Tax

Having read the 1,246-page Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which was agreed to “in principle” by the EU and UK on Christmas Eve, Cróna Clohisey shares her thoughts on the critical elements causing concern and highlights areas that warrant further work. In recent weeks, there has been as much discussion about what the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) reached between the EU and UK on Christmas Eve doesn’t cover as what it does. The deal, spanning some 1,246 pages, threw up some surprises and certainly left a lot for discussion between the two sides in the months ahead. The main areas covered in the document include trade in goods and certain services, energy, aviation and road transport, fisheries, social security coordination, law enforcement, digital trade and intellectual property. Certain big-ticket items, including decisions relating to equivalence for financial services, the adequacy of the UK’s data protection regime, or an assessment of the UK’s sanitary and phytosanitary regime were excluded, however. These three areas, in particular, are unilateral decisions of the EU and were never subject to negotiation. The TCA does not govern trade in goods between Northern Ireland and the EU where the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will apply, bringing a whole other set of rules – not least in customs and VAT. Implementing, applying, and interpreting the TCA falls to the newly created Partnership Council. This political body will be co-chaired by a European Commission member and a UK government minister, and decisions will be made by mutual consent. Several specialised committees, including a trade partnership committee, will assist the Partnership Council. Therefore, it seems that negotiations between the EU and the UK on their future relationship are set to continue long into the future.  In this article, I will look at the TCA elements that are causing concern or require further work. Trade in goods and customs The real test for cross-border trade between the UK and EU is really just beginning, given that traffic at ports and borders is generally quieter in the weeks after Christmas. Still, problems with paperwork (which could never be removed by a free-trade agreement), health checks and systems were reported by many companies in the first few weeks of the year. We have heard reports of large retailers reporting shortages on their shelves with retailers in Northern Ireland significantly affected given the customs declarations required for goods brought into Northern Ireland from Great Britain – a requirement that seems to have taken some by surprise.   The TCA’s chapter on rules of origin is particularly cumbersome and has already hampered, and is expected to continue to hamper, existing supply chains. The ‘zero tariffs, zero quotas’ headline celebrating free trade is not all it seems, particularly when only eligible goods qualify for this approach. Rules of origin determine a product’s economic nationality and where products ‘originate’ is the fundamental basis for determining if tariffs apply. The TCA says that for products to benefit from zero tariffs and zero quotas, goods must be wholly obtained from, or manufactured, in the EU or UK or be substantially transformed or processed in the EU or UK in line with the specific origin rules that apply to the product being exported. Minor handling, unpacking and repacking won’t qualify as sufficiently processed. There could be issues for goods not wholly grown, farmed, fished or mined in either the UK or EU.  The amount of non-originating materials (i.e. materials not originating in either the EU or UK) that a product can have in order to still benefit from the TCA differs depending on the product. The annexes to the TCA set out the product-specific rules, and you will need to identify the commodity code as a starting point. Some products allow a maximum level of non-originating content (e.g. 50% of the ex-works selling price), but again this varies from product to product. If, for example, products are processed in the UK, the TCA states that EU origin materials and processing can be counted when considering whether UK exports to the EU meet rules of origin requirements. There is a qualifying production level, for example, called ‘cumulation’. Another nuance is that some rules of origin require that non-originating inputs used in the production of a good must have a different tariff heading, while some rules require a specific operation to take place in the UK for the goods to be classed as being of UK origin. For certain chemicals, for example, a chemical reaction must occur in the UK. It’s also important to remember that when goods are exported from a customs territory, origin status is lost (preferential origin status can only apply once). Take leather shoes originating in Spain as an example. When the shoes move from Spain to Great Britain and are then shipped to Ireland, they lose their EU preferential origin status when they leave Great Britain. Because they haven’t been processed or altered in Great Britain, they don’t have UK origin. Therefore, unless the goods move under a special and complicated customs procedure, duties arise on the goods entering Ireland. The now infamous case of Marks & Spencer’s Percy Pig confectionery is an example of this issue. These issues add to supply chain headaches and give rise to hidden costs. The rules are undoubtedly complex and don’t suit the UK’s significant role as a distribution hub. Business travel Free movement of people between the EU and UK ended on 1 January 2021. Of course, Irish and UK citizens are still free to live, travel and work in either country under the rules of the Common Travel Area (CTA). Beyond this category of people, immigration requirements – including securing permission to work and restrictions on the activities that can be performed as business travellers – are now a key consideration for UK nationals moving throughout the rest of the EU, including UK citizens residing in Ireland. Similar policies are in place for EU nationals seeking to travel to, and work in, the UK. The CTA allows short-term business visitors to enter either jurisdiction visa-free for 90 days in any given six-month period, but there are restrictions on the activities that can be performed. Activities such as meetings, conferences, trade exhibitions, and consultations are allowed. However, anything that involves selling goods or services directly to the public requires a work visa. The specific business situations where a visa is required are set out in the annexes to the TCA. The environment In a first for the EU, the fight against climate change has been included as an “essential element” in a bilateral agreement with a third country. This effectively means that if the EU or the UK were to withdraw from the Paris Agreement or take measures defeating its purpose, the other side would have the right to suspend or even terminate all or part of the TCA. The TCA paves the way for a joint framework for cooperation on renewable energy and other sustainable practices, as well as the creation of a new model for energy trading. However, it allows both sides to set their own climate and environmental policies in areas such as carbon emissions/carbon pricing, air quality, and biodiversity conservation. Divergence from respective environmental and climate laws will be monitored, but this area is not subject to the TCA’s main dispute resolution mechanism. It will instead be governed by a ‘Panel of Experts’ procedure. Time will tell how effective this will be. Data transfers Many businesses rely on the ability to transfer personal data about their customers or employees to offer goods and services across borders. A company based in Belfast, for example, might outsource its payroll processing to a company based in Galway. In this case, any restriction on this data’s ability to flow freely would act as a trade barrier. The EU and UK haven’t concluded a deal yet to allow data to continue to flow freely across borders, but the EU has committed to a decision on the adequacy of the UK’s system (UK GDPR) by 30 June 2021. Until then, the UK will be treated as if it is still part of the EU on data protection grounds, and data can continue to flow freely between jurisdictions. If the EU doesn’t reach an adequacy agreement (although reports suggest that a deal is close), provisions such as standard contractual clauses may be needed in future transfers of data between the UK and EU. Financial services Currently, the UK has identical rules to the EU in terms of the regulation of financial services. Supplementary documentation published with the TCA states that the UK Treasury and European Commission aim to sign a cooperation agreement covering financial services regulation by March 2021. The EU has already deemed the UK equivalent for a time-limited basis in clearing and transaction settlement, while the UK has provided the EU with specific findings that would enable EU member states to conduct such business in the UK. Many other areas of the TCA will be digested and interpreted in the weeks and months ahead. Trade deals are predominantly about trade. Only time will tell if they go far enough in other areas such as environment, security and intelligence, or healthcare, for example. Let’s hope that in the long run, a deal is better than no-deal. POINT OF VIEW:  Barry Cullen, Silver Hill Duck Silver Hill Duck is a perfect example of a cross-border business and the various challenges posed by the new trading relationship between the EU and the UK. Silver Hill Duck is a duck manufacturing company based in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan, with operations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The company controls all aspects of the breeding, farming, production and packaging of its famous Silver Hill Duck breed. Established in 1962, it has supplied the best Chinese restaurants in the UK for the past 40 years. During this time, the company has expanded its customer base to include retail and foodservice, including a range of raw and cooked products. Barry Cullen, Head of Sales at Silver Hill Duck and President of the Irish Exporters Association, shares the background to his company’s commercial decisions. “The UK was historically our largest market, and we took some steps before 1 January 2021 to avoid the expected delays that were predicted at the ports. This involved setting up a Northern Ireland company with the appropriate VAT and EORI numbers, and a customs clearance agent to handle the paperwork. Silver Hill also had to source a warehousing partner in the UK that could hold frozen stock for our UK customers. Trading with our fresh retail customers was suspended for the first few weeks in January due to the uncertainty around delays at ports and the documentation required. The first few weeks of 2021 has shown that this was a prudent decision, as it has become apparent that the UK is nowhere near ready for the new trading requirements. There are major delays at Holyhead with hauliers unable to access the Irish market due to incorrect paperwork and a COVID-19 testing regime that has exacerbated the problem. It’s a case of learning on the job as our sales team feels its way through the many documentation requirements to send a pallet of product to the UK. For example, despite having done due diligence for over three years, we were not aware of the REX system and the need to be registered to self-certify our goods. Even though there are no actual tariffs, the customs clearance costs are high at approximately €120 per order, regardless of size, if you act as exporter and importer for the UK customer. This will make much retail business commercially unviable and will have a significant knock-on effect on small- and medium-sized enterprises in the coming months. There will undoubtedly be a settling-in period for the new trading requirements, but the cost for traders, hauliers and suppliers is as yet uncertain.”   Cróna Clohisey is Public Policy Lead at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Feb 09, 2021
Tax

