Charities and VAT
Charities will normally have a complex VAT position as they will be receiving a mixture of business income (taxable and exempt) and non business income. They may also set up a trading subsidiary to carry out any significant trading activity. This can lead to a complicated VAT recovery position, as VAT incurred on costs has to be attributed to the relevant income stream and will either be fully recoverable, irrecoverable or partly recoverable. There are a number of different ways of undertaking the VAT recovery calculations, with scope for improving VAT recovery rates by adopting the most advantageous method. However, the benefit of implementing a “special method” has to be weighed against the cost of implementing and undertaking the calculations for such a method. The use of a special method also has to be agreed in advance with HMRC. Methods have to produce a fair result and be easily checked.
Charities do benefit from certain VAT reliefs, including advertising, donated goods, aids for the disabled/handicapped and certain types of buildings. The charity will have to certify that zero rating applies. Again the conditions/rules are very precise and advice should be always be sought in cases of doubt.
Charities are increasingly finding new ways to raise funds and as a result, it is more likely that they will enter into activities/transactions which may have VAT consequences. For example, two charities working together in “partnership” may inadvertently create a VAT cost when recharging each other for services. Advice should always be taken when entering into new contracts or amending existing contracts. Unfortunately HMRC do not take a lenient approach to charities which make errors in their VAT returns and penalties/interest may be imposed.
Date: 20th May, 2008
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