How much VAT can you claim back for expenses before you became VAT Registered?

You don’t have to wait till you hit the £85,000 threshold to register for VAT, you can voluntarily register even before you make your first taxable supply (sale). You can even back date the registration!

VATREG21550 – Voluntary registration: intending traders: what is an intending trader?

An intending trader is a person who, on the date of the registration request:

  • is carrying on a business
  • has not started making taxable supplies
  • has an intention to make taxable supplies in the future.

Intending traders normally seek registration from a current date in order to reclaim input tax incurred in the setting up and development of their business. In some cases, the amounts involved may be substantial and cover a long period of time.

VATREG21650 – Voluntary registration: intending traders: requests from an intending trader for retrospective registration

Requests for backdating an EDR in cases of voluntary registration can only be considered at the time of initial application: see VATREG21150.

When you are considering such requests, traders must be able to provide evidence that they would have satisfied us at the time (that is, the earlier date requested) that they had a firm intention to make taxable supplies.

What Evidence is needed?

Examples would include

  • potential contracts
  • planning permission
  • items purchased for the business
  • patents applied for
  • application for option to tax land or buildings

What about new companies?

Companies don’t exist until they are formed (incorporated), so they can’t be registered until they exist, but you can still claim for pre-trading expenses, subject to the rules in the next few paragraphs. The VAT is reclaimed by submitting an expense claim to the company on the day the company was created (incorporated).

Purchases made before registration

There’s a time limit for backdating claims for VAT paid before registration. From your date of registration the time limit is:

  • 4 years for goods you still have, or that were used to make other goods you still have
  • 6 months for services

You can only reclaim VAT on purchases for the business now registered for VAT. They must relate to your ‘business purpose’. This means they must relate to VAT taxable goods or services that you supply.

You should reclaim them on your first VAT Return (add them to your Box 4 figure) and keep records including:

  • invoices and receipts
  • a description and purchase dates
  • information about how they relate to your business now

Personal Use

If the purchases have a element of personal use that must be excluded.

For example a mobile phone acquired before the business started or not on a business contract used for personal and business, only the business proportion can be claimed on your VAT return.

If the phone subsequently is replaced with a business contract then the whole cost can be claimed.

What Goods can the 4 year rule be applied to?

A good example would be Stock or Work in Progress and to support your claim you would need

  • Quantities and Descriptions
  • Invoices
  • Details of how they relate to your business now

Fixed Assets would also qualify, for example

  • Computers
  • Desks
  • Office Equipment

However, VIT32000 states a business may not use regulation 111 to recover VAT on supplies that were purchased for non-business or private purposes. The expense is not a business cost and no VAT can ever be recovered, regardless of any subsequent business use. This principle was confirmed in the case of Waterschap Zeeuws Vlaanderen (see VIT62520). For example:

  • an individual buys a van to use for wholly private purposes. Three years later the individual registers for VAT and uses the van exclusively within their business. The VAT paid on the van is permanently outside of the VAT system because there were no business activities at the time the van was bought. The VAT paid on the van can never be brought back in under the terms of regulation 111

What about the 10 year Capital Goods rule?

For capital items within the Capital Goods Scheme and acquired after 1 January 2011 there are different rules.

Capital items are defined as:

  • Land, buildings and civil engineering work or capital expenditure in relation to the same including construction, refurbishment, fitting out, alteration and extension, where the value is more than £250,000 (Land); or
  • Ships, boats or other vessels and aircraft including capital expenditure in relation to the same of construction, refurbishment, fitting out, alteration and extension, where the value is more than £50,000 (Ships and Aircraft); or
  • Single items of computer hardware where the value is over £50,000 (Computers).

Where the goods or services acquired prior to registration are capital items and when the business registers on or after 1 January 2011, even in cases where the registration is backdated to an earlier date, the normal regulation 111 time limits of six months for services and four years for goods on hand may not apply. Instead a business may be able to recover VAT incurred up to ten years prior to registration in respect of land and up to five years prior to registration for other capital items.

What counts as Services?

