Latest from the courts
The Fortyseven Park Street Ltd (FPSL) Upper Tribunal case.
Brief technical overview
In general terms the provision of a “timeshare” in the UK is standard rated for VAT. This is because HMRC regard supplies of this type to be similar to hotels, inns, boarding houses and are treated as “serviced flats” (other than those for permanent residential use). The appellant sought to argue that what it provided was not “similar” to a hotel or boarding house.
The issue in the FPSL case was whether “Fractional Interests” (akin to timeshares) in a property amount to an exempt supply of that property. The Fractional Interests entitled FPSL’s clients up to 21 days a year in block of apartments in Mayfair.
The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) determined that here were three main issues:
- The FTT decided that the supplies of the Fractional Interests fell within the exemption from VAT provided for the leasing or letting of immovable property.
- However, the FTT further found that the land exemption was excluded because the grant of the Fractional Interests was the provision of accommodation in a similar establishment to an hotel.
- The therefore FTT dismissed FPSL’s argument that under the principle of fiscal neutrality the supplies of the Fractional Interests should be treated in the same way (exempt) as more traditional timeshare interests.
The UT decided that the relevant interests provided amounted to an exempt supply of the property. This was on the basis that the judges concluded that the grant of the Fractional Interest was the grant of a right to occupy a residence and to exclude others from enjoying such a right, and was thus within the concept of the “letting of immovable property”. It was also found that the supply was a passive activity and not outside the land exemption by reason of FPSL having added significant value to the service despite providing; certain additional facilities, services (eg; concierge) and benefits to clients – this was not, it was decided, a situation where the appellant had actively exploited the asset to add value to the supply (which may have made it taxable). The UT also ruled that as the concierge was provided by a third party, it could not be combined to form a single supply made by FPSL thus emphasising the fact that this was a more passive activity.
It was noted that there was a distinction in this case from supplies of boutique hotels (which are standard rated hotel accommodation) because residents were contracting for the supply of a long-term right to occupy an apartment and not a series of short-term stays and that the high amount paid for the Fractional Interest brought with it certain financial obligations which are not found in the hotel industry.
This is an interesting case and the decision somewhat surprising. There is a subtle distinction between what was provided here and serviced flats or hotel accommodation, but the UT found it sufficient to apply exempt treatment. If you, or your clients may be affected by this decision, please contact us.