A desktop with a pad, calculator and tape measure

One Size Fits All? VAT recovery positions

During the time of year when many businesses are preparing their partial exemption and business/non business calculations, as a default position, HMRC expects businesses to use their income to calculate the amount of VAT incurred on overhead costs which is recoverable.

Whilst using income is a 'one size fits all' approach that works for the average business, it may also be that one size doesn’t really fit very many at all, because very few clients are actually 'average'.

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Capital Goods Scheme – change of intended use and the VAT complications

An interesting question we had recently through one of our client helpdesks perfectly illustrates the complexities of VAT and property and the Capital Good Schemes (CGS);

The Capital Goods Scheme is the mechanism by which “capital items” falling within the scheme are subject to 9 adjustments of the initial VAT recovery with reference to changes in their taxable use. It only applies to investment buildings as buildings for sale will be “stock” rather than “capital”.

The Houses of Parliament in London

Our ideal VAT reform – after another quiet budget.

Other countries do VAT differently –Those that have introduced VAT (or GST) in the more recent past, Australia for example, have arguably made it more fit for today’s world. Our VAT system is well rooted in history (some of it coming from the old purchase tax which predates the introduction of VAT in 1973). After another quiet Budget from a VAT perspective got us thinking about what we would really like to see to move VAT forward.

4 people with question marks on their foreheads

Are you asking the right questions?

VAT is a transaction tax and each transaction has a VAT consequence. If VAT is overlooked it is difficult to mitigate the VAT fallout after the transaction has happened. We are sure that those taking the time to read this article expend huge efforts in providing the best service to their clients, but might there be an element to your service that is missing because you don’t know what questions to ask them to anticipate any VAT challenges?

4 red apples, each one eaten slightly more

Capacity Crunch: Building a VAT pipeline

Senior VAT staff are under immense pressure to build a sustainable and growing pipeline. Unlike almost all other accountancy departments, specialist VAT advice does not usually have a regular, repeating revenue stream. This means that senior members of the VAT department must be constantly working on business development. Either nurturing existing relationships, educating, persuading and closing new clients, or trawling through audits looking for opportunities that may or may not be present. This is incredibly labour intensive, especially as the nature of VAT means that clients are often unaware of the VAT implications and need to be educated before they can even make a buying decision. Typically, when accountancy firms approach The VAT Team, their senior staff are approaching 80% billable and the organisation is starting to suffer.

People holding blank speech bubbles

The great zero rated debate – does it achieve its aims?

This year’s Autumn statement was by no means groundbreaking for VAT, so this year our commentary is around the extension of reliefs and specifically what it means for goods and services to be zero rated. We will cover the benefits and potential drawbacks of extending zero rating and explore whether further extensions in the post Brexit era, where the UK has autonomy over such reliefs within the VAT system, are worthy of consideration.

Lettered dice spelling out Outsourcing

Realities of Outsourcing

Many accountancy firms struggle with the idea of outsourcing potentially billable work. We hear the initial objections of ”it costs more than doing it inhouse” or “it's opening up further risk” often. Work is often outsourced at times of crisis and desperate need to cover recruitment or skills gap, or to assist with an urgent project. However, when the true cost of internal VAT provision is factored, it suddenly becomes an attractive prospect for Firm’s looking to build a VAT provision.

We’ve taken a look at typical sized mid-tier firm and what costs they would incur with recruitment of, and maintaining, an internal VAT consultant versus outsourcing and it makes for interesting reading.

A desk with screens showing infographic progress charts

The Impossible Dilemma – Capacity V Demand

Anticipating, scheduling, and satisfying demand profitably is the cornerstone of any business success. Accountancy firms typically have predictable annual demand for the bulk of their services, albeit with surge periods. Audit clients can be reliably scheduled for annual work. The hours and expertise required are relatively easy to predict based on size and previous experience. By looking at the client base in aggregate, auxiliary services can also be estimated and planned for with reasonable accuracy. The exception to this rule is VAT advisory work. The transaction-based nature, and increasingly frequent changes resulting from case law and policy updates, mean that attempting provide VAT services using 100% in-house resources is putting many firms’ profitability and/or reputation at risk.

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VAT Registration Threshold suppresses UK economy, but what is the answer?

The blank canvass that Brexit granted for VAT law remained untouched, without so much as a tentative brush stroke, in the Budget a few weeks ago. With the budget announcements being well covered on social media and the press, our Managing Director, Rebecca Porter, considers the impact of VAT registration threshold freeze to smaller businesses in real terms.