Examples could include

  • Subcontractors
  • Professional Services from Accountants and Lawyers
  • Software
  • Rent of Premises
  • Telephone and Internet
  • Equipment leasing

The main problem is deciding whether the services have been consumed/used up before registration for example Rent – the rental period could be expired before registration in which case it can’t be claimed (however that might not apply to warehouse holding stock or rent paid in advance). The same issues apply to Telephone and Internet – was the cost to generate future work or past work. In fact most types of service need to be carefully examined as they could be past or future, only those relating to period after registration can be claimed as these costs haven’t been ‘Consumed’.

In order to qualify

  1. The services must be for the business now registered for VAT
  2. Supplied for the purpose of the business and relate to taxable/Vatable activities (ie not exempt activities)
  3. Not related to goods consumed/disposed of before registration, for example if the subcontractor worked on a project sold before the Effective Date of Registration then you can’t claim it

steve@bicknells.net

Hospitality VAT rates – what is going on? Can I use Flat Rate and pay No VAT?

Serviced Accommodation/Furnished Holiday Lets (FHL) are currently enjoying special rates of VAT

The government made an announcement on 8 July 2020 allowing VAT registered businesses to apply a temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT to certain supplies relating to:

  • hospitality
  • hotel and holiday accommodation
  • admissions to certain attractions

The temporary reduced rate will apply to supplies that are made between 15 July 2020 and 31 March 2021.

These changes are being brought in as an urgent response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to support businesses severely affected by forced closures and social distancing measures.

That rate is set to change to a new rate of 12.5% from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022

What is the Flat Rate scheme?

The Flat Rate Scheme is designed to simplify VAT because the Flat Rate % is applied to your turnover including VAT.

It doesn’t change the VAT rate charged to the client it just helps to calculate the VAT to be paid to HMRC.

You can join the Flat Rate Scheme if:

  • you’re a VAT-registered business
  • you expect your VAT taxable turnover to be £150,000 or less (excluding VAT) in the next 12 months
  • you get a 1% discount on the flat rate if you’re in your first year as a VAT-registered business.

You must leave the scheme if:

  • you’re no longer eligible to be in it
  • on the anniversary of joining, your turnover in the last 12 months was more than £230,000 (including VAT) – or you expect it to be in the next 12 months
  • you expect your total income in the next 30 days alone to be more than £230,000 (including VAT)

What are the Flat Rates?

Hotel or accommodation before 15 July 202010.5
Hotel or accommodation from 15 July 2020 to 30 September 20210
Hotel or accommodation from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 20225.5

Why would Flat Rate VAT help?

Example You bill a client for £1,200 including VAT, so thats £1,000 plus 20% VAT.

You’re a Holiday Let, so the VAT flat rate for your business is 0%.

Your flat rate payment will be 0% of £1,200, so nothing to pay

This is great news for Furnished Holiday Lets especially if they are just crossing the £85,000 VAT Threshold

Most Holiday Lets can’t increase their prices to incorporate VAT when they cross the VAT threshold because they would be uncompetitive so VAT is direct hit to their profits.

On the basis that the accommodation fee is unchanged but now includes a VAT element, if Flat Rate is used and the rate is 0% then no VAT is paid to HMRC.

That may not work for every business, it depends on whether you have a high level of VAT expenses which would offset the VAT and could result in a refund for example when you first register you may be able to reclaim VAT on pre-registration costs. Flat Rate restricts the recovery of expenses, you cannot reclaim the VAT on your purchases – except for certain capital assets over £2,000

Its also a problem if you’re classed as a ‘limited cost business’ if your goods cost less than either:

  • 2% of your turnover
  • £1,000 a year (if your costs are more than 2%)

This means you pay a higher flat rate of 16.5%.

steve@bicknells.net

Do you need a certificate from the client to zero rate or reduce rate construction VAT?

Dwellings

The rules are in the VAT Notice 708 and in section 17.1 it states

There’s no requirement to hold a certificate for zero-rated or reduced-rated supplies in connection with buildings that will be used as one of the types of dwelling described at paragraphs 14.2 to 14.5.

Zero Rating – an example would be building a new house

Reduced Rating – this applies to converting a non-residential building to a dwelling or multiple dwellings

If your builder needs further details just point them at VAT Notice 708.

Don’t accept invoices which have the wrong VAT rate on them, even if you can claim the VAT back because HMRC will only accept the recovery of VAT when its charged at the correct rate

When do you need a Certificate?

