Deeks VAT News Issue 30
Welcome to the latest edition of Deeks VAT News. January 2023 – Issue 30 Keeping you up to date on VAT changes In this edition of the months newsletter we cover the following: Insurance partial exemption Doctors and healthcare professionals So what does VAT registration mean? Discounts – value of supply. The TalkTalk case. […]
Welcome to the latest edition of Deeks VAT News.
January 2023 – Issue 30
Keeping you up to date on VAT changes
In this edition of the months newsletter we cover the following:
A VAT Did you know?
Children’s clothing made from the skin of goats is zero rated, but only if not made from Yemen, Mongolian or Tibetan goats.
Insurance partial exemption
HMRC has issued new guidance for the insurance sector. It will be relevant to those dealing with partial exemption for insurers, including business and HMRC when discussing how partial exemption applies in practice for an insurer.
The guidance is intended to help insurers agree a fair and reasonable partial exemption special method (PESM) with the minimum of cost and delay. It also helpfully sets out definitions of various insurance/reinsurance transactions and business structures.
Insurance businesses usually make a mixture of exempt and taxable supplies and may also provide specified services to customers located outside of the UK which incur a right to recover input tax.
When determining how to calculate the recoverable elements of input tax, the starting point is with the standard partial exemption method, as defined within The VAT Regulations 1995, regulation 101, but this will rarely be suitable for the insurance sector.
Many insurance businesses are complex organisations that provide many different services of differing liabilities to customers, often in different countries, using costs form suppliers around the world in different proportions. In addition, certain costs may have little relation to the value of the supplies for which they are incurred.
Therefore, most insurance businesses will need to apply to HMRC for approval to use a PESM.
Fair and reasonable
Partial exemption is the set of rules for determining recoverable input tax on costs which are used, or intended to be used, in making taxable supplies which carry a right of deduction. The first step is usually allocating costs which are directly attributable to taxable or exempt supplies. The balance (overhead input tax, or “the pot”) is required to be apportioned by either a standard method (The “standard method” requires a comparison between the value of taxable and exempt supplies made by the business) or a PESM.
A PESM needs be fair and reasonable, namely:
- robust, in that it can cope with reasonably foreseeable changes in business.
- unambiguous, in that it can deal, definitively with all input tax likely to be incurred.
- operable, in that the business can apply it without undue difficulty.
- auditable, in that HMRC can check it without undue difficulty.
- fair, in that it reflects the economic use of costs in making taxable and exempt supplies.
HMRC will only agree the use of a PESM if a business declares that it has taken reasonable steps to ensure the method is fair and reasonable. HMRC cannot confirm that a special method is fair and reasonable but will make enquiries based on an assessment of risk and will never knowingly approve an unfair or unreasonable special method.
Attribution of input tax
In the insurance sector, relatively few costs are either used wholly to make taxable or exempt supplies.
The VAT regulations (see above) require direct attribution to be carried out before cost allocation to sectors. However, direct attribution at this stage can cause difficulties where tax departments are unaware of how particular costs are used and have a large number of such costs to review.
It has therefore been agreed between HMRC and the Association of British Insurers that, whilst direct attribution must still take place, it need not always be the first step, and could, for some costs, follow the allocation stage. Methods could refer to direct attribution both pre- and post-allocation, so that costs are dealt with in the most appropriate way. The underlying principle is that the method must be both fair and reasonable.
Types of PESMs
The guidance gives the following examples of special methods:
- sectors and sub-sectors
- multi pot
- time spent
- number of transactions
- floor space
- cost accounting system
- combinations of the above methods
with descriptions of each method.
Doctors and healthcare professionals
Healthcare services – an overview
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 including; opticians, nurses, osteopaths, chiropractors, midwives, dentists etc.)
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?” This is particularly relevant if a practice intends to spend significant amounts on projects such as property construction or purchase.
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 their value. 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 supplies 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 predominantly 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 or 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 the partial exemption rules – see below. You will have to keep records in a certain way (see MTD) 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. VAT registered entities which make both taxable and exempt supplies are deemed “partly exempt” and must carry out calculations on every VAT return.