With international tax reform progressing at unprecedented speed, Susan Kilty explains why Irish businesses must continue to participate actively in the discussion. With all the global uncertainty that Ireland is facing due to COVID-19 and Brexit, there is a risk that the OECD global tax reforms – the other major threat to Irish business and the economy – will be pushed further down the corporate agenda. But to do so would be very risky. Ireland must engage with this process now, at both the political and corporate level. The world of international tax is in a state of extreme flux as governments grapple with changes in the way multinationals do business. It is worth reiterating that Ireland has attracted healthy levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) over the past 30 years, and the multinational community has contributed significantly to our economic success. According to the OECD, Ireland received more foreign direct investment in the first half of this year than any other country. Along with Ireland’s near-iconic 12.5% tax rate, a crucial element in our continuing ability to attract international investment is the stability and transparency of the corporate tax regime here. Investors from abroad who establish activities in Ireland tend to be quite sensitive to changes in the taxation system. They like certainty and stability in a tax code, which is why Ireland presents such an attractive proposition. Ireland cannot afford to lose FDI as a result of turbulence in the global tax landscape at this time. As corporation tax accounts for almost 18% of Ireland’s total tax take, any change to the regime threatens to seriously undermine the attractiveness of our FDI model and negatively impact our revenue-raising ability. The crux of the matter is that we, and many other countries, apply 20th century tax systems to 21st century e-commerce business models. Businesses have an increasingly digital presence, and many no longer trade out of brick and mortar locations. This is not limited to so-called technology companies, but can be seen across industries and in businesses of all sizes. Businesses sell freely across borders without ever needing to set up operations abroad. This new digital way of trading is not always captured in our analogue tax rules, and the rules must be realigned with the reality of modern e-commerce. However, to tax a multinational business, you need a multinational set of rules. This is where the OECD comes in, but the uncertain shape that the new rules might take brings more uncertainty for businesses at a time when it is least needed. Many clients cite the changing international tax environment as one of the top threats to potential revenue growth. And although countries now face enormous bills for COVID-19, one sure thing is that BEPS, OECD and tax reform will not go away. International corporate tax reform is happening, and it will impact many businesses and our economy. Companies need to stay on top of these changes and prioritise the issues that will affect them. OECD proposals The OECD proposals offer a two-pillar solution: one pillar to re-allocate taxing rights and ensure that profits are recorded where sales take place, and a second pillar to ensure that a minimum tax rate is paid. At the time of writing, a public consultation is open for stakeholders to share their views with the OECD on the proposals that were recently summarised by way of two “blueprint” documents, one for each pillar. Pillar One seeks to give market jurisdictions increased taxing rights (and, therefore, increased taxable income and revenues). It aims to attribute a portion of the profits of certain multinational groups to the jurisdictions in which their customers are based. It does this by introducing a new formulaic allocation mechanism for profits while ensuring that limited risk distributors take a fair share of profits. Several questions remain as to how the Pillar One proposals, which constitute a significant change from the current rules, will be applied. Pillar Two, on the other hand, seeks to impose a floor for minimum tax rates across the globe. This proposal is very complicated. It is much more than a case of setting a minimum rate of tax. It is made up partially of a system that requires shareholders of companies that pay low or no tax to “tax back” the profits to ensure that they are subject to a minimum rate. At the same time, rules will apply to ensure that payments made to related parties in low-tax-paying or no-tax-paying countries are subject to a withholding tax. Finally, it can alter the application of double tax treaty relief for companies in low-tax-paying or no-tax-paying countries. Agreeing on the application and implementation of this pillar will be incredibly difficult from a global consensus point of view. Several supposed “safety nets” in Pillar Two are also likely to be of limited application. For example, assuming that the minimum tax rate is set at 12.5%, this does not mean that businesses subject to tax in Ireland will escape further tax. Similarly, assuming that the US GILTI (global intangible low-taxed income) rules are grandfathered in the OECD’s proposal, this does not mean that the US GILTI tax applies as a tax-in-kind tax for Pillar Two purposes. Pillar Two poses a significant threat to Ireland, as it reduces the competitiveness of our 12.5% rate to attract FDI and, coupled with the Pillar One profit re-allocations, could reduce our corporate tax take. The OECD estimates that once one or both of the pillars are introduced, companies will pay more tax overall at a global level, but where this tax falls is up for negotiation – and this is why early engagement by all stakeholders is critical. While the new proposals will undoubtedly have an impact, it is not certain that Ireland’s corporation tax receipts will fall off a cliff. Ireland has already gained significantly in terms of investment from the first phase of OECD tax reform, and this has helped to drive a significant increase in corporate tax revenue. But the risks must nevertheless be addressed. There is, of course, the risk that the redistribution of tax under the rules directly under Pillar One and indirectly via Pillar Two will impact our corporate tax take. But even if the rules have no impact on a company’s tax bill, they could still impose a considerable burden from an administrative perspective, and the complexity of the rules cannot be overestimated. At a time when businesses are grappling with other tax changes, led by the EU and domestic policy changes, this would be a substantial additional burden on the business community. The OECD is progressing the rules at unprecedented speed in terms of international tax reform. The momentum behind the process comes from a political desire for a fair tax system that works for modern business. However, does this rapidity risk the international political process marching ahead of the technical tax work? This is where Ireland, both government and corporate, needs to play a vital role. While the consultation period on both pillars is open, the focus for stakeholders should be on consulting with the OECD on the technical elements of its plan. Considering the OECD’s stated objective to have a political consensus by mid-2021, this could be one of the last opportunities for stakeholders to have a say in writing the rules. The interplay between the OECD and the US Treasury cannot be ignored when considering the OECD’s ability to get the proposals over the line. The US Treasury decided to step away from the consultation process with the OECD for a period in mid-2020. This, of course, raised questions around whether the OECD proposals could generate a solution that countries would be willing to implement. Added to this, the OECD has always positioned Pillar One and Pillar Two as an overall package of measures and has stressed that one pillar would not be able to move forward without the other. The “nothing is decided until everything is decided” basis of moving forward is a risky move, but the OECD recently rowed back on this stance. If the OECD fails to reach a political consensus by 2021, we could very well see the EU act ‘en bloc’ to introduce a tax on companies with “digital” activities. This could result in differing rules within, and outside of, the EU. It would also increase global trade tensions, all of which would not be good for our competitiveness. As a small open economy, Ireland will always be susceptible to any barriers to global trade. A multilateral deal brokered by the OECD therefore remains the best option – the last thing we want to see is the EU accelerating its own tax reform or, worse still, countries taking unilateral action. For the Irish Government, providing certainty where possible about the future direction of tax is critical. Where we have a lead is in how we provide that stability and guidance where we can. The upcoming Corporate Tax Roadmap from the Department of Finance will be an opportunity to give assurances in these uncertain times. Next steps for business The public consultation will be critical for businesses to have their say in shaping the rules. Ireland Inc. must continue to engage constructively with the OECD to try to shape the outcome so that we maintain a corporate tax system that is fit for purpose, is at the forefront of global standards, and works for businesses located here. Doing so would ensure that we articulate the position of small open economies like our own. Each impacted business must take the opportunity to comment on the proposals, as this may be the last chance to have a say. Indeed, what comes out of the consultation period may be the architecture of the rules for the future. We know that difficult decisions must be made at home and abroad in terms of the new tax landscape, and made with additional pressures we could not have foreseen 12 months ago. Although it may seem that much is out of our control, Irish businesses must continue to participate actively in the discussions and ensure that their concerns are heard. The game may be in the final quarter, but the ball is in our hands. Susan Kilty is a Partner at PwC Ireland and leads the firm’s tax practice. Point of view: Fergal O'Brien Since the start of the BEPS process in 2013, Irish business has recognised the importance of the work to our business model and the country’s future prosperity. At its core, BEPS has seen a further alignment of business substance and tax structures at a global level. This has resulted in an often under-appreciated surge in business investment, quality job creation and, ultimately, higher tax revenue for the Irish State. With its strong history as a successful location for foreign direct investment, and substance in world-class manufacturing and international services, Ireland was well-placed to benefit from the new global order. The boom in business investment, which last year reached over €3 billion every week, and increase in the corporate tax yield from €4 billion in 2013 to €11 billion in 2019, are evidence of the further embedding of business substance in the Irish economy. The current round of BEPS negotiations will have further significant implications for the Irish economy, and particularly for the rapidly growing digital economy. Ibec is working directly with the OECD to ensure that any further changes to corporation tax recognise the central role of business substance and locations of real value creation. Fergal O’Brien is Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Ibec.  Point of view: Norah Collender The OECD’s proposals to address the challenges of the digitalised economy will have a disproportionate negative impact on small, open exporter economies like Ireland. Earlier consultation papers issued by the OECD on taxing the digitalised economy suggested that smaller economies could benefit from international tax reform emanating from the OECD. However, the OECD now openly admits that bigger countries stand to benefit from its proposals more than smaller countries, and the carrot has turned into the stick in terms of what will happen if smaller countries do not support the OECD. Ireland is acutely aware of the dangers ahead if countries take unilateral action to achieve their vision of international tax reform. But that does not mean that countries like Ireland should be rushed into accepting international tax rules that fundamentally hamstring Irish taxing rights. Genuine consensus must be reached to ensure that international tax reform is sustainable in the long-term. Likewise, the new tax rules must be manageable from the multinational’s perspective and from the perspective of the tax authority tasked with administrating the rules. A rushed outcome to the important work of the OECD will make for tax laws that participating countries, tax authorities, and the all-important taxpayer may not be able to withstand in the long-term. Norah Collender is Professional Tax Leader at Chartered Accountants Ireland. Point of view: Seamus Coffey How Pillar One and Pillar Two of the OECD BEPS Project will ultimately impact Ireland is uncertain. One sure thing, however, is that there will be changes to tax payments. This will be a combination of a change in the location of where taxes are paid and perhaps also an increase in tax payments in some instances. But there will likely be both winners and losers. From an Irish perspective, there might have been some comfort in that the loser could have been the residual claimant – the country at the end of the chain that gets to claim taxing rights on the profits left after other countries have made their claim. As US companies are the largest source of Irish corporation tax revenue, it might have been felt that most of the losses would fall on the US. However, significant amounts of intellectual property have been on-shored here. Ireland, therefore, has become a residual claimant for the taxing rights to some of the profits of these companies. At present, Ireland is not collecting significant taxes from these profits as capital allowances are claimed. If BEPS results in a significant reallocation of these profits, we might never collect much tax on them. Seamus Coffey is a lecturer in the Department of Economics in University College Cork and former Chair of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.

Dec 01, 2020
Tax

Tony Buckley shares eight tips to help businesses plan for a bright post-Brexit future and explains how Ireland could ultimately emerge from the mayhem as a nation of international market-making traders. Well, now we know – or do we? We are getting used to the new reality of the UK as a third country, but the UK’s relationships will continue to evolve and the changes to our way of doing business will take some time to show their impact fully. The process of realising and adjusting to change is, in many ways, just beginning. The Brexit process has taken us through some unprecedented scenes, scarcely believable public debates, and commentary that veered from “it won’t change anything” to apocalyptic descriptions of “cliff-edge” and “crash-out” and invocations of the spirit of the Blitz. In fairness, confusion and a lack of clarity were inevitable. Never before, outside of wartime, was there an attempt to consciously create a full border in the middle of an integrated and prosperous market. With it comes the risk of re-imposing all the impediments to trade so successfully lifted by the Single Market and, going back even further, the customs duties and quotas that were eliminated in 1973. Borders and their accompanying strictures usually develop over a very long period, and the countries on either side grow with, and adapt to, the border as a simple reality of life and business. Brexit proposed to dismantle a vast number of accepted and profitable practices and trading structures and reform them for a new and ill-defined reality. Daily life was going to change, but no-one could provide a full and detailed picture. The best that could be concluded was that the short-term effects would not be good. Setting the political framework was imperative so that the legal, regulatory and administrative structures and systems could be developed in good time. Unfortunately, due to various factors, the political process took up almost all of the time available and resulted in uncertainty up to the last minute. It is only fair to say, however, that with something of this scale, some lack of preparedness is unavoidable, leaving much to be resolved in the ‘live’ environment of EU-UK separation. Trade tends to find a way through. In modern Western Europe, where the benefits of free-flowing trade and commerce are so visible, all governments regard the facilitation of trade as a critical priority. We can see that in the solutions that have been created to keep trade flowing in January 2021. Without the urgency of Brexit, some of the changes, especially for Ro-Ro, would have taken years of negotiation and planning. So, not everything is in place, and the practical administration has not bedded down into the smooth operating models that will emerge. Teething troubles are expected in any new system, and this is an enormously complicated situation. Nevertheless, we can be sure that by the end of 2021, the new reality will be as well understood as was the old. At that stage, we will be able to properly take stock, count the cost, seek the benefit, and adjust our future planning. At the moment, many businesses are shouldering significantly increased cost to ensure that goods continue to move across borders in the short-term. The agents, freight forwarders and express carriers who can navigate the new rules and systems are not cheap. The generally accepted estimate is that customs will add about 4% to the cost of traded goods. For most of 2021, and possibly beyond, this is likely to be an underestimate for Irish and UK businesses, which are struggling with a shortage of expertise and capacity in customs and trade support services, not to mention long-standing supply chains and agreements that are no longer fit for purpose. The way forward will be different for each entity. The following is not intended as a full guide, but as a small collection of tips that appear to apply to most businesses. 1. Don’t be hasty The new systems and rules are permanent. They therefore represent a quantum shift in the operating parameters of business – not just for traded goods, but for all businesses directly or indirectly affected by Brexit (which is virtually all Irish businesses). For that reason, don’t rush. It may be worthwhile to incur very high costs in early 2021 for the benefit of breathing space. This will, in turn, allow you to design and tailor suitable long-term arrangements. 2. Understand the changes Costs must be managed. For those that cannot change their prices, the question is whether the margin reduction can be minimised and made sustainable. If not, the wisest course is to change direction early. There are many options to reduce costs or find off-setting benefits, but the first requisite is that the business planners (owners and advisors) fully understand the rules of the game. Customs and international trading rules are, and will remain, central considerations in planning any business involving, or connected to, the UK. We are well used to the need to understand tax exposure. We now need to become familiar with the complexities of international trade, which have not been relevant to European trade since 1993. 3. Nothing is untouchable Established structures, devised for a variety of reasons from tax efficiency to comparative cost advantage to administrative preference, must be reappraised. One of the most common challenges encountered by those advising on Brexit preparation is the insistence that existing structures and practices cannot be changed. This position usually stems from a failure to appreciate the cost of failing to optimise the supply chain. 4. Supply chains must change Commercial agreements must reflect the new reality. Many of the goods sold in Ireland arrive here via UK distributors. It makes no sense to pass goods through two sets of customs and market regulations. Standing agreements will not be easy to renegotiate, but the alternative is a significant impact on cost. 5. Check the small print Irish companies are, on average, smaller than their UK trading partners and a higher proportion of Irish companies depend on the trade. Irish companies must resist the strong temptation to agree to dictated trading terms without fully understanding the costs involved. 6. Manage expectations Consignments will get bigger on average, and for a good reason. Just-in-time and small deliveries are disproportionately expensive when compared to less frequent full loads. Test your customers’ tolerance for less demanding delivery schedules. 7. Invest in your market For a UK-based business, buying goods and components from a UK producer is preferable as the producer retains responsibility for standards, quality and customer rights. Purchasing from an Irish (or other EU) producer transfers all the producer’s responsibilities to the importer. For this and other logistical reasons, serious consideration should be given to establishing in the UK if significant and long-term business is planned there. 8. Look for opportunities Don’t overlook the unique position that has been accorded to Northern Ireland. While the operation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is complicated, its possibilities are likely to repay close exploration. More generally, be aware that the advantages enjoyed by UK business – free access and large scale, for example – are significantly reduced in their effectiveness in a post-Brexit world. The competitive position of Irish business has therefore improved in the Irish and EU markets. These points may appear to be an extreme reaction. A common belief (or hope) is that the adjustment can be made with minimal cost – just an addition to variable cost that can be passed on. The reality is that, while some will struggle on without adaptation for some time, their costs will ultimately leave them uncompetitive with those who read the writing on the wall and adapt accordingly. Services have not been extensively dealt with in the EU-UK talks so far. The result is that, broadly speaking, services to and from the UK will operate similarly to any other non-EU country. The principles outlined above also apply here. There is a new reality, with national borders inhibiting the free movement of services. A similar reappraisal and planning exercise must be conducted. We are, I believe, looking forward to a new awareness of international trade in Ireland that will significantly benefit our ability to operate in world markets. Traditionally, only the largest companies in Ireland had those skills. The vast majority of Irish importers and exporters dealt only with the UK or within Europe and failed to develop the skills and knowledge that would have enabled them to become market-makers. That is changing, and I look forward to the prospect in a few years of Ireland as a nation of international traders. In summary, we are entering a critical period for Ireland’s traded goods and services sectors. If we adapt well, as we have the ability to do, we may find ourselves stronger, more agile, and a better place for small enterprise to flourish. This is not to minimise the inevitable prospect of business failure and job losses that will follow the economic and social turmoil caused by COVID-19. We must, however, look to better times ahead – and I believe that they are attainable. Tony Buckley is former Head of Revenue’s Customs division and Programme Lead for Chartered Accountants Ireland’s Certificate in Customs and Trade. Point of view: Crona Clohisey The UK is entering a new world, standing aside from Europe amid promises that it will have greater control over its destiny. Brexit could be an opportunity for Britain to reinvent itself, to cast itself off from Europe and thrive in the world on its own. But one must ask: can Brexit work? Britain’s place in this new world will not be determined on 1 January 2021; it will emerge in the months and years ahead. Indeed, some studies suggest that that Brexit will boost economic output by 7% while others say it will be reduced by almost 20%. The opportunities afforded by Brexit are often overlooked. The UK will remain an attractive place to do business and will also be free to forge new trade deals. That said, there will initially be disruption and challenges for businesses in Ireland and the UK, particularly for those dealing with customs administration for the first time. The Irish economy will remain heavily exposed to the UK, and a working UK-Ireland relationship must continue beyond Brexit. The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland will avoid the need for a land border on the island of Ireland. However, trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK must not result. Cróna Clohisey is Public Policy Lead at Chartered Accountants Ireland. Point of view: Jason McIntosh Preparations for Brexit began shortly after the referendum result – particularly for businesses located near to, or trading across, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Information and support have recently increased in availability. With the terms of a future trading relationship still unclear just weeks before the deadline, businesses have found industry resources (Chartered Accountants Ireland’s recent webinars, for example) hugely beneficial. A central pillar of successful Brexit preparation is the involvement of all relevant departments, from finance and purchasing to HR and communications, in a business. Such a collaborative approach allows for detailed impact analysis and the drafting of a robust action plan, which must have the buy-in of senior management. The impacts of Brexit extend beyond the import and export of goods. For businesses located on the island of Ireland, for example, employees might cross the EU border for work. While the risk of delays at the border for people seems to be subsiding, there will continue to be taxation and employment law impacts to consider. Taking advice will, therefore, be crucial.  Jason McIntosh is Finance Manager at Seagate Technology.