You need to hold, within your business records, a valid certificate when you make any zero-rated:

  • or reduced-rated supply in connection with a building that will be used solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’ – see paragraph 14.6
  • supply in connection with a building that will be used solely for a ‘relevant charitable purpose’ – see paragraph 14.7

Possession of a valid certificate does not mean that you can automatically zero rate or reduce rate your charge. The certificate merely confirms that the building is intended to be used solely for a qualifying purpose. You must meet all of the conditions explained in the relevant sections of notice 708 to zero rate or reduce rate your supply.

The customer for the zero-rated or reduced-rated work issues the certificate. The certificates at section 18 of VAT Notice 708 can be used, or the issuer can create their own certificate provided it contains the same information and declaration.

The 2 available certificates confirm that you’re either eligible to receive:

  • zero-rated or reduced-rated building work (the certificate can be found at paragraph 18.1)
  • a zero-rated sale or long lease (the certificate can be found at paragraph 18.2)

What if you get it wrong?

If you issue an incorrect certificate, you may be liable to a penalty equivalent to the amount of VAT not charged. A penalty is not VAT and, if you’re registered for VAT, you will not be able to recover it as input tax.

A penalty will not be issued, or will be withdrawn, if you can demonstrate that there’s a reasonable excuse for issuing the incorrect certificate.

What if the use changes?

If you have obtained zero rating for the construction or acquisition of a building (or part of a building) because you certified that it would be used solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’ or a ‘relevant charitable purpose’, HMRC expect that the building will be used solely for either or both of those qualifying purposes for a period of, at least, 10 years following completion of the building.

If the building ceases to used solely for either or both of those qualifying purposes within that 10-year period, if that use decreases or if the building is disposed of, a taxable charge comes about, on which you must account for VAT.

What about Materials?

Retailers and builders merchants charge VAT at the standard rate on most items they sell.

Builders charge VAT on ‘building materials’ that they supply and incorporate in a building (or its site) at the same rate as for their work. Therefore, if their work is zero-rated or reduced-rated, then so are the ‘building materials’. But some items are not ‘building materials’ and remain standard-rated.

steve@bicknells.net

How to Defer VAT – COVID-19

For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

 

All UK businesses are eligible. How to access the scheme

 

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

 

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

steve@bicknells.net

Construction Industry Reverse Charge from October 2019

New VAT rules are coming into force from 1st October 2019 to create a domestic reverse charge for Construction, known as Construction Services Domestic Reverse Charge.

HMRC are introducing the change to combat missing trader fraud.

VAT registered construction clients will need to account for reverse charge as it was a self supply, the supplier won’t charge them VAT. This then removes the risk of deducting input tax when the output tax has never been paid.

The new system will not apply to Zero Rated Supplies.

Unlike some other “reverse charge” schemes, amounts accounted for under the CSDRC will not count towards the VAT registration limit. This means that if a customer is not already required to be registered for VAT, the CSDRC “deemed self-supplies” will not change this.

Subcontractors will see a loss of cashflow under the scheme and its likely to cause issues for customers as they need their Making Tax Digital systems to be able to cope with the change.

Subcontractors also need to be sure that their services are within CSDRC before agreeing not to charge VAT.

CSDRC will follow the CIS rules to determine what is within the scope of CSDRC.

In the first 6 months HMRC has suggested they will apply a light touch to the new rules.

steve@bicknells.net

 

 

The 1614D VAT Dilema

As tax forms go, the 1614D to Disapply an Option to tax is probably one of the most straight forward.

Click to access vat1614d.pdf

The 1614D is used so that the seller won’t charge VAT when selling a building which has been opted to tax where the buy intends to convert to residential.

Basically it says – who are you, who is the seller and what is the property? – that’s nice and simple, what could possibly go wrong?

Its great for the purchaser as they don’t have to wait to recover the VAT.

