There have been a multitude of recent changes to the VAT system, including buying insurance and the treatment of holiday homes.
HMRC have also said that businesses may find it quicker to amend any mistakes on their VAT returns themselves, rather than wait for the tax authorities to do so.
Clarification of VAT rules on buying insurance
The Court of Appeal decision on 22 April 2010 in Insurancewide.com Services Ltd and Trader Media Group Ltd, both of which provided a similar form of internet ‘click through’ service; directing site users to insurance suppliers and brokers, has resulted in changes to and clarification of what constitutes exempt introductory services in connection with a supply of insurance.
Critically, the court decided that it was not necessary for there to be intermediation of the insurance contracts, and the click through services were exempt because they involved much more than just that.
For example, the click through services provided a means of access to insurers who could offer a range of relevant products, and those who ‘clicked through’ were looking for insurance, and they appraises and selected insurers according to the competitiveness of their pricing and products and their level of customer service.
These, as well as other factors, led the court to conclude that the services in question constituted the business of bringing together insurers and those seeking insurance, rather than being supplied in a sub-contract capacity.
It’s also important to note that an insurance broker or agent should be defined for VAT purposes by what they do, and not by how they describe themselves, and whether or not they fall within the definition of an insurance intermediary for regulatory purposes.
HMRC accepted this decision, and will now allow the exemption where the service provider is providing much more than acting as a ‘mere conduit’ between insurance seeker and provider. ‘Much more’ is obviously subjective, so HMRC have published some guidelines regarding their view.
HMRC have said that the person must be in the business of putting insurance suppliers in touch with potential clients or more generally acting as intermediaries, whether or not his is their main business activity; they must supply the ‘means’ of introduction to the insurance supplier or another intermediary; the introduction must be at a time a potential customer is seeking a supply of insurance, whether or not it is concluded, and the services involve playing a proactive role in putting in place the necessary arrangements for the introduction.
Businesses that have applied the standard rate to their introductory services, which they now consider exempt as a result of this decision, may submit a claim to HMRC, which will be subject to the capping and unjust enrichment rules.
New VAT rules for the treatment of holiday homes
Private individuals building their own new dwellings are able to claim VAT on the goods they buy for the purpose, and those converting non-residential buildings into dwellings can claim the VAT on goods and conversion services, under the DIY house-builders scheme.
The reason for this is to ensure that they are not at a disadvantage to those who buy such buildings from a third party builder or converter would not pay VAT, because such supplies are zero-rated.
Following a VAT Tribunal decision (Mrs Irene Susan Jennings), HMRC accepts that the scheme should also apply to dwellings individuals acquire as holiday homes; when they are not going to use them for business purposes.
So, the scheme now applies to such homes provided the person acquiring or converting will not hire it out to third parties. All the normal conditions of the scheme apply.
HMRC are now inviting retrospective claims from private individuals who have constructed new holiday homes or converted non-residential buildings into homes, for non-business use, where the certificate of completion was issued on or after 15 March 2006.
Where claims have already been made for holiday homes, but been refused, they may be resubmitted on the original form.
All claims must be accompanied by the usual supporting documentation such as planning permission, a certificate of completion, all the original VAT invoices, building plans, bills and credit notes.
Clearly, the planned usage of a holiday home will not necessarily be VAT-driven. However, those acquiring or converting relevant buildings should now take these changes into account in their financial projections.
Quicker if Businesses amend their own VAT mistakes
Businesses have been advised by HMRC that it may be quicker if they were to correct any errors made in previous VAT returns themselves. HMRC said that if firms correct the errors, it will ensure the problem is resolved quickly, and, if they are due a repayment, they may get it sooner.
HMRC has found that many of the mistakes reported to their Error Correction Team could have been amended and adjusted by the customer.
Currently, there is a six to eight week delay in processing corrections.
Guidance on correcting VAT return mistakes can be found at: http://www.keepers.info/blog/bid/47448/Correcting-VAT-Errors
Find More Update Passport Articles