Tag Archives: partial-exemption

VAT: Timeshare is exempt

By   February 19, 2018

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.

Background

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.

Decision

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.

Commentary

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.

VAT: Doctors and healthcare professionals

By   January 29, 2018

VAT and Doctors

I have noticed that I am receiving more and more queries in this area and HMRC does appear to be taking an increased interest in healthcare entities. This is hardly surprising as it can be complex and there are some big numbers involved.

(This article refers to doctors, but applies equally to most healthcare professional entities.)

The majority of the services provided by doctors’ practices are VAT free. Good news one would think; no need to charge VAT and no need to deal with VAT records, returns and inspections.

However, there is one often repeated question from practices; “How can we reclaim the VAT we are charged?”

The first point to make is that if a practice only makes exempt supplies (of medical services) it is not permitted to register for VAT and consequently cannot recover any input tax. Therefore we must look at the types of supplies that a practice may make that are taxable (at the standard or zero rate). If any of these supplies are made it is possible to VAT register regardless of the value of them. Of course, if taxable supplies are made, the value of which exceeds the current turnover limit of £85,000 in a rolling 12-month period, registration is mandatory.

Examples of services and goods which may be taxable are:

  • Drugs, medicines or appliances that are dispensed by doctors to patients for self-administration
  • Dispensing drugs against an NHS prescription (zero-rated)
  • Drugs dispensed against private prescriptions (standard-rated)
  • Medico legal services that are predominately legal rather than medical – for example negotiating on behalf of a client or appearing in court in the capacity of an advocate
  • Clinical trials or market research services for drug companies that do not involve the care or assessment of a patient
  • Paternity testing
  • Certain rental of rooms/spaces
  • Car parking
  • Signing passport applications
  • Providing professional witness evidence
  • Any services which are not in respect of; the protection, maintenance or restoration of health of a patient.

So what does VAT registration mean?

Once you join the “VAT Club” you will be required to file a VAT return on a monthly of quarterly basis. You may have to issue certain documentation to patients/organisations to whom you make VATable supplies. You may need to charge VAT at 20% on some services. You will be able to reclaim VAT charged to you on purchases and other expenditure subject to partial exemption rules (see below). You will have to keep records in a certain way and your accounting system needs to be able to process specific information.

Because doctors usually provide services which attract varying VAT treatment, a practice will be required to attribute VAT incurred on expenditure (input tax) to each of these categories. Generally speaking, only VAT incurred in respect of zero-rated and standard-rated services may be recovered. In addition, there will always be input tax which is not attributable to any specific service and is “overhead” eg; property costs, professional fees, telephones etc. There is a set way in which the recoverable portion of this VAT is calculated. VAT registered entities which make both taxable and exempt supplies are deemed “partly exempt” and must carry out calculations on every VAT return.

Partial Exemption

Once the calculations described above have been carried out, the resultant amount of input tax which relates to exempt supplies is compared to the de-minimis limits (broadly; £625 per month VAT and not more than 50% of all input tax). If the figure is below these limits, all VAT incurred is recoverable regardless of what activities the practice is involved in.

VAT registration in summary

Benefits

  • Recovery of input tax; the cost of which is not claimable in any other way
  • Potentially, recovery of VAT on items such as property, refurbishment and other expenditure that would have been unavailable prior to VAT registration
  • Only a small amount of VAT is likely to be chargeable by a practice
  • May provide opportunities for pre-registration VAT claims

Drawbacks

  • Increased administration, paperwork and staff time
  • Exposure to VAT penalties and interest
  • May require VAT to be added to some services provided which were hitherto VAT free
  • Likely that only an element of input tax is recoverable as a result of partial exemption
  • Uncertainty on the VAT position of certain services due to current EU cases
  • Potential increased costs to the practice in respect of professional fees.

Please contact us if any of the above affects you or your clients.

VAT – What records must be kept by a business?

By   January 9, 2018

Requirements for VAT records by taxable persons

I thought that it may be useful to round-up all the record-keeping requirements in one place and focus on what HMRC want to see. It is a good time to review record-keeping requirements as Making Tax Digital (MTD) is on the horizon. More on MTD in a later article.