The potential downside is for the seller, let say you originally bought the property for your business and only later decided to rent it out and Opt to tax. The issues are:

  1. Because its an exempt supply the seller can’t recover any VAT related to the sale
  2. The biggest potential problem is the Capital Good scheme which have a 10 year adjustment period, if you sell within this period you will have to pay back to HMRC some of the VAT

If you acquire or create an expensive capital asset, or already have one when you register for VAT, you may have to adjust the amount of VAT you reclaim. You do this by using the Capital Goods Scheme, which allows you to spread the initial VAT claimed over a number of years. You can reclaim more if the proportion of your taxable supplies increases, you’ll have to repay some if it decreases. Taxable supplies are the sales that you make which are standard, reduced or zero-rated.

You’ll have to use the Capital Goods Scheme if you spend £250,000 (excluding VAT) or more on:

  • buying land, a building or part of a building or civil engineering work
  • constructing a building or civil engineering work
  • refurbishing, fitting out, altering or extending a building or civil engineering work

Civil engineering work includes things like roads, bridges, golf courses, running tracks and the installation of pipes for connecting to mains services.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-capital-goods-scheme-and-capital-assets

steve@bicknells.net

 

 

 

Are Rental Property Service Charges Vatable?

Residential Service Charge Accountant Hiring Now. 3D.

Within a property lease the landlord often agrees to be responsible for:

  • repairs and maintenance to the building
  • the management of repairs and maintenance
  • management of the lease
  • provision of security
  • provision of utilities
  • reception
  • insurance
  • other services

The critical factor in whether they are vatable of not is wording of the lease.

If they are additional consideration to the main supply of rent they will be treated the same as the rent, which for residential usually means they are exempt (unless its a commercial property opted to tax).

However, if the lease doesn’t specifically cover these costs then they will be standard rated for VAT!

Management Agents will be supplying the landlord not the tenants so their costs will always be standard rated unless the extra-statutory concession is applied.

If you provide services to freehold owners of dwellings your supply is taxable because there is no supply of domestic accommodation to link those services to. However this is unfair to freehold owners, especially those living on the same estate as leaseholders. To address this inequity an extra-statutory concession allows all mandatory service charges paid by occupants of dwellings toward the:

(a) upkeep of the common areas of a housing estate, such as paths, driveways and communal gardens; or

(b) upkeep of the common areas of a block of flats, such as lift maintenance, corridors, stairwells and general lounges; and

(c) general maintenance of the exterior of the block of flats or individual dwellings, such as painting, and

(d) provision of an estate warden, house manager or caretaker,

to be treated as exempt from VAT.

Where you apply the concession and treat the service charges as exempt your right to recover the associated input tax may be restricted. This may also have an impact on your eligibility to remain registered for VAT.

To read the rules in more detail see VAT Notice 742

steve@bicknells.net

 

What is an Option to Tax on Property?

Office Building An office building with glass windows on a sunny day.

Opting to Tax refers to Commercial Properties and VAT.

Supplies of land and buildings, such as freehold sales, leasing or renting, are normally exempt from VAT. This means that no VAT is payable, but the person making the supply cannot normally recover any of the VAT incurred on their own expenses.

However, you can opt to tax land. For the purposes of VAT, the term ‘land’ includes any buildings or structures permanently affixed to it. You don’t need to own the land in order to opt to tax. Once you have opted to tax all the supplies you make of your interest in the land or buildings will normally be standard rated, and you will normally be able to recover any VAT you incur in making those supplies.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-742a-opting-to-tax-land-and-buildings/vat-notice-742a-opting-to-tax-land-and-buildings

If you are buying a building for your business to use and your business is VAT registered you may be able to recover the VAT without opting to Tax.

However, most commercial landlords will opt to tax so that they can recover their VAT. They will then charge VAT to their tenants.

When you sell the building as an investment its generally the case that the buyer will want to register for VAT so that the transfer will be within the Transfer of a Going Concern (TOGC) rules to avoid getting stuck with a VAT bill.

If your buyer is a pension scheme they can register for VAT to benefit from TOGC.

If you sell to a developer who will be converting from Commercial to Residential TOGC will not apply but the developer will be able to recover the VAT as they will be developing the a Zero rated Residential Property.

It is also possible to ask for a belated Option to Tax (Section 4.2.1 Notice 742A)

HMRC will normally accept a belated notification if you provide:

  • direct documentary evidence that the decision was made at the relevant time (eg copies of correspondence with third parties referring to the option to tax)
  • evidence that output tax has been charged and accounted for and input tax claimed in accordance with the option and a responsible person (such as a director) provides a written declaration that the decision to opt was made at the relevant time and that all relevant facts have been given

HMRC might accept a belated notification in other circumstances. This will depend on the facts of your case.

