Tag Archives: exemption

VAT: The ECJ decides that bridge is NOT a sport

By   October 27, 2017

The English Bridge Union Limited (EBU) case

Further to my article on contract (or duplicate) bridge here which covered the Advocate General’s opinion that it could be considered a sport, the Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that it does not qualify as a sport and therefore certain supplies by The EBU are subject to UK VAT.

The court decided that “…the fact that an activity promotes physical and mental health is not, of itself, a sufficient element for it to be concluded that that activity is covered by the concept of ‘sport’ within the meaning of that same provision….

The fact that an activity promoting physical and mental well-being is practised competitively does not lead to a different conclusion. In fact, the Court has ruled that Article 132(1)(m) of Directive 2006/112 does not require, for it to be applicable, that the sporting activity be practised at a particular level, for example, at a professional level, or that the sporting activity at issue be practised in a particular way, namely in a regular or organised manner or in order to participate in sports competitions…

In that respect, it must also be noted that the competitive nature of an activity cannot, per se, be sufficient to establish its classification as a ‘sport’, failing any not negligible physical element.”

As my aged father has always said; it can only be sport if the players wear shorts and sweat…

He may not have been far off you know. I still have difficulty considering pub games as sport, but I am sure there will be many who think that darts and pool are indeed sport.  It is also interesting that, inter alia, HMRC consider; baton twirling, hovering (not “hoovering as I first read it) octopush, dragon boat racing and sombo as sport.

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 – Latest from the courts: A round up of partial exemption

By   June 20, 2016

court (2)The partial exemption calculation

The calculation is required to quantify the amount of input tax a partly exempt business is able to claim. A partly exempt business is one which makes a mixture of taxable and non-taxable (eg; exempt) supplies. Input tax attributable to exempt activities is not recoverable.

With certain businesses HMRC accept that the usual “partial exemption standard method” based on taxable turnover versus exempt turnover is either impractical, distortive, or inappropriate. In such cases the business submits an application for a partial exemption special method (PESM). This may be based on many various factors such as; floorspace, staff numbers, transaction counts, management accounting etc (or any combination). If HMRC accept that the proposal is fair and reasonable, a formal agreement will be entered into by both parties.

The question in this case was when a PESM is agreed with HMRC is there a requirement to round up figures to a whole percentage point?

According to the CJEU decision in Kreissparkasse Wiedenbrück the answer is no. It was decided that, via EC legislation, in cases where there is a PESM agreement in place there was no obligation to round up.

The view was that as a significant amount of PESMs are “sophisticated” (compared to the partial exemption standard method) they achieve a more accurate allocation of input tax between taxable and exempt activities and rounding would counter this accuracy.

Full case here

Please contact us if your business is partly exempt and you either have a PESM in place, are in the process of agreeing one, or feel that your input tax recovery is suffering by the use of the standard method.

VAT – Latest from the courts. More on separate and composite supplies and land exemption

By   May 17, 2016

wedding-322034_960_720TC05078 Blue Chip Hotels Ltd

This is a FtT case which considered the VAT analysis of a supply in two ways. The appellant was an hotel which offered a wedding “package”. The package comprised; a room which was licensed for civil wedding ceremonies, the hire of other rooms, catering, accommodation, car parking and the use of the grounds for photographs.  The only activity carried out in the “wedding room” was the wedding ceremony itself.  The hotel treated the hire of the wedding room as exempt and added VAT to the remainder of the package.

The two technical points were:

  1.  Was the supply of the wedding room a separate supply to the rest of the wedding package as advanced by the taxpayer, or was it one element of the overall package to which standard rating applied?, and;
  2. If an independent supply, was it an exempt supply of land under VAT Act, Schedule 9, Group 1 as argued by the appellant?

Somewhat to the puzzlement of the Tribunal, HMRC had accepted that if the wedding room was supplied without any other element of the wedding package it could be treated as an exempt supply of land.

On the first point the Tribunal decided that the hire of the wedding room should be treated as a separate supply for VAT purposes. However, this was only relevant if the taxpayer could demonstrate that the provision of the wedding room was a supply of land.

On the second point, the issue was whether what the hotel supplied was more than the mere hire of the wedding room as a passive letting of land. The tribunal was of the view that an additional service was being provided, this being the service of a legal wedding ceremony which could be carried out only because of the licensed nature of the wedding room.  That is; what was being paid for was the right to participate in a particular event, only part of which entailed the provision of the physical space in which that event occurred.

The Tribunal concluded that the supply of the wedding room could not be treated as an exempt supply of land via VAT Act, Schedule 9, Group 1, the provision of licensed premises in which a civil wedding could legally be carried out went beyond the passive letting of land and was outside the scope of the exemption.

