Disclosure of VAT Avoidance Schemes
The new political reality is that HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) are under increasing pressure from the Government to to maximise the ‘tax-take’ for the public purse.
It used to be the case that tax-payers could legitimately arrange their tax affairs so that anything not considered to be evasion was permissible. By and large there was no question that one could legitimately minimise one’s tax liability within any lawful means available. The duty to disclose one’s arrangements did not exist beyond very limited specified circumstances. All this has now changed.
The rules relating to disclosure of avoidance schemes within the context of VAT follow the spirit of the rule changes that we have seen in relation to Corporation Tax and Income Tax.
WHAT MUST I TELL HMRC ABOUT?
Subject to the Trigger Event (detailed below), and the minimum thresholds being met, Taxable Persons who knowingly take part in a scheme of avoidance must tell HMRC about the following transactions-
1. ‘Listed Schemes’
2. Arrangements and Transactions that include or are associated with at least one of a range of designated provisions that are often linked with avoidance. These are referred to in the legislation as the ‘Hallmark Schemes’
THE LISTED SCHEMES
THE HALLMARKS OF A VAT AVOIDANCE SCHEME
HMRC prescribe the following types of arrangements or agreement terms as having the ‘hallmarks’ of an avoidance scheme (and ought to be accordingly notifiable to HMRC) –
THE TRIGGER FOR DISCLOSURE
Participation in either a Listed Scheme or an arrangement that bears the ‘Hallmark” of avoidance does not of itself require a disclosure to be made to HMRC. The requirement to disclose is prompted when one of the following occurs –
Even in circumstances in which the Trigger Event occurs a disclosable arrangement does not arise unless the minimum threshold amounts are exceeded.
A Taxable Person’s turnover exceeds the minimum threshold when the total amount of taxable and exempt supplies made by that Taxable Person is, or is greater than:
(a) £600,000 in the year immediately prior to the VAT accounting period that triggers notification, or
(b) the appropriate proportion of £600,000 in the VAT accounting period immediately prior to the VAT accounting period that triggers notification. (For example, the ‘appropriate proportion’ is one twelfth of £600,000 (ie, £50,000) where the VAT accounting period is one month; and one quarter of £600,000 (ie, £150,000) where the VAT accounting period is three months.)
AT WHAT TIME MUST I NOTIFY HMRC?
The notification to HMRC must be made within 30 days of the following events –
PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO NOTIFY
The failure to notify HMRC in accordance with these rules can result in the following –
1. 15% of the VAT saved for listed schemes; and
2. £5,000 for Hallmarked Schemes
The implementation of these penalties are subject to a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’. Therefore, if you had a reasonable excuse for failing to notify HMRC a penalty may not be imposed.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
You may need advice about whether you need to disclose your taxable arrangements and early advice should be taken in this regard.
Similarly, where HMRC seek to enforce penalties arising from a failure to disclose advice ought to be obtained as to whether a defence or mitigation is available and the process needed to be followed.
To discuss any contentious tax matter please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07821 976218.
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