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Blog posts tagged VAT

All you need to know about the VAT increase

December 01, 2010 by Justin Randall - Accountant London

There is now just over a month remaining before the standard rate of VAT climbs from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent. VAT-registered businesses are being urged to prepare themselves for the change.

Any sales of standard-rated goods or services made on or after 4 January 2011 must carry a VAT charge of 20 per cent. All VAT invoices must charge the 20 per cent on bills raised on or after 4 January.

Retail businesses do not have to pass the increase on to customers, but they will have to pay HMRC the additional VAT.

If a customer pays on or after 4 January for an item that has been collected or delivered prior to the 4 January, the sale is normally deemed to have occurred before the changeover and the old 17.5 per cent rate applies.

Where the supply of services is continuous (ie a consultancy service), a business must charge VAT at 20 per cent on invoices issued and payments received on or after 4 January. It can, however, apply the 17.5 per cent rate for the services that have been supplied up to 3 January and the 20 per cent rate thereafter.

Moreover, from 4 January 2011 there will be a new list of flat rate percentages. The threshold for joining the scheme will remain at £150,000 in respect of income in the next 12 months and the exit threshold will increase from £225,000 to £230,000.

Non VAT-registered businesses should consider making any large purchases prior to 4 January and expect the cost of standard rated supplies to increase by 2.5 per cent. The VAT registration threshold of £70,000 remains the same.

VAT registered businesses that have questions about the time of supply and the tax point for any VAT transaction should contact their accountant to make sure the relationship between the two is correct. Zero-rated (0 per cent) and reduced-rated sales (5 per cent) will see no change.

You can visit the Jeffreys Henry LLP website at www.jeffreyshenry.com

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The importance of family and friends when starting a business

June 18, 2010 by Chris Barling

I would like to look at an aspect of starting a business that isn’t often considered. Mostly discussions are about finance, marketing, recruiting a great team, VAT, legals and all of the other stuff of start ups. But most people need the support of family, friends, and partners. Start ups are hard, and you must be sure that everyone is with you, everyone is supporting you, and everyone understands what you are doing.

My decision to start a new business was made jointly with my wife. Although she’s had limited involvement in the management, she was a full participant in the original decision. And as a result, she has supported me in every up and down since then, which has been a real help. Similarly, my sister and a friend both lent me money when we had an early cash flow crisis. They wouldn’t have done this if they hadn’t been taken on the journey beforehand.

And that’s the rub. If people close to you aren’t with you, they may be a source of discouragement. In the extreme, broken relationships can greatly increase the chance of business failure. I’ve actually seen this with a friend, where they ultimately ended up with nothing. On the other hand, constant encouragement and reassurance can be a real help – as can financial support.

If you start a business, it won’t only affect you, it will impact those close to you as well. They deserve to be told what that will involve and to be consulted for their opinions. Do this, and you will increase your chances of success significantly.

Chris Barling is Chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck

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How the Government should handle a VAT increase to help businesses

May 05, 2010 by Adam Ewart

The Liberal Democrats have come under some fire for a negative campaign tactic of claiming that the Conservatives will not commit to saying they will not raise VAT. The reason for the criticism is that the Liberals will themselves not commit to saying they won’t raise VAT either.

I believe the decision taken to lower VAT to 15 per cent was a good one, but was marketed wrongly. It as presented to the general public as a saving across the board. But, as a member of the public who buys different things in his shopping every week, a saving of a couple of per cent was not noticeable on my Tesco receipt.

However, as a director of a company with VAT returns running into thousands of pounds, the VAT decrease was genuinely helpful. To my customers, saving £1 on a violin was irrelevant. Our products are priced to sell, so I decided not to pass on the VAT saving but instead to raise all of our prices.

To the customer, the prices remained exactly the same. But the few thousand pounds I saved by doing this probably saved a job.

