VAT changes may cause construction chaos


The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is warning that a major change in the way that VAT is accounted for in the building and construction sector which takes effect later this year may cause chaos.

The VAT domestic reverse charge for building and construction services applies from 1 October 2019. It is an anti-fraud measure – an administrative change, impacting invoicing and VAT return procedures. With a reverse charge, a VAT-registered recipient of services accounts for VAT, rather than the supplier.

The rules will apply to VAT-registered businesses where payments are required to be reported through the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), the charge will be used along the supply chain, until the recipient is no longer a VAT-registered business making an onward supply of specified construction services.

With the new rules, suppliers (VAT-registered subcontractors), will state on their invoices that supplies are subject to the reverse charge. Contractors will then use their VAT returns to account for output VAT on supplies received, instead of paying output VAT to their suppliers. Subject to normal VAT rules, the contractor can reclaim VAT on supplies received as input tax, usually leaving no net tax payable on the transaction. Where there is an ‘end user’, it will be expected to provide notification of end user status to suppliers, signalling that a supplier should charge VAT as usual.

Reverse charge will not affect zero-rated supplies: nor some circumstances where suppliers are connected to end users, for example landlords and tenants. The reverse charge covers ‘specified services’ – essentially construction services as defined for CIS purposes. Where services – such as those of architects, surveyors and some consultants – are supplied on their own, they are not covered by the reverse charge. If supplied along with supplies subject to the charge, the whole supply will be subject to the charge. The reverse charge also includes goods, where supplied with specified services.

The FMB are warning that the government has not properly prepared the construction industry for this major VAT change. New data from FMB shows that:

  • over two-thirds of construction SMEs (69%) have not even heard of the reverse charge VAT and
  • of those who have, more than two-thirds (67%) have not prepared for the changes.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said:

Construction companies are already struggling with Brexit uncertainty, sky-rocketing material price rises and skill shortages and reverse charge VAT is yet another thing for them to deal with. What makes things worse is that HMRC has failed to deliver on its promise to help the industry to prepare. The guidance is not user-friendly and even tax experts are scratching their heads over it.’

‘It’s therefore not surprising that the vast majority of construction SMEs are not aware of the impending changes, despite widespread promotion by the FMB. Small business owners are busy people and clearly they don’t have time to read everything we send them. For those who are aware, they haven’t had a chance to change their systems yet as they were waiting for guidance to be published that has only just emerged. That’s why we are calling on the Government to delay the changes by another six months and to use the extra time to improve the guidance and work with us to undertake a more intensive communications campaign. HMRC should also consider holding workshops across the country to explain the changes.’

Businesses affected by the new rules are recommended to plan now to adapt accounting and IT systems. The reverse charge may also impact business cash flow. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.

Internet links: FMB news GOV.UK guidance

Consultation on the operation of Insurance Premium Tax


HMRC has launched a consultation to review the extent to which the emerging practices are leading to ‘unfair tax outcomes’ in the administration and collection of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT). HMRC’s consultation document states:

‘We have been made aware of business practices involving administration and arrangement fees which may be leading to unfair tax outcomes in the insurance industry.’

‘This involves the artificial manipulation of insurance and broker structures to create different tax outcomes. IPT is chargeable on the gross premiums, whereas fees are not subject to IPT or VAT.’

The consultation is open until 17 July 2019.

Internet link: Consultation

UK Investment Support Directory


International investors who wish to set up and expand their operations in the UK can now benefit from an online tool launched by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

The new tool, termed the UK Investment Support Directory, enables international investors to connect with a range of businesses across the UK. Potential investors can find an expert in their specific industry or region.

According to the DIT, the UK Investment Support Directory has been created to make information about the investment process ‘more accessible’, and is part of a wider initiative to ‘generate more foreign direct investment in the UK’.

Graham Stuart, Minister for Investment, said:

‘The launch of the new UK Investment Support Directory is one of many ways in which the DIT is helping to drive investment to every corner of the UK. We hope this new directory will be an invaluable resource for investors thinking of setting up operations in the UK.’

Internet links: Investment Support Directory GOV.UK news

Payment on account confusion


Under self assessment taxpayers are required to make payments on account of their tax liabilities. The payment on account instalments consist of two payments on account of equal amounts:

  • the first on 31 January during the tax year and
  • the second on 31 July following the end of the tax year.

These are set by reference to the previous year’s income tax liability and Class 4 NIC if any.

A final payment (or repayment) is due on 31 January following the tax year.Payments are not due where the previous year’s liability is less than £1,000 or where 80% of the previous year’s bill was met by tax deductions at source.

The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) has warned that ‘some people may not receive the tax demands they expect by the end of July’ for their self assessment, even if it may be due.

ATT has issued a press release saying that the HMRC system did not correctly process all the payments on account information for 2018/19. As a consequence, the demand for the first payment on account for January 2019 may not have been issued.

Unless those taxpayers contacted HMRC, the next demand for payment on account, due on 31 July 2019, may also not be issued. HMRC has confirmed that if it has not issued a demand for payment on account, the full amount will be requested in January 2020.

Making a voluntary payment may not be processed correctly. If you want to make a payment on account that is due, then taxpayers or their agents are advised to contact HMRC.

Jon Stride, Co-Chair of the ATT’s Technical Steering Group, said:

‘If a taxpayer does not make any payments on account during 2019, then their tax bill in January 2020 could be significantly larger than they are expecting and could come as quite a shock. We are concerned that taxpayers may not realise what has happened and might not set aside enough money to meet their full tax bill in one amount next January.’

Internet links: AAT press release GOV.UK self assessment bills

New measures to ensure small businesses get paid on time


The government has announced a package of measures to ensure small businesses get paid on time. Under the proposals large businesses could be fined for failing to pay smaller suppliers on time as part of a robust package of measures.

The measures include: 

  • proposed new powers for the Small Business Commissioner to tackle late payments through fines and binding payment plans
  • company boards to be held accountable for supply chain payment practices for first time
  • the introduction of a new fund to encourage businesses to use technology to simplify invoicing, payment and credit management.

The government has also announced that responsibility of the voluntary code of best practice,  the Prompt Payment Code, will be moved to the Small Business Commissioner.

Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:

‘The vast majority of businesses pay their bills on time, with the amount owed in late payments halved over the last five years. But as a former small business owner, I know the huge impact a late payment can have on the ability of a small business to plan, invest and grow.’

‘Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and through our modern Industrial Strategy we want to ensure the UK is the best place to start and grow a business. These measures will ensure that small businesses are given the support they need and ensure that they get paid quickly – ending the unacceptable culture of late payment.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news