Tag Archives: international-tax

Digitisation of the VAT Retail Export Scheme – Update

By   February 23, 2018

What is the VAT Retail Export Scheme (VAT RES)?

The VAT RES allows:

  • overseas visitors (generally, persons who live outside the EC) to receive a refund of VAT paid on goods exported to destinations outside the EC
  • retailers to zero-rate goods sold to entitled customers when they have the necessary evidence of export and have refunded the VAT to the customer

Such treatment is subject to a number of conditions:

  • the customer must be entitled to use the scheme
  • the goods must be eligible to be purchased under the scheme*
  • the customer must make the purchase in person and complete the form at the retailer’s premises in full
  • the goods must be exported from the ECby the last day of the third month following that in which the goods were purchased
  • the customer must send the retailer or the refund company evidence of export stamped by Customs on an official version of Form VAT 407, an approved version of Form VAT 407 or an officially approved invoice
  • the retailer or the refund company must not zero-rate the supply until the VAT has been refunded to the customer

Typically, a retailer will charge UK VAT to an overseas visitor until the visitor has returned the appropriate documentation which has been suitably stamped at the port of departure from the UK.

* Certain goods are excluded from VAT RES. These include; motor vehicles for personal export, boats sold to visitors who intend to sail them to a destination outside the EC, goods over £600 in value exported for business purposes, goods exported as freight or unaccompanied baggage, unmounted gemstones, bullion, goods consumed in the UK and goods purchased by mail order including those purchased over the Internet. (This list is not exhaustive).

Full details of VAT RES scheme here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-704-vat-retail-exports/vat-notice-704-vat-retail-exports

VAT RES is a voluntary scheme and retailers do not have to operate it. Those who do must ensure that all the conditions set out in the above notice are met. In certain areas (such as the West End of London) businesses which offer VAT RES have a commercial/price advantage over those shops which do not.

So what is new?

HMRC has recently (this month) provided an update on their project to digitise the VAT RES system, to improve the efficiency for both retailers and travellers, and also to help reduce fraud. Details here

https://www.att.org.uk/sites/default/files/180213%20VAT%20Retail%20Export%20Scheme.pdf

We are able to advise further on this matter if required.

VAT: Latest from the courts – Hastings Insurance Place Of Supply

By   February 22, 2018

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of Hastings Insurance the issue was where was the place of supply (POS) of services?

The POS rules determine under which VAT regime the supply is treated, whether the associated input tax may be recovered and how the services are reported. Consequently, determining the POS for any supply is vitally important because getting it wrong may not only mean that tax is overpaid in one country, but it is not declared in the appropriate country so that penalties and interest are levied. Getting it wrong also means that the input tax position is likely to be incorrect; meaning that VAT can be over or underclaimed.  The rules for the POS of services are notoriously complicated and even subtle differences in a business’ situation can produce a different VAT outcome.

Background

Hastings is an insurance services company operating in the UK.  The appeal relates to whether the appellant was able to recover input tax it incurred in the UK which was attributable to supplies of; broking, underwriting support and claims handling services made to a Gibraltar based insurance underwriter (Advantage) which supplied motor insurance to UK customers through Hastings. In order to obtain credit for the relevant input tax, the supply to Advantage must have a POS outside the EU, eg: the recipient had a place of belonging in Gibraltar and not the UK. HMRC argued that Advantage belonged in the UK so that the input tax could not have been properly recoverable.  Consequently, the issue was where Advantage “belonged” for VAT purposes.

The POS rules set out where a person “belongs”.

A taxable person belongs:

  • where it has a business establishment, or;
  • if different, where it has a fixed establishment, or;
  • if it has both a business establishment and a fixed establishment (or several such establishments), where the establishment is located which is most directly concerned with the supply

Further details on this point are explained here

Contentions

It was not disputed that Advantage had a business establishment in Gibraltar. The question was whether it also had a fixed establishment in the UK and, if so, whether the supplies of services were made to that fixed establishment rather than to its business establishment in Gibraltar. HMRC contended that Advantage had a fixed establishment in the UK which was “more directly concerned with the supply of insurance” such that the POS was the UK. This was on the basis that Advantage had human and technical resources in the UK which were actually used to provide its services to UK customers. Hastings obviously argued to the contrary; that Advantage had no UK fixed establishment and that services were supplied to, and by, Advantage in Gibraltar.

