I often get asked for ‘Rules of Thumb’ for small businesses, so I have searched the internet and compiled this list, do you agree with the ‘Rules’?
Rules of Thumb are just a starting point and many other factors need to be considered in valuing a business, it also worth considering HMRC’s views (not so good for Chefs and Hairdressers)..
Any goodwill attributable to the personal skills of the proprietor, for example the personal skills of a chef or a hairdresser, will not be transferred to the new proprietor. Advice should be obtained from the CG Technical Group if it is claimed that the goodwill attributable to the personal skills of the proprietor have been transferred with the business because his/her services have been retained for the foreseeable future by means of an employment contract. All of the relevant facts and circumstances should be established before referral to the CG Technical Group.
Normally the sale of the assets of a VAT registered or VAT registerable business will be subject to VAT at the appropriate rate. A transfer of a business as a going concern for VAT purposes (TOGC) however is the sale of a business including assets which must be treated as a matter of law, as ‘neither a supply of goods nor a supply of services’ by virtue of meeting certain conditions. Where the sale meets the conditions then the supply is outside the scope of VAT and therefore VAT is not chargeable.
It is important to be aware that the TOGC rules are mandatory and not optional. So it is important to establish from the outset whether the sale is or is not a TOGC.
The main conditions are:
- the assets must be sold as part of the transfer of a ‘business’ as a ‘going concern’
- the assets are to be used by the purchaser with the intention of carrying on the same kind of ‘business’ as the seller (but not necessarily identical)
- where the seller is a taxable person, the purchaser must be a taxable person already or become one as the result of the transfer
- in respect of land which would be standard rated if it were supplied, the purchaser must notify HMRC that he has opted to tax the land by the relevant date, and must notify the seller that their option has not been disapplied by the same date
- where only part of the ‘business’ is sold it must be capable of operating separately
- there must not be a series of immediately consecutive transfers of ‘business’
The TOGC rules are compulsory. You cannot choose to ‘opt out’. So, it is very important that you establish from the outset whether the business is being sold as a TOGC. Incorrect treatment could result in corrective action by HMRC which may attract a penalty and or interest.
- Gap in trading – for TOGC to apply there must be no significant gap in trading between the sale and purchase
- VAT registration – If the vendor is VAT registered, there can only be a VAT-free TOGC if the purchaser is registered at or before the transfer
- Buying part of a business – the part being bought must be capable of separate operation
- A series of sales – it may not be possible for one of the parties to carry on the trade
- Staged Sales – As long as the overall result is that of business transfer these should qualify for TOGC
Basically HMRC disallow Input VAT relating to Investments.
The most well known example of this was when BAA purchased Airport Development Investments Limited in June 2006, the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in February 2013.
The BAA VAT group sought to recover the VAT (£6.7m) incurred on the acquisition costs but recovery was refused by HMRC on the basis that they considered ADIL had not made onward taxable supplies, had not demonstrated any intention to make taxable supplies and was not a member of the VAT group at the time costs were incurred.
BAA used an SPV (Ferrovial) to purchase ADIL but did not bring the SPV into the BAA VAT Group until September 2006, 3 months after the acquisition.
The lessons to learn from this are:
- Once you have successfully made the acquisition join a VAT Group immediately and make it clear in correspondence that the SPV intends to join the VAT Group at the earliest opportunity
- Consider not using an SPV
- Buy the Assets instead of the Shares
- Show that the SPV will make taxable management charges
- Consider the scope of the advisors work, HMRC may disallow advice focussed on passively holding shares