.


The basic tax point for a supply of services is the date the services are performed.

Actual tax point
In the case of both goods and services, where a VAT invoice is raised or payment is made before the basic tax point, there is an earlier actual tax point created at the time the invoice is issued or payment received, whichever occurs first.

14 Day Rule
There is also an actual tax point where a VAT invoice is issued within 14 days after the basic tax point. This overrides the basic tax point.

Continuous supply of services 
If services are supplied on a continuous basis and payments are received regularly or from time to time, there is a tax point every time:

  • A VAT invoice is
  • a payment is received, whichever happens first.


Care should be taken when accounting for deposits. The VAT rules vary depending on the nature of the deposit. In some circumstances deposits may catch out the unwary, these could be, inter alia; auctions, non stakeholder/escrow/solicitor accounts in property transactions, and refundable/non-refundable deposits. There are also other special provisions for particular supplies of goods and services, for eg; TOMS.


The tax point may be summarised (in most circumstances) as the earliest of:

  • The date an invoice is issued
  • The date payment is received
  • The date title to goods is passed, or services are completed.

Some brief examples:

Situation Tax point
No invoice needed Date of supply
VAT invoice issued Date of invoice
VAT invoice issued 15 days or more after the date of supply Date the supply took place
Payment or invoice issued in advance of supply Date of payment or invoice (whichever is earlier)
Payment in advance of supply and no VAT invoice yet issued Date payment received

There are certain exceptions, so care should be taken when establishing a tax point.


Tax point planning can be very important to a business. the aims in summary are:

  • Deferring a supplier’s tax point where possible
  • Timing of a tax point to benefit both parties to a transaction wherever possible
  • Applying the cash accounting scheme (or withdrawal from it)
  • Using specific documentation to avoid creating tax points for certain supplies
  • Correctly identifying the nature of a supply to benefit from certain tax point rules
  • Generating positive cashflow between “related” entities where permitted
  • Broadly; generate output tax as early as possible in a VAT period, and incur input tax as late as possible
  • Planning for VAT rate changes
  • Ensure that a business does not incur penalties for errors by applying the tax point rules correctly.

Getting a tax point wrong by even one day can be very costly. This is particularly relevant in respect of property transactions. Also, a significant savings may be made by careful tax point planning.

In my next article I shall look at how the tax point rules may be used for beneficial VAT planning in a specific example.