Philip Hammond has delivered the last Budget before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. He has based the Budget on an assumption of an average free trade deal being struck between the UK and the EU. However, if no agreement can be reached between the two parties, the Chancellor has stated that a different strategy would be necessary and the UK has been working on contingency plans for different possible Brexit negotiation outcomes. Here we look at the key VAT issues which have been covered in the announced Budget issued but will provide continued coverage of any progression in line with Brexit negotiation results.
VAT registration and deregistration thresholds
The VAT registration threshold of £85,000 has stayed at the same level again in this Budget, as has the de-registration threshold of £83,000. It has been confirmed that these will stay in place for the next two years. The effect of this measure, when inflation is factored in, is that there will be an increased number of smaller businesses that are required to register for VAT.
VAT grouping eligibility to be extended
The Government has announced that it will extend the eligibility to join a VAT group to certain non-corporate entities in the Finance Bill 2018-19. This extension will allow partnerships and sole traders to benefit from VAT grouping provided the entry criteria are met.
The treatment of vouchers from 1 January 2019
The Government intends to introduce legislation to give effect to an EU Directive in the UK providing for the VAT treatment of vouchers issued on or after 1 January 2019. It will impact vouchers for which payment has been made and which will be used to make a purchase.
The aim of the measure will be to harmonise the rules for the taxation of vouchers within the EU and, ideally, to prevent any non-taxation or double taxation of goods or services. This is not a true Budget measure as the new rules were agreed sometime after extensive discussions within the EU.
Specified Supplies Order
For a brief summary and an analysis of the Specified Supplies Order, we recently provided coverage of the issues presented by Brexit and the Specified Supplies Order on our website. There has been some clarification around some of the issues associated with the Order offered as part of the Budget 2018. In essence, the Order allows companies who export certain financial services from the EU to third countries to reclaim input VAT on what would normally be an exempt supply giving no right to recovery.
HMRC believe the Order is currently being abused by companies who form agreements with associates located outside the EU and re-supply those services back to UK consumers meaning that the company can reclaim the input VAT on the specified supply and gain a VAT advantage. This measure seeks to prevent “looping” by restricting the applicability of the Order to cases where the final consumer is not in the UK. We are not convinced that either existing UK measures or the proposed measures are compliant with the EU VAT directive and, were the UK to remain in the EU, we would be surprised to find that the proposed measure is not challenged in the Courts. Brexit may nullify this consideration.
VAT reverse charge anti-avoidance amendment
A measure has been introduced which allows for the disapplication of the existing anti-avoidance provision in relation to any specified reverse charge. Originally the provisions were introduced to prevent criminals avoiding reverse charge measures by supplying non-VAT registered businesses instead and charging VAT. This measure will allow regulations to be made to prevent unintended consequences for small businesses who trade below the VAT threshold which will remain at £85,000.
VAT and higher education
It has been announced that the Government will amend VAT law to enable bodies registered with the Office for Students, in the approved (fee cap) category, to exempt supplies of education. This is a measure aimed at ensuring continuity of VAT treatment for English higher education providers following the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. Constable VAT will follow the development of this policy, if your business is likely to be affected then please do not hesitate to contact Constable VAT.
Unfulfilled supplies and prepayments
HMRC’s policy around the VAT treatment of prepayments where customers have been charged for a supply but have failed to collect or use what they have paid for and have not received a refund. These prepayments will be brought into the scope of UK VAT from 1 March 2019 and VAT will be due on the prepayment.
Increase or decrease in consideration after supply (Regulation 38)
Regulation 38 requires businesses to adjust their VAT account where there has been a change in the value of the supply on which VAT is due, and a corresponding change in the amount of VAT charged.
It has been announced that legislation will be introduced to ensure that a credit note is issued to customers who receive a discount to ensure a higher degree of transparency with businesses, ensuring that they do not benefit by reclaiming VAT that should be refunded to either the customer or paid to HMRC.
Alternative method of VAT collection for online sales
Following a recent consultation, the Government is considering introducing a split payment model for collecting VAT on sales made online by overseas sellers. An industry Working Group is to be set up by HMRC to work with relevant stakeholders to consider this further.
If you require further information or assistance on any of the points raised above, please speak with your usual Constable VAT contact.