Exporting goods to the EU with a no-deal Brexit

Last week we considered the effects of importing goods from the EU if a no-deal Brexit occurred. This week we are considering matters that government has published for exporters to the EU. A summary of the comments made in recent announcements is reproduced below.

After the UK leaves the EU, in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario, businesses exporting goods to the EU will be required to follow customs procedures in the same way that they currently do when exporting goods to a non-EU country.

Before exporting goods to the EU, a business will need to:

  • register for an UK EORI number. You do not need to act now, but you will want to familiarise yourself with this process
  • ensure their contracts and International Terms and Conditions of Service (INCOTERMS) reflect that they are now an exporter
  • consider how they will submit export declarations, including whether to engage a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider (businesses that want to do this themselves will need to acquire the appropriate software and secure the necessary authorisations from HMRC). Engaging a customs broker or acquiring the appropriate software and authorisations from HMRC will come at a cost.

When exporting goods to the EU, a business will need to:

  • have a valid EORI number
  • submit an export declaration to HMRC using their software or on-line, or get their customs broker, freight forwarder, or logistics provider to do this for them. The export declaration may need to be lodged in advance so that permission to export is granted before the goods leave the UK (the export declaration also counts as an Exit Summary Declaration – see section 3)
  • businesses may also need to apply for an export licence or provide supporting documentation to export specific types of goods from the UK, or to meet the conditions of the relevant customs export procedure.

Mitigations businesses may consider in a March 2019 ‘no deal’ scenario

Businesses should now consider the impacts on them in a ‘no deal’ scenario, which would mean a requirement to apply the same customs and excise rules to goods traded with the EU that apply for goods traded outside of the EU, including the requirement to submit customs declarations. Businesses should consider whether it is appropriate for them to acquire software and/or engage a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider to support them with these new requirements.

Businesses may want to consider whether using customs procedures would be beneficial. These allow businesses to delay or relieve the payment of customs duty for goods they import into the EU until goods are ready to be released into free circulation. A customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider can advise in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario whether one of these procedures would be suitable for your business. Customs procedures include the following:

  • customs warehousing: this allows businesses to store goods with duty or import VAT payments suspended. Once goods leave the warehouse, duty must be paid unless the business is re-exporting, or moving goods to another customs procedure. The warehouse must be authorised by HMRC
  • inward processing: this allows businesses to import goods from non-EU countries for work or modification in the EU. Once this has been completed, any customs duty and VAT due must be paid, unless goods are re-exported or moved to another customs procedure, or released to free circulation
  • temporary admission: this allows business to temporarily import and or/export goods such as samples, professional equipment or items for auction, exhibition or demonstration into the UK or EU. As long as the goods are not modified or altered while they are within the EU, the business will not have to pay duty or import VAT
  • authorised use: this allows a reduced or zero rate of customs duty on some goods when used for specific purposes and within a set time period.

For excise duty purposes, goods are not regarded as imported if they are immediately placed under one of these customs procedures. Businesses need to pay excise duty when these goods are released for free circulation, unless they are immediately placed in excise duty suspension.

As we are fast approaching the exit deadline affected businesses should be planning their options now.

Is this a good time to invest

This article considers the question: should businesses invest in new equipment or other long-term capital acquisitions at this time?

In truth, no one knows what the impact of the Brexit will be? Brexiteers believe that the floodgates will open, and the rest of the world will rush to buy our goods and services whereas Remainers, expect recession to return when the EU drawbridge is lifted.

No doubt the reality will sit somewhere between these two extreme points of view.

With these uncertainties nonetheless present, is this a good time to consider investment in new plant and equipment or that new commercial building you have your eye on?

As always, a considered response to this question is: maybe, maybe not.

Most equipment purchases will qualify for a tax break of up to £200,000 a year – as long as the purchase fits the criteria for the Annual Investment Allowance – for example, cars do not generally qualify, but commercial vehicles and other plant and equipment will. Accordingly, as the economic outlook is unclear, making purchases to take advantage of tax reliefs may not be the most prudent course of action.

Then, there is investment in equipment that will allow you to develop a new income stream for your business. More than likely, this would be a speculative investment, with higher expected returns, but higher risks. This type of investment may be best left until the immediate effects of Brexit can be ascertained and fact6ored into your business development planning.

Finally, there are investments that will make your existing business more efficient and possibly more profitable. For example, new IT and software or replacing other worn-out business assets with up-to-date alternatives.

This final area may be a plausible investment opportunity and one that will position you nicely whatever the Brexit outcome may be.

What we would suggest is a careful consideration of your options based on a combination of tax benefits, payback periods and returns on your investment. As a downturn in economic activity is possible, this is probably not the time to throw caution to winds and make unconsidered investments.

Please call if you would like our help when making these judgements for your business.

Exclusivity and tax relief

In order to qualify as a deduction for tax purposes we have to demonstrate that the expenditure was incurred “wholly and exclusively” for the purposes of our business or employment.