If VAT is raised, I would like to see the Government promote it as a rise on the price of all products, just as last year they promoted it as a reduction on all products. But this is not likely. And, without a strong message that this is a universal price rise, many small companies scared of lifting their prices will try to absorb the extra tax themselves. This will be severely to their detriment.

Moving across the VAT threshold is one of the most difficult barriers for the emerging small business and a higher rate of VAT will only add to the burden. I would hope that on the day that VAT is raised, so, too, is the turnover threshold at which a business must register for VAT – and by a considerable amount.

I could write further on many more issues from mortgages for the self-employed to my belief that the Conservative’s recent deluge of signatures from business leaders is a boring stunt with no real message for the struggling small business.

Clearly, business leaders will sign up against any tax that would befall them, so it’s a shame the Tories didn’t use this platform to announce other more relevant, more helpful, business- centric manifesto pledges… but I said I wasn’t going to write about that, so I must stop.

Whoever you vote for at this election, I encourage you to actually use them. More than once, my company has written to elected representatives and you know what? Some of them are actually out to help us – it’s not all house swapping and duck houses!

Adam Ewart, Karacha

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When to register for VAT

January 22, 2010 by Robert Killington

There are many excellent articles around on when to register for VAT, including the one on the Start Up Donut, so I'll try not to repeat what is already available.

So, you’ve recently set up or are about to start your business and you want to know what to do about VAT. You should do this when you draw up your business plan and cashflow forecasts, because it could affect your profitability.

What’s the first thing you need to do? Find out the VAT treatment of what you’re selling. The key questions are: would you have to charge VAT if you were VAT-registered? If not, is that because your supplies are exempt from VAT or zero-rated?

This latter point is an important distinction. In simple terms:

  • if they are zero-rated, you can reclaim VAT you pay on your expenses.
  • if they are exempt, you won’t be able to register or reclaim the VAT on your expenses.

If you fall in the latter category, there’s no need to read on.

Otherwise, what you do is liable to VAT at 0%, 5% and/or 17.5%. How do you work out when to register?

The registration limit is based on the value of your taxable supplies (ie the value of what you’ve sold that attracts VAT, in the past 12 months).

Keep track of this by recording at the end of each month what your taxable turnover has been. Add up the past 12 months to see whether you've gone over the registration limit. If so, you need to apply for VAT registration within 30 days of the end of the month in which your turnover went over the limit.

If you went over the registration limit in less than 12 months, you should still apply to register at the end of that month. Don't wait for the end of a 12-month period or you might find yourself liable to a penalty.

Should you apply to register for VAT before you go over the registration limit? That’s a very difficult question to answer and one that can only be determined by you with help from your advisers. There can be benefits to being registered for VAT, particularly where you customers are wholly or mainly businesses that are VAT registered. They will be able to recover the VAT you charge. Some suggest that being registered gives your business a certain credibility, after all, who would register for VAT unless they had to?

One thing that makes this decision a bit of a no-brainer is if you are only selling things that are zero-rated because you will get back the VAT on your expenses, but not have to account for VAT on your sales. This way you get paid by HMRC when you put in a VAT return. The only thing you should consider is whether you will be claiming back enough VAT to make the hassle worthwhile.

Robert Killington, VATark

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Online filing tips for the January deadline

January 15, 2010 by Julian Shaw

The deadline for submitting your tax return is fast-approaching. Below are some tips to help make this an easier process.

31 January deadline

If you have a tax return and do not file it on time you will be fined £100.

If the return was issued in April 2009, or any time up to 31 October 2009, it must be submitted by midnight on Sunday 31 January 2010, with a very small number of exceptions.

(If you were sent a return after 31 October 2009, you have three months from the date it was issued. You can file it online or by paper, and the guidance below does not apply to you.)

If HMRC receive your tax return after 31 January you'll get a late filing penalty of £100. 

Avoiding Penalties

If you pay all the tax you owe by 31 January you will not need to pay the penalty. 