Chess board with plan of battle drawn on it

VAT is Like Chess - Sometimes the Key to Victory is the Piece you Sacrifice

Solving VAT problems for clients can be a little like playing chess. Failure to move the pieces in the right order can cost you the win in chess, and failure to execute VAT solutions in the right way can cost an organisation more than doing nothing.

There are times in a game of chess where sacrificing a star piece is worth the strategic advantage gained. The same can be true of VAT, and in this case, I’m thinking about VAT exemption.

In theory VAT exemption is valuable in that it removes VAT from the onward supply. Therefore, when the sale value and VAT lost thereon exceeds the costs of making the sale and the VAT incurred, the seller retains more profit. This is because more of the sales value is retained in the supplying organisation and, where this is the case, calling the VAT exemption a relief appears to fit.

Keyboard with a VAT translate button

Parlez Vous VAT? The Art of Making VAT Advice Make Sense

Wouldn’t it be helpful if translation websites had a “VAT” option in the language to translate?

Ever had a lengthy email from a VAT consultant that feels a bit longwinded? I bet you have, but maybe we can help you see why.

Part of the problem with VAT is many of the terms used in the VAT legislation and developed from guidance and case law include ordinary words and phrases which are then specifically defined for VAT. These include “dwellings”, “domestic use”, “charitable use”, de-minimis", “capital items” “electronically supplied” and “cake”! Add to those the words and phrases that don’t me anything unless we explain what they refer to such as “reverse charge”, “golden brick”, “PVD”, “self-supply charge”, “PVA”(Postponed VAT Accounting - Not glue!) and “MOSS” you can see why de-coding this is vital to being able to properly advise clients.

Leg attached to ball and chain

Would Football Style Contracts be an Own Goal in the VAT Consultant Market?

A recent insight article published by the ICAEW raises the possibility of de-risking new hires in the accountancy market by implementing football style contracts. The proposed contracts would lock new hires into the firm for a defined period, or provide compensation in the form of a pseudo transfer fee, payable by the candidate’s future employer, or even the candidate themselves. The suggestion in the article is that more of a two way street between employer and employee, using signing on fees with agreed progression structures may combine to be “the answer to hanging onto your best people against a backdrop of huge attrition”.

At The VAT Team we are all for innovative ways to deal with staffing woes in the accountancy professions, and since the article is aimed at the sector as a whole, we decided to unpack the analysis from a VAT perspective, with the help of Guy Barrand, Director at BLT and leading recruitment consultant in the indirect tax market.

Electric Vehicles Charging

Is Government Policy at Odds with The Law on Public Electric Vehicle Charging?

80% of MPs disagree with the government policy on electric vehicle charging1 - but it turns out, unless there’s some very atypical driving patterns that we are unaware of, so does the law.

Many within the EV sector have voiced annoyance in the media at the standard rate of VAT being applied to electricity purchased to recharge electric vehicles at public charging stations. The VAT Team think this is at odds with the law and that taxpayers with public charge stations may have claims for four years of overpaid tax. In fact, the only EV owners that should be liable to pay the 20% VAT would be those travelling nearly 2,900 miles, every month, solely using public charging points that are all owned by the same supplier. How many people fit that description? Certainly not enough to base an entire policy around.

Child using megaphone the wrong way round

A little VAT knowledge is a dangerous thing

We are all familiar with the saying a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. When clients get their little bit of VAT knowledge from the media or articles purporting to be technical guides it’s easy to realise why we come across so many wild interpretations of the VAT rules. Unfortunately, the noble aim of “keeping it simple”, especially for VAT, leads to the problem of inaccuracy and whilst it may make the subject easier to understand, it also means that taxpayers and non-specialists will be inclined to believe that it is more straight forward than it is for certain scenarios. One thing, however, is certain - unpicking the errors when a too simplistic version of VAT rules has been applied is almost always more costly and damaging than having worked through the complications in the beginning.

Person with underwhelmed facial expression

The Underwhelming VAT Impact of The Spring Statement

Despite Brexit providing the chancellor with free reign in terms of implementing new VAT rates and reliefs, the absence of VAT measures that could have really made a difference was notable in last week’s Spring Statement.

The absence of any extension of the temporary reduced rate in the hospitality and tourism sectors is a real blow for many businesses in these industries.