We will also need to consider a further criterion: where the expenditure has a duality of purpose.

In a 1980’s case, a barrister claimed for the cost of business suits which she insisted were only used for business purposes. To her delight, the lower courts agreed, but HMRC were having none of it and pursued their case to the House of Lords where the taxpayer’s claim and appeal was dismissed.

The barrister failed to secure her claim as she could not escape the conclusion that although she may have purchased the required “subdued” clothing for her practice, the clothes purchased could have been worn on a private occasion, even though she may have chosen not to do so.

As always this and other related cases, open the door to speculation: when does expenditure meet these stringent rules?

For example, if the barrister’s suits had carried a visible label – the name of her practice – would this have tipped the balance as she could argue the suit was a uniform and not appropriate to wear on private occasions?

Removing any private advantage may be more difficult than it would appear.

Unfortunately, we are required by legislation to comply with the “wholly and exclusively” rule and if there is a whiff of private advantage to the expenditure, then it will likely be disallowed. HMRC in their instructions to staff say:

 

You should disallow expenditure on ordinary clothing worn by a trader during the course of their trade. This remains so even where particular standards of dress are required by, for example, the rules of a professional body.

Importing goods from outside the EU

Although the Brexit issue is not yet decided it may be salutary for businesses to consider the changes they will need to face if we depart with a no-deal Brexit. We have touched on these issues in past articles posted on this blog, but today we have reproduced the present regulations you will need to consider if you import from outside the EU – with a no-deal Brexit these, or similar processes, will need to be applied to imports from the EU.

Within the EU most goods:

  • are in free circulation,
  • can be imported with minimal customs control,
  • have no import duty or VAT to pay.

Imports from outside the EU are treated differently. You:

  • must make an import declaration to customs,
  • generally, have to pay import duty and import VAT (plus VAT on import duty).

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO)

If you’re already involved in international trade and have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number (EORI), you can register with HMRC as an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO).

The scheme isn’t compulsory, but companies that meet the requirements can take advantage of simplified customs procedures for the security and safety of their imported goods in transit.

Import declarations

You have to send a declaration to HMRC when you import goods into the UK from outside the EU. This is usually done using the Single Administrative Document (SAD), also known as form C88.

SADs can be submitted either electronically using the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, or manually (although manual submissions may take longer to process).

You need to include the:

  • customs classification
  • commodity code
  • import value of your goods
  • customs procedure code explaining what is being done with the goods, for example import to free circulation.

We could continue sketching these regulations in more detail. Sufficient to say that if you presently import, or indeed export, goods from or to the EU you should research the changes you will need to make to ensure your supply chains are maintained after March 2019.

We will be keeping a close eye on negotiations and will report again as and when the news breaks.

In the meantime, if you have concerns about possible disruptions to your supply chains post Brexit, please call for more information.

Did your goat eat your accounts?

Companies House have published a list of bizarre excuses for the late filing of their statutory accounts. They include:

  • “goats ate my accounts”
  • “I found my wife in the bath with my accountant”
  • “pirates stole my accounts”
  • “we delivered the accounts to the betting office next door to Companies House”
  • “a volcano erupted and prevented me from filing”
  • “slugs ate my accounts”
  • “it was Valentine’s Day”
  • “my company was more successful than I thought it would be, so I was too busy to file”

As you would expect, Companies House issued late filing penalties and any appeals were swiftly quashed.

The level of the penalties charged depends on how late the accounts reach Companies House and is shown in the following table.

Length of period (measured from the date the accounts are due)

Private company penalty

Public company penalty

Not more than 1 month

£150

£750

More than 1 month but not more than 3 months

£375

£1,500

More than 3 months but not more than 6 months

£750

£3,000

More than 6 months

£1,500

£7,500

A private company’s set of acceptable accounts for the accounting period ending 30 September 2009 would need to be delivered by 30 June 2010 to avoid a late filing penalty. If they were not delivered to Companies House until 15 July 2010 the company will incur a late filing penalty of £150.

The penalties will be doubled if a company files its accounts late in 2 successive financial years beginning on or after 6 April 2008. This means that if a private company, has an accounting reference date of 30 September and the accounts for the period ending 30 September 2009 were delivered late and you delivered accounts for the subsequent period ending 30 September 2010 late, then you would incur a £300 late filing penalty.

Tax Diary September/October 2019

1 October 2018 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 December 2017.

19 October 2018 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 October 2018. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 October 2018.)

19 October 2018 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 October 2018.

19 October 2018 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 October 2018 is payable by today.

31 October 2018 – Latest date you can file a paper version of your 2018 self-assessment tax return.

1 November 2018 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 January 2018.

19 November 2018 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 November 2018. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 November 2018.)