Submitting your tax return

You will now need to send your return online. If you send in a paper version at this stage, even before 31 January, you will be fined £100.

If you have previously filed online you can use the same system as last time.

You will need your user ID, which was sent by HMRC when you first registered. If you cannot find it, go to the HMRC online filing site where you will be able access 'lost user id' or 'lost password' services.

You will be asked a number of questions, following which a replacement user ID and password can be issued. These may be sent online or by post. If you think you may have lost the details, give yourself plenty of time to get a replacement.

If you can find neither ID nor password you should contact the Online Helpdesk.

Registering to file online

If you have not previously filed online, you will need to register to obtain an activation code. You will not be able to file online without this code.

The code will be posted to you, and to ensure you receive it on time you must register by 21 January 2010.

Tips for online filing

There can be many people trying to file at the same time. In 2008, 200,000 people filed on 31 January. Try to use quiet periods.

HMRC provide year round online services, 24 hours a day. Avoid delays by accessing them on weekdays after 5pm or before 8am.

There may be maintenance issues. Check the HMRC site for scheduled downtime.

Use the HMRC website for step-by-step guides, and also the built in help available in free HMRC software.

Visually impaired users can access specific help.

Paying your tax

As well as filing your return, whether paper or online, you must pay tax due for 2008-09 by 31 January 2010.

Direct Debit payments are now possible, provided you have registered online. Paying this way allows you to make a payment as soon as you have worked out what it should be.

HMRC now kindly let you manage your finances by setting up regular payments towards your next bill.

Exceptions to online filing

HMRC allow you to submit using a paper tax return after 31 October if:

  • Their software cannot handle it, for example non-resident companies.
  • You have been told that you cannot!

Julian Shaw

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Prepare for the VAT rate rise in January 2010

December 22, 2009 by Raphael Coman

Just as you were getting used to the VAT rate at 15 per cent, it’s nearly time for the rate to change again. From the 1 January 2010, the rate will be going back up to 17.5 per cent, after 13 months at the lower level. Many businesses are already using the change to encourage customers to make purchases before the start of 2010, but there are other ways to benefit from the lower VAT rate. The VAT rate that applies is established by the tax point. If the tax point is before 1 January, then the rate to apply will be 15%. The tax point is the earlier of the date the invoice is issued, the date money is received and the date that the goods are delivered or the service is completed. As an exception, if an invoice is raised within 14 days of the supply of goods, then the invoice date will become the tax point. Therefore, you may wish to consider the following options that may be attractive to customers:

  1. You may accept a deposit or a pre-payment before 1 January 2010, which will be charged at 15 per cent.
  2. You provide goods or services in December and more than 14 days before the issue of the invoice. For instance, you must apply VAT at 15 per cent for goods or services supplied before 18 December, for invoices raised on 1 January 2010.
  3. Where you supply a service over a period spanning the rate change, it is possible to charge VAT according to the value of work done before the 1 January. Be careful, though, because you must be able to show that the way that you have split the value of the work is fair.

There are special rules to prevent avoidance of VAT by establishing a tax point before the new rate comes into force. Under the rules, a 2.5 per cent VAT charge will apply where:

  • The total value of sales are more than £100,000 (and the advance invoice or pre-payment is not normal commercial practice)
  • The supplier and customer are connected
  • Payment is due more than six months after the invoice date or
  • you provide funding for your customer to make a pre-payment.

HMRC has indicated it will only seek adjustment to an error on a VAT return relating to the rate change where there has been an overall revenue loss. With careful planning, there are ways to reduce the impact of the VAT change on your business, but the fact of the rate rise is unavoidable. To prevent misunderstanding, it may be prudent to start making your customers aware as early as possible of the VAT change and any increase in prices that will result.

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Pre-Budget Report 2009

December 15, 2009 by Raphael Coman

In his last Pre-Budget Report before the general election, Chancellor Alistair Darling unveiled a number of measures aimed at bringing about economic recovery in the UK economy.

