Constable VAT Focus 21 December 2023

Christmas and New Year closure

We will be closing at 5.30 pm on Friday 22nd December and will reopen on Tuesday 2 January 2024 at 9am. If you have any urgent queries during this time please contact your usual CVC partner by email and they will respond to you as soon as possible.

We have not sent Christmas cards this year and instead donated to our local food bank. However, we would like to take this opportunity to wish all our clients and regular readers a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.


VAT refunds using the DIY housebuilder scheme
The above guidance has been published by HMRC as part of implementing the changes to the DIY Housebuilder Scheme. There is now guidance released in relation to VAT refunds for new builds, conversions and new charity buildings. HMRC also added the links to the new online system to make a claim for a VAT refund.

The new guidance clarified that the extended time limit of 6 months to submit a claim will only apply to projects which were completed on or after 5 December 2023. The 3 month time limit will continue to apply to any projects which received a completion certificate prior to 5 December 2023.

VAT group registration delays
A number of taxpayers applying for a group VAT registration have faced issues in relation to the effective date of VAT registration (EDR), due to some delays in HMRC’s processing. HMRC has found a solution to provide the correct EDR for taxpayers who have been affected by VAT grouping registration delays. A process has now been identified that will provide the correct EDR and resolve any related issues. HMRC has a list of impacted taxpayers and will be contacting those affected to discuss next steps.

HMRC email updates, videos and webinars for VAT
The above guidance can be used to learn more about VAT including accounting schemes, VAT Returns and keeping records. Recorded webinar links for ‘the new VAT late submission late payment penalties and interest charges’ and ‘Changes to the VAT 652 – error correction notice form’ have been updated.

Who should register for VAT (VAT Notice 700/1)
The above guidance explains when you must register for VAT and how to do it. In most cases the online VAT registration service must be used. The paper VAT1 form can no longer be downloaded from HMRC’s website and you must now call HMRC to request this.

VAT Refund Scheme for charities (VAT Notice 1001)
The above guidance can be used to find out if a qualifying charity (as defined in section 33D of the VAT Act 1994) is eligible for a refund on goods and services under a VAT Refund Scheme. The address to send claims has been updated. The address in relation to local authorities and similar bodies also been updated which can be found here.



1. VAT Exemption: Medical care

This case concerned a dispute between Vision Dispensing Limited (VDL) and HMRC, regarding its supplies of services in connection with the online sale of contact lenses. VDL argued it was making supplies of medical care which were VAT exempt. However, HMRC took the view the supplies were not medical care and should be subject to VAT at the standard rate.

VDL delivered services to another Dutch company (part of the same group) which actually owned and sold contact lenses. VDL was responsible for online customer enquiry facilities, some of which was clinical in nature, through an online chat on the website, customer service line or email. In addition, it sent prompts and reminders to customers. VDL also operated the warehouse on behalf of the Dutch company including selecting and dispatching customer orders.

HMRC argued that supplies made by VDL cannot be described as professional clinical advice or therapeutic care. HMRC stated that clinical advice cannot be delivered in an impersonal or generic way such as VDL’s customer service facility online.

The Tribunal recognised that there were two points in question and the answer to both must be ‘yes’ if the appeal is to be allowed. The questions were:

  • Do VDL’s services constitute medical care?
  • Are VDL’s services wholly performed or directly supervised by appropriate persons?

The Tribunal stated that  for services to qualify as “medical care” they must have as their purpose “the diagnosis, treatment and, in so far as possible, cure of diseases or health disorders”. The Tribunal reviewed all the evidence presented and came to the conclusion that the services cannot fairly be described as ‘medical care’. The service was the provision of a customer support facility covering a range of issues, which can include issues of a clinical nature, although these were very limited, and also ‘dispensing’ goods in the terms of packing and posting products which is standard rated.

This was sufficient to dismiss the appeal, however the Tribunal also went on to consider whether VDL’s services were wholly performed or directly supervised by appropriate persons. The Tribunal concluded, that whilst VDL had some optician employees, there was no evidence to support that these opticians delivered the required level of supervision and therefore the appeal would have been dismissed even if VDL was making supplies of medical care.

Constable Comment: This was a complex case with many factors and evidence being considered, however the Tribunal had no difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the ‘dispensing services’ made by the appellant do not fall within the meaning of ‘medical care’ for VAT exemption. VAT exemption in relation to health and welfare is a complex area of VAT with strict conditions to satisfy. If there is any ambiguity in relation to the VAT treatment of a supply, we would always recommend seeking professional advice.

Please note that this newsletter is intended to provide a general overview of the subject. No liability is accepted for the opinions it contains or for any errors or omissions. Constable VAT cannot accept responsibility for loss incurred by any person, company or entity as a result of acting, or failing to act, on any material in this blog post. Specialist VAT advice should always be sought in relation to your particular circumstance.