CVC VAT Focus on Land and Property – January 2018

CVC VAT Focus on Land and Property


Fraud in the provision of labour in the construction sector

We reported in our Spring Budget VAT Focus that the government would consult on a range of policy options to combat supply chain fraud within the construction sector.

Following the consultation, the government announced at the Autumn Budget that it will introduce a VAT domestic reverse charge. This will shift responsibility for paying VAT along the supply chain to remove the opportunity for revenue losses. Changes will have effect from 1 October 2019.

A summary of the responses to the consultation can be found here. It sets out that:

• HMRC will publish draft legislation as part of a technical consultation in Spring 2018
• finalised legislation will be published along with guidance by end September 2018
• legislation will be laid after 1 April 2019

VAT Information Sheet 07/17: construction services and zero-rated relief
HMRC has published an information sheet concerning how VAT is applied to the construction of buildings that keep, or make use of, parts of a building that previously stood on, or were adjacent to, the site where the works of a new construction (dwelling or building to be used solely for a relevant residential or relevant charitable purpose) are taking place. The Information Sheet follows the Upper Tribunal (UT) judgments in Astral Construction, Boxmoor Construction Limited and J3 Building Solutions.


HMRC clarifies policy on VAT zero-rating & new buildings
In CVC’s latest blog Helen Carey considers HMRC’s policy on VAT zero-rating and new buildings further to the recent Information Sheet 07/17 issued by HMRC


Court of Justice of European Union (CJEU)

1. Sale of holiday homes

Three partners; Cussens, Jennings and Kingston, have lost a long running challenge by the Irish Revenue that they set up a scheme to avoid paying VAT on the sale of holiday homes.

The partners jointly owned a development site on which they constructed 15 holiday homes for sale. Before making the sales, they entered into lease and lease back agreements with an associated company, Shamrock Estates Limited. The leases were extinguished by mutual surrender and the partners acquired full ownership of the properties. The properties were then sold to third parties. VAT was not charged on the sale to third parties on the basis that properties had been subject to a first supply (to Shamrock Estates) on which VAT was chargeable when the long lease was granted.

The Irish Revenue contended that the lease and lease back arrangements constituted a first supply artificially created in order to avoid VAT on the subsequent sales to third parties and should be disregarded. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court which decided to stay the proceedings and refer a number of questions to the CJEU. The CJEU considered the judgment in Halifax and held that the principles of abuse of rights must be interpreted as applying to this case.

CVC comment: Although this is not a UK case it acts as a reminder that if HMRC sees arrangements as contrived and for the primary purpose of reducing VAT costs then they might try to reinstate the position that should have applied, the so called “Halifax” or “abuse of rights” anti-avoidance principle.

Upper Tribunal

2. Sale and lease back – Is this a disposal?

We previously reported the FTT decision in the case of Balhousie Holdings Limited (Balhousie). Balhousie operates 25 care homes and forms part of a VAT group registration with Balhousie Care (BC) and three other subsidiaries .

The issue was whether Balhousie was liable to account for VAT on a self-supply that arose as a consequence of BC’s sale of the Huntly care home to a third party Target and the immediate leaseback from Target to BC. Huntly care home had been acquired by BC from a subsidiary of Balhousie not forming part of the BC VAT group. This purchase by BC had been treated as a VAT zero-rated first grant of a major interest in a relevant residential property. BC had entered into the sale and leaseback arrangement as a means of raising finance and HMRC considered that the onward sale had triggered a liability to a self-supply charge to VAT as a result of the change of use. BC argued that the transaction had not involved a disposal of its entire interest in the property and as such there was no VAT charge due.

The UT held that the FTT erred in law in its application of the relevant statutory provisions to the facts and a change of use VAT charge was triggered as a result of the sale and leaseback.

CVC comment: Whilst the FTT had decided that the sale and leaseback had not impacted on the actual use of the building, the UT concluded that this was not the case. BC no longer enjoys any rights flowing from the original zero-rated supply. BC may have a right of occupation but this flows from the lease not the original disposition.

First Tier Tribunal

3. Disapplication of the option to tax

PGPH Limited was formed to carry on a property business in the healthcare sector. It acquired a property from use in that business and exercised the option to tax. PGPH granted a right to use the property to Smart Medical Clinics Limited (SMCL) following which PGPH incurred expenditure on refurbishment works.

HMRC contended that the option to tax did not apply to the grant to SMCL under paragraphs 12 to 17 of Schedule 10 VATA 1994 due to the financing arrangements for the works being via a ‘relevant person’ occupying the property other than for the purpose of making taxable supplies. An individual connected to SMCL had provided a loan to PGPH. As a result, HMRC denied input tax claimed by PGPH in respect of the refurbishment. The Tribunal considered whether PGPH intended or expected the land to be a ‘relevant capital item’ at the date of the grant and whether SMCL would be defined as a ‘relevant person’ for the purposes of the legislation. The Tribunal concluded this was the case and dismissed the appeal.

CVC comment: This case highlights the importance of considering the VAT implication of transactions from the outset.

4. Whether novation of a contract amounted to a VAT exempt supply of land

Hanuman Commercial Limited (HCL) intended to purchase a commercial property and convert it into residential flats. HCL entered into a contract with Sabre Insurance Company Limited (Sabre) to purchase the property for £2.8 million (the “Sabre contract”). Sabre had opted to tax the property so the sale would be subject to VAT. The Sabre contract was conditional on Sabre securing that two of the tenants vacated the property and on HCL obtaining satisfactory planning permission. Prior to completion of the Sabre contract, HCL entered into a contract to sell the property to Connect Centre Limited (CCL) for £5.5 million (the “CCL contract”).

On 16 May 2014, a number of additional agreements were entered into. The net effect of these agreements was that instead of Sabre selling the property to HCL for £2.8 million and HCL selling the property to CCL for £5.5 million, Sabre would sell the property to CCL for £2.8 million (less the deposit already paid by HCL) and CCL would make a separate payment to HCL for £2.7 million less the deposit already paid by CCL.

HCL issued CCL with two VAT invoices. The first being for the sale of the interest in the contract for £2.7 million plus VAT. The second was for varying the contract and was for £25,400 plus VAT. HCL failed to submit a VAT return for the relevant period and also did not seek to recover any VAT incurred in relation to the transactions. HCL decided that VAT had been charged in error and issued credit notes. HCL argued that it acquired an interest in the property which it then sold to CCL, which would be a VAT exempt supply as it had not opted to tax. HMRC contend that HCL did not supply a freehold interest in the property, instead it supplied an unexercised contractual right to purchase the property which is standard rated. The Tribunal agreed with HMRC that HCL had supplied services which were subject to VAT.

CVC comment: This case highlights the need to seek advice when contracts are drafted to ensure such amendments do not have adverse tax implications.