HMRC has updated guidance on its website as follows:
Find out if you need to register for VAT jointly or as an individual when you buy, let or develop land with another taxable person.
Link to VAT registration for people who own land with another person added to ‘Joint ventures and VAT’ section.
Notification of an option to tax land and or buildings (VAT1614A) form has been updated.
Find currency exchange rates for VAT Mini One Stop Shop (VAT MOSS) businesses registered in the UK to complete declarations.
OTHER VAT NEWS
We understand that HMRC has begun to contact firms directly regarding the VAT treatment of electronic searches following the Brabners LLP VAT case summarised on our website. The Law Society has issued guidance which can be viewed here.
Exempt supplies do not normally provide a right to reclaim VAT on costs incurred in making such supplies. However, certain supplies that would ordinarily give no right to VAT recovery may be ‘specified’ to do so when the customer is located outside the EU. Follow the link to read our most recent blog, by Robert Thorpe, which explains this further.
In Biosafe, there were taxable supplies made in 2011 from one VAT registered trader to another (Flexipiso), in the course of business, with appropriate supporting documentation. Under EU VAT law, this gives rise to a right of deduction of the input tax incurred by the purchaser in the relevant VAT period on purchases which relate to those taxable supplies. Flexipiso recovered the relevant input VAT, charged at the reduced rate of 5%, incurred on purchases from Biosafe. Several years later, Biosafe were subject to a tax inspection which revealed that the reduced rate of 5% had been incorrectly charged. The Portugese authorities assessed that the supplies were subject to the standard rate of VAT of 21% (Portugal) and Biosafe paid over the monies assessed.
Biosafe sought reimbursement from Flexipiso who refused to pay on the grounds that, under domestic law, their right to deduction of input VAT expired four years after the original supply was made. This brought two questions before the CJEU. The first being, does EU law preclude domestic legislation which prevents the four year period during which a right to deduction arises beginning again on the date assessment documents are issued to the supplier. The second being, if the answer to the first question is no, does the EU law preclude domestic legislation which, in the current situation, makes it legitimate for the purchaser to refuse to pay VAT when it is impossible to deduct that additional tax?
In response to the first question, it was held that the Directive does preclude domestic legislation where the right to deduct input tax is refused on the ground that the time limit for that right started to run from the date of the initial invoice. In the light of this response, the Court held that the second question did not require an answer as it follows logically from the first that a taxable person may not be denied the right to recover input tax by domestic time limits.
CVC Comment: This case confirms that where input tax has been deducted at an incorrect rate, the right to recovery by the business incurring the incorrect expense cannot be precluded by domestic time limits on the right to recovery.
This case concerning SEB Bankas AB (SEB) was related to a supply made to SEB by VKK Investicija (VKK) of building land. Initially the parties had agreed that the transaction was subject to VAT. Some years later VKK decided that the supply was VAT exempt and raised a credit note to SEB to reflect this. This left SEB owing the authorities the input VAT originally deducted on the transaction. A fine was raised on SEB by the authorities as well as the assessment to tax. After progressing through domestic courts, questions came before the CJEU regarding the interpretation of the EU law on VAT adjustments.
The key questions before the court were; whether the obligation to adjust undue VAT deductions applies where the initial recovery could not have been made lawfully as the transaction was exempt and, if so, whether the mechanism for doing so applies in situations such as those in the main proceedings. The Court held that the EU law does require the adjustments of VAT deductions which should not have arisen because VAT was charged unlawfully.
As regards the date on which the adjustment should be made, the CJEU held that this is for national courts to decide, taking account of the principles of legitimate expectation and legal certainty and that a taxpayer’s deduction of VAT cannot, applying the principle of legal certainty, be open to challenge for an indefinite period.
CVC Comment: Where a deduction of tax has been, mistakenly, unlawfully made in relation to an exempt supply, then there is a duty on the person making the deduction to make an adjustment when this is discovered. Whether or not the obligation arises immediately is a matter which has been left open to domestic interpretation. It appears that UK policies are already in line with this decision insofar as in most cases, after four years, VAT periods are no longer open for a mandatory adjustment.
