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VAT errors could be more costly in future!

My colleague Cathy Corns recently outlined the new penalty regime for both direct and indirect taxes to be introduced next year. This new regime will potentially mean that businesses will face higher penalties for errors in VAT return periods with a due date after 1 April 2009.

Under the current VAT rules, if a business discovers an error before HMRC has begun to make enquiries, it can either make a voluntary disclosure or where the VAT is less than £2,000, it can adjust the amount on the VAT return. By doing so, the 15% misdeclaration penalty (triggered when an error breaches certain thresholds) will automatically be waived. Also, a penalty will not apply where a business can convince HMRC that it has a “reasonable excuse” for the error. Under the new regime, the concept of “reasonable excuse” will no longer be grounds for waiving a penalty.

Instead, HMRC will determine the quantum of a penalty by reference to the amount of VAT at stake, the nature and behaviour of the offence that lead to an understatement of VAT and the extent of the disclosure by the business.

There has been no confirmation so far that VAT errors below £2,000 cannot continue to be adjusted on the VAT return, under the new regime. However, it may prove necessary to write to HMRC to disclose any error, regardless of the size and reason, even when the error can be put on the VAT return. This would avoid the potential for a 30% penalty for making “careless” errors.

Hopefully HMRC will confirm this point nearer the time. Watch this space….



Date: 11th March, 2008
Author: Jane Stacey


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