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The VAT Flat Rate Scheme (FRS)

What is it and how does it work?

The VAT flat rate scheme is an incentive provided by the Government to help simplify your taxes. In summary; you register for VAT and charge your clients VAT at 20%, but only pay to HMRC a certain percentage usually around the 12% mark. The difference is yours, to keep!

 

What’s the catch?

You cannot reclaim any VAT spent on any purchase or expenses.

The only exception to this is any spend on capital expenditure over £2,000, for example a new PC, laptop, printer etc. (note that the capital purchases must total £2,000 inclusive of VAT on the same, single purchase, i.e. all on the same receipt!)

 

Will it work for me?

If you are a freelancer or contractor, or a small business with not many VAT purchases then in most cases it will definitely work for you!

As an example, let’s say you work in advertising, and in your first year of joining the scheme you have £60,000 of income, then in your first year you will gain an extra £4,800 just from being in the VAT flat rate scheme!

How is this calculated?

Turnover £60,000 + VAT at 20% = £60,000 + £12,000 = £72,000

So you have collected £12,000 VAT from your customers/clients.

And over the year you will repay VAT at 10% of the gross turnover (10% of £72,000) £7,200.

The difference of £4,800 (£12,000 – £7,200) is yours!

 

What else do I need to know?

  • In the first year of joining the scheme you get an additional 1% discount on your specific FRS % – the table below will help you identify your FRS% depending on which industry you work in.
  • You can only join the scheme if your estimated income (excluding VAT) is £150,000 or less.
  • Once you join the scheme you can stay in it until your total business income is more than £230,000.
  • You will need to prepare and file quarterly VAT returns.

So how do I get started?

Simple! Get in touch with Joshua Leigh & Co and we can register your business for VAT and the Flat Rate Scheme on your behalf.  We can, of course, also prepare and file your quarterly VAT returns on your behalf too!

Flat Rate Scheme percentage rates:

Category of business

Appropriate percentage

Accountancy or book-keeping

14.5

Advertising

11

Agricultural services

11

Any other activity not listed elsewhere

12

Architect, civil and structural engineer or surveyor

14.5

Boarding or care of animals

12

Business services that are not listed elsewhere

12

Catering services including restaurants and takeaways

12.5

Computer and IT consultancy or data processing

14.5

Computer repair services

10.5

Dealing in waste or scrap

10.5

Entertainment or journalism

12.5

Estate agency or property management services

12

Farming or agriculture that is not listed elsewhere

6.5

Film, radio, television or video production

13

Financial services

13.5

Forestry or fishing

10.5

General building or construction services

9.5

Hairdressing or other beauty treatment services

13

Hiring or renting goods

9.5

Hotel or accommodation

10.5

Investigation or security

12

Labour-only building or construction services

14.5

Laundry or dry-cleaning services

12

Lawyer or legal services

14.5

Library, archive, museum or other cultural activity

9.5

Management consultancy

14

Manufacturing fabricated metal products

10.5

Manufacturing food

9

Manufacturing that is not listed elsewhere

9.5

Manufacturing yarn, textiles or clothing

9

Membership organisation

8

Mining or quarrying

10

Packaging

9

Photography

11

Post offices

5

Printing

8.5

Publishing

11

Pubs

6.5

Real estate activity not listed elsewhere

14

Repairing personal or household goods

10

Repairing vehicles

8.5

Retailing food, confectionary, tobacco, newspapers or children’s clothing

4

Retailing pharmaceuticals, medical goods, cosmetics or toiletries

8

Retailing that is not listed elsewhere

7.5

Retailing vehicles or fuel

6.5

Secretarial services

13

Social work

11

Sport or recreation

8.5

Transport or storage, including couriers, freight, removals and taxis

10

Travel agency

10.5

Veterinary medicine

11

Wholesaling agricultural products

8

Wholesaling food

7.5

Wholesaling that is not listed elsewhere

8.5

 

UPDATE 20 FEBRUARY 2017

Flat Rate Scheme changes – Limited Cost Traders

Changes are being made to the Flat Rate Scheme (FRS) which may mean that the scheme is less attractive to some businesses and this may result in these businesses deciding to no longer operate under the FRS. It is important to understand these changes especially if you already operate the scheme or are considering using the FRS.

Background to the FRS

Under the FRS a set percentage, determined by the business trade sector, is applied to the VAT inclusive turnover of the business as a one-off calculation instead of having to identify and record the VAT on each sale and purchase the business makes. Turnover will include any exempt supplies and it is therefore not generally beneficial to join the scheme where there are significant exempt supplies.

The aim of the FRS for small businesses is to reduce the administrative burden imposed when operating VAT, however many small businesses who use the scheme are also better off as they are effectively able to keep some of the VAT charged to customers.

How the scheme operates

The percentage rates are determined according to the trade sector of the business and currently range from 4% to 14.5%.

In addition there is a further 1% reduction in the normal rates for businesses in their first year of VAT registration. If a business falls into more than one sector it is the main business activity as measured by turnover which counts.