Technical

It may be helpful to look briefly at CJEU case law which considered what an establishment other than a business establishment is. It is: “characterised by a sufficient degree of permanence and a suitable structure in terms of human and technical resources”, where looking at the location of the recipient of the supply, “to enable it to receive and use the services supplied to it for its own needs” or, where looking at the location of the supplier, “to enable it to provide the services which it supplies”. 

Decision

The FTT concluded that the input tax in dispute is recoverable because it was attributable to supplies made to Advantage on the basis that it belonged outside the EU (as interpreted in accordance with the relevant EU rules and case law). After a long and exhaustive analysis of the facts the summary was;

  • The appellant’s human and technical resources, through which it provided the services to Advantage, did not comprise a fixed establishment of Advantage in the UK, whether for the purposes of determining where Advantage made supplies of insurance or where the appellant made the supplies of its services.
  • Even if, contrary to the FTT’s view, those resources comprised a fixed establishment in the UK, there is no reason to depart from the location of Advantage’s business establishment in Gibraltar as the place of belonging/supply in the circumstances of this case.

Summary

If this case affects you or your clients it will be rewarding to consider the details of the arrangements which are helpfully set out fully in the decision. This was, in my opinion, a borderline case which could have been decided differently quiet easily.  A significant amount of the evidence produced was deemed inadmissible; which is an interesting adjunct to the main issue in itself. Whether HMRC take this matter further remains to be seen.  It is always worthwhile reviewing a business’ POS in depth and we are able to assist with this.

VAT: HMRC announce changes to import and export procedures

By   February 21, 2018

People get ready.

HMRC have announced that long overdue changes have been made to the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.

It has been developing a new system for processing customs declarations for imports and exports. The current system; CHIEF will be replaced by the Customs Declaration Service (CDS).  A phased launch of CDS will begin from August 2018.

Why CDS is replacing CHIEF

CHIEF is one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated electronic services for managing customs declaration processes, but it’s nearly 25 years old and can’t be easily adapted to new requirements.

The decision to replace CHIEF with CDS was made before the EU referendum however CDS will be scaled to handle any potential increases in the volume of declarations that may result from the UK’s exit from the EU.

How this will affect importers and exporters

If a business imports goods into, or exports goods to outside the EU, it (or its agent) will be currently using CHIEF to:

  • process declarations for goods entering and leaving the UK or EU through ports and airports
  • calculate and pay the correct duty and taxes
  • complete customs information electronically.

You will still be able to do these things on CDS, but there will be differences:

  • CDS will be accessed on G‌OV‌.U‌K through a Government Gateway account
  • CDS will offer several new and existing services in one place – for example, it will be possible to: view previous import and export data on pre-defined reports, check the tariff, apply for new authorisations and simplifications, and check a business’ duty deferment statement
  • online help will include self-service tools, guides and checklists
  • some additional information will be required for declarations in order to align with the World Customs Organisation Kyoto Convention, currently being implemented in the UK through the Union Customs Code (UCC).

When will a business need to start using CDS?

CDS will be phased in between August and early 2019, with CHIEF continuing to run during this time to aid the transition. A business or its agent will be informed by its software provider when it needs to provide the additional information in order to start making declarations on CDS.

HMRC has stated that it will keep businesses updated as the system develops. There will also be regular updates about CDS on GOV.UK.

Please contact us if you have any queries on this change.

VAT: More flexibility on VAT rates, less red tape for small businesses

By   January 18, 2018

The European Commission (EC) has today proposed new rules which it is claimed will give Member States more flexibility to set VAT rates and to create a better tax environment to help SMEs flourish.

The proposals are the final steps of the EC’s overhaul of VAT rules, with the creation of a single EU VAT area to dramatically reduce the €50 billion lost to VAT fraud each year in the EU, while supporting business and securing government revenues.

Further details: “Action Plan on VAT – Towards a single EU VAT

VAT – A Christmas Tale

By   December 12, 2017
Well, it is Christmas…. and at Christmas tradition dictates that you repeat the same nonsense every year….
Dear Marcus

My business, if that is what it is, has become large enough for me to fear that HMRC might take an interest in my activities.  May I explain what I do and then you can write to me with your advice?  If you think a face to face meeting would be better I can be found in most decent sized department stores from mid September to 24 December.