Nov 30, 2020
Tax

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme has ceased as of August 2020, but what does this mean for employers and their employees in terms of tax liabilities? Olive O’Donoghue explores the different options available. While the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) ceased at the end of August 2020, there are three main projects to be completed before the scheme will be fully closed off:  Revenue’s reconciliation; finalisation of employer compliance checks; and payment of employee taxes. The main objective of the reconciliation process is to ensure Revenue recoup any excess subsidy paid to employers. While the expectation would be that most overpayments occurred in the Transitional Phase of the TWSS (mainly because, for the first few weeks, employers received a flat €410 per eligible employee per week irrespective of the amount due), it is possible that overpayments may also have occurred for other reasons. For example, a clawback of subsidy would also be required where an employer has paid an employee more than their average revenue net weekly pay. All employers who availed of the TWSS should have already submitted details of subsidies paid to employees over the course of the scheme. Following receipt of these files, we understand that the reconciliation process is underway. While we expect this process to be finalised by the end of 2020, a fixed date has not yet been provided by Revenue. The employer compliance checks continue and, while many employers have already received the letters from Revenue, a number are still issuing. Throughout the operation of the TWSS, Revenue stated that it would adopt a pragmatic approach in assessing an employer’s eligibility for the scheme, and the experience with compliance checks supports this. It is worth noting that Revenue is utilising the compliance check process as an opportunity to raise queries/concerns on PAYE real time reporting issues, so employers should be mindful of this as they move through the compliance process. The tax treatment of subsidies payable under the TWSS has been a contentious issue amongst employers and employees, mainly due to the impact this treatment has to an eligible employee’s overall net pay position for 2020. While there has been significant push back from various bodies and interested parties over the last few months, unfortunately Revenue’s position remains that the TWSS will be subject to income tax and USC. In January, all eligible employees will receive a preliminary end of year statement from Revenue via Revenue’s MyAccount. This will show an employee’s estimated tax liability for 2020 – or, in some cases, a refund. The employee may wish to claim additional reliefs, such as medical expenses, additional pension contributions, etc. Once the final liability is determined, the employee can choose how they would like it to be settled. The employee may choose to settle the liability in full, directly with Revenue, make a part-payment to Revenue upfront with the balance being paid by way of reduced tax credits over four years from 2022, or elect for the full liability to be settled by way of reduced credits over four years from 2022. Recently, Revenue helpfully issued an update advising employers that they can settle the employees’ tax liabilities arising from the TWSS without a gross-up being required through payroll. The guidance notes that employers can make a payment to each employee to settle their liability directly with Revenue or, alternatively, an employer may choose to amend their last payroll submission for 2020 to capture the additional income tax and USC due by the employee. Further details on this can be found on revenue.ie. Olive O’Donoghue is a Director of Tax in KPMG.

Nov 20, 2020
News

With many of us working remotely for now, it is imperative that Irish tax rules around the 'normal' place of work, as well as expenses, are re-evaluated. Colin Smith explains. The Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) recently published the results of its remote working consultation held in August. While submissions to the DBEI covered a wide range of topics, nearly 200 of the 520 submissions raised tax and financial remote work-related concerns. The CCAB-I was among the submissions to outline tax problems in the context of remote working. A special interdepartmental group has been set up to take over for the DBEI to work on the Programme for Government’s promise to develop a remote working strategy. Current measures As outlined by the Minister on Budget Day, there are tax measures in place, to some extent, to support remote workers: Employers can contribute up to €3.20 per day to cover the employee’s additional costs of working from home, such as electricity, heat and broadband, without triggering a charge to benefit-in-kind (BIK). Many employers cannot afford to make such a contribution in the current economic climate. In the UK, the Government provides tax relief of £1.20 per week to lower-rate taxpayers and £2.40 per week to higher-rate taxpayers, when workers are required to work from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. The UK measure is modest, but it’s easy to claim the relief and it recognises that workers are out of pocket due to the restrictions. A similar measure should be considered by the Irish Government. Employees not in receipt of a contribution from an employer can make a claim for tax relief directly from Revenue of 10% of the cost of electricity and heat as apportioned over the number of days worked at home over the year. Revenue recently announced that it will also allow a claim for 30% of the cost of broadband apportioned over the number of days worked at home over the year. An employee working from home cannot claim tax relief for the purchase of work-related equipment such as computers and office furniture. However, the employer can provide such equipment to the employee and a BIK charge will not arise so long as private use is minimal. Employees can make a claim for tax relief directly from Revenue for other vouched expenses incurred “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” in the performance of the duties of their employment. Revenue applies a strict interpretation on the meaning of wholly, exclusively, and necessarily based on case law: an employee can only claim a deduction where the expense is incurred entirely in the performance of their duties, the employee is required to incur the expense in the performance of their duties, and they could not have carried out their duties without incurring the expense. These are complex rules and the odds of making a successful claim are stacked against the employee in the context of working from home. Fairer and more accessible tax rules must be developed as part of an effective strategy for remote working. ‘Normal’ place of work As set out in the CCAB-I’s submission to DBEI, an employee’s normal place of work is central to the tax treatment of travel and subsistence reimbursements to employees. Revenue holds the position that an employee’s home does not qualify as a normal place of work other than in exceptional circumstances and this brings complexity to what should be a straightforward matter. Employees and employers have risen to the challenge of new work practices as necessitated by COVID-19, and Irish tax rules must now align with these practices by re-evaluating what is a ‘normal’ place of work for tax purposes and the rules for tax deductible expenses of employment. Colin Smith is a Tax Partner at PwC and member of CCAB-I Tax Committee South.

Nov 20, 2020
News

The government has recently announced details of a new support scheme for businesses, but it has limitations that need to be addressed. Paul Dillon outlines the role Chartered Accountants must play to raise awareness of these limitations. Details of the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), announced as part of Budget 2021, were recently published by Revenue and registration for the scheme has officially opened. By offering a support of up to €5,000 per week, the scheme will be very valuable to businesses impacted by Government health and safety restrictions. However, the biggest hurdle for businesses will be meeting the many terms and conditions necessary to qualify. To begin with, the guidance issued by Revenue is over 45 pages long. While detailed guidance is always helpful, the length of the guidance speaks volumes about the complexity of the scheme. Further, it piles more paperwork on businesses already struggling to stay on top of the demands of operating under lockdown conditions. These same businesses continue to grapple with paperwork for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) by having to respond to compliance check letters and reconciliations for Revenue, which all 66,000 employers who benefited from the scheme must prepare. The CRSS is only available to businesses operating from premises that restricts customers from access due to COVID-19 restrictions. This means that the scheme benefits retailers, restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues, but it cannot be accessed by the many suppliers of these businesses, even though these suppliers are equally impacted by the negative effects of the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions. For example, wholesalers supplying to restaurants, pubs and hotels do not qualify for the CRSS under the current terms of the scheme. Sound engineers who supply their services to the live entertainment sector do not qualify for this subsidy, and all the businesses who provide services to theatres and shows are also excluded from CRSS. Mobile businesses not tied to a fixed premise are also precluded from accessing the scheme. This includes taxis and businesses operated from stalls, such as markets or trade fairs. It is puzzling why the Government has chosen to exclude these businesses from qualifying for the CRSS, especially given the fact that on Budget Day, Minister Donohoe said, “The scheme is designed to assist those businesses whose trade has been significantly impacted or temporarily closed as a result of the restrictions as set out in the Government’s ‘Living with Covid-19’ Plan.” This messaging gave hope to many businesses; however, those hopes were dashed when further details revealed the condition that only businesses operating from a fixed premises with restricted customer access could benefit from the scheme. As Government restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 are likely to be a feature of life in Ireland in 2021, it is essential that proper supports are in place to help all businesses impacted by the restrictions, like the wholesalers and businesses supplying services to restaurants and hotels. The CRSS will be a lifeline to many businesses and its only fair that the scheme should apply to all businesses impacted. While Government has demonstrated a willingness to revise and refine supports, like the TWSS, it is only when the issues are brought into the public domain by informed commentary. That is why, as Chartered Accountants, we have a role to play in raising awareness of the limitations of the CRSS and lobbying for change. Paul Dillon is Deputy Chair of the Tax Committee South of the CCAB-I and Taxation Partner in Duignan Carthy O'Neill.