General requirements

Every taxable person must keep such records as HMRC may require. Specifically, every taxable person must, for the purposes of accounting for VAT, keep the following records:

  • business and accounting records
  • VAT account
  • copies of all VAT invoices issued
  • VAT invoices received
  • certificates issued under provisions relating to fiscal or other warehouse regimes
  • documentation relating to acquisitions of any goods from other EC countries
  • copy documentation issued, and documentation received, relating to the transfer, dispatch or transport of goods by him to other EU countries
  • documentation relating to imports and exports
  • credit notes, debit notes and other documents which evidence an increase or decrease in consideration that are received, and copies of such documents issued
  • copy of any self-billing agreement to which the business is a party
  • where the business is the customer party to a self-billing agreement, the name, address and VAT registration number of each supplier with whom the business has entered into a self-billing agreement

Additionally

HMRC may supplement the above provisions by a Notice published by them for that purpose. They supplement the statutory requirements and have legal force.

Business records include, in addition to specific items listed above, orders and delivery notes, relevant business correspondence, purchases and sales books, cash books and other account books, records of daily takings such as till rolls, annual accounts, including trading and profit and loss accounts and bank statements and paying-in slips.

Unless the business mainly involves the supply of goods and services direct to the public and less detailed VAT invoices are issued, all VAT invoices must also be retained. Cash and carry wholesalers must keep all till rolls and product code lists.

Records must be kept of all taxable goods and services received or supplied in the course of business (standard and zero-rated), together with any exempt supplies, gifts or loans of goods, taxable self-supplies and any goods acquired or produced in the course of business which are put to private or other non-business use.

All records must be kept up to date and be in sufficient detail to allow calculation of VAT. They do not have to be kept in any set way but must be in a form which will enable HMRC officers to check easily the figures on the VAT return. Records must be readily available to HMRC officers on request. If a taxable person has more than one place of business, a list of all branches must be kept at the principal place of business.

Comprehensive records

In addition, we always advise businesses to retain full information of certain calculations such as; partial exemption, the Capital Goods Scheme, margin schemes, TOMS, business/non-business, mileage and subsistence claims, promotional schemes, vouchers, discounts, location of overseas customers, MOSS, and distance selling amongst other records. The aim is to ensure that any inspector is satisfied with the records and that any information required is readily available. This avoids delays, misunderstandings and unnecessary enquiries which may lead to assessments and penalties.

If you have any doubts that your business records are sufficient, please contact us.

VAT – There is no such thing as a free lunch

By   January 3, 2018

Latest from the courts

In the Court of Appeal case of ING Intermediate Holdings Ltd the issue was whether the provision of “free” banking actually constituted a supply for VAT purposes.

Background

The appeal concerned the recoverability of input tax. ING wished to recover (via deduction against the outputs of a separate investment business) a proportion of VAT expenses incurred in connection with a “deposit-taking” business. ING contended that this activity did not involve any VATable supply. HMRC contended, and did so successfully before both prior tribunals, that it is more than a deposit-taking business and involved the provision of banking services.

The issue

The relevant services were supplied to the public, and the user of the services were not charged a fee. Consequently, the essential issue was; whether the “free” banking services were provided for consideration and, if so, how that consideration ought to be quantified for VAT purposes. If there was a consideration, there was a supply, and that supply would be exempt; thus not providing a right to recovery of input tax for the appellant.

Technical

There is no definition of consideration in either the EC Principal VAT Directive or the VAT Act 1994. In the UK, the meaning was originally taken from contract law, but the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has confirmed that the term is to be given the Community meaning and is not to be variously interpreted by Member States. The Community definition used in ECJ cases is taken from the EC 2nd VAT Directive Annex A13 as follows even though this Directive is no longer in force:

“…the expression “consideration” means everything received in return for the supply of goods or the provision of services, including incidental expenses (packing, transport, insurance etc), that is to say not only the cash amounts charged but also, for example, the value of the goods received in exchange or, in the case of goods or services supplied by order of a public authority, the amount of the compensation received.”

