Category Archives: Land & Property

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.

VAT HMRC Updates

By   October 12, 2017

HMRC has updated some of its guidance.  This includes: VAT manuals (HMRC internal guidance), VAT Notices and VAT Information Sheets and Revenue and Customs Briefs.

Full details here And a brief summary below:

VAT manuals

VAT Land and Property/Construction

VATLP24750 – Supplies between landlords and tenants; provision of finance for the purposes of the option to tax anti-avoidance legislation

VATLP23500 – Guidance on the option to tax anti-avoidance legislation

VCONST15250 and VCONST15610 – Guidance on the differences between care homes and a hospitals

VAT Education

VATEDU53400 – Guidance on “closely related goods” in relation to education services following the case of Brockenhurst College (please see here)

New and revised VAT Notices

702: imports

701/49: finance

700/45: how to correct VAT errors and make adjustments or claims

700/58: treatment of VAT repayment returns and supplements

702/7: import VAT relief for goods supplied onward to another country in the EC

714: zero rating young children’s clothing and footwear

New VAT Information Sheets and Revenue and Customs Briefs

VAT Information Sheets

Revenue and Customs Briefs

Please contact us if any of the above affects you , or you have any queries.

VAT: Extent of zero rating for a construction by a charity

By   October 9, 2017

Latest from the courts

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of The Trustees of Litton & Thorner Community Hall the issue was whether certain construction works were a completion of an initial build or whether they were an extension or an annex to a pre-existing building. And if an annex, whether it was capable of functioning independently from the existing building and whether there is a main access to the annex.

Background

The appellant began construction of a hall in 2008. It was intended that the hall would be available for a school to use and also for it to be available at for village use and other activities, such as by local youth clubs and a scout group. There was no dispute that the original construction was zero rated via VAT Act 1994, Schedule 8, Group 5, item 2  (The supply in the course of the construction of a building designed for a relevant charitable purpose).

A decision was made to install ground source heat pumps to feed the heating system. However the space occupied to accommodate the system meant that there was insufficient storage space in the hall. So at the time of construction, but before planning permission was obtained, it was decided with the builder that a steel joist should be incorporated within the east wall of the hall in order to facilitate the necessary support and access when the envisaged storage facility was added.  The additional planning permission was granted in November 2011, three years after building work commenced. The facility was eventually able to be used when work was completed in 2014. The delay was caused (not surprisingly) by funding issues. It was the VAT treatment of work relating to the addition of the storage area which was the subject of the appeal, with HMRC considering that it was either standard rated work to the building or was a standard rated extension to it.

Technical background

The provisions relevant to the appeal are VAT Act 1994, Schedule 8, Group 5, Notes 16 and 17. It is worthwhile taking a moment to consider these in their entirety:

Note 16

For the purpose of this Group, the construction of a building does not include

(a ) the conversion, reconstruction or alteration of an existing building; or

(b) any enlargement of, or extension to, an existing building except to the extent the enlargement or extension creates an additional dwelling or dwellings; or

(c) subject to Note (17) below, the construction of an annexe to an existing building.

Note 17

Note 16(c) above shall not apply where the whole or a part of an annexe is intended for use solely for a relevant charitable purpose and;

(a) the annexe is capable of functioning independently from the existing building; and

(b) the only access or where there is more than one means of access, the main access to:

(i) the annexe is not via the existing building; and

(ii) the existing building is not via the annexe.

The Appeal

The Trustees appealed on two separate and distinct bases:

(1) That the additional building was the completion of the original building and neither an extension nor an annex to it. It was their case that the temporal disconnect between the two building processes must be seen in the factual context, with particular reference to the decision to put in a lintel to allow the building to be completed when additional monies and planning permission were available. Additionally, alongside this fact was that the appellant was a non-commercial organisation and so things could not progress as expeditiously as they might have done if those things were being undertaken by a commercial organisation.

(2) The second basis is that, in any event, the additional building is zero rated by reference to paragraphs 16(c) and 17 of Group 5 to Schedule 8. It was the appellant’s case that the additional building is an annex intended for use solely for relevant charitable purposes and it meets the conditions set out in paragraph 17(a) & (b).

Decision

The FTT decided that the work was subject to zero rating. Not only was it part of the original construction (albeit that there was a significant time period between the building original work and the work on the storage area) but also, even if the storage area is considered as being separate, it was ruled that, on the facts, it was an annex rather than an extension, so it also qualified for zero rating on this basis.

Commentary

The date a building is “completed” is often an issue which creates significant disputes with HMRC, not only for charities, but for “regular” housebuilders. I have also encountered the distinction between an annex and an extension representing a very real topic, especially with academy schools. Even small changes in circumstances can create differing VAT outcomes. My advice is to seek assistance form a VAT consultant at the earliest stage possible. It may be that with a slight amendment to plans, zero rating may be obtained in order to avoid an extra 20% on building costs which charities, more often than not, are unable to reclaim.

Links to what we can offer to schools here, and charities here

Additionally, our offering to the construction industry here

VAT: Latest from the courts – partial exemption attribution

By   October 4, 2017

In court about courts…

In the First Tier tribunal (FTT) case of The Queen’s Club Limited the issue was whether certain input tax was attributable to the company’s taxable activities or, as HMRC contended; to both its taxable and exempt income (so that it was residual). If HMRC were correct an element of the input tax would fall to be irrecoverable via the appellants’ partial exemption calculation. A brief guide to partial exemption here 

Background

The Queen’s Club (The Club) is a well-known members’ tennis club in West London. The Club’s tennis facilities are world-class and each year the Lawn Tennis Association hires the Club’s courts to put on the Aegon Championship which is a precursor to the Wimbledon tournament and attracts many of the world’s leading players. It makes exempt supplies of sporting services to its members and also makes taxable supplies of food and drink in its bars and restaurants. It incurred VAT on the costs of refurbishing the bars, restaurant and café facilities on its premises. The Club considers that it is entitled to a full credit for input tax on those expenses as they were wholly attributable to the taxable supply of catering.