The option is applied for using VAT 1614A.

steve@bicknells.net

 

 

What are the VAT rules for Serviced Accommodation?

Business couple in formal wear traveling

Residential Rent is an Exempt Supply for VAT, however, Serviced Accommodation isn’t, its treated as Holiday Accommodation.

Holiday accommodation includes, but is not restricted to, any house, flat, chalet, villa, beach hut, tent, caravan, or houseboat.

If you supply holiday accommodation, or a site for such accommodation, you must account for VAT at the standard rate on any charges that you make regardless of the length of occupation or description of the charges.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-7093-hotels-and-holiday-accommodation/vat-notice-7093-hotels-and-holiday-accommodation#holiday-homes

The problem with VAT is that if you promote your serviced accommodation to the general public it will either make it 20% more expensive for them or reduce your profit!

So lets look at somethings that might help

VAT Registration

You can’t charge VAT unless you are registered for VAT and you don’t have to register until your turnover hits £85,000.

VAT taxable turnover is the total value of everything you sell that isn’t exempt from VAT.

You must register for VAT with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if it goes over the current registration threshold in a rolling 12-month period. This isn’t a fixed period like the tax year or the calendar year – it could be any period, eg the start of June to the end of May.

VAT Flat Rate Scheme

There were changes to the VAT Flat Rate Scheme in April 2017 the changes are aimed mainly at low cost traders, we don’t know the full details yet.

A Low or Limited Cost Trader would spend less than 2% on gross turnover, or less than £1000 on the purchase of goods.

Assuming that the changes don’t affect Hotels and Holiday Accommodation, Flat Rate could save you VAT.

To join the scheme your VAT turnover must be £150,000 or less (excluding VAT), and you must apply to HMRC.

With the Flat Rate Scheme:

The Flat Rate for Hotels and Accommodation is 10.5%

Example

You bill a client for £1,000, adding VAT at 20% to make £1,200 in total.

You’re selling serviced accommodation, so the VAT flat rate for your business is 10.5%.

Your flat rate payment will be 10.5% of £1,200, or £126.

Separate Businesses

Provided there are commercial reasons why you should have separate businesses or companies, then each business would have the £83,000 registration threshold

The rules are set out in HMRC manuals and in this blog

Are your businesses really separate for VAT purposes?

VAT on Deposits

Most deposits serve as advanced payments, and you must account for VAT in the return period in which you receive the payment. If you have to refund a deposit, you can reclaim any VAT you have accounted for in your next return.

Normally, if you make a cancellation charge to a guest who cancels a booking, VAT is not due, because it is compensation. This includes amounts debited from credit cards using details provided at the time of the booking. Where the cancellation charge takes the form of a retained deposit, you can reclaim any VAT already accounted for as an adjustment to your next return.

steve@bicknells.net

Common Sense VAT for Digital Services

EU

Since 1st January 2015 VAT has been charged in the country where the customer has ‘use and enjoyment’ of the services.

So lets say you are an American (normally zero rated) on holiday in France, even though you pay with an American credit card and buy from a UK supplier because you are reading your ebook in France, French VAT will apply. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it.

To help with this HMRC introduced the VAT MOSS (Mini One Stop Shop).

But now, at last, it looks like common sense will prevail for small businesses.

The European Commission is proposing a threshold of €10,000 in online sales per annum before MOSS rules would apply. Businesses trading under that threshold will be able to apply domestic VAT rules. In support of this proposal, the Commission revealed that just 0.1% of all MOSS revenue has come from returns with a declared turnover of under €10,000.

In addition to the €10k threshold, SMEs which make less than €100,000 in cross-border sales will no longer be required to provide two pieces of data to prove the place of supply of their customers. This requirement had resulted in businesses spending thousands of pounds to reprogram their e-commerce operations in order to collect trivial amounts of European VAT. The EC now says that one piece of evidence will suffice for traders of e-services. Accountingweb

Hooray for common sense!

steve@bicknells.net