HMRC has updated its guidance on leaving the EU in particular to reflect the fact that there is to be an extension to arrangements already announced regarding the use of Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP), which will make importing goods easier.
HMRC has released an impact assessment on the effect on businesses of amendments to existing VAT legislation and the introduction of transitional provisions for the supply of services between the UK and the EU.
The policy of allowing insurers to treat all pension fund management services as exempt from VAT under the insurance exemption is to be discontinued. This policy change applies from 1 April 2019.
This case concerned the interpretation and applicability of the VAT exemption for the letting or leasing of immovable property. The Portuguese tax authorities assessed Mr. Mesquita for VAT on contracts relating to the transfer of the use of vineyards for agricultural purposes for a period of one year. These transactions had been treated as exempt from VAT.
The question before the Court was whether the exemption for letting immovable property related to this contract.
The Court considered that the purpose of the EU law conferring the exemption on certain transactions was owing to the fact that the leasing of immovable property is normally a relatively passive activity which does not generate a large amount of income.
Where services are supplied along with the immovable property in a single transaction, such as supervision or maintenance, then the whole transaction is subject to VAT. However, the Court found that there were no services provided with the vineyards so the exemption could be applicable.
Constable Comment: The contract in the main Portuguese proceedings led to what the tax authorities believed to be a transfer of assets thus creating a taxable supply. The Court held that even if assets are transferred in this type of contract, they are ancillary to the main supply and the exemption still applies to the whole contract value.
This appeal concerned the criteria to be applied when determining if a particular body is eligible for the purposes of the VAT exemption afforded to certain bodies providing education to students.
The appellant, SEL, the English subsidiary of a Dutch company, contended that its supplies of UK education were exempt from VAT as it was a college of Middlesex University (MU). It appealed against assessments to VAT raised by HMRC. The appeal was allowed in the First Tier Tax Tribunal but it was escalated by HMRC and eventually ascended to the Supreme Court.
MU is a UK university and as such benefits from the exemption from VAT. This exemption is, under UK law, extended to “… a university and any college, school or hall of a university”. The Court, therefore, gave some consideration to what constituted a college of a university and observed that the “integration test” employed initially by the First Tier Tribunal was correct. The following five factors must be considered in arriving at a conclusion as to whether a particular undertaking can be considered a college of a university:
- Whether they have a common understanding that the body is a college of the university
- Whether the body can enrol students as students of the university
- Whether those students are generally treated as students of the university
- Whether the body provides courses of study which are approved by the university
- Whether the body can present its students for examination for a degree from the university
In examining whether or not these criteria applied to SEL and its arrangements with MU, the Court concluded that the exemption did apply to SEL which had been referring students for degrees from MU since the beginning of their arrangement in the 1980s. It was found that there is no need for there to be a constitutional association with a university in order to be a college of that university.
Constable Comment: The criteria laid down in this instance for determining whether or not a body is eligible are not intended to be definitive and the Court observed that, in each instance, regard must be had to the individual facts of each arrangement between a university and an associated body.
Court of Appeal
This case concerned whether or not input VAT incurred by a company in defending its director was deductible by that company as input tax. Mr. Ranson left a company, CSP, and set up his own rival firm in the same area, taking three employees with him. It was alleged by CSP that he had breached his fiduciary duties and also that he had misused a contact list from CSP for establishing his own business. CSP sought an account of profits earned by Mr. Ranson as a result of his breach of duty and sought to recover funds from Praesto.
In defending against these claims, Mr. Ranson instructed solicitors who were successful in his defence. The issue arose as a result of the solicitors addressing one invoice to Praesto and a further eight to Mr. Ranson individually. HMRC did not dispute the deductibility of the input VAT in relation to the invoice addressed to the firm but disputed the others as a result of the addressee.
VAT incurred is deductible so far as it has a “direct and immediate” link with the company’s taxable supplies. However where the legal costs form a part of the cost components of the company’s supplies it is also accepted that they have a direct link with the company’s economic activity as a whole.
HMRC placed a lot of emphasis on the fact that the invoices being disputed were addressed to Mr Ranson. Mr Ranson argued that Praesto were party to the proceedings in all but name and there was a direct benefit to the company in defending him. The economic reality of the situation was the solicitors were defending both Mr Ranson and Praesto.
The Court agreed with Mr Ranson that there was a direct benefit to Praesto in defending claims against him as if the claims had succeeded against Mr Ranson, CSP would have sought to recover profits made by Praesto. It was concluded that the VAT incurred by Praesto in mounting a defence against the allegations of CSP was, indeed, deductible.
Constable Comment: This is an interesting topic as, more often than not, the actual receipts and contracts are looked through to the economic reality of the supply. Whilst this appeal was allowed, one judge dissented, believing the fact that the invoices were addressed to Mr Ranson personally to be fatal to the appeal. This type of case will always need to be considered carefully, it is prudent to seek professional advice in relation to input VAT recovery in this scenario.
This appeal against a default surcharge turned on whether or not the applicant had a reasonable excuse for late payment. The appellant argued that he was unable to log in to the online gateway necessary for making VAT payments.
Mr Farrell received a notice of liability to surcharge which required payment by 7 May 2017. He was unable to log in to the Gateway using the information he previously saved in his computer. When he contacted the webchat he was told that he needed to speak to technical support. Technical support informed Mr Farrell that they could not deal with his enquiry until after 8 May 2017; after the due date for payment of the surcharge.
On the 8 May he spoke to the technical support team and was told that he had been using an incorrect User ID, a new one was sent to him but it turned out to be the first ID he was given before having it changed by HMRC when the Commissioners updated the system. Based on the changing of his logon details, he contended that he was not to blame for missing the payment date.
HMRC denied that his logon details had ever been changed and said there was no record of the webchat which Mr Farrell claimed to have had. Mr Farrell had clear evidence that this was not the case in the form of a saved conversation with Alexander form HMRC’s webchat and his “Browser Password Recovery Report”. This showed that his ID had indeed been changed when HMRC updated their system and that it had changed back to the original.
HMRC sought to argue that Mr Farrell had been using an incorrect ID number and therefore that he was responsible and did not have a reasonable excuse.
The Court held that Mr Farrell made reasonable efforts to pay the VAT due and that it was not clear why HMRC did not have the facilities to deal with Mr Farrell’s enquiry. The appeal was allowed; there was a reasonable excuse.
Constable Comment: This case demonstrated that HMRC do make mistakes when dealing with the taxpayers. It is a useful reminder that it is always prudent to maintain your own records of conversations with HMRC officers in order to evidence advice given or any mistakes made on HMRC’s behalf. We would recommend obtaining an officer name and a “call reference number” when speaking with HMRC.