The Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) process is being replaced by CDS, a modern and flexible system that can handle anticipated future import and export growth.
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Upper Tier Tribunal
1. Splitting Single Supplies
This appeal concerns whether the VAT legislation allows application of a reduced rate of VAT to a component of what is, for VAT purposes, otherwise regarded as a single, standard rated supply. The Appellant had received assessments from HMRC for underpaid output VAT owing to the fact that single supplies were being split between standard and reduced rates of VAT.
A N Checker supplied and installed boilers along with energy-saving materials in domestic properties. The question before the Tribunal was whether the supplies were single supplies subject to either one or two rates of VAT. A N Checker did not argue that the whole supply should benefit from the reduced rate because of the reduced-rated component of the supply but that the reduced-rated component should benefit from the reduced rate despite being part of a single, standard rated supply of the installation of boilers.
The Tribunal found that, in the absence of a legislative provision for apportionment, a component of a single supply does not benefit from a reduced rate when forming part of a single, standard rated supply. It was asserted that, despite ambiguity in the construction of the legislation, there is no presumption in favour of a more liberal application or interpretation of the reduced rating provisions. The appeal was dismissed.
Constable Comment: Whilst certain supplies may be clearly defined and their treatment definitively described in VAT legislation, there are businesses which may make complex supplies of combined goods and services. In light of this decision, these businesses may wish to refresh existing practices and seek professional advice around the VAT treatment of their supplies.
First Tier Tribunal
2. Alteration or Annexe
This decision concerned the VAT liability of construction works undertaken at a church building, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster sought to argue that the construction of a new hall attached to the old building after the remodelling of the church constituted an annexe to an existing building and should qualify for zero-rating. HMRC argued that the new hall constituted an alteration, enlargement or extension and was excluded from the zero-rate.
Prior to the construction, the Church had been separated into two areas, a worship area and a hall. The two were distinct from each other. The new hall had its own doors and was kept separate from the Churches area of worship; the hall being used for social events such as whist drives. The Tribunal considered that the construction work had been carried out in order to expand worship space for the Church and therefore, that the hall was a supplementary structure and an annexe to an already existing building.
The FTT also considered that the annexe could operate separately from the main Church with its own doors, toilet facilities, kitchen and radiators. It is held that the costs incurred were correctly treated as zero-rated by the Diocese.
Constable Comment: This case will be of interest to anyone carrying out construction works. It is prudent to seek professional advice before works begin as if the incorrect rate of VAT is applied throughout a lengthy and expensive project, it is possible that HMRC will seek to recover any input VAT incorrectly claimed or issue VAT penalty assessments if a certificate is issued to a contractor claiming zero-rating in error.
3. DIY Housebuilder’s Scheme
This appeal is against a decision by HMRC to refuse a refund of VAT incurred on the construction of a building as a DIY Housebuilder.
The Appellant received planning permission in 2011 for a proposed building to be used for tourism purposes only. This was an explicit term in the permission and it was specifically stated that the property “…shall not be occupied on a permanent basis.” Following completion of the construction, the DIY VAT refund claim was submitted to HMRC seeking to recover the VAT incurred on the costs of the build.
The VAT repayment was denied on the grounds that the property was only for business purposes; one of the covenants attached to the planning permission being that the property be used for tourism purposes only. HMRC contended that this meant that the property had been constructed in the course of business and so the DIY housebuilders scheme was inapplicable.
Giving a reasonable amount of time to the Appellant’s submissions, the Tribunal found in favour of HMRC and upheld its refusal to repay VAT incurred on the grounds that the intention and planning permission for the development was specifically for business purposes and prohibited domestic use.
Constable Comment: The DIY Housebuilder’s scheme enables people wishing to build their own homes to put themselves on a level playing field with property developers who can recover their input tax provided that they intend to make taxable supplies. It can be a complex process and standards of proof can be very high. If you are considering submitting a DIY Housebuilder’s claim or beginning a project then please do not hesitate to contact Constable VAT. In this case the appellant could have VAT registered voluntarily, supplies of holiday accommodation being standard rated, and reclaimed VAT incurred. VAT would have to have been accounted for on supplies of holiday accommodation moving forward.
Hofmanns Henley Limited (HHL) is a car dealership which agreed the sale of a car to a customer resident in Jersey. It was intended that the Personal Export Scheme be applied to export the car at the zero-rate of VAT. Having agreed the sale and sent the appropriate paperwork to HMRC, the car was supplied to the customer.
HMRC refused the application to use the scheme claiming that HHL did not have the necessary pre-approval to zero-rate the car’s export; whilst the forms had been sent off, they had not been approved prior to the car’s removal from the UK.
HHL conceded that it had made a mistake but asserted that it was, at least in part, the fault of HMRC’s misdirection given over the telephone. HMRC also concede that the incorrect information was given to the Appellant over the ‘phone but state that the complaints in relation to this had been handled separately through the formal grievance procedure.
The Tribunal held in favour of HMRC as the criteria for the application of the Personal Export Scheme had not been met.
Constable Comment: Whilst this case revealed mistakes by both sides it serves to prove an important point. HMRC telephone conversations and Public Notices are not to be relied on as the law. For any high value purchase or acquisition with a potentially complex cross-border transaction and application of a special scheme it is vital to seek professional advice to ensure the highest degree of compliance. In circumstances such as these, HMRC often state “the law is the law” even in cases of official error. Where doubt or ambiguity exists, submitting a non-statutory clearance application to HMRC is the safest approach because HMRC will be bound by this, provided full facts have been presented.
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This email is intended as a general guide to current VAT issues and is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law. No liability is accepted for the opinions it contains or for any errors or omissions.