First of all I am based in Greenland but I do bring a stock of goods, mainly toys, to the UK and I distribute them.  Am I making supplies in the UK?

If I do this for philanthropic reasons, am I a charity, and if so, does that mean I do not pay VAT?

The toys are of course mainly for children and I wonder if zero rating might apply?  I have heard that small T shirts are zero rated so what about a train set – it is small and intended for children. Does it matter if adults play with it?

My friend Rudolph has told me that there is a peculiar rule about gifts.  He says that if I give them away regularly and they cost more than £150 I might have to account for VAT.  Is that right?

My next question concerns barter transactions.  Dads often leave me a food item such as a mince pie and a drink and there is an unwritten rule that I should then leave something in return.  If I’m given Tesco’s own brand sherry I will leave polyester underpants but if I’m left a glass of Glenfiddich I will be more generous and leave best woollen socks.  Have I made a supply and what is the value please?  My feeling is that the food items are not solicited so VAT might not be due and, in any event; isn’t food zero-rated, or is it catering? Oh, and what if the food is hot?

Transport is a big worry for me.  Lots of children ask me for a ride on my airborne transport.  I suppose I could manage to fit 12 passengers in.  Does that mean my services are zero-rated?  If I do this free of charge will I need to charge air passenger duty?  Does it matter if I stay within the UK, or the EU?  My transport is the equivalent of six horse power and if I refuel with fodder in the UK will I be liable for fuel scale charges?  After dropping the passengers off I suppose I will be accused of using fuel for the private journey back home.  Somebody has told me that if I buy hay labelled as animal food I can avoid VAT but if I buy the much cheaper bedding hay I will need to pay VAT.  Please comment.

Can I also ask about VAT registration?  I know the limit is £85,000 per annum but do blips count?  If I do make supplies at all, I do nothing for 364 days and then, in one day (well night really) I blast through the limit and then drop back to nil turnover.  May I be excused from registration?  If I do need to register should I use AnNOEL Accounting?  At least I can get only one penalty per annum if I get the sums wrong.

I would like to make a claim for input tax on clothing.  I feel that my red clothing not only protects me from the extreme cold but it is akin to a uniform and should be allowable.  These are not clothes that I would choose to wear except for my fairly unusual job.  If lady barristers can claim for black skirts I think I should be able to claim for red dress.  And what about my annual haircut?  That costs a fortune.  I only let my hair grow that long because it is expected of me.

Insurance worries me too.  You know that I carry some very expensive goods on my transport.  Play Stations, Mountain Bikes, i-pads and Accrington Stanley replica shirts for example.  My parent company in Greenland takes out insurance there and they make a charge to me.  If I am required to register for VAT in England will I need to apply the reverse charge?  This seems to be a daft idea if I understand it correctly.  Does it mean I have to charge myself VAT on something that is not VATable and then claim it back again?

Next you’ll be telling me that Father Christmas isn’t real……….

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

VAT: New rules for online sellers of goods

By   December 6, 2017

The European Commission announced on 5 December 2017 that it will introduce simpler and more efficient rules for businesses that sell goods online.

It announced that there has been agreement by Economic and Finance Ministers of EU Member States on a series of measures to improve how VAT works for online companies in the EU. It is intended that the new system will make it easier for consumers and businesses, in particular start-ups and SMEs, to buy and sell goods cross-border online. It will also help Member States to recoup the current estimated €5 billion of VAT lost on online sales every year.

The new rules will progressively come into force by 2021 and will:

  • Simplify VAT rules for start-ups, micro-businesses and SMEs selling goods to consumers online in other EU Member States. VAT on cross-border sales under €10,000 a year will be handled according to the rules of the home country of the smallest businesses, giving a boost to 430 000 businesses across the EU. SMEs will benefit from simpler procedures for cross-border sales of up to €100,000 annually. These measures will enter into force by 1 January 2019.
  • Allow all companies that sell goods to their customers online to deal with their VAT obligations in the EU through one easy-to-use online portal in their own language. Without the portal, VAT registration would be required in each EU Member State into which they want to sell – a situation cited by companies as one of the biggest barriers for small businesses trading cross-border.
  • For the first time, make large online marketplaces responsible for ensuring VAT is collected on sales on their platforms that are made by companies in non-EU countries to EU consumers. This includes sales of goods that are already being stored by non-EU companies in warehouses (so-called ‘fulfilment centres’) within the EU which can often be used to sell goods VAT free to consumers in the EU.
  • Address the problem of fraud caused by a previously misused VAT exemption for goods valued at under €22 coming from outside the EU which can distort the market and create unfair competition. Previously, fraudsters had been able to mislabel high value goods in small packages as having a value under the threshold of €22, making the goods exempt from VAT and creating an unacceptable gap of €1 billion in revenues which would otherwise have gone to the budgets of EU Member States.

