If the UK does not agree to a formal withdrawal agreement by 29 March 2019 then its status under EU law would change from that of an EU Member State of the European Union to that of a third country. The consequences of this change would result in the UK being outside the Single Market and Customs Union and have no trade or cooperation agreements in place with the EU.
There would be no transition period in which businesses can complete the necessary changes to accounting systems, compliance reporting and provide for the associated costs in adjusting to a new trading arrangement. Things will happen quickly.
It is best to consider the worst-case scenario and their consequences than ignore; regardless of how the UK leaves, it should be clear that they are leaving the EU and there will be changes come what may given that leaving means leaving the current EU trade arrangements and facilities provided for under the Single Market and Customs Union.
If the UK does leave without a withdrawal agreement in place here are some useful scenarios outlining the main VAT issues that may arise for Irish and UK businesses in the event of a hard Brexit.
Irish business supplies goods from Ireland to UK business customer:
- The supply is no longer treated as an intra-EU dispatch of goods with VAT accounted for under the reverse charge accounting procedure.
- The supply remains zero-rated for VAT in Ireland though as an export of goods.
- The Irish supplier is no longer required to complete Intrastat and VIES declarations.
- The Irish business will have to initiate changes to its systems to enable application of the appropriate Customs declaration procedures.
- The supply will be an import of goods for the UK customer.
- Customs duty tariffs and import VAT will apply (Note the UK government has confirmed that it will introduce postponed accounting for import VAT as a measure to alleviate cash flow issues for UK businesses suddenly placed in an importer position).
An interesting footnote for supplies of goods to UK businesses where the items are small and sent by parcel – HMRC has confirmed that Low-Value Consignment Relief will not be extended to parcels arriving into the UK from the EU thereby being subject to UK VAT. This VAT liability rests with the supplier and may result in additional administrative requirements for Irish businesses whereby they are required to register with HMRC to facilitate the collection of the VAT due. It is understood that this process may be value-based and only apply to parcels with a value of less than £135.
Irish business supplying goods to UK customers under a consignment stock arrangement with stock held in the UK:
- The use of consignment stock schemes can negate the requirement for the supplier to register for VAT in the EU Member State where the stock is held.
- This concession will not apply under a hard Brexit.
- The Irish business will be required to register for UK VAT in order to manage the holding of stock in the UK.
- This will also create a self-supply export of goods from Ireland.
- This will result in a self-supply import of goods in the UK and result in additional costs in Customs Tariffs. The current EU Tariffs may no longer apply and tariffs may be calculated at WTO levels.
- The Irish business will incur additional costs in both administering the UK VAT registration, managing the import of the goods and the associated customs tariffs.
Irish business supplying goods to a German customer, product sourced from a UK third party supplier:
- Under current EU VAT regulations businesses in the EU can avail of the Triangulation Simplification procedure whereby the supplier is not required to register for VAT in either the customers’ EUMS or the EUMS from where the product is sourced.
- As the UK will no longer be a member of the Single Market then Triangulation can no longer apply.
- The Irish business will be required to register for VAT either in the UK or Germany.
- If the UK, then the onward supply to the German customer will be a zero-rated export BUT the German customer will incur additional costs in administering the importation of the goods and customs tariffs.
- Where the Irish business elects to register in Germany then it will bear the additional import costs thereby impacting on its margin.
Businesses selling goods to consumers under the Distance selling regime:
• With the UK no longer being a part of the EU then the Distance selling regime no longer applies.
• The Irish business selling goods to UK consumers would no longer account for Irish VAT on the supply.
• There would be no requirement for the Irish business to register for VAT in the UK as there is no registration threshold to consider.
• Any Irish businesses currently registered for VAT in the UK under the Distance selling regime could cancel its UK VAT registration with immediate effect.
A UK business selling goods to Irish consumers though can zero-rate the sale as it is treated as an import of goods into the EU.
These sales will also be liable to import VAT and customs tariffs which either the UK supplier or Irish customer will be required to pay depending on how the goods are sold. This could make the purchase more expensive for the customer as there will be an additional nonrefundable cost to the customer.
An important point to note for Distance sales is that the VAT treatment is determined NOT by where the business is established BUT where the goods are located when the sale is made.
Therefore, Irish businesses selling goods to consumers using fulfillment centers need to be registered for VAT where the fulfillment centre is.
UK business supplying goods to an Irish business:
- The supply is no longer treated as an intra-EU dispatch of goods.
- There is no requirement to complete Intrastat/VIES declarations.
- The supply is now an export of goods to Ireland.
- The Irish business will be required to import the goods which will be subject to import VAT and customs duty tariffs.
The Government has announced a short term VAT measure whereby a system of postponed accounting for import VAT for the immediate period following Brexit. The continued use of this system will be subject to Revenue approval, we assume on a case by case basis. The customs tariff will provide for an additional cost to Irish businesses bringing in goods from the UK.
UK motor dealer selling second-hand vehicles to an Irish motor dealer:
- As with supplies of goods, the motor vehicle will become an importation of goods into Ireland.
- This will apply to both new and used vehicles, both qualifying and margin scheme.
- In all cases, the cost of the purchase to the Irish dealer will increase as the car will be subject to both import VAT (recoverable), and customs duty (not recoverable).
The above scenarios cover some of the VAT implications facing Irish and UK businesses were a no deal Brexit to occur. There will be an impact in other specific areas such as the travel sector where it remains unclear whether the Tour Operator’s Margin scheme would remain. Suppliers of digital services to consumers will also face issues in the application of MOSS as the supplier’s status may change.
Distance sellers may also need to consider the impact of a no deal Brexit to their current basis of operation where they supply Irish consumers form the UK and vice versa. With the possible additional cost in customs tariffs and VAT, the cost to the consumer will increase which could result in a negative impact on the supplier’s competitive edge.
“Where do I sell from?” may become the standard question in order to consider how best to minimise additional costs to a business and its customers where the supply changes from intra-EU/EU Distance sales to export/import and customs tariffs.
Uncertainty does not facilitate an easy route to planning and managing change and, consideration needs to be given in contemplating any operational changes in relation to cost, day to day practicalities and adherence to compliance and reporting obligations against risk in increased cost of sale, additional irrecoverable costs and potential risk to the business for failures in compliance.
At this juncture, digging ones head in the sand is not the answer rather the most optimum route forward is to avail of expert advice to assess, identify and summarise in a clear and simple way how your business’ VAT trading structure may change, what pitfalls and opportunities this presents and what actions are required to maximise a positive reaction to these changes; by doing so, a business will be well placed to take any appropriate action required.
Our independent VAT Consultant Nick Ryan, with over 29 years VAT experience provided the above information and is offering businesses a free Brexit call to discuss particular concerns and issues and to determine what changes they could consider to provide the best course of action.
Nick can assist businesses in preparing for Brexit through a Brexit VAT impact review.
He will work with your business to establish current procedures and transaction flows and from this he can provide clear, simple assessment guides for each transaction showing the impact of Brexit, hard or agreed, the changes required, the impact of cost using live examples and options to consider to minimise any negative outcomes. The review will provide businesses with an insight as to how their VAT position may change under a hard Brexit.
Please contact either Seamus Parfrey or Noel Murphy to arrange a call with Nick Ryan.