For individuals, the allowances will remain frozen at 2009/10 levels, although the pledged increase in income tax for those earning over £150,000 will be introduced on 6 April 2010.

There will be a rise in National Insurance of 0.5% from 6 April 2011, affecting all those with earnings over £20,000. The temporary VAT rate cut will cease on 31 December 2009 and at the same time the stamp duty holiday will end. Due to a lack of rise in property prices the inheritance tax allowance will be frozen at £325,000 until 2011.

For businesses there will be a deferral of the increase in corporation tax and an extension of the empty property relief and of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee for a further year.

Income tax rates and allowances
Income tax rates and thresholds for 2010/11 will be unchanged from 2009/10, with the notable exception of a new 50% rate that will apply to income above £150,000. With the tax thresholds static, the effect of any inflation will cause a real terms reduction on net income.

Pension contributions
The proposals to restrict the pension relief on contributions for those earning over £150,000 were confirmed for 6 April 2011. The Chancellor also announced an immediate measure to prevent high earners from avoiding the restriction by receiving pension payments instead of salary before the new rules take effect. This anti-avoidance move applies to those with income over £130,000.

National Insurance
The increase of 0.5% in National Insurance planned for 6 April 2011 has increased to 1%; double the amount announced in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report. The higher rates apply to employees, employers and the self-employed from 6 April 2011. The limit at which an individual starts to pay national insurance will also increase by £570 on the same date. As an overall effect, those with earnings below £20,000 will not be any worse off.

Corporation tax
At last – some good news. The 1% rise in corporation tax for small companies, which was due to take effect on 1 April 2010, has been postponed until 1 April 2011.

VAT
The VAT rate will revert to 17.5% from 1 January 2010, but no other VAT changes are proposed. For businesses using the flat rate scheme, the percentages are also changing on 1 January 2010. Most flat rates will go back to being the same as they were before 1 December 2008. For certain businesses it may be beneficial to leave the scheme in the new year, which can be done voluntarily. We can help you to decide whether it will stay worthwhile to use the flat rate.

Business rates
The exemption from business rates will be extended one year to 31 March 2011 for all empty properties with a rateable value below £18,000. The increase in the threshold from £15,000 to £18,000 reflects the rise in rateable values from 1 April 2010.

Furnished Holiday Lettings
The tax benefits available to furnished holiday lettings will be removed from 1 April 2010 for companies and 6 April for unincorporated businesses. The changes will not affect hotels or bed and breakfasts. The withdrawal of the treatment will mean that with respect to furnished holiday lettings:

  • Losses will only be available to reduce profits from other property income.
  • Profits will not count towards income on which pension relief can be obtained.
  • Special treatment for capital gains tax purposes will no longer continue.

Stamp duty
The increase in the limit on which an individual starts to pay stamp duty, announced in September 2008, will finish at the end of the year. From 1 January 2010, stamp duty will be payable at 1% on residential properties over £125,000.

Stamp duty is normally charged at the completion date or the date on which an individual takes possession of the property. To avoid stamp duty of 1%, transactions on properties between £125,000 and £175,000 will usually need to be completed before 31 December 2009.

Inheritance Tax
The threshold on which an estate is exempt from inheritance tax was due to rise to £350,000 on 6 April 2010, but it will now be left at £325,000 for a further year. The government has sited a lack of improvement in the property market as a reason for the change.

Other tax changes
Backing from the government for loans to small businesses through the Enterprise Guarantee Scheme will be extended by another year to 31 March 2011.

Banks will pay tax on all discretionary bonus over £25,000 at 50%. The 'super-tax' will be payable by banks in addition to income tax and will take immediate effect.

An employee's use of an electric car will be a tax-free benefit in kind for five years from 6 April 2010. In addition, where a company acquires a new electric van from 1 April 2010, it will be able to deduct the full cost from its profits for tax purposes. Meanwhile, the tax cost of providing non-electric cars and vans as a benefit will increase from the same date.