Nov 20, 2020
Tax

David Duffy discusses recent Irish and EU VAT developments.Irish VAT updatesVAT rate decreaseAs most readers already know, the standard rate of Irish VAT has been reduced from 23% to 21% for the period from 1 September 2020 to 28 February 2021. We expect that most businesses will already have made the necessary changes to their systems and processes to apply the new rate to affected transactions from 1 September 2020 onwards. However, when preparing your September/October VAT return in November, it may be helpful to check that the new rate has been correctly applied. Some of the points to check may include:Has the new VAT rate been correctly applied to your sales? The tax point and corresponding VAT rate for your sales may differ depending on whether the sale was to another business or consumer, whether you operate the invoice or cash-receipts basis of accounting for VAT, and whether a payment was received in advance of the supply. The Revenue Tax and Duty Manual on changes in rates of VAT, available on the Revenue website, provides further guidance on how to apply these rules.Has the appropriate VAT rate been applied to purchase invoices received in the period?Has the appropriate VAT rate been applied to credit notes issued or received during the period? In general, the VAT rate applied to the credit note should match the VAT rate applied to the invoice to which the credit note relates.Does VAT charged at the new rate correctly map to the appropriate general ledger accounts and is it correctly captured in your VAT reports for the period?Extension of COVID-19 reliefsRevenue has confirmed an extension of a number of temporary, indirect tax reliefs introduced earlier this year to help combat COVID-19. These reliefs were originally due to expire on 31 July 2020, but have now been extended until 31 October 2020, subject to further review. The temporary reliefs include:The zero-rate of VAT applies to personal protective equipment (PPE), thermometers, medical ventilators, hand sanitiser, and oxygen when supplied to the HSE, hospitals, nursing homes, care homes and GP practices for use in providing COVID-19-related healthcare services. Relief from import VAT and customs duties applies to the import of medical goods to combat COVID-19 by or on behalf of State organisations, disaster relief agencies and other organisations approved by Revenue, and which are provided free of charge for these purposes. No VAT clawback will arise for the owner of a property used to provide emergency accommodation to the State, HSE or other State agencies in order to combat COVID-19. EU VAT updatesDeferral of VAT e-commerce rulesThe EU has recently agreed to defer the introduction of significant changes to the EU VAT rules for e-commerce transactions from 1 January 2021 to 1 July 2021. The deferral was in response to potential challenges of meeting the 1 January 2021 deadline for tax authorities and businesses as a result of COVID-19. While this deferral gives businesses more time to prepare, it is important for businesses that will be impacted by the changes to begin their preparations. Businesses which will be most affected include retailers with online stores, online platforms and marketplaces which facilitate sales of goods to consumers, and postal and logistics operators which handle imports of goods on behalf of retailers or consumers. A brief summary of the changes coming into effect on 1 July 2021 is set out below. The current domestic VAT registration thresholds for cross-border business to consumer (B2C) sales of goods in each EU member state will be abolished. As a result, a retailer selling goods to consumers in other EU member states will be obliged to charge VAT at the appropriate rate in the member state to which the goods are shipped regardless of their value, subject to a very limited exception where the value of sales to consumers across all EU member states is less than €10,000 per year. The VAT payable to tax authorities in other member states on these sales can be remitted through a quarterly One Stop Shop (OSS) registration rather than requiring an overseas VAT registration. VAT will apply to all goods imported into the EU, at the appropriate rate in the EU country of import, regardless of their value. This is as a result of the abolition of the import VAT relief for low-value consignments with a value of up to €22. This is likely to significantly increase the volume of packages imported on which VAT must be paid. To help facilitate the payment of VAT, the retailer or, in certain cases, the online marketplace facilitating the sale can charge the VAT at the time of sale and pay this VAT to the tax authority in the country of import through a new Import One Stop Shop (IOSS). This return would be filed, and related VAT paid, on a monthly basis. However, this will only apply to imported consignments with a value of up to €150. Packages above that value will be subject to import VAT and customs duty in the normal way at the time of import. An online marketplace that facilitates sales of goods to consumers will be deemed to have purchased and resold those goods in two scenarios: first, the goods are imported from outside of the EU in a consignment of up to €150; or second, the goods are sold within the EU by a retailer established outside of the EU. This will bring additional VAT collection and reporting obligations for these platforms.Additional VAT record-keeping requirements will apply to platforms and marketplaces which facilitate other supplies of goods and services to consumers within the EU.VAT on property adjustmentIn the HF case (C-374/19) the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that a VAT clawback was payable by a German retirement home operator where it ceased to carry out taxable supplies in a cafeteria attaching to the main retirement home building. The operator constructed the cafeteria and fully recovered VAT on the construction costs as its intention was to sell food and beverages to visitors. This activity would be subject to VAT. It was subsequently determined that there had been approximately 10% use of the café for VAT exempt supplies to residents of the retirement home, which resulted in a partial adjustment of the VAT reclaimed. This was not in dispute.However, subsequent to that initial adjustment, the taxable activity of sales of food and drinks to visitors ceased entirely. The only remaining use was in respect of the VAT exempt supplies to the residents, albeit there was no absolute increase in their use of the building. The question was, therefore, whether this triggered a further adjustment of VAT.The taxpayer had sought to rely on earlier court judgments which support the position that where VAT is reclaimed based on an intended taxable activity but that activity does not subsequently take place, the taxpayer’s right to VAT recovery is retained. However, the CJEU distinguished this case from the others because the intended taxable activity had commenced but ceased and the property was now only being used for VAT exempt activities. Ireland has adopted similar rules (referred to as the capital goods scheme) which can result in a clawback or uplift in VAT recovery where the proportion of taxable/exempt activity in building changes. This typically needs to be monitored over a period of up to 20 years. It is, therefore, important to carefully consider any changes in use of a building as this could have significant VAT consequences.David Duffy FCA, AITI Chartered Tax Advisor, is an Indirect Tax Partner at KPMG.

Oct 01, 2020
Tax

The pandemic has broken several business taboos and accelerated the role of digitisation in all walks of life. The UK tax system is no different. HMRC’s role in developing the job retention and self-employed schemes’ online portals at speed to deliver support to employers and businesses at a time of crisis has shown that digitisation can be done quickly. It might not have been perfect, but it was very good. On the back of these lessons, the UK Government published its vision for tax administration in the UK in July: building a trusted, modern tax administration system. The strategic importance of this goal has clearly been brought into sharper focus by the pandemic.An important part of the July publication was the announcement of further steppingstones in the roadmap of the Making Tax Digital (MTD) project, starting with extending MTD for VAT to VAT-registered businesses with turnover below the current £85,000 VAT registration threshold from April 2022. MTD for income tax will commence for self-employed businesses and landlords with income over £10,000 from April 2023.But there’s one glaring issue missing from the picture: UK tax legislation is extremely complex. Unless this is seriously addressed, efficient, problem-free, further digitisation of the UK tax system cannot be effectively achieved. For that reason, the Government should also develop a roadmap for simplification of the UK tax system which should work as a precursor to any new digital services developed. This should begin with income tax complexity. If this doesn’t happen, having to navigate legislation that continually increases in complexity coupled with a requirement to make multiple filings to HMRC has the capacity to be extremely challenging for both HMRC, the taxpayer and their agent. The UK Government must simplify to digitise.Leontia Doran FCA is a UK Taxation Specialist with Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Oct 01, 2020
Tax

In late 2018, HMRC surveyed over 1,000 businesses on their awareness of the corporate criminal offences legislation. Claire McGuigan reports on the findings and the next steps for businesses.Corporate criminal offences (CCO) legislation, introduced in the UK two years ago, was designed to drive a behavioural shift in companies and partnerships to take an active role in preventing the facilitation of tax evasion. HMRC conducted a research project in late 2018, one year after the legislation took effect, to examine the extent to which this has been successful.The results show that more work is needed to raise awareness of the legislation:74% have not heard of the Criminal Finances Act (the Act) and, of those aware, only one-third thought it was relevant to their business.Large businesses and those in the financial services and insurance sectors are much more likely to have taken action.64% of businesses had not made changes to operations as a result of the Act.55% of respondents said they had at least one of the five standard prevention procedures in place.Over one-quarter of respondents intended to make changes in the next 12 months.While some operational changes are happening as a result of the introduction of CCO, it is also clear that the key messages in HMRC’s guidance are not getting through. With no de minimis to the CCO legislation and with sanctions including unlimited fines, criminal prosecution and director disqualification, organisations face a genuine risk if they fail to act.Below is a list of commonly asked questions and lessons based on my work in this area.1. What is a corporate criminal offence?The CCO legislation took effect on 30 September 2017. It created two corporate offences, one relating to the evasion of UK tax and one relating to the evasion of foreign tax. It can apply to the evasion of any tax, including indirect and employment taxes, anywhere in the world. Any UK business, UK corporate, or a foreign corporate doing business in the UK will be within the scope of both offences. The business will have a strict liability under criminal law for failing to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion by one of its associates (employee, contractor or any other person providing services for, or on behalf of, the corporate). A defence exists of having ‘reasonable prevention procedures’ in place.2. Who does this affect?All companies and partnerships. There is no de minimis.3. What happens if we don’t do anything? Are we at risk of penalties?Yes, you are. A successful prosecution could lead to:an unlimited fine;a public record of the conviction; andsignificant reputational damage and adverse publicity.4. What has HMRC said since the legislation came into force?HMRC has made it clear that it is taking this legislation very seriously. It has undertaken investigations, for example, which include interviewing staff to see what they know about CCO, what actions they are aware the business is taking in response to CCO, and if personnel know what to look out for to identify tax fraud.5. Can you provide examples of what this legislation covers?Here are three examples:A member of your payroll team deliberately falsifying information relating to a worker so the worker is treated as a contractor rather than deducting PAYE at source.An employee deliberately collaborating with one of your suppliers to falsify the amount paid on an invoice.An employee deliberately conspiring with a supplier to conceal the true source country of goods to evade customs duties.6. We already have Bribery Act and AML/KYC procedures in place. What more do we need to do?You may already have financial and economic crime prevention procedures in place. These existing procedures are relevant, but a risk assessment specific to the facilitation of tax evasion must be carried out and then mapped to current procedures.7. What should the message be from the board?You need top-level commitment. The board is typically best placed to champion this. From here, your staff will need training so they know what they need to do.8. I haven’t done very much. What do I need to do?The CCO legislation is no longer new, and HMRC will expect you to have reasonable procedures to demonstrate a defence to this legislation in place. There are four stages of compliance with the CCO legislation:Risk assessment: your priority is to conduct and document your risk assessment.Implementation: the risk assessment process should include the development of an implementation plan, setting out the next steps and responsibilities.Training and communication: this is to ensure that CCO policies and procedures are communicated within and outside the business.Monitoring, review and testing: this comprises testing current process and the periodic update of the risk assessment.9. What are other organisations doing at a practical level?Once the risk assessment is complete, there are typical ‘quick wins’ and practical steps that businesses can focus on. This includes developing a suite of CCO policies, such as a board paper and communications to suppliers, and ensuring that CCO training is rolled out across the business.10. What should my business do now?All businesses should continue to develop their response both to COVID-19 and an evolving working environment. The challenges and opportunities of a remote workforce and the accelerating pace of digital change mean that different approaches to compliance, governance and regulation must be considered.It is important to ensure that your reasonable prevention procedures are designed to prevent associated persons committing the facilitation offences in the new reality. Ensuring that your staff and other associated persons understand their responsibilities is also a critical control in minimising the risk of enforcement action.Where there are staff reductions, employees working from home or management focused on critical functions only, unique opportunities arise to commit tax fraud. Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly, particularly within the context of COVID-19.For businesses that have already performed a risk assessment, it is important to carry out a periodic review of existing policies and procedures, as well as refreshing your current risk assessment to reflect any changes in the business.Claire McGuigan is Director, Corporate Tax, at BDO Northern Ireland.