Firma Hans Bühler, a limited partnership established and VAT registered in Germany and also identified in Austria for VAT purposes, bought products from suppliers established in Germany. Those products were sold to a VAT registered customer in Czech Republic. The products were dispatched directly from the German supplier to the customer in Czech Republic. The German supplier provided its German VAT registration number and Firma Hans Bühler’s used its Austrian VAT registration number on its invoices provided to the Czech Republic customer. The triangulation simplification was used; as such, the final customer in the Czech Republic accounted for VAT due in the Czech Republic.
The Austrian tax authorities found that Firma Hans Bühler’s supplies were ‘abortive triangular transactions’ because the reference to triangular transactions did not appear on Firma Hans Bühler’s EC Sales List.
The CJEU stated that the triangulation simplification cannot be refused because the EC Sales List has been submitted late. In addition, it is not relevant that Firma Hans Bühler’s Austrian VAT registration number was no longer valid on the date it submitted its EC Sales List (it is relevant that the VAT number is valid at the time of the supply). If the failure to submit correct EC Sales Lists on time meant that the taxpayers could not evidence the conditions for triangulation had been met, the triangulation could not apply.
The CJEU also commented that the benefit of the triangulation simplification cannot be refused on the basis that the intermediate supplier is VAT registered in the member state of dispatch.
CVC comment: the judgment confirms that the triangulation simplification can apply even if the taxpayers EC Sales Lists are not compliant provided the taxpayers can evidence that all of the conditions for simplification are met.
First Tier Tribunal
This appeal by Colin James Mitchell and Kim Louise Mitchell concerned the recovery of input VAT under the DIY Builders Scheme in respect of the construction of a building in their garden. HMRC had initially refused the recovery on the grounds that not only was the building was not “self-contained living accommodation” but also that the planning consent prohibited the separate use of the building from the house; conditions necessary for a claim under the DIY Builders Scheme.
In order for a refund to be successful the building must be self-contained living accommodation and a key issue between the appellants and HMRC in this case was the absence of a kitchen in the new building. HMRC contended that this meant the building was incapable of being self-contained. The Tribunal agreed, on this point, with the appellant who argued that the ability to install and use a microwave was sufficient for the building to be constituted as self-contained.
The second prong of HMRC’s contention was the prohibition of separate use of the building in the planning permission, “…shall not be used as a separate residential unit at any time” amounts to a prohibition on separate use. They also add that the planning permission for a “garage” cannot be construed as a “dwelling”.
The Tribunal agreed with HMRC on the second point and dismissed the appeal.
CVC Comment: In cases where planning permission specifically forbids separate residential use of a construction then the Tribunal are unlikely to find in favour of the applicant. Prior to any expenditure on development it is vital that the tax implications be considered and this involves detailed analysis of the proposal and planning permission granted.
In this instance, The Tribunal had to decide supplies by Paragon Customer Communications Limited (Paragon) to Direct Line Insurance Services (DLIS) amounted to, as Paragon contended, a single supply of booklets comprising of predominantly zero-rated matter or, as HMRC contended, a supply of services, of which booklets were not a predominant element. It is also asserted by HMRC that some of the booklets supplied as zero-rated were in fact not supplies of booklets and so should have been standard-rated.
Paragon supplied various documents in relation to insurance documents for DLIS including advertising, standard Terms and Conditions, appraisals and reminders. The question came before the Tribunal as a result of an assessment on Paragon who HMRC contended was making a single, standard-rated supply of services based on the preparation and packaging involved in the process of supplying the products, the envelopes used and separate documents which were not part of the main supply i.e. the aforementioned appraisals and terms and conditions documents. Paragon appealed this assessment by HMRC on the grounds that the supplies made were one composite supply of zero-rated booklets, this was, in essence, a question of single or multiple supply.
Whilst the Tribunal considered multiple cases, including the single supply criteria in Card Protection Plan and issues of divisibility considered in Levob Verzekeringen BV, the conclusion of the Tribunal was relatively clear; Paragon is successful in its appeal against the assessment. It is held that packaging and delivery of the disputed documents is, in this instance, considered to be a single, zero-rated supply of booklets.
CVC Comment: this decision may have a wider implication, in particular for charities. Many charities cannot recover VAT incurred because of their non-business and/or VAT exempt activities. HMRC changed its policy some years ago with respect to the VAT liability of direct mailing services (standard rated). This decision may call into questions HMRC’s policy. It will be interesting to see if this decision is appealed by HMRC to the Upper Tribunal.