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Are VAT returns essential travel?

Don't want to get pulled over.

Didn't find your answer?

I have read the legislation, it says essential travel for work is ok.

But I am not an essential business.  So is my travel essential?

But I do have to get VAT returns in on time, even if they're not necessarily going to be paid!

I work from home so would rather collect those I do in house (as I always have done) and it means I also have control over the number of people coming to the office.

No idea how to go about doing the returns I do at the client's premises, for those few still open - what's anyone else doing?

Replies (32)

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By Accountant A
01st Apr 2020 15:32

julie.severn wrote:

But I am not an essential business.  So is my travel essential?

No. Absolutely not.

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Replying to Accountant A:
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By Wanderer
01st Apr 2020 15:40

The government is not saying only people doing “essential” work can go to work. Anyone who cannot work from home can still go to work.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-wha...

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Replying to Wanderer:
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By Accountant A
01st Apr 2020 16:12

Wanderer wrote:

The government is not saying only people doing “essential” work can go to work. Anyone who cannot work from home can still go to work.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-wha...

The OP was proposing to drive round collecting (and then presumably returning) working papers and documents. Wouldn't say that's "working from home" per se.

If I'm wrong; I'm wrong. You can always argue the toss if you get stopped by the police.

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Replying to Accountant A:
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By Wanderer
01st Apr 2020 16:51

You are wrong.
"You may travel for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home."
The OP is proposing to travel for work purposes.

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By Wanderer
01st Apr 2020 15:36

Allowed is:

"travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home."

which is not limited to any particular type / classification of business.

More detail here:-
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-h...

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By Mike Wood
01st Apr 2020 15:59

The legislation in England at least does not mention "essential" travel.

The statutory instrument introducing the restrictions is at

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/pdfs/uksi_20200350_en.pdf

The text includes the following:

"Restrictions on movement
6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—
...
(f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;
...
(h) to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;"
...

No mention of essential here.

Boris Johnson's letter to the public says:

"You can travel to and from work but should work from home if you can."

There is also no mention whatsoever of "key worker" in the SI.

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Replying to Mike Wood:
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By GHarr497688
01st Apr 2020 16:16

how do HSE rules interact with HMRC rules. All of this is open to speculation and measures are not tried or tested . Are you to be penalised for doing the right thing.
The guidance is advice not law , subject too each individuals interpretation !!

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By GW
01st Apr 2020 16:06

I agree with the above.

Essential work is only relevant if you want a school to look after your kids while you are doing it.

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By GHarr497688
01st Apr 2020 16:13

what would happen if you have clients that travel miles to drop off records or if you have staff that are self isolating or living with elderly parent . ie with our firm you would have one journey bringing or collecting books - another where you have to travel to and from the homeworker and I can't do anything as I giving advice non-stop. As far as I am aware HMRC say business as usual however don't pay the VAT yet. Should they not guide you on other issues of a regulatory nature - should they not plan for a pandemic .

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Psycho
By Wilson Philips
01st Apr 2020 16:17

I'm getting rather tired of those people (including, it would seem, some police officers) that don't understand the difference between travel for essential work and essential travel for work. If you need to travel to the office (or elsewhere) to pick up files etc or to do anything else that will allow you to work from home then that is essential travel for work.

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By julie.severn
01st Apr 2020 22:39

Sorry to have offended you, it was not my intention. I understand the difference between the two but the legislation I have read so far did not make it clear as to which of the two it referred. Plus many others above have said only travel if you cannot work from home and but I do. It is my permanent place of business. Travel to and from work is a very short commute via the kitchen. I only asked because I was genuinely unsure how to interpret what I had read, not with the purpose of annoying anyone and I apologise if I have done so.

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Replying to julie.severn:
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By paul.benny
02nd Apr 2020 09:46

I don't want to speak for Wilson but I really don't think there was any personal criticism- more about a climate of knee-jerk reactions rather than being thoughtful as you are.

