Tag Archives: adjustments

CVC VAT Focus 31 May 2018

HMRC NEWS

Imports and VAT (Notice 702)

One must now report imports that are over £873 in value on a Single Administrative Document.

 

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.

 

CVC BLOG

VAT recovery, supplying insurance and the benefits of customer location

VAT 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 input 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.

 


CASE REVIEW

CJEU

1. Retrospective application of VAT exemption schemes

In this matter, the domestic Courts of Hungary ask whether EU law precludes national legislation prohibiting retroactive application of a special VAT exemption scheme for small traders to an eligible, taxable person but who did not declare the commencement of his taxable activities and did not, therefore, opt for the application of that scheme.

 

In the main proceedings, Mr. Dávid Vámos had made taxable supplies from 2007 until January 2014 seeking to support his usual income. However, he failed to register this activity with the tax authorities, also failing to raise invoices and keep receipts. Following an investigation into his tax affairs, Mr Vámos registered for VAT on 22 January 2014 and opted for application of the exemption. A secondary investigation by the domestic tax authorities revealed a VAT debt. The tax authority took the view that national law did not allow retrospective application of the option to be exempt from VAT and so imposed the relevant penalties.

 

The question before the Court is whether national legislation preventing the retrospective application of a VAT exemption scheme is contrary to EU law. Mr Vámos contended that he should have been asked if he wished to retrospectively exercise the option when he registered as he was eligible for the scheme.

 

The Opinion of the Court in this instance is that, given exemption can lead to mixed results for businesses, it cannot be assumed that all taxable persons entitled to an exemption intend to opt for it. Taking into account the effect retrospective application of the exemption would have on previous transactions and other businesses, the Court held it reasonable that the domestic tax authorities require taxable persons to make an express choice of the VAT regime they wish to have applied if it is different to the default regime.

 

The Court also agreed with Hungarian tax authorities that allowing taxable persons who failed to declare the commencement of their activities to retrospectively exercise that option would give an unfair advantage, distorting competition in their favour, breaking the principle of fiscal neutrality. Concluding, it is asserted that EU law does not preclude national legislation prohibiting retrospective application of special exemption schemes, even in cases where the taxable person fulfils all the material conditions for using the scheme.

 

CVC Comment: This case should serve as a reminder of the importance of considering tax and legal obligations before, as opposed to after, beginning to carry on what is or could be considered to be a trade.


2. Divergent criminal thresholds for taxation

Mauro Scialdone

This request for a preliminary ruling concerned interpretation of the EU law relating to criminal penalties for failing to pay VAT within the time limit prescribed by domestic (Italian) law. The General Provisions of the PFI Convention provide that in cases of serious fraud involving more than €50,000, penalties including imprisonment must be available to Member States.

 

Italian law provided for the penalty of imprisonment in cases where the taxpayer failed to pay, within the relevant time limits, any VAT owed over €50,000. The same penalties applied to other taxes such as income tax. Subsequent updates to Italian law saw the threshold for imprisonment increase for failure to pay VAT to €250,000.00 and for income tax to €150,000.00.

 

Whilst much consideration was given to other issues, the questions relating to VAT before the CJEU concerned whether EU law precludes domestic legislation from prescribing different thresholds for criminalising failure to pay VAT and income tax. Consideration was given to the principles of effectiveness and equivalence. The Italian authorities contended that as the two taxes have different collection and administrative regimes and differing degrees of identifiability of fraud, the distinction in penalties was justified.

 

It was held that neither principle precludes domestic legislation such as that in the main proceedings which provides that failure to pay, within the given time limit, the VAT resulting from the annual tax return constitutes a criminal offence only when the amount of unpaid VAT exceeds €250,000.00 whereas a threshold of €150,000.00 applies to failure to pay income tax.

 

CVC Comment: This case makes clear that seriously non-compliant taxpayers can face custodial sentences as well as fines. It highlights some of the differences between direct and indirect tax regimes and the judgment reflects an understanding of this.


Upper Tribunal

 

3.Student Accommodation: Zero-rating Certificate

This appeal concerned the liability of supplies made by Summit Electrical Installations Limited (Summit) as a sub-contractor to a development of student accommodation. Create Construction (Create) had appointed Summit after receiving a zero-rating certificate from the developer stating that the development was for a relevant residential purpose (RRP). As the certificate stated RRP, HMRC contended that only supplies by Create to the developer could be zero-rated and Summit’s supplies should be standard rated as they were sub-contractors. Summit refuted this stating that they could rely on zero-rating provisions as the supplies were made in the course of the construction of a building designed as a number of dwellings.

 

The FTT agreed with Summit, also considering an issue of planning conditions which HMRC contended prohibited zero-rating; as the buildings must be let to students of certain Universities, there was a prohibition of separate use or disposal of the flats. The FTT dismissed this as the flats could be sold separately so long as students lived in them.