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
- 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
- increased administration, documentation and staff time
- exposure to 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 tax cases
- potentially dealing with the Capital Goods Scheme (CGS)
- possible increased costs to the practice in respect of professional fees.
Please contact us if any of the above affects you or your clients.
Discounts – value of supply. The TalkTalk case.
In the First Tier tribunal (FTT) case of TalkTalk Telecom Limited the issue was the amount of consideration received on which output tax was due. Specifically, whether “prompt payment discounts” which were offered, but not taken up by customers, reduced the value of a supply.
TalkTalk offered most of its retail customers the option of receiving a 15% discount on its services if their monthly bills were paid within 24 hours.
TalkTalk accounted for output tax on the basis that the consideration received was reduced by the discount, whether or not customers had in fact paid within the 24 hours. In other words, whether or not the discount had actually been applied so that customers paid less.
The appellant considered that this approach was consistent with Value Added Tax Act 1994, Schedule 6 Para 4(1), which provides:
“Where goods or services are supplied for a consideration in money and on terms allowing a discount for prompt payment, the consideration shall be taken for the purposes of section 19 as reduced by the discount, whether or not payment is made in accordance with those terms.”
HMRC’s contention was that the offer only reduced the consideration for VAT purposes where customers had actually paid the reduced amount, and that there was no reduction when the discount was not taken up.
The above legislation only applies to services supplied “on terms allowing a discount for prompt payment”. In deciding whether this was the case in this appeal the FTT analysed the contractual position.
The contracts were governed by terms and conditions (T&Cs) published on TTL’s website. This discount was not referred to in the T&Cs, but on a separate dedicated page within the same website.
The judge decided that the discount contractual term comes into existence at exactly the same moment as the payment and the supply. There was not a contractual term under the T&C’s under which a lower amount was payable if payments were made earlier. On this point, TalkTalk contended that the T&Cs were varied by the subsequent discount option, and, as a result, the services had been “supplied…on terms allowing a discount for prompt payment” as required by Para 4(1), but this argument was rejected.
As per the Virgin Media Upper Tribunal case the Tribunal considered that the position was different between services billed in advance, and services billed in arrears.
The contractual variation did not include an offer for the customer to pay a discounted amount at some point in the future, so Para 4(1) did not apply to services billed in advance.
Payment in arrears
The FTT ruled that customers accepted the discount offer after delivery of the services. The supply had therefore been made on the terms set out in the T&Cs, and the customer was therefore contractually required to pay the full amount. The discount option was an offer by the appellant to accept a lower sum with an earlier payment date to discharge that pre-existing contractual obligation. As a matter of law, this was an offer to accept a post-supply rebate of consideration already due and therefore it could not be a discount.
The appeal was dismissed.
Another case which highlights both the complexity of the rules on consideration and the importance of contracts. At stake here was VAT of £10,606,226.00 which was deemed to be underpaid during a four-month period only. If in doubt – take advice!
Increase in interest rates
As a consequence of the change in the Bank Of England base rate from 3% to 3.5%, HMRC’s interest rates for late payment and repayment will also increase.
These changes will come into effect on:
- 26 December 2022 for quarterly instalment payments
- 6 January 2023 for non-quarterly instalments payments
The HMRC publication Information on the interest rates for payments will be updated shortly.
HMRC interest rates are set in legislation and are linked to the Bank of England base rate. Late payment interest is set at base rate plus 2.5%. Repayment interest is set at base rate minus 1%, with a lower limit, or “minimum floor” of 0.5%.
What are split payments?
The term “split payment” is increasingly cropping up in conversations and in the media, so I thought it would be a good time to look at the concept.
Split payments, sometimes called real-time extraction, uses card payment technology to collect VAT on online sales and transfer it directly to HMRC rather than the seller collecting it from the buyer along with the payment for the supply, and then declaring it to HMRC on a return in the usual way.
Clearly, HMRC is very keen to introduce such a system, but there are significant hurdles, the biggest being the complexity for online sellers, payment processors, input tax systems, agents, advisers and HMRC itself.
Where are we on split payments?