Although those operating the FRS pay VAT at the FRS percentage they are still required to prepare invoices for customers showing the normal rates of VAT. This is so that their customers can reclaim input VAT, if appropriate.

Example

Build-it-right is a labour only building contractor. If its results are as follows:

Standard rated building work

£70,000 plus VAT of £14,000 = Total VAT inclusive turnover £84,000

Purchases £2,700 (inclusive of VAT of £450)

VAT due under the FRS say 14.5% x £84,000 = £12,180

By operating the FRS, Build-it-right charges customers £14,000 of VAT but only pays over £12,180 of this VAT to HMRC. Build-it-right is unable to recover the input VAT suffered on purchases of £450 under the FRS. Input VAT on purchases is not generally recoverable by traders operating the FRS. The purchase of capital assets consisting of goods and costing more than £2,000 (including VAT) may be dealt with outside the scheme.

If they had operated the normal VAT rules then the amount due to HMRC would be £13,550 (being £14,000 output less input of £450).

Flat Rate benefits for those trading below the VAT registration scheme

For some very small businesses including those trading below the annual VAT registration threshold of £83,000, it has been worthwhile registering for VAT and operating the FRS. Effectively these traders charge their customers VAT at 20% on the services they supply but only pay over VAT at an effective maximum rate of 17.4%. They are therefore able to keep a minimum of 2.6% of the VAT paid by their customers. This is set out in the following example:

Amount billed to customer

 

Amount due to HMRC under FRS using the current highest percentage of 14.5%

 

Effective rate on VAT exclusive amount billed to customer

 

VAT which can be retained by trader

£1,000 plus VAT at 20% = £1,200

 

£1,200 x 14.5% = £174

 

 

£174 / £1,000 = 17.4%

 

 

£200 – £174 = £26 (2.6% of £1,000)

Where the relevant FRS percentage is lower than 14.5% the effective percentage of VAT which can be retained could be significantly more.

The change to the FRS

The change, described as an anti-avoidance measure, introduces a new 16.5% rate from 1 April 2017. This rate will be applicable for businesses with limited costs, such as many labour-only businesses. Businesses using the scheme, or considering joining the scheme, will need to decide if they are a ‘limited cost trader’.

So, taking the example above, if the trader is caught by the new anti-avoidance rules then they will be in the following position:

Amount billed to customer

 

Amount due to HMRC under FRS using the limited cost trader percentage of 16.5%

 

Effective rate on VAT exclusive amount billed to customer

 

VAT which can be retained by trader

£1,000 plus VAT at 20% = £1,200

 

£1,200 x 16.5% = £198

 

 

£198 / £1,000 = 19.8%

 

 

£200 – £198 = £2 (0.2% of £1,000)

A limited cost trader will be defined as one whose VAT inclusive expenditure on goods is either:

  • less than 2% of their VAT inclusive turnover in a prescribed accounting period
  • greater than 2% of their VAT inclusive turnover but less than £1,000 per annum if the prescribed accounting period is one year (if it is not one year, the figure is the relevant proportion of £1,000 so for someone who completes their VAT return quarterly the limit is £250).

The technical note states that there will be exclusions from the calculation to prevent attempts to inflate costs above 2%. Goods, for the purposes of this measure, must be used exclusively for the purpose of the business but exclude the following items:

  • capital expenditure
  • food or drink for consumption by the flat rate business or its employees
  • vehicles, vehicle parts and fuel, except where the business is one that carries out transport services, for example a taxi business, and uses its own or a leased vehicle to carry out those services.

These exclusions are part of the test to prevent traders buying either low value everyday items or one off purchases in order to inflate their costs beyond 2%.

Businesses using the FRS will be expected to ensure that, for each VAT return period, they use the appropriate flat rate percentage, so the check to see whether a business is a limited cost trader will have to be carried out for each VAT return.

The government estimate that of the 411,000 businesses using the FRS, 123,000 have limited costs and will be affected by these changes. According to the statistics produced by the government the changes which are being introduced to the FRS will result in it no longer being beneficial to some current users of the scheme.

What happens now?

The introduction of the 16.5% rate for limited cost traders will result in affected businesses having to reconsider their position and may result in different outcomes. Some businesses will:

  • continue to use the flat rate scheme, checking for each VAT return period, whether they are affected by the 16.5% limited cost trader percentage and paying VAT at the 16.5% rate if appropriate
  • decide to leave the FRS. In order to leave the FRS you must write and let HMRC know. Generally businesses choose to leave at the end of an accounting period. However, you may leave voluntarily at any time during an accounting period. HMRC will confirm the date you left the scheme in writing. If you are considering this option we can advise the most appropriate time to leave the scheme but this will generally be before 1 April 2017
  • decide to deregister for VAT where the business turnover is below the VAT deregistration threshold. A business effectively leaves the FRS the day before they deregister for VAT.

We can advise you of the best course of action for you and your business.

 

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Herts, EN5 5SZ

Phone: 0203 333 7007
Email: info@joshualeighandco.com