Oct 01, 2020
Tax

Budget 2021 is the next instrument in the government's response to the impacts of COVID-19 on the Irish economy. Between the pandemic and a possible disorderly Brexit, Budget 2021 will not be a normal budget, says Kim Doyle.COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges for the global economy. Governments, along with their tax authorities worldwide, have adopted and administered emergency measures to preserve the health of their people and defend against collapse of their economies. In Ireland, we had a mini-Budget in the form of the July Jobs Stimulus, a €7.4 billion package of measures aimed at supporting the Irish economy in response to the impact of COVID-19. We also have a number of administrative measures in operation by Revenue to ease taxpayers’ compliance burden. Brexit also brings challenges. At this stage, we do need to respond to the immediate impacts of Brexit, and a possible disorderly Brexit, and plan for the long-term stability and robustness of the Irish economy. Climate change is, too, the ‘defining challenge of our generation’, according to the Minister for Finance. And, indeed, a raft of measures were introduced last year to tackle this challenge, while others were promised in the future. EU and OECD tax reform proposals continue to pose challenges and bring additional uncertainties into play. The impact of these on the Irish economy could extend well beyond corporation tax receipts and may influence unwanted changes in investment decisions by MNC groups going forward.Framing Budget 2021Budget 2021 may target revenue raising measures to cover the expenditure introduced to deal with the recent challenges brought about by COVID-19 and a possible disorderly Brexit, but any budgetary measures must avoid undoing the impact of the July Jobs Stimulus Package. Health and housing priorities will also have to be addressed in the budget. The government has said the measures will focus on the short-term and not beyond 2021.The government has pledged no increases to income tax credits or bands. (This is also promised in the Programme for Government.) The level of government expenditure over the coming months is unlikely to fall substantially, if at all. Despite the backdrop, tax receipts for the first eight months of 2020 are only 2.3% behind the same period in 2019. Given that some of this deficit is a timing issue and will be recovered in 2021, this is a remarkable outturn. September tax returns will be the final “piece in the jigsaw” before the final Budget 2021 is decided, according to the government. ExpectationsPre-COVID-19, Budget 2021 was expected to be framed around Brexit and climate change. Now, amid a pandemic, what are we more likely to see in the Budget from a tax perspective? Income taxConsidering the government has stated there will be no broad based increases in income taxation, we don't expect to see much by way of income tax measures. We may see some modest tax cuts in the form of increased tax credits for stay-at-home parents and other credits and reliefs targeting lower and middle income earners. We would like to see a long-term commitment to a reduction in our high marginal tax rates of 52% and 55% for employees and self-employed respectively; however, there is no fiscal space to make any pledge to reduce these rates in the short-term.The concept of broadening the tax base, so more people pay a little, has long been debated with very little reaction by government. The main reason may be it is likely to be unpopular with constituents. However, considering the challenges for the Irish economy, the government may need to embrace this concept but balance it with the pledge for no broad income tax increases. A new form of tax relief for individuals working remotely is a possible outcome of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation public consultation on Guidance for Remote Working. Some responses to this summer consultation called for changes to the tax rules for reimbursement of employee expenses and changes to the tax treatment of expenses incurred by employees. We may see some tweaks to the Irish Tax Code in response. Corporation taxThe government reaffirmed its commitment to the 12.5% corporation tax rate in the Programme for Government. The importance of this commitment is evident in the remarkable tax receipts for the eight months to end of August 2020, which are largely driven by large corporation tax increases along with a strong start to the year pre-COVID-19 and more resilient income tax receipts. Ireland is obliged under EU law to implement changes to our tax code to restrict the interest tax deduction taken by companies. At the time of writing, these changes are more likely to take effect in 2022. The EU agreed last year to park its digital tax proposals in order to allow global consensus be reached through the OECD digital tax discussions. Changes to accommodate any digital tax proposals will be premature in 2020 and, therefore, unlikely to be a feature of Budget 2021. Capital taxes In order to further stimulate the economy, lowering both the CGT and CAT rates will likely promote activity in the market and should ultimately see assets put to a more productive use. This rate reduction has been called for and debated in recent years. Perhaps Budget 2021 will deliver. Considering residential property prices have fallen in recent months, there may be scope to increase the related Stamp Duty rate. However, such a rate increase will likely be unpopular among constituents and not helpful considering the struggles reported by many in getting a foot on the property ladder. VATThe extension of the 9% VAT rate to construction services would help encourage the scale of property development needed to absorb the current demand and address the housing shortage. The re-introduction of the 9% VAT rate to stimulate the hospitality sector would complement the other measures, such as the Stay and Spend Tax Scheme. An extension of the new temporary 21% VAT rate, while desirable by many, is unlikely; the headline VAT rate is a useful revenue raising measure. Increasing the threshold for cash-receipts basis of accounting, and the VAT registration thresholds, may support businesses to deal with the current challenges. Old reliablesPetrol and diesel excise increases may feature, particularly in the context of requirements to address climate change. Increases in the excise to diesel only to bring it in line with the cost of petrol at the pumps is more likely. Excise increases on alcohol and cigarettes is possible but the hospitality sector has already taken a battering due to COVID-19 and any further perceived attacks may not be in favour. ConclusionOverall there isn’t the fiscal space for wide-ranging and significant tax reductions and reliefs in Budget 2021. But the Budget 2021 equation must consist of tailored tax measures to support and stimulate the hardest hit sectors of the Irish economy and defend against the impacts of a possible disorderly Brexit on the economy while also satisfying climate change targets.Kim Doyle FCA is Tax Director, Head of Tax Knowledge Centre in Grant Thornton.

Sep 30, 2020
Tax

Paul McCourt and Fiona Hall consider the possible tax implications of current low asset values and what individuals can do to help protect family finances for the long-term.The COVID-19 outbreak is having a range of effects on families and individuals, with many investors seeing family finances suffer and the value of their assets fall in recent months. An important factor to remember at this point is that when an individual makes a gift, it is the current market value of the asset being gifted that applies for both inheritance tax (IHT) and capital gains tax (CGT) purposes.TrustsThe creation of a trust to hold assets for the benefit of the wider family or dependants has been a long-standing solution for many individuals seeking to pass assets to the next generation. Settling a trust is generally a chargeable IHT event. However, if the settlor’s nil rate band is fully available, individuals can transfer £325,000 of assets into the trust without incurring an IHT liability. This could increase to £650,000 for married couples jointly settling a trust with the availability of two nil rate bands. CGT hold-over relief may also be available so that the gift to trust does not trigger a CGT liability.For those considering using a trust, or who have already established one, now may be the time to gift or sell assets. When assets pass out of the trust to a beneficiary, either by way of an entitlement or an appointment by the trustees, any IHT and CGT liabilities are based on the current market value of the assets passing. Trustees may wish to consider whether the trust continues to meet its objectives and whether it is now appropriate to appoint assets out to trust beneficiaries.Personal giftsGifting an asset to another individual is often a potentially exempt transfer for IHT purposes. As such, if the donor survives for seven years from the date of the gift, it falls out of their IHT estate. However, if the donor does die in this period, the value of the assets gifted at the time the gift was made could become taxable.Where a gift fails the seven-year rule, subject to reliefs and the IHT nil rate band (currently £325,000), IHT could be payable on the gift (by the recipient or the executors) or the value of the estate. Making a gift when asset values are low will mitigate the potential IHT exposure for the individual considering gifting an asset.A gift is treated for CGT as being a disposal of the asset at market value by the donor. This could trigger a capital gain if the value exceeds the allowable cost unless the assets qualify for business assets hold-over relief.When asset values are lower, the likelihood of a gift triggering a gain is reduced, or a gift may give rise to a loss. Care should be taken in generating a loss on gifts, as any losses arising from the disposal of an asset to a connected person can only be set against gains that arise from other disposals to that same person. Capital losses generally carry forward to future years, but not back so timing is vital.Crystallising ‘paper’ lossesIndividuals may consider crystallising a current ‘paper’ or book loss on an investment and repurchasing a similar asset. Any such loss can then be offset against capital gains arising on asset disposals made in the same, or later, tax years. It is important to note, however, that ‘bed and breakfasting’ of shares is often ineffective for tax purposes and particular care is required with transactions conducted personally, via an individual savings account or between spouses.As with any investment decisions, independent investment advice should be sought before proceeding.Exercising share optionsWhere an individual exercises an option to acquire shares in an employer through a non-tax-advantaged share plan, income tax is charged on that exercise on the difference between the market value of the shares at the date of exercise and the amount paid for the shares under the option. If the shares acquired are ‘readily convertible’ (i.e. easy to sell for cash or shares in a subsidiary company) National Insurance contributions will also be due on the exercise of the option.Exercising such options while the value of a company is temporarily reduced could reduce tax liabilities in the longer-term. However, this is clearly a risk-driven investment decision on which independent investment advice should be sought before proceeding. One of the key benefits of holding an option is that it would often be exercised before an exit event (e.g. the sale of the company) so that there is an immediate return of value. In the absence of such an event, the implications of becoming a shareholder in the company, and the risk to the value thereby invested, should be considered carefully.Pensions – lifetime allowanceAn individual whose pension pot was previously above the lifetime allowance of £1,073,100 (and with no protection/enhanced protection) might choose to crystallise pension benefits now while the fund value is reduced to reduce/eliminate the lifetime allowance tax charge.There are many financial, investment and IHT issues to consider carefully before proceeding, but acting now may save tax in the long-term. Action should only be considered as part of overall wealth planning, including advice from an independent financial adviser.Short-term opportunity to achieve long-term goalsThis is a difficult time, but any temporary reduction in asset values may allow clients to pass assets into trust or to the next generation at a lower tax cost than both a year ago and a year from now.Fiona Hall is Principal, Personal Tax, at BDO Northern Ireland.Paul McCourt is Tax Principal at BDO Northern Ireland.

Jul 30, 2020
Tax

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme is ever evolving in the face of uncertainty, writes Maud Clear.The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was introduced on 26 March 2020. Looking back 20 weeks on, in a world turned upside down by COVID-19, it is fair to say that the Scheme has evolved since its inception. With many businesses facing an uncertain road to recovery, the July Jobs Stimulus package was the next eagerly awaited phase in this evolutionary process.Revenue offered its services to the Department of Finance to pay out the subsidy through real-time reporting tools – an extraordinary move from an institution whose function is to collect tax.While the initial assessment in establishing eligibility was a significant exercise for many employers, Revenue provided consistency and support in their operation of the Scheme.That is until a programme of compliance checks was announced on 23 June for all employers availing of the Scheme. This was an unforeseen turn in the Scheme’s evolution, particularly when Revenue issued guidance on 20 April indicating: “We may in the future, based on risk criteria, review eligibility”.Such a broad stroke approach and the requirement for a response within five days have many employers questioning what is yet to come in the operation of the Scheme.Chartered Accountants Ireland, under the auspices of the CCAB-I, sought an extension to this response time. In response, Revenue may now allow for an extension of the five days where an employer contacts them to explain their difficulty in returning a response within the required timeframe.The announcement of an extension to the TWSS until the end of August came with a warning from the Minister for Finance that “this support cannot last forever”. As the challenges facing employers in re-opening continue to mount, assurance has since been provided by the Minister that the Scheme will not come to “an abrupt end”.  Most employers need the support of the TWSS to get back on their feet. Clarity on how they will get it, and for how long, will be a determining factor in their recovery. It is hoped that the ‘July Jobs’ stimulus package will provide that certainty.Maud Clear is Tax Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Jul 30, 2020
Tax