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Replying to paul.benny:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
02nd Apr 2020 09:51

Spot on - no offence taken and there was no intention to directly criticise any one person. There's a lot of misinformation and confusion out there, but people do need to stick to the authoritative instructions/guidance and not what they read on social media etc.

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By ABC123Accountant
01st Apr 2020 16:25

Yes I am going to pick up some papers for VAT return processing from some clients who are self isolating as they are in high risk category. They leave it on the doorstep and I pick it up to get the VAT return done on time. Otherwise they have to try and get to the post office or to me and put themselves at risk. I am prepared to be stopped to argue the case with police officer!

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By SXGuy
01st Apr 2020 16:27

Only drive to work when you have no other choice. It doesn't say, only go to work if your an essential service. It isn't hard to grasp.

No one is going to argue with you. The police ask should you be out. You say yes I'm going to work. They say OK thank you goodbye.

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Replying to SXGuy:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
01st Apr 2020 16:27

Apparently, for some, it is!

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Replying to SXGuy:
Quack
By Constantly Confused
02nd Apr 2020 15:27

SXGuy wrote:

The police ask should you be out. You say yes I'm going to work. They say OK thank you goodbye.

Have you been pulled over? I haven't, but know a few people who have. All were allowed to proceed, but it was begrudging and involved a lot of questions as to why they were traveling, why they can't work from home, what exactly they were doing.

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My photo
By Matrix
01st Apr 2020 16:33

Conversely if a client is dropping off some records and is stopped then she has no excuse since it is not travel for work?

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Replying to Matrix:
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By GW
01st Apr 2020 16:48

Given that maintaining records, completing returns etc. is a requirement of being in business, why would dropping off records not be considered travel for work?

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Replying to GW:
My photo
By Matrix
01st Apr 2020 16:57

OK. But what if it is for a personal tax return and they don’t have a business?

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Replying to Matrix:
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By SXGuy
01st Apr 2020 17:49

What if the moon was made of cheese and everyone wanted a slice.

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By Steve Holloway
01st Apr 2020 17:00

The Police will not interfere with any one who has a reasonable reason for undertaking a journey. Wash your hands and stop over thinking it!

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By frankfx
01st Apr 2020 17:05

Risk on spreading deadly virus is the question.

My postman .wears gloves

When delivering a parcel , he knocks on door

stands back fully 2 metres

smiles

no need to use ''sign for '' keypad

Like wise a regular parcel delivery lady.

But a DHL delivery man , failed to follow the above examples

DHL MAN '' DHL do not supply gloves or hand sanitiser, we must self supply''

Me '' so YOU chose not too?

DHL man '' yes mate, but I am only sub contract driver'' !!

Me'' do you sanitise steering wheel and cab after shift, and BEFORE your own shift ?''

DHL man, '' never thought of that , loads of different users in these lorries, Depot manager wouldn't be bothered though''

Me '' are you bothered?''

DHL man ----- shrugs , walks back to Covid-19 Cab?

Reverting to your VAT Return service;

Are the carefully hand -sorted and arranged papers left on doorstep for you to collect , covered in covid virus?

Can you see them, count them?

Can last on paper for several days .

Avoid like the plague.

Hector the Inspector, AKA Boris Johnson is unlikely to punish anyone for adopting the cautionary principle.

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Replying to frankfx:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
01st Apr 2020 22:24

“Can last on paper for several days”

Who told you that? Because not one expert that I have seen/heard has suggested that it can last more than a few hours.

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By paulwakefield1
02nd Apr 2020 08:41

Actually there are studies out there that show the virus can last several days on different surfaces including paper. However the viable time on cardboard (and so by MY extrapolation, paper) is low (up to 24 hours). The concentrations after a time are hugely reduced and it is thought the chances of infection are very low.

Not a big study and I am sure there are others out there. My pragmatic solution would be to leave papers for 24 hours before dealing with them.

Sources: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973 and
https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/20/sars-cov-2-survive-on-surfaces/

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Replying to paulwakefield1:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
02nd Apr 2020 09:12

We handle the post to bring it in and then place it on a step on the stair, then straightaway wash hands. Post remains on step for about a day and a half and then that day's gets opened. Obviously each step is an individual day.

