VAT refund opportunity for partially exempt organisations affected by COVID-19

HMRC has provided some additional flexibility that partially exempt organisations may well wish to take advantage of for their VAT accounting. This is because COVID-19 restrictions over the last 12 months may have had an adverse impact on partially exempt organisations.

HMRC has released a Business Brief which might offer assistance to partially exempt organisations impacted by COVID-19. In short, businesses/organisations that have not been able to operate as normal due to COVID-19, and have experienced lower than normal partially exemption recovery rates, can apply to HMRC for a retrospective special method using previous year % to receive a VAT refund from HMRC and a better result.

Normally, PESMs are often difficult to get approved but HMRC has set up a new unit with an accelerated process and will look more favourably on businesses that can demonstrate they have been affected over the past year. These will be temporary alterations to business’ partial exemption methods with proposals based on representative income streams from the previous tax year to get a fair and reasonable recovery rate.

Whilst there is not an automatic approval scheme in place, we would hope that HMRC will process these applications with little fuss.

There will also be an impact on organisations within a capital goods scheme (CGS) adjustment period. The same accelerated process will also be available to businesses who use the CGS to calculate input tax recoverable on capital items they use for taxable and exempt purposes.

We have been asked by some charity clients whether this also covers organisations that have Business/Non Business Methods (“BNB”), as the Brief does not mention this. This may be because BNB methods are not heavily regulated in the legislation. We would recommend that charities that have had a reduction in their taxable commercial activities due to COVID-19 get in touch as there may be an opportunity to address this with HMRC.

If you think your business or organisation may be able to benefit from this development please contact our VAT team.