The prospect of an EU-wide digital tax raised its head again in June following developments at the OECD. Peter Vale and Kim Doyle consider if we are now closer to implementation of an EU digital tax across all member states, and the impact on Ireland’s offering.The EU agreed last year to park its digital tax proposals to allow global consensus to be reached through the OECD digital tax discussions.Both the EU and OECD proposals aim to allocate a portion of profits based on the location of consumers, reflecting the increasing value that businesses place on consumer data.In June, the US withdrew from the OECD’s digital tax discussions. This has increased the likelihood that the EU will push ahead with its own proposals.In the short-term, the impasse at OECD level is also likely to see other countries push ahead with unilateral digital tax proposals. Indeed, many EU countries have either implemented or proposed their own digital tax proposals.An EU digital taxThe EU’s original digital tax proposals envisaged a simple 3% turnover-based tax as an interim measure, subject to reaching agreement on a means of allocating profits based on digital activity. Given the complexities involved in arriving at such a means, the risk is that any interim ‘quick fix’, such as a flat turnover-based tax, could potentially become permanent.While countries are free to introduce their own digital tax measures, as several have done, implementation of an EU-wide digital tax regime would require unanimity across all EU member states. The need for unanimity could make it challenging to implement as certain countries, including Ireland, are not in favour of the existing EU digital tax proposals.However, the EU is looking to replace unanimity over tax decisions with a form of “qualified majority voting”. While such a change will itself require unanimity, political factors may lead to the removal of the requirement for unanimity in the future. This could potentially pave the way for easier implementation of EU-wide tax changes.Although the removal of the requirement for unanimity on significant EU tax decisions is some years away, countries are often reluctant to use a veto to block EU tax proposals. Hence the real possibility of an EU-wide digital tax in the short- to medium-term.COVID-19 will also drive countries to seek out additional tax revenues to fund spending, with digital tax from large multinationals likely seen as an easy target.What does it mean for Ireland?In recent years, many multinational companies (MNCs) with substantial operations in Ireland have moved their valuable intellectual property (IP) here. Over time, this would be expected to increase corporation tax revenues in Ireland.A simple 3% tax on the ‘digital’ revenues of large MNCs would increase the effective tax rate of these companies and thus dilute the benefit of our 12.5% corporate tax rate. This would impact low-margin businesses most and from a tax perspective, would make it less attractive to operate from Ireland.While the movement of IP to Ireland should see an increase in our corporate tax revenues, an EU-wide digital tax could see a pull the other way; it may cause some groups to reconsider their Irish presence.However, even if our tax regime becomes relatively less attractive, our 12.5% corporate tax rate may still make Ireland the most compelling location in Europe in which to do business and help us retain key employers.Digital tax optionsThe EU acknowledges that a 3% turnover-based tax is a blunt instrument and that more refined taxation of digital activity is the end goal. The OECD considered other options, which would involve looking at the level of activity in the selling country in determining an appropriate allocation between the selling country and the market jurisdiction. However, it is acknowledged that this is a difficult exercise – one that potentially involves a rewriting of transfer pricing principles – hence the EU proposal to start with a straightforward 3% turnover-based tax.Ideally, there would be agreement at EU level on a more sophisticated and accurate means of profit allocation rather than simply jumping into a turnover-based tax regime. While this might take some time to develop, it could be part of negotiations at EU level given that unanimity is required to implement any digital tax proposals (although countries would remain free to continue to develop their own digital tax regimes, which is far from an ideal scenario). A longer-term solution that reflects the value-added activities taking place in the selling jurisdiction, not merely market jurisdiction factors, would be better for Ireland. It would also encourage more knowledge-based businesses to locate here.Wider impactIf the price of any negotiation on digital tax proposals is that unanimity over tax decisions is removed, there is a longer-term vista of other EU proposals being pushed through. This would include the dreaded Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), which would again look to rewrite the rules in terms of the allocation of a group’s profits. Such moves would be bad for a small, open economy such as Ireland with significant profits diverted to larger market jurisdictions diluting the benefit of our 12.5% corporate tax rate.Once again, we are at a critical juncture in terms of global tax rule changes. Developments to date have generally been positive for Ireland. However, it would be dangerous to think that this will continue to be the case. In practice, our options are limited in terms of influencing the direction of changes to the tax landscape. In any future scenario, however, the location of high value-add activities should continue to play a key role in the allocation of a group’s profits. One thing that is not good for Ireland is uncertainty. Groups cannot make robust plans in an uncertain environment. The sooner there is clarity on digital tax changes, the better for Ireland.Ongoing robust corporate tax receipts evidence the generally positive impact that global tax changes have had in Ireland to date, with a movement away from tax havens to jurisdictions with substance. If Ireland can maintain a regime that both encourages and rewards innovation, we will be in the best possible place to emerge relatively unscathed from the latest round of changes.Kim Doyle FCA is Tax Director, Head of Knowledge Centre at Grant Thornton.Peter Vale FCA is Tax Partner, Head of International Tax at Grant Thornton.

Jul 30, 2020
News

How can you increase your bottom line during the challenging times we are currently operating in? Ciara McMullin outlines where VAT law can help businesses to gain short-term cash flow improvements. It is a truth universally acknowledged that cash is the lifeblood of business. Given the challenging times we are currently operating in, many companies are looking for innovative ways to increase their bottom line while improving their management of day-to-day operational costs. While maintaining cash flow is always vital to the success of any business, it is even more relevant during periods of unprecedented uncertainty. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Irish Revenue have introduced certain limited VAT measures targeted at small and medium enterprises (SMEs). There are, however, several mechanisms already provided for in VAT law, and generally accepted indirect tax practice, which can be used by any business (once relevant) to gain short-term cash flow improvements. If these simple strategies are appropriately implemented, the impact on cash flow could offer a significant boost to businesses during these times of need. VAT Cost Reduction Input VAT recovery methodology Ultimately, all businesses with restricted input VAT recovery need to ensure that the method in place for recovering VAT on dual-use inputs, being the percentage of VAT deductible on costs used both for VATable and non-deductible activities, correctly reflects the use to which the underlying costs are put. As a result of such a review, additional costs may be identified as being attributable to VATable supplies which, coupled with an overall change in the basis for calculating the input VAT blockage, could lead to significant improvements. Accounts payable review A review of accounts payable to consider if all input VAT incurred has been recovered, where permitted, can prove fruitful. In our experience, many businesses under-recover VAT either on categories of expenses, through mis-postings or failure to identify foreign VAT eligible for recovery. Not only can this lead to future cost reductions, but there may also be the opportunity to submit historic reclaims to tax authorities for any identified under-claimed VAT on such costs. Overseas input tax recovery Foreign VAT often remains unclaimed even though there are now efficient procedures in place to reclaim non-Irish VAT incurred. A refund of foreign VAT incurred by Irish and EU traders can be made through the Electronic VAT Refund (EVR) procedure, by submitting a claim via Revenue Online Services (ROS) (or the businesses relevant Tax Authority portal) within the relevant time limits. A reclaim for input VAT recovery on costs incurred in other EU Member States in 2019 must be submitted by an Irish trader to Revenue via ROS by 30 September 2020. The claim being made is still, however, subject to the VAT deductibility rules in the jurisdiction in which the VAT was incurred.  Bad debt relief (BDR) If a debt has been written off as an irrecoverable debt, the business should be able to obtain relief for all or part of the VAT paid on the original supply to the customer in default. Where large debts are written off, significant savings can be made.  VAT Cashflow Input tax accrual Operating an input tax accrual with a view to recovering VAT on invoices received but unposted to the accounting records in the earliest possible VAT return is another cash flow optimisation strategy worth considering at this time. If implemented correctly, substantial cash flow benefits can arise. VAT grouping Where there are considerable VATable costs between related entities, the cash flow benefits of forming a VAT group are also worth bearing in mind. Once VAT grouped, the VAT group remitter files a single VAT return per period for the entire group and accounts for any VAT due to Revenue. VAT does not need to be charged nor VAT invoices raised on supplies between VAT grouped entities, with the exception of property transactions. Accordingly, a significant positive cash flow impact can be availed of by forming a VAT group. VAT56B authorisation A qualifying business that holds a valid Section 56 authorisation is entitled to receive certain goods and services from Irish suppliers with a zero-rate of VAT applying as well as importing goods free from VAT. Eligibility to participate in this scheme can be a significant cash-flow benefit as it removes the requirement for suppliers to charge VAT on qualifying supplies in the first instance, and eliminates the necessity for a subsequent reclaim of this VAT on the business’s periodic VAT return. A business may avail of this relief if 75% of total annual turnover is derived from supplying goods to other EU countries (intra-community supplies), exporting goods to countries outside the EU or making supplies of certain contract work. Consider tax point of invoices Businesses could also consider the VAT tax points of their supplies and explore the timing of when VAT is due for payment. Consideration should also be given to when reverse charge obligations are triggered from supplies bought in from overseas. Other opportunities worth considering at this time are the offsetting of tax liabilities, e.g. using a VAT repayment to fund Employment Taxes or Corporation Tax or (re)negotiating customer and supplier payment terms (accounts payable seek longer payment terms; accounts receivable seek shorter payment terms). Ciara McMullin is an Indirect Tax Senior Manager with Deloitte.

Jun 05, 2020
Tax

Peter Vale considers the items that could become long-term features of Ireland’s tax regime under the new government. In the April issue of Accountancy Ireland, I wrote about the expected impact of COVID-19 on Exchequer receipts for 2020 and beyond. We have now seen the evidence with both VAT and excise down roughly 50% on similar months last year. While some of the drop in VAT receipts might be down to timing with companies deferring payments, a large chunk is an unquestionably permanent loss in VAT revenue due to lower spending. The income tax figures for May are also expected to show a significant drop, due to vastly lower numbers in employment. The Department’s view is that corporation tax figures will hold up better. I hope this forecast is right, but I fear that the hit to corporate profits will be higher than anticipated, with refunds for prior years and losses carried forward likely to feature. What is next? So, what does this mean for future taxes? Will the relatively healthy state of our public finances entering the crisis make for a less painful exit? The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe T.D., has stated that he will not raise taxes this year as doing so would stifle the ability of the economy to recover. This makes sense, assuming we can afford to do it. You also cannot simply raise taxes and expect to collect more tax revenue; you reach a tipping point, after which further hikes result in less tax collected. And many of our taxes are already high. Tax reliefs Of course, ruling out impending tax increases does not mean that there will not be a focus on tax reliefs. While many tax reliefs have been abolished over the last decade or so, certain targeted reliefs remain available to taxpayers. It is unlikely that tax reliefs incentivising environmentally friendly behaviour will be targeted. Furthermore, the research and development (R&D) tax credit is also unlikely to be affected as it encourages more sustainable jobs. Reliefs that allow business assets to be passed (typically) to the next generation are more likely to be in scope. Generous reliefs exist for both the disponer and the recipient. These reliefs escaped the guillotine in the past as they continued to make economic sense; a large tax bill was avoided on a potentially illiquid event, allowing the business to be driven forward by the next generation. Capital taxes Capital taxes are likely to be targeted by the Minister, perhaps initially by way of curtailment of reliefs and in the medium-term via an increase in rates. That said, capital tax rates are already high with our 33% rate one of the highest in the EU. In contrast, the UK capital gains tax rate is 20%. We know that when the capital gains tax rate was halved from 40% to 20% some years back, the tax-take doubled. An increase in capital gains tax rates could see the opposite effect, with fewer transactions and potentially more tax planning resulting in a lower tax yield. Broadening the tax base One thing the Minister may look at in the future is broadening the income tax base. It is questionable as to whether this would be regarded as an increase in taxes, but it would generate more tax revenue. Broadening the tax base would mean more people paying tax, albeit many would pay very little. Adjusting the current exemption limits and credits would facilitate this. Broadening the tax base was a recommendation of the Commission of Taxation over a decade ago, but we have not seen it followed by governments since. While the notion of everybody contributing something may resonate more in the current environment, it may still prove politically unpalatable. Property tax In the medium-term, depending on the state of the public finances, other tax-raising measures may be considered. The options aren’t exactly limitless. Our VAT rate is already comparatively high, as are our income taxes. Our corporation tax rate is low but effectively untouchable. One tax rate that is low in a European context is property tax, in particular for residential property. Many economists see property taxes as the least distortive, so an increase in property taxes might be the ‘least bad’ way to raise taxes. Tackling property taxes would be a brave move for a new government, but potentially something that could be done in year one or year two of a new term. Conclusion In summary, tax increases later this year are unlikely – although we may see certain reliefs targetedand the ‘old reliables’ such as cigarettes and alcohol are unlikely to escape. In the medium-term, COVID-19 will mean that tax-raising measures are likely to feature. In my view, a broadening of the tax base and an increase in property taxes are the most likely outcomes. Both of the above could be long-term features of our tax regime, although much will depend on future government priorities.   Peter Vale FCA is Tax Partner at Grant Thornton.

