This VAT Focus provides the usual updates of HMRC news as well as coverage of some of the more recent developments in the Courts including judgments in relation to the liability of certain salary sacrifice schemes, payroll services supplied to vulnerable people and the recoverability of VAT on development costs where there could be one supply of a development project or two supplies of individual buildings.
HMRC has released information about changes to the rates for VAT Mini One Stop Shop (VAT MOSS) for other countries.
HMRC has released further information about the VAT domestic reverse charge for building and construction services that starts on 1 October 2019.
Constable VAT has covered this topic in a recent blog which can be viewed here. This will be of interest to anyone operating in the construction industry.
CONSTABLE VAT NEWS
We recently circulated a new VAT & Charities Newsletter which is available to read on our website.
In this publication we cover some of the most important and interesting areas of VAT for charities. Whilst some of the issues and cases have been discussed in our VAT Focuses, the charity edition of the newsletter aims to give a more directly relevant summary for those operating in the third sector.
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This case concerned the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHT). HMRC refused a claim for repayment of input VAT made by NHT. NHT had incurred this input VAT in respect of leased and maintained cars which it acquired for the purpose of providing them to NHS employees under a salary sacrifice scheme. Under UK law, where cars are leased to employees under such a scheme, not for the purposes of the employer’s business, there is no supply of goods or services by virtue of the “De-Supply Order”. Whilst there is deemed to be no supply, UK legislation (s43 VATA) entitles the employer to recover input VAT in relation to such car schemes supplied by Government bodies such as the NHS.
NHT contended that this order applied whilst HMRC argued that the car scheme was a business activity carried on by NHT and, therefore, that input VAT was restricted to 50% as the business was leasing vehicles. In support of its claim, NHT argued that the car scheme was operated so as to facilitate a more efficient delivery of the statutory obligations (non-business activities) of the Trust: to provide healthcare. HMRC observed that there is no actual restriction placed on the use of the cars by the employees and, therefore, that the De-Supply Order was not applicable.
The Tribunal observed that the key question, given the circumstances, was whether the car scheme operated by NHT is an “economic activity” within the meaning of EU law. If it is an economic activity then the De-Supply Order would not apply and, therefore, input VAT recovery on the cars would be restricted by virtue of the Blocking Order.
The Tribunal considered that the De-Supply Order meant that there was no supply of services in this instance and therefore that there was no economic activity being pursued by NHT with regard to the car scheme so there was no taxable supply. Therefore, NHT was entitled to recover all of the VAT incurred on the supplies of leased and maintained cars.
Constable Comment: This case was complex and reflects a problematic area of the law. The result has essentially led to a situation in which the NHS receives and subsequently makes a supply which is not a supply but it can recover 100% of the input VAT incurred in making that supply. This area of VAT is particularly difficult to deal with and anyone operating similar structures should seek VAT advice for clarity.
This appeal concerned the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) which contested a decision by HMRC to deny 100% input VAT recovery in relation to a refurbishment project on some campus buildings. The FTT had previously found in favour of HMRC’s original decision.
The GSA refurbished three buildings; the Assembly Building, the Foulis building and Newbery Building. The buildings were all adjacent and on one site, the refurbishment project took place at the same time in relation to all of the buildings. The Foulis and Newbery buildings were demolished and replaced with the Reid building which was “wrapped around” the Assembly building. The whole project was contracted as a single development.
The GSA initially treated the input VAT on invoices from the contractor undertaking the project as residual and recovered in line with its partial exemption percentage. However, it later sought to change its argument and claimed that two distinct buildings had been built and that GSA was making a wholly taxable supply by leasing the Assembly Building to the GSA Student’s Association whilst the input VAT relating to the development cost of the new Reid Building was recoverable in line with the partial exemption percentage. GSA therefore sought to recover the input VAT which it had previously not done so under its partial exemption calculation. It submitted a significant VAT refund claim.
The FTT had previously dismissed this appeal on the grounds that there was, materially, only one supply by the contractor to the GSA and, therefore, that the input VAT had correctly been treated as residual. The Tribunal in this instance agreed with the FTT and dismissed the appeal, concluding that the original invoicing arrangement gave the best reflection of the economic reality of the situation.
The UT also agreed with the FTT that GSA was not carrying on an economic activity. The rent paid by the student’s union was set at a level which it could afford and it would take 500 years for the charity to recoup its outlay. This is not an economic activity.
Constable Comment: In order to support the claim that there were two separate supplies received by GSA, the School went back to the contractor and split the development and invoicing into two sections and two distinct buildings. This case shows that, whilst important, contracts and invoicing arrangements are not the ultimate deciding factor; regard will always be had to the commercial and economic reality of the situation.
This appeal concerned Cheshire Centre for Independent Living (CCIL) and the liability of its supplies of payroll services to individuals with disabilities, which it believed to be VAT exempt. HMRC had ruled that the payroll services did not qualify for exemption as they were not closely associated with the provision of welfare services so they were liable to VAT at the standard rate.
Certain disabled persons may be eligible for financial assistance in order to facilitate their independent living. Some of the funding is handed to disabled individuals directly in order for the individual to take control of and pay for their own care and support services. Where a disabled individual receives these payments and uses them to pay assistants they become an employer of that person with all the relevant obligations for direct tax purposes.
CCIL offer a payroll service whereby it enters into contracts with local authorities and individuals and deals with issues such as PAYE and NIC on behalf of clients. CCIL contended that this supply should benefit from VAT exemption as it is closely associated with a supply of welfare services. HMRC believed that this supply was secondary to a supply of welfare services and, therefore, should be standard rated. This would, of course, have taken away 20% of the payments made to disabled individuals to support their independent living. Simply put, the individuals would have been left with less money to spend on receiving the support they need.
CCIL submitted that the services supplied were in the context of a supply by a charity to a disabled person whose needs had been formally assessed under the Care Act 2014, meaning that they were exempt.
The Tribunal considered that the payroll service, whilst not being an end in itself, is a means for enabling the support of disabled individuals through the services of assistants as a part of the care plan for that individual. Therefore it allowed the appeal and stated that the services in question were indeed exempt as they were services closely connected with a supply of welfare services.
Constable Comment: Interestingly this case focuses on funding provided directly to the disabled person but it acknowledges at least two other ways in which these funds are distributed; the money is held and distributed by the NHS or, alternatively, by an independent third party. The VAT liability of similar services provided in these circumstances is not commented on in this case. The treatment of such supplies and what constitutes “closely linked with a supply of welfare services” now requires clarification as it could have wide ranging impacts on a variety of service providers dealing with welfare. This case also serves as a reminder that HMRC construes the welfare exemption very narrowly.