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10 ways to pay less VAT

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Here are my top 10 ways to pay less VAT

1 Choose the best VAT Scheme for your business

Standard VAT Scheme – on this scheme the VAT is based on tax points from invoices

Flat Rate Scheme – try our calculator

Flat Rate Calculator 2

VAT Cash Accounting Scheme – if your turnover is below £1.35m you can account for VAT on a Cash basis, this is particularly helpful if your customers pay you on slower terms than you pay your suppliers

Annual Accounting Scheme for VAT – if your turnover is below £1.35m you could join the Annual Scheme and complete one return for the year but you make either 9 interim payments or 3 quarterly interim payments

Retail VAT Schemes – These are specific schemes aimed at mainly at shops and help to overcome the issues of mixed vat rate goods

VAT Margin Scheme – The margin scheme relates to second hand goods and accounts for VAT on the margin, for example on the sale of cars

2 Claim Pre-registration VAT

When you register for VAT, 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

Be careful not to over claim – see this blog for details http://stevejbicknell.com/2015/06/24/preregistration-vat-confusion/

3 Property Investors might benefit from a Development Company

Property Development is a trade, where as Property Investment isn’t – renting out a residential property is a VAT exempt supply.

If you are planning significant building work, setting up a Development Company or using a building contractor might save VAT.

Assuming you employ a builder…

The VAT Rules are in VAT Notice 708 Buildings & Construction

Your builder may be able to charge you VAT at the reduced rate of 5 per cent if you are converting premises into:

  • a ‘single household dwelling’
  • a different number of ‘single household dwellings’
  • a ‘multiple occupancy dwelling’, such as bed-sits, or
  • premises intended for use solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’

As your builder will be VAT registered, they reclaim the VAT they are charged and then charge you VAT at 5%.

If your business is property rental and you do the work yourself, you can’t take advantage of the 5% rate.

If your Development Company is VAT registered you can reclaim all the VAT.

4 Do you need to charge VAT on Intercompany Charges

There are situations where one company is VAT registered and other related companies are either partially exempt or not registered for VAT, so in these circumstances not charging VAT is an advantage.

The following are not Taxable supplies for VAT:

Common Directors – Notice 700/34 (May 2012)

Joint Employment – Notice 700/34 (May 2012)

Paying a Bill on behalf of an associated business

Insurance

5 Use VAT Groups for Business Acquisition Costs

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:

  1. 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
  2. Consider not using an SPV
  3. Buy the Assets instead of the Shares
  4. Show that the SPV will make taxable management charges
  5. Consider the scope of the advisors work, HMRC may disallow advice focussed on passively holding shares

6 How Hotels save VAT

Here are some VAT examples for Hotels – HMRC Reference:Notice 709/3 (October 2011) :

The Long Stay Rule

If a guest stays in your establishment for a continuous period of more than 28 days, then from the 29th day of the stay you should charge VAT only on that part of the payment that is not for accommodation.

VAT Exempt Meeting Rooms and Refreshments

Hiring a room for a meeting, or letting of shops and display cases are generally exempt, but you may choose to standard-rate them by opting to tax, see Notice 742A Opting to tax land and buildings.

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.

7 VAT on Pool Cars

When you buy a car you generally can’t reclaim the VAT. There are some exceptions – for example, when the car is used mainly as one of the following:

  • a taxi
  • for driving instruction
  • for self-drive hire

If you lease a car for business purposes you’ll normally be able to reclaim 50 per cent of the VAT you pay. But you can reclaim 100 per cent of the VAT if the car is used exclusively for a business purpose.

8 Use a Tronc for Tips

Tips are outside the scope of VAT when genuinely freely given. This is so regardless of whether:

• the customer requires the amount to be included on the bill
• payment is made by cheque or credit/debit card
• or not the amount is passed to employees.

Restaurant service charges are part of the consideration for the underlying supply of the meals if customers are required to pay them and are therefore
standard rated.

If customers have a genuine option as to whether to pay the service charges, it is accepted that they are not consideration (even if the amounts appear on the invoice) and therefore fall outside the scope of VAT.

Further information is available from: Notices 700 The VAT guide and 709/1 Catering and takeaway food

9 Get your TOGC right – Transfer of a Going Concern

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.

10 Choose the best time to register for VAT

You may decide to voluntarily register to reclaim VAT you have paid out to set up you business or you might decide to wait till you have to register to gain a competitive advantage.

You must register for VAT if:

  • your VAT taxable turnover is more than £82,000 (the ‘threshold’) in a 12 month period
  • you receive goods in the UK from the EU worth more than £82,000
  • you expect to go over the threshold in a single 30 day period

steve@bicknells.net


1 Comment

  1. Tracey says:

    Good post – thank you

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