Jun 02, 2020
Tax

Geraldine Browne provides food for thought as employers prepare to report end-of-year expenses and benefits. At the time of writing, I am adjusting to working from home and seeking the best working station in the house (I lost). Much of my time is spent assisting clients with queries on the UK Government interventions introduced to help businesses survive in this challenging time. The most common questions relate to furloughed workers as companies struggle to maintain productivity. It is difficult to choose a topic for this article amid the human tragedy unfolding before us on a global scale. As this article will publish in June, employers will be gathering the necessary information to complete Forms P11D and share scheme reporting for the year ended 5 April 2020. For this reason, I will focus on P11D reporting and consider the changes employers face in benefit-in-kind (BIK) reporting in light of the coronavirus emergency. The due date for P11D reporting is 6 July 2020 for BIK provided for the year ended 5 April 2020. While this may have been delayed in line with other announcements from HMRC, the preparation process will nevertheless be the same. What do I need to file? If the employer paid any benefits and/or non-exempt expenses, or if they payrolled any BIKs, a P11D (B) form must be filed. The employer must include the total benefits liable to Class 1A, even if some of the benefits have been taxed through payroll. Employers are also required to give employees a letter informing them of the benefits that were payrolled and the amount of the benefit. What do you need to include on the P11D form? Taxable benefits typically include private medical and dental insurance, company cars, and gym membership, for example. HMRC has published a useful guide for P11D completion, which is a good starting point. Company cars and vans Employers are required to disclose the company car BIK for the full tax year where it is made available for the entire period. The question has been asked as to whether an employer can reduce the BIK value since employees have been asked to remain indoors and business travel in a company car ceased temporarily from March 2020. If an employee is furloughed and the vehicle remains at the employee’s home, the car is seen as being available under the current rules. At the time of writing, HMRC has not yet issued formal guidance on this matter. There have been suggestions that HMRC may accept that company cars will not be deemed available for BIK tax purposes where they are ‘virtually’ handed back by returning keys and fobs. It is worth reminding ourselves of the rules regarding the cessation of the car benefit. The benefit may cease, but remember: The car must be unavailable for at least 30 days to pause or cease a company car benefit; and HMRC will accept that the car is unavailable to the employee if it is broken down and has not been repaired or if the employee does not have the keys. If you have not already considered the company car policy, it is worth seeking advice in this area. Taxable expenses when working from home If employers provide a mobile phone without restriction on private use, limited to one employee, this is non-taxable. If the employee already pays for broadband, no additional expenses can be claimed. If broadband was not previously available in the employee’s home, the broadband fee paid for by the employer may be provided tax-free although in this case, private use must be restricted. Laptops, tablets, computers, and office supplies will not result in a taxable benefit if mainly used for business. If the employee purchases a desk and chair and seeks reimbursement from the employer, this will be viewed as taxable, and you may wish to include this in a Pay-as-you-earn Settlement Agreement (PSA). Some employers may provide employees with an allowance for additional expenses incurred in connection with working from home. This was increased to £6 per week from 6 April 2020 and can either be paid to the employee or reimbursed to them. Businesses and the economy are facing unprecedented financial pressure. It is worth reviewing your current benefits and expenses to identify ways in which you can reduce the cost to your business and reduce the taxable benefit to the employee. With many employees now furloughed and under severe financial pressure, any assistance an employer can provide to increase net pay will be welcome.   Geraldine Browne is Tax Director at BDO Northern Ireland.

Jun 02, 2020
Tax

David Duffy discusses recent Irish and EU VAT developments. Irish VAT updates VAT payment deferrals  In response to the economic impact of COVID-19, Revenue announced that interest would not apply to late payments by SMEs of their January/February 2020, March/April 2020 and May/June 2020 VAT liabilities. SMEs in this context are defined as businesses with a turnover of less than €3 million and which are not dealt with by either Revenue’s Large Cases Division or Medium Enterprises Division. Businesses that do not meet the definition of an SME but are experiencing VAT payment difficulties are advised to contact Revenue and these issues will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Revenue also advised that all taxpayers should continue to file VAT returns within the normal deadlines. Where key personnel are unavailable to prepare the VAT returns due to COVID-19, businesses should file on a ‘best estimates’ basis and any subsequent amendments can be completed on a self-correction basis without penalty.  Furthermore, on 2 May 2020, a scheme was announced to allow businesses that have availed of VAT and PAYE deferrals during the COVID-19 crisis to defer or “warehouse” the payment of those outstanding liabilities for a period of 12 months without accruing any interest. A lower than normal interest rate on late payment of tax (3% per annum instead of 10% per annum) will then apply until the warehoused tax liability has been repaid. Further details of this scheme are available on the Revenue website and legislation will be enacted in due course. Temporary relief from VAT and duty on PPE On 8 April 2020, Revenue announced that the 0% rate of Irish VAT and customs duties would apply to Irish imports (from outside the EU) of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other goods used to combat COVID-19. This relief applies to imports in the period from 30 January 2020 to 31 July 2020. Revenue also confirmed in eBrief 63/20, issued on 17 April, that the 0% rate of Irish VAT concessionally applies to domestic and intra-EU acquisitions of similar goods in the period from 9 April 2020 to 31 July 2020. These reliefs are subject to certain conditions, which are summarised below. For imports from outside the EU, the goods must be imported by, or on behalf of, State organisations, disaster relief agencies, or other organisations (including private operators) approved by Revenue. The goods must be intended for free-of-charge distribution or be made available free-of-charge to those affected by, at risk from, or involved in combating COVID-19. Furthermore, the importer must have both an EORI number and be pre-authorised by Revenue for the relief. In addition, import declarations must include the relevant customs codes in the appropriate SAD boxes. Where VAT and customs duties have already been paid but the relevant conditions for relief are met, a refund of such amounts can be claimed. Application forms to avail of the relief and to seek a refund of VAT or customs duty previously paid are available on Revenue’s website. For domestic supplies and intra-EU acquisitions, the 0% VAT rate temporarily applies to PPE, thermometers, ventilators, hand sanitiser and oxygen supplied to the HSE, hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities for use in the delivery of COVID-19-related healthcare services to patients. The sale of these products in other circumstances will continue to attract the VAT rate that would typically apply. VAT grouping In eBrief 053/20, Revenue issued guidance in respect of VAT groups. The guidance primarily outlines the requirements and implications of VAT grouping and includes examples, which show how the rules apply in certain circumstances. Businesses that are considering forming or breaking a VAT group should review the guidelines to ensure that the appropriate procedures are followed. The guidance includes a section on the territorial scope of Irish VAT groups and confirms that, where an entity that is established or has a fixed establishment in Ireland joins an Irish VAT group, it is the entire entity, including any overseas branches, that is considered to join the Irish VAT group. Consequently, charges from a foreign establishment of an Irish VAT group member to other members of that Irish VAT group are disregarded for Irish VAT purposes. This has been the Revenue position for some time, but it is helpful to have it reconfirmed – particularly for the financial services and insurance sectors. ROS enhancements In eBrief 58/20, Revenue announced several VAT-related enhancements to Revenue’s Online Service (ROS). Taxpayers now have the option to add a second VAT agent. To add the second VAT agent, taxpayers will need to complete an Agent Link form in the usual manner. Also, the Revenue Record (Registration Details) on ROS now indicates the VAT basis of accounting (i.e. the cash receipts or invoice basis) adopted by a given taxpayer. EU VAT updates VAT treatment of staff secondments The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) concluded in the San Domenico Vetraria (SDV) case (C-94/19) that the secondment of staff by a parent company to its subsidiary in return for a payment equal to the parent company’s cost (but excluding any profit margin) is a supply of services within the scope of VAT. The case highlights that VAT can arise on cross-charges for staff time and this should be carefully considered, particularly in cases where there may be no or partial VAT recovery in the recipient entity. In analysing the case, the CJEU re-stated that VAT arises on a supply of goods or services effected for consideration within the territory of an EU member state by a taxable person. A supply effected for consideration requires a legal relationship between the supplier and recipient, and reciprocal performance, meaning that the payment received by the provider of the service is in return for the service supplied to the recipient. In the present case, the CJEU was satisfied that there was a legal relationship between the parent and subsidiary and that there was a payment in return for the service provided. Consequently, where the Italian court, which had referred the case to the CJEU, established based on the facts that the amounts invoiced by the parent company were a condition for the secondment and that the subsidiary paid those amounts only in return for the secondment, VAT would apply to the secondment. The CJEU confirmed that the fact that the payment did not include a profit margin did not impact the VAT analysis, as it has been previously held that a supply for VAT purposes can take place where services are supplied at or below cost.   David Duffy FCA, AITI Chartered Tax Advisor, is an Indirect Tax Partner at KPMG.

Jun 02, 2020
Tax

While COVID-19 will take a significant toll on 2020 tax receipts, Peter Vale suggests that the figures should return to current levels at some point next year. At the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic looks likely to have a significant adverse bearing on global economic growth, in addition to the substantial societal impact we are all experiencing. We know from experience that an economic downturn can dramatically affect exchequer receipts – there was a 40% decline in corporate tax receipts alone between 2007 and 2009. So, what impact will COVID-19 have on tax receipts by year-end and what will that mean for our economy? Corporation tax Large companies make their first tax payment six months into their financial year, with a further payment one month before year-end. In Ireland, May and June tend to be the first key months in the year for corporation tax payments. A company has the option to base its first payment on either current year estimates or the prior year actual liability. Given the expected impact of the virus on the economic activity and profitability of most companies, you can expect that many will choose to base their first payments on current year estimates. It may not be possible to assess the full 2020 impact of the virus by May/June, however; some large companies may take a conservative view and make payments based on the prior year position. Assuming the virus continues to cause economic disruption through to the end of the year, there could be significantly smaller second instalment payments later in the year or large refunds due to companies in 2021. For many smaller companies, November is the critical month with the ability again to assess the liability based on the current year estimates. All of this means that we could see significantly smaller corporate tax payments this year, likely first evidenced in May/June with a further reduction in November returns, if the virus disrupts economic activity through to year-end. It is challenging to assess the scale of the potential reduction in corporate tax receipts. In this author’s view, it will be significant and could also impact on 2021 figures. But on the positive side, one would hope that the figures would return to current levels perhaps late next year. This would contrast with a more gradual increase in receipts following the economic crash. COVID-19 will also impact other tax heads. VAT Restrictions on travel and movement, plus enforced closures, will likely have a significant impact on consumer spending and a consequent downward impact on VAT receipts. While online spending could continue, supply chain issues are likely to mean even that option will be curtailed. Discretionary high street spending may be impacted most, with many shopping trips confined to the purchase of essential goods. Again, one would expect that any resultant downturn in VAT receipts would be temporary. Still, it could last for the rest of the year and trickle into early 2021 receipts if Christmas spending is impacted. Income tax and capital taxes Income tax receipts will also suffer, with seasonal and temporary roles likely to be hit hardest, and a reduction in profits generally for the self-employed seeing tax receipts fall. While not as significant, capital taxes will also suffer with deal volumes expected to fall across many asset classes, impacting both capital gains tax and stamp duty receipts.  Impact The impact of most of the above will be seen before the October Budget, leaving the Minister for Finance facing some difficult decisions, assuming there is no mini-Budget before then. There may be a need for some temporary tax-raising measures in addition to dipping into cash reserves and a considerable increase in borrowing. While significant on many fronts, COVID-19 is expected to be something we recover from, with many governments already launching initiatives to help individuals and businesses get through the crisis. The Republic of Ireland is lucky to be home to many large multinational companies that use Ireland as a hub for global activity. It is almost inevitable that COVID-19 will see the profits and tax receipts of these groups fall substantially, with a decrease in domestic economic activity generally also fuelling a significant dip in tax receipts. While I believe the decrease in 2020 tax receipts will be significant, the figures should return to current levels once the worst of the crisis is over. A best estimate of when this will be is likely at some point next year. Peter Vale FCA is Tax Partner at Grant Thornton.