NB: In order for there to be consideration, it must be able to be quantifiable and able to be expressed in monetary terms.

Decision

The CA decided that although there was no distinct charge to the users of the service, there was a supply of services for a consideration. That consideration was the difference between what the customer obtained from the relevant account, and what he could have obtained from an account which was not free, but provided better returns (the interest rate offered must have contained some deduction for the services provided). This was capable of being expressed in monetary terms (although it is interesting to note that the CA stated that it would be undesirable to say which method should be applied, although the court was “entirely satisfied” that it could be done).

Consequently there was a supply for VAT purposes and ING’s appeal was therefore dismissed.

Commentary

HMRC quite often argue that there is a supply when in fact, there is no supply. However, they did have a decent argument in this case and I understand that they are likely to apply this to a number of other long running disputes.  Please contact us if you consider that this case could affect your business or your client’s business.

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: 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 – Latest from the courts: Fleming claims

By   July 26, 2017

In the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) case of NHS Lothian Health Board “the Board” the judge was asked to consider whether the Board had a valid Fleming claim* in respect of certain laboratory services performed from 1974 to 1997. The relevant services were, inter alia; Nequas work, food-testing, water-testing, non-medical testing of samples, especially for public health, and research and development.

Decision

The appeal was rejected. Although the Tribunal accepted the considerable evidence and testimony from members of staff working for the Board during the relevant years, and had decided that the relevant supplies were subject to VAT (they were not exempt of non-business) unfortunately, there was insufficient documentary evidence to actually quantify the amount of input tax claimed.  Of course, in order to recover input tax, it had to relate to taxable (business) supplies made by the appellant. The Tribunal was required to consider whether the business income of the laboratories could be calculated. The FTT considered that whilst the evidence was helpful in determining that taxable supplies were made, that evidence fell short of facilitating its quantification. While the business income was almost certainly significant, the Tribunal did not consider that it has been quantified satisfactorily for the whole period.

The appellant contended that a set percentage representing business income could be projected backwards to earlier VAT periods. The Tribunal did not consider such an approach “reasonable or acceptable” and that the timescale involved also undermined the likely accuracy of the process of extrapolation. (The Tribunal suggested that there is a need to have a verifiable percentage, calculated by reference to prime records at regular intervals. For example, it might well be acceptable in a 25 year period to have verifiable figures every five years, and if there is not significant variation, to use extrapolated figures for the intervening years).  There was also uncertainty about the Board’s partial exemption position and how, historically, apportionment was carried out.

Commentary

This case demonstrates the difficulty of making retrospective claims that go back to the early 1970s, that’s over 40 years ago! It is to be expected that certain records may be absent and HMRC has previously agreed that the required information may be established by other methods, however, a claim has to be made on the basis of “something more concrete” than a backwards projection of a percentage figure calculated from more contemporary records. The judge gave an example of evidence that may be acceptable in these circumstances.

The outcome does seem somewhat unfair given the fact that all parties agree that VAT was overpaid due to an error made by HMRC, but the level of evidence required to support a Fleming claim has to be of a certain standard to be accepted.

As always in VAT – record keeping is of the utmost importance.

* Background to Fleming claims
Fleming claims’ are claims for underdeclared or overpaid VAT, potentially going back as far as the inception of VAT in 1973. They followed the House of Lords judgements in January 2008 in the cases of Fleming and Conde Nast (Fleming) which concerned the way that the three year time limit on making claims had been introduced. In Revenue and Customs Brief 07/08, published on 20 February 2008, claims were invited in respect of overpaid output tax for accounting periods ending before 1 May 1997. Subsequent legislation in the 2008 Finance Act limited the scope for making claims for these accounting periods by introducing a new transitional period ending 1 April 2009, before which any such claims had to be made.