This seems to go against the decision in Drumtochty Castle Ltd (TC2111) inter alia, where the Tribunal found that in similar circumstances to those in this instant case that what was being offered was a single package such that exemption could not be applied to certain elements. Although it may simply demonstrate that even subtle differences in the facts can result in a different VAT outcome.  As previously observed in a number of these types of cases, it is crucial to analyse precisely what is being provided, even in cases where the VAT treatment has remained unchanged for a number of years.  Case law develops at a very fast rate and legislation changes regularly, both of which can affect the tax position.

VAT Flat Rate Scheme – beware the hidden costs

By   November 5, 2015

VAT Basics

Anything that makes VAT easier and that can even reduce the amount payable must be a good thing….right? dice b&w

The Flat Rate Scheme (FRS) was introduced to simplify VAT accounting for small businesses (with an annual turnover under £150,000) and does away with the concept of input and output tax. Instead a flat rate is applied to a business’ VAT inclusive turnover. This means a business in the FRS cannot reclaim any VAT incurred on its purchases, but a lower (than 20%) rate of VAT is applied to its VAT inclusive income.

Additionally, there is an option to only account and pay VAT when the business itself has been paid by its customers; doing away with VAT bad debt issues and improving cashflow.

Now this certainly has its attractions in terms of reducing the administrative burden and some business find that it reduces the amount of VAT payable. However care should be taken to select the appropriate business category/rate. A simple exercise to compare VAT declared under the “normal” rules to that due under the FRS is clearly prudent. But, as with all things VAT, there can be a catch.

The two drawbacks to the scheme

1)      If a business incurs a significant amount of input tax then, unless the flat rate percentage benefit outweighs the loss of input tax, then the FRS is not for them.

2)      If a business makes any supplies at the zero rate, or that are exempt, or outside the scope of VAT this income is also included in the turnover for the FRS. The result is then that VAT has to be accounted for on sales that would be VAT free under the normal VAT rules.

This is a bad thing!

Examples of businesses which need to be particularly aware are ones which:

–        Export goods or services

–        Provide goods or services cross-border to other EC member States

–        Sell books, food, or children’s clothes

–        Build new homes

–        Provide transport

–        Let property

–        Are charities or Not For Profit entities

–        Provide financial or insurance services or brokerage

–        Provide health and/or welfare services

–        Provide education and/or training

–        Offer subscriptions to membership organisations

–        Provide sport services

–        Are usually in a repayment position with HMRC

(This list is not exhaustive).

The FRS should certainly be considered for smaller businesses especially start-ups; since a first year discount is available for those that are in their first year of VAT registration. These get a one per cent reduction in the flat rate percentage until the day before their first anniversary of becoming VAT registered.

It is important for advisers to consider whether a client would benefit from being in the FRS, or indeed, whether continuation of the scheme remains advantageous to the business.

The VAT flat rates

The VAT flat rate you use depends on the type of business. If the rate changes, a business must apply the new rate from the date it changes. Also, if the nature of a taxpayer’s business changes it is important to review its FRS position.

The applicable rates here

The detailed rules of the FRS here

VAT Reliefs for Charities. A brief guide.

By   August 3, 2015

Charity and Not For Profit entities – a list of VAT reliefs.

Unfortunately, charities have to contend with VAT in much the same way as any business. However, because of the nature of a charity’s activities, VAT is not usually “neutral” and becomes an additional cost. VAT for charities often creates complex and time consuming technical issues which a “normal” business does not have to consider.

There are only a relatively limited number of reliefs specifically for charities and not for profit bodies, so it is important that these are taken advantage of. These are broadly:

    • Advertising services received by charities;
    • Purchase of qualifying goods for medical research, treatment or diagnosis;
    • New buildings constructed for residential or non-business charitable activities;
    • Self-contained annexes constructed for non-business charitable activities;
    • Building work to provide disabled access in certain circumstances;
    • Building work to provide washrooms and lavatories for disabled persons;
    • Supplies of certain equipment designed to provide relief for disabled or chronically sick persons;

There are also special exemptions available for charities:

    • Income from fundraising events;
    • Admissions to certain cultural events and premises;
    • Relief from “Options to Tax” on the lease and acquisition of buildings put to non-business use.
    • Membership subscriptions to certain public interest bodies and philanthropic associations;
    • Sports facilities provided by non-profit making bodies;

The reduced VAT rate (5%) is also available for charities in certain circumstances:

    • Gas and electricity in premises used for residential or non-business use by a charity;
    • Renovation work on dwellings that have been unoccupied for over two years;
    • Conversion work on dwellings to create new dwellings or change the number of dwellings in a building;
    • Installation of mobility aids for persons aged over 60.

Although treating certain income as exempt from VAT may seem attractive to a charity, it nearly always creates an additional cost as a result of the amount of input tax which may be claimed being restricted. Partial exemption is a complex area of the tax, as are calculations on business/non-business activities which fundamentally affect a charity’s VAT position. I strongly advise that any charity seeks assistance on dealing with VAT to ensure that no more tax than necessary is paid.  Charities have an important role in the world, and it is unfair that VAT should represent such a burden and cost to them.