Apr 01, 2020
Tax

Kim Doyle considers the best course of action for businesses that are strained financially as a result of the impact of COVID-19. COVID-19, a term that was not part of most members’ vocabulary a mere two months ago, is now the unwanted commandeer of conversations. Self-isolation, social distancing, WFH (working from home) and CC (conference call) have become part of our basic business language. But we must not forget to keep talking about the old reliable, tax. Continue to talk to Revenue, as early as possible, if you are now experiencing timely tax payment difficulties. This is one of their key messages. The other is to get tax returns in on time. At the time of writing, Revenue’s message to businesses strained financially as a result of the impact of COVID-19 is that they will work to resolve tax payment difficulties. Viable businesses that experience cash flow difficulties have long been encouraged by Revenue to engage with them as early as possible. Often, entering a phased payment arrangement is the appropriate practical step to deal with outstanding tax payments. In fact, at the end of 2019, over 6,300 business had such arrangements in place covering €73 million in tax debt, according to Revenue. Revenue will only agree to a phased payment arrangement provided the relevant tax returns are filed with them, the tax due is fully calculated, the business is viable and there is early and honest engagement. Applications for such an arrangement can be made via the Revenue Online Service (ROS). Supporting documents will be required; the volume of documentation depends on the level of outstanding tax payments. A down-payment must be made, which can range from 25-40% of the total tax payment, which may include interest. Agents can apply on behalf of their clients via ROS. Applications are typically responded to within two weeks; in many cases, arrangements are up and running in a matter of days. Responding to the difficulties arising from the impacts of COVID-19, Revenue has implemented specific measures for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) experiencing trading difficulties. Perhaps the most important being that interest will not be applied to late tax payments of VAT for the January/February period (due by 23 March) or employer PAYE liabilities for the months of February and March. Any future similar suspension will be considered at the relevant time, Revenue say. For other businesses experiencing temporary cash flow or trading difficulties, the advice from Revenue is to contact the Collector-General’s office directly or the appropriate Revenue division. Revenue has also suspended all debt enforcement activity, for now. Current tax clearance status is expected to remain in place for all businesses over the coming months.  And in an effort to ease the burden on households, Revenue also announced the deferral of certain local tax payments (annual Debit Instruction/Single Debit Authority) to 21 May from 21 March. As of now, there is no statement from Revenue on dealing with other taxes such as corporation tax. In this unprecedented turbulent environment, protecting the tax receipts must be one of the priorities for Government. It is hoped that any dip in tax receipts will be confined to 2020. However, as long as we continue to talk about COVID-19 and suffer the impacts, we must also continue to talk to Revenue. Kim Doyle FCA, AITI-CTA, is Tax Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Apr 01, 2020
Tax

It is now time to consider the UK tax relief available on building projects, writes Eugene Moore. To stimulate international investment in the UK, the then-Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, presented his 2018 Autumn Budget to the House of Commons. In it, he announced the introduction of capital allowances for capital expenditure incurred on the construction, renovation or conversion of most UK and overseas buildings and structures. The Structures and Building Allowance (SBA) applies to contracts entered into on or after 29 October 2018. Construction projects that may qualify for the SBA are now starting to be completed, with the structures and buildings coming into use. It is now, therefore, time for the current owners and their advisors to consider the significant tax relief available on such capital projects and how best to mitigate the risks of making an invalid claim. The relief Relief is available for UK and overseas structures and buildings where the claiming business is within the charge to UK tax. The SBA was introduced at a rate of 2% straight-line basis on qualifying expenditure over 50 years. The rate was increased to 3% in the Budget and the change will take effect from 1 April 2020 for UK corporation tax and 6 April 2020 for UK income tax. The relief commences with the later of: The day the building or structure is first brought into non-residential use; or The day the qualifying expenditure is incurred. Once qualifying expenditure is incurred, the first use of the structure or building must be non-residential. Subsequent events, such as change of use to residential or the demolition of the structure or building, will impact the availability of the SBA. A period of non-use immediately after a period of non-residential use is deemed as non-residential use, and the SBA continues to be available. Qualifying activities The structure or building must be for a qualifying activity carried out by the person who holds the relevant interest. Qualifying activities include: trade; an ordinary UK property business; an ordinary overseas property business; a profession or vocation; the carrying on of a concern listed in ITTOIA05/S12(4) or CTA09/S39(4) (mines, quarries and other concerns); or managing the investments of a company with investment business. Qualifying expenditure Capital expenditure incurred on the construction or purchase of a structure or building (including professional fees and site preparation costs) is qualifying expenditure. Excluded expenditure covers: the cost of the land or rights over the land; the cost of obtaining planning permission; financing costs; or the cost of land remediation, drainage and reclamation. Abortive costs, such as architect’s fees associated with a structure or building that is not completed, do not qualify for the SBA. Commencement date As the SBA was introduced to stimulate investment from 29 October 2018, allowances are not available on structures or buildings where the contract for the physical construction work was entered into before 29 October 2018. For projects under a construction contract, the commencement date for the SBA will be the date of that contract. HMRC is of the opinion that contracts can take different forms; it gives the example of email exchanges, which confirm that works will take place. Where no contract is in place, the date of the commencement of physical works represents the commencement date for the SBA. This is also the case where physical works commence, and a contract is subsequently put in place. Site preparation According to HMRC, the cost incurred in preparing land as a site is treated as expenditure on the construction of the structure or building that is then built upon that site. This includes cutting, tunnelling or levelling land. On the plus side, these costs are not excluded as expenditure for the SBA. On the downside, the timing of these costs could drag the entire construction project into an invalid claim position for the SBA if they are incurred before 29 October 2018. HMRC states that the following does not impact the commencement date: separate preparation and construction contracts; replacement of preparation contracts; preparation works ceased then recommenced; and preparation work redone. Demolition or enabling works incurred before 29 October 2018 do not in themselves make the entire claim invalid for the SBA unless explicitly linked to the actual structure or building. Practical issues Before an SBA claim can be made on a UK income tax or UK corporation tax return, the current owner of the relevant interest in a structure or building must create and maintain an allowance statement. Where the current owner incurred the qualifying expenditure in relation to the structure or building, the current owner creates the allowance statement. Where the current owner acquired the relevant interest in the structure or building from another person, they must obtain the allowance statement from the previous owner. An allowance statement means a written statement, which must include the following information: information to identify the building to which it relates; the date of the earliest written contract for the construction of the building; the amount of qualifying expenditure incurred on its construction or purchase; and the date the building is first brought into non-residential use. CPSE.1 (Ver. 3.8) General Pre-Contacts Enquiries for all Commercial Property Transactions now contains questions concerning the SBA and requests explicitly the allowance statement. In summary The SBA may result in significant tax relief for UK businesses that construct or purchase non-residential structures and buildings where previously, there was none on such expenditure. Careful consideration should be given to the commencement date of the project, and detailed evidence must be created and maintained by way of an allowance statement to avoid invalid claims.   Eugene Moore ACA is Corporate Tax Manager at BDO Northern Ireland.

Apr 01, 2020
Tax

David Duffy discusses recent Irish, EU and UK VAT developments. Irish VAT updates VAT compensation scheme for charities eBrief 21/20 contains updated guidance in respect of the VAT compensation scheme for charities. This scheme is now open in respect of VAT incurred by charities in 2019. The deadline for submitting such claims is 30 June 2020. Charities must satisfy various conditions to make a valid claim and there is a formula for calculating the claim. The total fund available for all claims is capped at €5 million and, if exceeded, this amount will be allocated between valid claims on a pro rata basis. There have been no changes to the scheme, but the guidance provides further details on the terms “total income” and “qualifying income”, which are relevant to the calculation of claims under the scheme. VAT on telecom services On 31 January 2020, the Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) published a determination in a case (16TACD2020) involving a mobile telephone operator (the appellant). The case considered the VAT treatment of the appellant’s cancellation charges, unused data, and non-EU roaming on bill-pay mobile phone services, as well as the time limit for making VAT reclaims. The appellant was unsuccessful in arguing for a VAT refund on three counts but did succeed in a claim for a VAT refund on non-EU roaming services. The key points of TAC’s determination were as follows: The appellant was liable for VAT on cancellation charges to bill-pay customers for early termination of their contracts. This followed a similar decision by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in MEO (C-295/17). The appellant was also liable for VAT in respect of customers’ unused data included in the price of their bundle. The appellant’s argument that VAT refunds should extend back further than four years was also rejected. The appellant had sought to argue that it should be equivalent to the five-year refund period available for other taxes, but this was rejected. The appellant was successful in arguing for a VAT refund to the extent that its bill-pay customers used its telecom services outside the EU. Revenue had sought to argue that refunds for non-EU roaming should only be available for pre-pay customers, but this was rejected by the TAC. While the case is principally relevant to the telecoms sector, some of the principles regarding cancellation charges and equal treatment could have wider application. The determination (which is available on the TAC’s website) is, therefore, a useful read. Time limits The question of time limits for VAT refunds was also the subject of a TAC determination (03TACD2020). The taxpayer was engaged in a VAT-exempt business but was entitled to partial VAT recovery on its dual-use input costs to the extent that its services were to non-EU recipients. However, during 2009, the taxpayer had not been aware of its entitlement to partial VAT recovery and therefore had not taken any VAT recovery on its costs. Upon becoming aware of this entitlement, the taxpayer submitted a claim on 31 December 2013, which included VAT incurred before 1 November 2009, which would ordinarily be outside the four-year time limit. The taxpayer sought to argue that this VAT was still within the four-year time limit because, in the taxpayer’s view, it was an adjustment of its partial exemption VAT recovery rate review for 2009 (which fell due after 31 December 2009). However, the TAC disagreed as the taxpayer had not applied any VAT recovery rate to dual-use inputs during 2009. The TAC concluded that only VAT incurred from 1 November 2009 onwards was correctly included in the claim submitted on 31 December 2013. While the facts of the case are quite specific, it emphasises the importance of following the appropriate procedures and paying close attention to time limits when submitting a claim for any historic VAT. EU VAT updates VAT treatment of boat moorings Segler (C-715/18) was a German non-profit-making association whose objective was to promote sailing and motorised water sports. It maintained boat moorings, some of which were used by members of the association and others were used by guests. Segler applied the reduced rate of German VAT as it believed the letting of the moorings fell within the meaning of “accommodation provided in hotels and similar establishments, including the provision of holiday accommodation and the letting of places on camping or caravan sites”. The German tax authorities argued that the standard rate of VAT should instead apply. The CJEU concluded that the reduced rate could not apply, as the letting of the boat mooring was not intrinsically linked to the concept of “accommodation”. UK VAT updates Budget 2020 The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer announced several VAT measures in Budget 2020, which was presented to the UK parliament on 11 March 2020. The key updates are summarised below: The 0% rate of VAT will apply to e-books and online newspapers, magazines and journals with effect from 1 December 2020, bringing them in line with the rate applying in the UK to physical books and publications. The standard 20% rate has applied heretofore. Interestingly, however, the UK Upper Tribunal had already held that the 0% rate correctly applied to such publications in the Newscorp decision, but HMRC has indicated an intention to appeal that decision. Consequently, the position applying before 1 December 2020 remains to be clarified. As a cash flow-relieving measure following the implementation of Brexit, postponed accounting for import VAT will be introduced for all goods imported into the UK with effect from 1 January 2021. Postponed VAT accounting will enable UK VAT-registered businesses to self-account for import VAT under the reverse charge mechanism. From January 2021, 0% VAT will apply to women’s sanitary products. David Duffy FCA, AITI Chartered Tax Advisor, is Indirect Tax Partner at KPMG.

Apr 01, 2020