 

VAT: Latest from the courts – Brockenhurst College

By   May 19, 2017

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has released its decision in Brockenhurst College here

Unusually, it has gone against the Advocate General (AG) Kokott’s opinion (here) and concurs with previous decisions reached by the UK courts. This is good news for the taxpayer and other providers of educational services. The decision has been referred back to the Court of Appeal (CoA) for it to consider points such as the distortion of competition and the fulfilment of a separate function, however, it is likely that this will not affect the decision by the CJEU and HMRC’s appeal will be dismissed.

Background

The case considered two types of supply made by Brockenhurst College:

  • The supplies made from its restaurant, used for training chefs, restaurant managers and hospitality students. The claim was made on the basis that these were exempt supplies of education and not standard rated supplies of catering
  • Tickets for concerts and other live performances put on by students as part of their educational courses. These were similarly claimed to be exempt.

Students were enrolled in performing arts and catering and hospitality courses.  As part of their course of study they were required to run a restaurant and stage live performances. Persons not enrolled on the relevant courses would pay for and attend these events. The services were usually supplied to a limited public including; parents, siblings, friends etc, and were supplied at a reduced cost as part of the practical element of the students’ education. The appellant argued that the experience was invaluable to their studies and should be regarded as ‘closely related’ to the principal supply of education.  HMRC considered that the services in question were supplied to third parties in return for payment. Consequently, the services, whilst of benefit and practical experience to the students were separate VATable supplies made to third parties and the supplies cannot, therefore, be closely related to the supply of education to the student.

The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) concluded that the supplies in question were exempt as being closely linked to education because:

  • the College was an eligible body and so its principal supplies were exempt supplies of education
  • the supplies were integral and essential to those principal exempt supplies
  • the supplies were made at less than their cost
  • the supplies were not advertised to the general public. Instead, there was a database of local groups and individuals who might wish to attend the restaurant or performances
  • the supplies were not intended to create an additional source of income for the College

HMRC disagreed with the conclusion on the basis that the supplies were outside the education exemption because the students were not the beneficiaries of the supplies in question, but only benefitted from making them. HMRC appealed to the Upper Tribunal (UT).

The UT rejected HMRC’s argument and agreed with the FTT. It held that the supplies were closely related to the exempt supplies of education because they enabled the students to enjoy better education. The requirement in the domestic law for the supplies to be for the direct use of the student was met because they were of direct benefit to him.

HMRC subsequently appealed to the CoA which referred it to the CJEU.

The AG’s opinion was that closely related transactions are to be regarded as independent supplies to the principal supply, but do not include the supply of restaurant or training services supplied to third parties who are not themselves receiving the principal supply of training. The third parties pay for their own consumption (of either the catering or performance) and do not pay for the provision of education. It is very rare that the CJEU makes a decision that goes against the AG’s opinion.

CJEU Decision

The CJEU ruled that activities consisting of students of a higher education establishment supplying, for consideration and as part of their education, restaurant and entertainment services to third parties, may be regarded as supplies closely related to the principal supply of education and accordingly be exempt from VAT – provided that those services are essential to the students’ education and that their basic purpose is not to obtain additional income for that establishment by carrying out transactions which are in direct competition with those of commercial enterprises liable for VAT, which it is for the national court to determine.

Action

We understand that there are a number of cases stood behind Brockenhurst.  Any other colleges, FE, universities or other eligible bodies carrying out similar activities to Brockenhurst need to consider their tax position. It is possible that retrospective claims may be made, depending on specific circumstances. Treating such supplies as exempt may also impact on a body’s partial exemption position and could create business/non-business implications. This may also impact on activities like hairdressing, motor maintenance and beauty treatments which colleges provide on a similar basis to the activities in this instant case.

We are happy to discuss the implications of this case with you.

 

VAT Inspections …and how to survive them

By   May 5, 2017

VAT Inspections

The first point to make is that inspections are usually quite standard and routine and generally there is nothing to worry about.  They are hardly enjoyable occasions, but with planning they can be made to go as smoothly as possible. As an inspector in my previous life, I am in a good position to look at the process from “both sides”.  If you are concerned that the inspection is not routine (for any reason) please contact us immediately.