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Are you legal and decent?

December 08, 2009 by Chris Barling

Like every area of business these days, there’s lots of red tape and ecommerce has its own rules and regulations. Just remember, though, it’s up to you to comply with the law. Here are my tips to help you ensure your online store meets UK regulations.

1 VAT
If your annual revenue exceeds £68,000 you must be VAT registered. If you're below this threshold, you don't have to worry about charging VAT and it would actually be against the law to do so. There are some finer points to be aware of, too. For instance, if your products are a mixture of those requiring VAT to be charged, and those exempt from VAT, VAT charged on shipping should be in proportion. Make sure your ecommerce solution can handle all of the tax rules.

2 US import rules
The UK is part of the EU, obviously, so we’re bound by its rules. It’s not the same when handling US orders. The individual US states might want to charge tax on sales into their area, but it’s their responsibility to levy this tax. You don’t have to charge this “use tax”, which is between the buyer and the state where they live. As a UK business, you can sell into the US tax free – but you should make your customers aware that they may be charged tax on the goods when they’re imported.

3 EU Distance Selling Directive
Under this Directive, you must provide full contact details – including an address, phone number, email and company and VAT registration numbers – where applicable. Do it anyway – it helps to build trust.

The same Directive dictates that you must accept return of any items purchased within seven working days and failing to inform buyers of their rights has penalties. But why not make this a selling point?

4 Data Protection
You must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office if you hold data on people (eg customers). Registering takes some time and effort, but is inexpensive and fairly straight forward.

5 Email opt-in
If you want to email newsletters or offers to prospective customers, you must gain their consent in the form of a statement that the customers agree to receive communications. You must also give them an option to decline.

Emails involved in fulfilling orders or answering specific sales enquiries do not need this provision. When you send marketing messages there must be a free method of opting out each time you send an email. This itself can be by email. The regulations apply to communications with individuals, not businesses.

6 Disability legislation
Since 2004, by law, businesses have had to take “reasonable” steps to provide access to people with disabilities – and this includes your website. Ensure all images have alternate text tags, so visually impaired people can still navigate your site.

7 Libel on social media
Libel laws also apply to blogs, Twitter, Faceback, etc. Remember also that your words remain on record forever – so think before you type that competitor put-down.

8 PCI DSS
Protecting payment card data is crucial and the banks require compliance under the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Compliance is compulsory for anyone who accepts and stores debit/credit card details either on computer or on paper.
More information on PCI DSS can be found at https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org.

You can meet PCI DSS in one of two ways:

  • Use a payment service provider (PSP) such as PayPal, WorldPay or SellerDeck Payments (if you use my company’s shopping cart). Your customers and employees only ever enter card details into the site of the PSP. That way, the PSP does most of the worrying about compliance and you are left with some straight forward actions. This is the best option for small retailers.
  • Make your own infrastructure fully compliant. This is a difficult route and for the majority of smaller businesses, achieving proper compliance will probably not be practical or cost-effective. The total one-off cost is likely to exceed £45,000 plus ongoing fees.

9 3D Secure
3D Secure – known as “Verified by Visa” and “Mastercard SecureCode” – is a sort of online chip and PIN system. Online buyers are prompted to enter a password whenever they use their card. The password is sent directly to Visa or Mastercard and they approve the transaction (or decline). This is gradually becoming compulsory and you should consult your bank and PSP on how to comply.

10 Let the world know
Finally, assuming you are legal and decent, let the world know. Anything that adds to your credibility will help you online, so list all of the things that you have done under the heading “We comply with the following legal and tax regulations”.

If you are a start-up, these rules may seem to big a mountain to climb. But there are two things to remember. Firstly, do your best to comply. Secondly, if you’re correctly challenged, then immediately take corrective measures. With the exception of VAT transgressions, in most cases this will be enough to avoid business damage or prosecution.

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