Increasingly my clients are focusing on their governance and ensuring robust processes and controls are in place. While it remains an aim, there is less emphasis on optimising ’what’ amount of VAT is due/recoverable and much more on ‘how’ VAT compliance is dealt with and ensuring that the right amount of tax is paid at the right time.
This approach reflects the changed climate in which businesses and tax advisers operate. Tax has become an emotive and high profile subject thanks to significant reporting in the mainstream media, punitive measures being taken by HMRC to rightly challenge tax evasion and a number of political and fiscal global disrupters (Brexit, US tax reform, changes in digital taxation and tariff ‘trade wars’ to name just a few).
Businesses are also having to deal with regular changes to UK VAT rules. In recent years, there have been a large number of VAT decisions in the tribunal and higher courts, and long running changes/disputes with HMRC in relation to areas such as holding company VAT recovery and pension fund VAT that are still to be resolved. Digitisation and new technologies are leading to new business models and ways of selling goods and services to customers. During 2019 there will also be significant changes stemming from Making Tax Digital for VAT which will require changes to organisations’ VAT compliance processes. There could also be Brexit and a ‘no deal’ would have the potential for causing significant disruption to businesses selling cross-border.
In an ideal world, if a business has clear and robust processes then it should be able to adapt to this changing landscape and to continue to meet its VAT compliance obligations. Dealing with change is a necessity and the following questions will help you consider how to deal with it.
Many of the above are considerations for businesses that are subject to the Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) regime which is overseen by HMRC and applies to all ’large companies’ (broadly, UK incorporated companies with a turnover in excess of £200 million in the preceding financial year and/or a balance sheet total of more than £2 billion). The SAO of the organisation has to certify that the company, and each of its subsidiaries, establishes and maintains “appropriate tax accounting arrangements”. In practice, this focuses on ‘how’ the business manages its tax obligations and in particular, the process and controls in place to ensure that the right amount of tax is paid, at the right at the time.