Background

Typically, the initial meeting will begin with an interview with the business owner (and/or adviser) to go through the basic facts.  The inspector will seek to understand the business and how it operates and will usually assess the answers with specific tests (further tests will be applied to the records).  After the interview the inspector(s) will examine the records and will usually have further queries on these. More often than not they will carry out; bank reconciliations, cash reconciliations, mark-up exercises, and often “references” which are the testing of transactions using information obtained from suppliers and customers.  There are many other exercises that may be carried out depending on the type of business.  Larger businesses have more regular inspections where one part of the business is looked at each meeting.  The largest businesses have more or less perpetual inspections (as one would expect).  The length of the inspection usually depends on:

  • Size of the business
  • Complexity of the business
  • Type of business (HMRC often target; cash businesses, the construction industry, property investment, partially exempt businesses, charities and NFP entities, cross-border transactions and financial services providers amongst others)
  • Compliance history
  • Associated/past businesses
  • Intelligence received
  • Errors found
  • Credibility of the business owner and records

The above measurements will also dictate how often a business is inspected.

More details on certain inspections/investigations here

The initial inspection may be followed by subsequent meetings if required, although our aim is to conclude matters at the time of the first meeting.

The inspection – how to prepare 

  • Ensure that both the person who completes the VAT returns and the person who signs the VAT returns will be available for all of the day(s) selected
  • Arrange with your adviser, to be available to you and the inspector on the days of the inspection
  • Thoroughly review your VAT declarations and have ready, if relevant, any disclosures or other declarations you consider you need to make to HMRC at the start of the inspection (this should avoid penalties)
  • Have available all VAT returns and working papers for the last four years or the period since you were registered for VAT including:
    • Annual accounts
    • The VAT account and all related working papers
    • All books and accounts, cashbook, petty cashbook, sales and purchases day books
    • Sales and purchase invoices
    • All supporting documentation, eg; contracts, correspondence, etc.
    • Bank statements
    • VAT certificate and certificate of registration
    • Any other documentation relating to “taxable supplies”
  • Have available the full VAT correspondence files ensuring that they are fully up-to-date
  • Ensure you have full information on any; one-off, unusual or particularly high value transactions

 The inspection – during the visit 

  • Ask the inspector(s) to identify themselves by name on arrival (they carry identity cards)
  • Be polite, friendly and hospitable as far as possible
  • Make a desk or space available for them to work near to you – in this way you can oversee/overlook what they do
  • Only allow access to the files that form part of your “VAT Records”
  • Enable the VAT inspector, if they ask, to inspect your business premises (and have someone accompany them)
  • Be cautious with your answers to seemingly “innocent” questions and comments. If in doubt ask for time to check, or that the question be put in writing (never guess or provide an answer which you think HMRC want)
  • If something inconsistent is found (or suggested) ask for full details and take note of all of the documentation to which the query relates – this will enable you to provide necessary information to your adviser

The inspection – at the end of the visit

The inspector should:

  • Explain the main work they have done. For example which VAT accounting periods they reviewed
  • Explain any areas of concern they have, discuss them and seek to agree any future action that needs to be taken; and
  • Illustrate as fully as possible the size and reason for any adjustment to the VAT payable, and describe how the adjustment will be made

You should:

  • Obtain a summary of the inspection from HMRC (not always an easy task)
  • Ask the inspector to put all of HMRC’s concerns about your business to you in writing
  • Confirm with the inspector all time limits for providing additional information to HMRC

After the inspection

HMRC will write to you confirming:

  • Any issues identified
  • Further information required
  • Improvements required to record keeping
  • Any corrections required
  • Whether VAT has been over or under paid
  • Any penalties and interest which will be levied
  • Deadlines for payment.

On a final point: Never simply assume that the inspector is correct in his/her decision.  It always pays to seek advice and challenge the decision where possible.  Even if it is clear that an error has been made, mitigation may be possible.

We can provide a pre-inspection review as well as attending inspections if required.  It is quite often the case that many HMRC enquiries may be nipped in the bud at the time of the inspection rather than becoming long drawn out sagas. We can also act as negotiator with HMRC and handle disputes on your behalf.