 

HMRC appealed to the Upper Tribunal (UT) against the decision in relation to the prohibition of separate use or disposal, asserting that the development failed to qualify as “dwellings” due to the alleged prohibition on separate use or disposal. The UT found that, in accordance with case law, for there to be a prohibition on separate use for the purposes at hand there must be a prohibition on the use of the premises separate from the use of some other specific land, a connection to the Universities mentioned in the planning consent was not sufficient. The UT upheld the decision of the FTT and dismissed HMRC’s appeal, allowing Summit’s supplies to be zero-rated as in the course of construction of a building to be used as a number of dwellings.

 

CVC Comment: This is a positive result for Summit as well as, potentially, for other sub-contractors appointed by Create. This judgment shows the importance of planning before taking on any development projects. Had the Tribunal found differently, Summit and other contractors may have been burdened with a VAT debt.

 


First Tier Tribunal

 

4. Adjustments, agreements and time limits

HMRC sought here to strike out an appeal by Buckingham Bingo Limited (BBL) on the grounds that BBL were appealing against a letter from HMRC which did not contain any appealable decision. In 2012, BBL submitted a VAT return which included a reclaim for £1,616,384.44 overpaid output VAT. HMRC promptly issued a decision denying this reclaim and BBL did not appeal on the basis of costs.

 

Following developments in case law (KE Entertainments Ltd) BBL wrote to HMRC seeking to recover the original amount. HMRC replied on 5 January 2017 stating that they had already ruled on this matter and that BBL had decided not to appeal. It was also noted that there are time limits on adjustments to VAT returns, out of which BBL found itself.

 

The FTT agreed with HMRC that the time limits relating to adjustments applied and that the letter dated 5 January 2017 did not contain an appealable decision but more reaffirmed an earlier one. BBL argued that it would be unfair if it were not allowed to make an adjustment in the same way as Carlton Clubs and KE Entertainment Limited and so should be granted an extension to make an appeal. The Tribunal dismissed this, placing great weight on the need for finality in decisions and stressing that BBL had already stated in 2012 that it would not appeal the original decision based on costs.

 

The Tribunal agreed with HMRC, on all grounds, and BBL’s appeal was struck out. It is not granted any extension to amend its notice of appeal.

 

CVC Comment: It is essential to be aware of all relevant time limits when it comes to making adjustments to VAT returns. This case shows that the Tribunal takes due process seriously and will not agree with the taxpayer because their position might seem unfair. It is also a useful reminder to make sure all communications should be carefully and appropriately worded to prevent interpretive issues arising.

 


5. Appeal by post: letter not received by Tribunal

This decision relates to an appeal made by Porter & Co (Porter) challenging VAT surcharge liability for VAT periods 05/13 and 11/13, of which it was informed on 4 March 2014. Porter was originally given the right to appeal the surcharge notices within 30 days of receipt.

 

Porter apparently responded with a notice of appeal on 2 April 2014, however the Tribunal has no record of having received this letter. Indeed, a notice was received but on 31 July 2017. As well as relevant case law, legislation dictates that when “serving” something by post, the service takes place at the time of postage so long as the postage is done correctly. Whilst the appeal was not sent tracked or special delivery, this is not a legal requirement. On the balance of probabilities, the Tribunal found in favour of Porter but in determining when this would have been received, it was concluded that the appeal, had it arrived, would have arrived a day out of time anyway.

 

The Tribunal needed to consider, therefore, whether permission should be given for the notice of appeal to be given late. As it was only one day out of time and in the interest of not offering prejudice to HMRC, the Tribunal were inclined to give permission for the late notice and held in favour of Porter.

 

CVC Comment: The Tribunal gave this ruling a caveat that, had they not found the original notice for appeal was only one day out of time, it would not have been inclined to give permission. Had the Tribunal ruled it received the notice on 31 July 2017 then it would have been three years late and this would have been too long. This is a demonstration that the Tribunal will take timing and intention into account when dealing with taxpayers.


 

CVC VAT Focus 26 April 2018

 

HMRC NEWS

HMRC has updated guidance on its website as follows:

Register for VAT if you own land with another person

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.

VAT registration for groups, divisions and joint ventures

Link to VAT registration for people who own land with another person added to ‘Joint ventures and VAT’ section.

Tell HMRC about an option to tax land and buildings

Notification of an option to tax land and or buildings (VAT1614A) form has been updated.

VAT MOSS exchange rates for 2018

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.

 

 

CVC BLOG

VAT recovery, supplying insurance and the benefits of customer location

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.

 

CASE REVIEW

 

CJEU

 

1. Time limits on right of deduction of input tax: Portugal

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.

 

2. Interpretation of EU Law on deduction adjustment

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.

 

3. Triangulation and EC Sales Lists

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

 

4. Sufficiently Self-contained?

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.

 

5. Printed matter: Zero-rated goods or standard rated service?

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.