The Club’s revenue comes primarily from the membership fees that it charges. For the year 2012-13 the annual membership fee was £1820. By becoming a member of the Club, a person obtains the right to use both its sporting and non-sporting (catering) facilities. It was decided by the FTT that the Club had a discretion, but not an obligation, to provide the café etc to its members, however it was accepted that most members do not use the social facilities.  It was agreed that the membership fee was consideration for an exempt supply of services closely linked with sport for the purposes of Value Added Tax Act 1994, Schedule 9, item 10. The Club also receives five main sources of taxable income:

  • Fees from the LTA to use its courts for the Aegon Championship
  • Sales of food and drink from restaurant and bars
  • Sales of sporting and other goods
  • Provision of the use of the restaurant and bars, usually with catering
  • Rental income for certain other rooms

The decision

There was no dispute that there was a direct and immediate link between the refurbishment of the restaurant and bars and taxable supplies made from them. The question that divided the parties was whether there was also a direct and immediate link between the refurbishment the exempt membership supplies.

The judge decided that “In short, viewed objectively, what members obtain when they join the Club is a right of access to world-class sporting facilities together with such additional facilities as the Club decides, in its discretion, to offer. The focus is on the sporting facilities…” and that, viewed objectively, the renovated bars and restaurant are a means by which members are able enjoy the Club’s sporting offering. The overall conclusion was that there was no direct and immediate link between the renovation goods and services and exempt supplies that the Club made.

The decision was that the Club was entitled to credit for the full amount of input tax that it incurred.

Commentary

This case demonstrates that care is always required when costs are attributed to a business’ activities. This is especially important when the costs are significant; particularly when they are incurred on land and property. There tends to be a lot of “debate” with HMRC on such matters and slight nuances can affect attribution. These type of costs are often covered by the Capital Goods Scheme, so care must be taken over a ten year period which adds to the complexity.  As always, when considering land and property transactions it pays to obtain professional advice as mistakes are costly. A brief guide to land and property issues here

VAT due on property search fees? Whether they are disbursements

By   September 25, 2017

Latest from the courts – Brabners LLP

In the First Tier Tribunal case of Brabners LLP (Brabners) the issue was whether an external search agency used by the appellant correctly treated its supplies as VAT free, and if this was the case, whether the VAT free treatment continued to the appellant’s clients by way of a disbursement.

This is an interesting case and may create historic difficulties for conveyancing solicitors.

Background

Brabners is a law firm with a real estate department. It offers conveyancing services, both to buyers and sellers, in relation to proposed property transactions, for both commercial and residential property. In order to fulfil certain legal requirements, it used an external third party entity to obtain online property searches. The Appellant stated that it uses the online system for the majority of its searches (as opposed to a postal search carried out by employees of a Local authority, or a personal search at the Local Authority’s premises). The online search is not carried out by the Appellant, but rather, a specialist online search agency (‘Searchflow’) engaged by Brabners. Searchflow obtained the required property searches from the Local Authority’s digitised or dematerialised files and registers, and passed those results back to Brabners.

Searchflow invoiced the appellant for the cost of obtaining access to documents without the addition of VAT. Brabners treated this as a disbursement and invoiced its clients for the same amount without VAT.

The issues were:

  • Should the supply by the search agency be subject to output tax?
  • Was there a Single or multiple supply?
  • Whether the charge to the end user of the services should be treated as a disbursement in respect of the search element
  • Which party consumed Searchflow’s services? (Brabners, or Brabners’ clients)

Note: the disbursement position is only (practically) relevant in this case if it was decided that the search fee was VAT free. Local Authorities now (from March 2017) charge VAT for searches, so the impact is only likely to impact on past situations.

Contentions 

The main thrust of the Brabners’ argument is that the firm was requested, or expressly authorised, to obtain a search on the client’s behalf. Consequently, this meant that the firm was simply acting as the client’s agent, and the report belongs to the client. Brabners, argued that the search fees qualified as a disbursement for the purposes of VAT, and were not part of the otherwise taxable supply. It also argued that this separate treatment is intelligible and sensible. HMRC formed the view that the relevant payments cannot be treated as a disbursement as all the tests to do so were not met.  For a guide to disbursements and the relevant tests please see here

Decision

The judge decided that the relevant expenses paid to Searchflow had been incurred by the appellant “in the course of making its own supply of services to” (its client) “and as part of the whole of the services rendered by it to” (its client). Therefore Brabners had consumed the service such that it could not be a disbursement. This point in this case proves academic as it was also, unsurprisingly, decided that Searchflow’s services were standard rated, so even if it were a disbursement, the VAT would still be payable by the appellant’s client.

 Consequences

All firms which carry out conveyancing should review the VAT treatment of searches. If they have erroneously treated similar transactions as disbursements in the past, this is likely to require correction. Clearly, HMRC will be alive to this decision and it is anticipated that legal firms will be the subject of close inspection.

This case may also mean that third party search entities may be issuing retrospective VAT invoices or work which was previously treated as VAT free. This needs to be recognised and arrangements in place to recover any input tax incurred.

We are able to assist conveyancing firms with a review of the VAT position in light of this case.

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)?

Background

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.

Technical

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).

Dwellings

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.

Decision

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.

Commentary

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.

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 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

Property

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.

Commentary

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