19 November 2018 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 November 2018.

19 November 2018 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 November 2018 is payable by today.

Passport issues if a no-deal Brexit

Guidance on the use of a British passport to travel abroad after 29 March 2019, if there is a “no-deal” Brexit, was issued by government last month. The pertinent facts are reproduced below:

After 29 March 2019, if you’re a British passport holder (including passports issued by the Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar), you’ll be considered a third country national and under the EU Schengen Border Code you will need to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area. Third-country nationals are citizens of countries (like Australia, Canada and the USA) which do not belong to the EU or the European Economic Area.

According to the Schengen Border Code, third country passports must:

  • have been issued within the last 10 years on the date of arrival in a Schengen country, and
  • have at least 3 months’ validity remaining on the date of intended departure from the last country visited in the Schengen area. Because third country nationals can remain in the Schengen area for 90 days (approximately 3 months), the actual check carried out could be that the passport has at least 6 months validity remaining on the date of arrival.

If you plan to travel to the Schengen area after 29 March 2019, to avoid any possibility of your adult British passport not complying with the Schengen Border Code we suggest that you check the issue date and make sure your passport is no older than 9 years and 6 months on the day of travel.

For example, if you’re planning to travel to the Schengen area on 30 March 2019, your passport should have an issue date on or after 1 October 2009.

If you are a parent or guardian:

  • For 5-year child passports issued to under-16s, check the expiry date and make sure there will be at least 6 months validity remaining on the date of travel.
  • For example, a child planning to travel to the Schengen area on 30 March 2019 should have a passport with an expiry date on or after 1 October 2019.
  • If a child’s passport does not meet these criteria, they may be denied entry to any of the Schengen area countries, and you should renew their passport before travel.

For countries that are in the EU but not in the Schengen area, you’ll need to check the entry requirements for the country you’re travelling to before you travel.

The Schengen Area is an area comprising twenty-six European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The area is named after the Schengen Agreement. States in the Schengen Area have strengthened border controls with non-Schengen countries.

What is a reasonable excuse

HMRC is still required to obtain certain returns from you even if there is no income or tax to declare. Failure to submit will likely trigger late filing penalties and unfortunately, pleading ignorance of your obligations to file “nil” returns is not a reasonable excuse.

Which begs the question, what is a reasonable excuse?

HMRC had published what may, and what will not, be considered excusable. They say:

A reasonable excuse is something that stopped you meeting a tax obligation that you took reasonable care to meet, for example:

  • your partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline,
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs,
  • you had a serious or life-threatening illness,
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return,
  • service issues with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online services,
  • a fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return,
  • postal delays that you couldn’t have predicted,
  • delays related to a disability you have.

You must send your return or payment as soon as possible after your reasonable excuse is resolved.

What won’t count as a reasonable excuse are situations where:

  • you relied on someone else to send your return and they didn’t,
  • your cheque bounced, or payment failed because you didn’t have enough money,
  • you found the HMRC online system too difficult to use,
  • you didn’t get a reminder from HMRC,
  • you made a mistake on your tax return.

Often, failure to file is not a deliberate act. Unfortunately, appealing against what you consider to be an unreasonable stance by HMRC is not that simple, and ignoring the issue is not the way to go.

If you find yourself in dispute with HMRC on a late filing challenge, we can help. Please call us so we can discuss your options.

Invoice discounting with larger customers

Suppliers who sell goods and services to larger concerns often find that the terms of their supply, limits or bans the process of factoring the debts to release funds into cash flow.

Cynically, this could be seen as a method these larger customers have used to control options available to their smaller suppliers.

Unfortunately, suppliers who sell predominately to major buyers find themselves in a cleft stick: they generally have to wait for longer periods to be paid and as a result are constantly short of cash.

Invoice factoring or discounting allows say 80% of a sales invoice value to be received when the invoice is issued and accepted by the customer; a specialist finance company or bank steps in to provide the discounting service.

The good news is that there is to be a change in the law to ban these restrictive practices and allow smaller companies to gain access to the funds locked up in their trade debtors.

Under the new proposed laws, any such contractual restrictions entered into after 31 December 2018, with certain exceptions, would have no effect and could be disregarded by small businesses and finance providers, which will help stop larger businesses from abusing their market position.

About turn, you can use spreadsheets

HMRC has about-faced regarding the ban on using spreadsheets to work out your VAT return data from 1 April 2019, when the new requirement to file VAT returns using Making Tax Digital (MTD) format is introduced.

Bowing to pressure from industry, the accountancy profession and Parliamentary committees, HMRC has now agreed that you can use spreadsheets for VAT purposes; unfortunately, there is a large “but”.

The rationale behind the development of MTD is that HMRC wants your returns of data through its MTD portal to be linked directly to the source material, the accounting entries that make up the returns. They do not want you to cut and paste data from your accounting records (including spreadsheets) into HMRC’s digital accounts.

Accordingly, they have agreed to the use of spreadsheets as long as the data is transferred using bridging software that is compatible with its MTD systems.

Software developers are now faced with creating this bridging solution and we will be reviewing solutions to settle on the best-fit option for clients.