The new rules will ensure that VAT is paid in the Member State of the final consumer, leading to a fairer distribution of tax revenues amongst EU Member States. They will help to cement a new approach to VAT collection in the EU, already in place for sales of e-services, and fulfil a core commitment of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy for Europe. The agreement also marks another step towards a definitive solution for a single EU VAT area, as set out in the Commission’s recent proposals for EU VAT reform.

The One Stop Shop for sales of online goods is due to come into effect in 2021 to give Member States time to update the IT systems underpinning the system.

EC proposes new tools to combat cross-border VAT fraud

By   December 1, 2017

The European Commission has, this week, unveiled new tools to make the EU’s Value Added Tax (VAT) system more fraud-proof and close loopholes which can lead to large-scale VAT fraud. The new rules aim to build trust between Member States so that they can exchange more information and boost cooperation between national tax authorities and law enforcement authorities to fight VAT fraud.

Commentary

One wonders if this is the type of thing that the UK will miss out on after Brexit. Will this increase the threat of fraud? Will fraudsters target the UK? Or will “taking control of our borders” mean that cross-border VAT fraud will be reduced?

We shall just have to wait and see…..

HMRC VAT information “out of date and flawed”

By   October 23, 2017

In a recent report published by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, HMRC’s estimate of VAT lost in cases of online fraud and error is “out of date and flawed”. The report also recommends that HMRC get tougher with fraudsters and that it should work closer with online marketplaces. Additionally, it also states that HMRC should carry out an assessment of the fulfilment house industry.

This failure by HMRC means that honest businesses suffer as a result of fraudulent and ignorant set ups who can sell goods VAT free. These are usually overseas entities which have no intention of; registering for VAT, charging VAT in addition to the price of goods, and paying over this VAT to the authorities. Let us hope that HMRC do indeed use the significant powers it has in dealing with this type of unwanted activity.

Due Diligence Scheme

Note: There is a HMRC fulfilment house Due Diligence Scheme for overseas sellers being introduced in 2018. In the 2016 budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that HMRC would be given more powers to deal with overseas sellers selling into the UK via marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon who do not pay UK VAT.

As HMRC states in VAT Notes 2017 Issue 1 published 10 May 2017  “More and more UK retail businesses have a presence online and are having to compete with thousands of overseas online sellers, some of which are evading VAT. This abuse has grown significantly and now costs the UK taxpayer £1 billion to £1.5 billion a year. HMRC is taking action to protect the thousands of UK businesses from this unfair competition.”

Assistance

If any overseas businesses who sell into the UK and would like advice on the UK VAT requirements – please contact us. We have experience of dealing with the authorities, including negotiation with HMRC on the retrospective VAT position and mitigation of the impact of any penalties and interest.

New Customs Bill White Paper – VAT implications

By   October 12, 2017

A new Customs Bill White Paper has been issued.

As a result of the Brexit vote new domestic legislation is due to enter Parliament later this autumn which will provide for most negotiated outcomes, as well as a contingency scenario.

This Bill will be referred to in this paper as the “Customs Bill”. The purpose of the White Paper is to set out the government’s approach to the Bill. It sets out how the current customs, VAT, and excise regimes operate for cross border transactions, why the Bill is necessary, and what the Bill will contain.

Unfortunately, although being “sold” as containing concrete details, unsurprisingly there is nothing particular of substance. I shall refrain from adding any political comments, but just to observe that any process will be confusing, complex, and very unhelpful for businesses.

Good luck everyone…

VAT EU Claims – A Reminder

By   August 9, 2017

Refunds of VAT for UK businesses incurring other EC Member States

If a business incurs VAT in another EC Member State it is possible to recover it.  It is not claimed on a UK VAT return, but via a special claim procedure.  Details of how this process works and what may be claimed are set out in my previous article

The deadline for these claims is 30 September 2017.

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

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