At the end of the year HMRC published a Prior Information Notice (PIN) and associated Request for Information (RFI), seeking views on the outline requirements and proposed procurement process split payments. This should, inter alia, assist HMRC in:
- identifying where it is intended that the purchased goods or services are to be delivered and/or consumed.
- the possibility to apply a split only above or below a certain value threshold.
- the feasibility for the splitting mechanism to calculate a composite VAT total across a mixed basket of goods and/ or services, each potentially with a different rate of VAT.
This builds on previous information gathering/consultations/discussions carried out a number of years ago.
The expansion of the online shopping market has brought unprecedented levels of transactions. The results of digitalisation have also brought challenges for tax systems. Jurisdictions all over the world are currently grappling with the question of how to prevent large VAT losses, which can arise from cross-border online sales. This happens when consumers buy goods from outside their jurisdiction from sellers who, through fraud or ignorance, do not comply with their tax obligations. It is costing the UK tax authorities an estimated £1 billion to £1.5 billion (figures for 2015-16) a year. The UK government believes that intercepting VAT through intermediaries in the payment cycle, split payment potentially offers a powerful means of enforcing VAT compliance on sellers who are outside the UK’s jurisdiction.
The fraud carried out by online sellers is not particularly sophisticated but is difficult to combat. Simply, sellers either use a fake VAT number to collect VAT without declaring it, or even more basically, collect the VAT and disappear.
Proposed spilt payment methods
The way in which payments are split represent difficult technical VAT issues, particularly when sales are at different VAT rates. The three proposals are:
- Standard rate split. This assumes that all sales are liable to the standard rate VAT and does not recognise any input tax deduction. Extraction of 20% of tax, regardless of the actual liability (potentially, 5%, or zero) appears unfair and would be very difficult to impose. Cashflow would be negatively affected too.
- Flat Rate Scheme (FRS). This is a proposal by HMRC to insist that online sellers overseas to use the FRS using a specific new rate for this purpose. The FRS threshold of £150,000 pa could be increased for overseas businesses, but this would potentially give overseas sellers an advantage over UK businesses, so politically, if nothing else, would prove to be a hard sell.
- Net effective rate. This would mean an overseas business calculating its own exact net effective rate, based on its outputs and inputs from the previous year’s transactions (similar to TOMS).
- Composite rate. A composite VAT total across a mixed range of goods or services, each potentially with a different rate of VAT. The mechanism for carrying this calculation out is unclear.
There may be more proposals forthcoming, but none of the above proposals appear reasonable and the complexity they would bring would seem to rule them out as matters stand – although this has not previously stopped HMRC introducing certain measures and the obvious benefits to the authorities cannot be ignored.
The technology for split payments currently exists and is being used in some Latin American countries (and Poland). The concept is part of a larger movement towards real-time taxation and MTD. Our view is that split payments are coming, but we do not know in which form or when.
How to remove penalty points under the new system
HMRC has introduced new penalty and interest rules for late returns and payments from 1 January 2023.
On 4 January 2023 HMRC published guidance on how to remove these points to avoid a penalty. This is particularly important if a business has reached the penalty point threshold.
The penalty thresholds are:
- annual returns – 2 points
- quarterly returns – 4 points
- monthly returns – 5 points
If a business is at the limit and has the maximum points allowed for its accounting periods, it can remove them by meeting two conditions which are:
- to complete a period of compliance, submitting all returns by the deadline
- to submit all outstanding returns for the previous 24 months
The guidance sets out how these tests are calculated and applied.
Selling goods using an online marketplace – new guidance
HMRC has published new guidance for use when a business sells goods using an online marketplace (an e-commerce site that connects sellers with buyers where transactions are managed by the website owner) or direct to customers in the UK.
It can be used to check when a seller is required to pay UK VAT.
It is important, especially for sellers based outside the UK, to understand the tax consequences when such marketplaces are used. It is not always possible to rely on the platforms to deal with output tax on sales made to UK recipients.
The guidance covers:
- selling goods using an online marketplace.
- selling goods direct to customers in the UK.
- checks online marketplaces need to do.
- VAT when goods are returned to the seller.