Deeks VAT News issue 38

Delve into the latest in VAT with our October 2023 Deeks VAT Round-Up. This edition highlights crucial updates on charity VAT reliefs, the end of paper VAT registration applications, and essential guidelines for medical professionals. Stay informed about the evolving VAT landscape and ensure your business stays compliant with our expert insights.

Welcome to this months Newsletter

October 2023 – Issue 38

Keeping you up to date on VAT changes 

In this months newsletter we cover the following:

Reliefs for charities – A brief guide

Partial exemption – updated HMRC guidance

Huge fall in number of VAT registrations

Goodbye paper VAT registration applications

Updated guidance for medical professionals

Evidence of UK establishment required for certain VAT registered businesses

A VAT Did you know?

We know that burying a deceased person is exempt, but exhumation is standard rated and we now know, thanks to the UK Funerals On-line Ltd FTT case, that the service of the repatriation of the body of a deceased person can be viewed as either an exempt supply of funeral services or a zero-rated supply of transport services.

This being the case, zero rating trumps exemption via of The VAT Act 1994, section 30(1).

Reliefs for charities – A brief guide

Charities and Not For Profit (NFP) entities – A list of VAT reliefs in one place

Unfortunately, there is no “general” rule that charities are relieved of the burden of VAT. In fact, 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 often 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 zero rated 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

* HMRC have set out its views on digital/online advertising in Revenue and Customs Brief 13 (2020): VAT charity digital advertising relief. 

There are also special exemptions applicable to supplies made by 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

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.

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

Additionally, there are certain Extra Statutory Concessions (*ESCs) which benefit charities. These zero rate supplies made to charities, these are:

  • certain printed stationery used for appeals
  • collection boxes and receptacles
  • lapel stickers and similar tokens, eg; remembrance day poppies

* ESCs are formal, published concessions but have no legal force.

We strongly advise that any charity seeks assistance on dealing with VAT to ensure that no more tax than necessary is paid and that penalties are avoided. Charities have an important role in the world, and it is unfair that VAT should represent such a burden and cost to them.

Partial exemption – updated HMRC guidance

HMRC has published updated partial exemption guidance in Manual PE21500.

The main changes are in respect of updated case law, including the Royal Opera House Court of Appeal case dealing with the attribution of input tax.

In that case the CoA considered: the test of direct and immediate link, economic necessity, business/non-business, and chains of transactions.

Huge fall in number of VAT registrations

Information provided by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that the number of UK businesses registering for VAT and PAYE dropped by over 40,000. This is probably a result of a number of issues (I presume):

  • covid fall out
  • cost of living crises
  • Brexit
  • possibly HMRC slow processing and
  • HMRC fraudulent registrations crackdown

This is the first drop in registrations since 2011 with the current number being 2.7 million. The most likely business to deregister are sole proprietors and other small businesses. The most negatively affected trade sectors were transport and storage, IT and the sciences.

Goodbye paper VAT registration applications

From November 2023 HMRC is removing the paper version of the VAT 1 Form – applying for VAT registration.

Around 95% of applicants (or their agents) currently use the online registration service: How to register for VAT and in order to improve processing time HMRC is removing the paper VAT 1 Form.

From November only a very limited number of businesses will be able to use the Form VAT 1 and these will only be available by specific request from the VAT Helpline.

Those businesses are:

  • those exempt from Making Tax Digital
  • businesses applying for a registration exception
  • businesses joining the agricultural flat rate scheme
  • overseas partnerships
  • certain entities without a Unique Taxpayer Reference

Updated guidance for medical professionals

HMRC has updated VAT Notice 701/57 – Health professionals and pharmaceutical products.

The changes, in summary, are:

Para 2.1 – Pharmacy technicians (only in England, Scotland and Wales) has been added to the meaning of a health professional list.

Para 2.5 – Services directly supervised by a pharmacist has been removed: Services that are not exempt from VAT.

Para 4.7 has been updated to make it clear when forensic physicians services are exempt healthcare.

Para 5.2 – Services supervised by pharmacists are now included when referring to a health professional: Exemption of care services performed by a person not enrolled on a statutory medical register.

The exemptions covered in the health and welfare area are complex and even slight differences in circumstances can change the VAT liability of a supply. Additionally, there are further exemptions for charities and NFP bodies and the age-old issue of business/non-business.

We advise that specialist advice is sought when considering the VAT position of supplies in this area.

Evidence of UK establishment required for certain VAT registered businesses

Businesses registered for VAT at a high-volume address will be asked by HMRC to prove they are established in the UK.

High-Volume Addresses

A high-volume address is where a single UK address is listed as the principal place of business (PPOB) for many VAT-registered businesses. We understand that many thousands of businesses are registered at single addresses in the UK.

HMRC will require proof of a place of belonging in the UK to avoid online marketplaces failing to account for output tax.

Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces are liable for the output VAT from sales on their platforms by overseas traders. HMRC understand that Non-Established Taxable Persons (NETPs) have incorporated in the UK and provided UK address details to marketplaces. Since they are then no longer “overseas traders” these rules do not apply. In these situations, the NETP does not declare VAT and the marketplace does not become liable for it.

HMRC is writing to all VAT registered businesses with a PPOB at a high-volume address to ask for evidence to demonstrate that the business is actually established in the UK. If the business does not respond, by default, HMRC will consider the business to be a NETP and seek to recover VAT from the online marketplace business.

Evidence of UK establishment

HMRC will outline what specific evidence it will accept in their letter.

For any enquiries please contact:

Jane Deeks



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