Tax and Insolvency Litigation Solicitor

Disclosure: VAT Avoidance Schemes

Posted In: News, Tax Disputes

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.


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’


  • Scheme 1 – The first grant of a major interest in a building
  • Scheme 2 – Payment handling services
  • Scheme 3 – Value shifting
  • Scheme 4 – Leaseback agreements
  • Scheme 5 – Extended approval periods
  • Scheme 6 – Groups: third party suppliers
  • Scheme 7 – Education and training by a non-profit making body
  • Scheme 8 – Education and training by a non-eligible body
  • Scheme 9 – Cross-border face-value vouchers, and
  • Scheme 10 – Surrender of a relevant lease


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) –

  • confidentiality condition agreements
  • agreements to share a tax advantage
  • contingent fee agreements
  • prepayments between connected parties
  • funding by loans, share subscriptions or subscriptions in securities
  • off-shore loops
  • property transactions between connected persons, and
  • the issue of face-value vouchers


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 –

  • you show in a VAT return, in respect of any VAT accounting period starting on or after 1 August 2004, a higher or lower net amount of VAT than would be the case but for the listed scheme
  • you make a claim (such as by submitting a voluntary disclosure), in respect of any VAT accounting period starting on or after 1 August 2004 for which a VAT return has been submitted, for the repayment of output tax over-declared or input tax credit under-claimed that is greater than would be the case but for the listed scheme
  • the amount of non-deductible VAT you incur, in respect of any VAT accounting period starting on or after 1 August 2005, would have been higher but for the listed scheme


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.)


The notification to HMRC must be made within 30 days of the following events –

  • in the case of the net amount of VAT shown in a VAT return being different to what would otherwise be the case, the due date for making the return
  • in the case of a claim being made that is greater than would otherwise be the case, the making of the claim, or
  • in the case of the amount of your non-deductible VAT in respect of a VAT accounting period being less than would otherwise be the case, the due date for making a return in respect of that accounting period


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.


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 or call 07821 976218.

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