Amazon etc parcels have a room, they are placed near the open window there and left for circa 36 hours, once opened boxes get taken to car and left there, again followed by hand wash.

Same applies collecting from office, post retrieved every 2-3 days, placed on back seat of car , hands cleaned before driving, once brought home taken from car and again placed on step in house, hands cleaned after.

Right now it is the issue of the state of my hands with all the hand washing that is causing grief, am having to use other half's hand cream .

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Replying to paulwakefield1:
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By rockallj
02nd Apr 2020 13:20

paulwakefield1 wrote:

Actually there are studies out there that show the virus can last several days on different surfaces including paper. However the viable time on cardboard (and so by MY extrapolation, paper) is low (up to 24 hours). The concentrations after a time are hugely reduced and it is thought the chances of infection are very low.

Not a big study and I am sure there are others out there. My pragmatic solution would be to leave papers for 24 hours before dealing with them.

Sources: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973 and
https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/20/sars-cov-2-survive-on-surfaces/

I agree with the point of paper records. However, I'd say be extra careful of the plastic bag or plastic covered lever-arch file.

Personally I'm leaving paper records for 48 hours and anything plastic-coated for 72 hours as a minimum. And then still throughly hand-washing/sanitising.

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Replying to paulwakefield1:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
02nd Apr 2020 13:34

That is helpful. I guess (and clearly it’s dangerous to guess over such matters) that the reports I have seen were referring to the virus’s viability on the surfaces in question - ie paper is “safe” after a few others. Certainly prudent to wait 24 hours for paper - I consider 72 hours to be OTT.

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By JD
01st Apr 2020 17:51

I am going to admit it, I have made the reasonable decision to work from the office and intend to continue to do so quite frankly because.

..... I am not prepared to have a series of clients delivering things to my home, my family is more important.
..... it is required to support and coordinate the work of my team, so they are able to work from home and between us we can meet all the usual deadlines which have not been relaxed
...... to do my job and enable me support my clients to the standard they deserve at this difficult time, I need the tools of my trade around me and my clients need my support to be able to put food on the table of their families and employees
.... lastly so I am in a position to support clients who are endeavoring to supply the NHS and other services with the tools they need to save lives (for instance I have one client in the process of importing Covid-19 test kits).

You have made a very reasonable decision to collect, have confidence in that decision. What you, along with many others on this forum are doing over the last couple of weeks is frankly essential and deserves to be valued (even if the professional bodies don't value what we do sufficiently to ensure that the government designated us as key workers).

Rant over - No apology

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By SKCOX
01st Apr 2020 21:00

I wouldn't argue with anyone on here who's doing what they think is right within the scope of legislation/guidance. My other half is immuno compromised, so I've decided to occupy the cautious end of the spectrum. No trips to client offices, even if they're unoccupied. No paperwork from clients. I'll file VAT returns if I get the records electronically, otherwise I'm claiming reasonable excuse in the event of an argument with HMRC.

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By lincolnartist
02nd Apr 2020 07:43

I’ve had clients who are usually later in the year bringing their records saying they are getting everything together already. This time on their hands is freeing them up!
Instead I will be going to them, ringing when outside at end of the drive, they can then open the door and I will pick it up once they have shut the door.
This journey is necessary for me to continue working so allowed.

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By rockallj
02nd Apr 2020 13:26

To be honest, I am taking this opportunity for those with paper records to use electronic means wherever possible. With no work and knowing how to use a spreadsheet they can use the next couple of days putting the details in an .xlsx format and emailing me.

Bits of paper, CIS summaries, P60s/P45s etc. can be photo'd as .jpeg files emailed with the .xlsx. It doesn't cover everyone, but it helps a lot.

Also, I am asking those who still cannot/will not or with big files to post it to me. It reduces my exposure my contact only with the PO rather than 20-30 clients.

These self-distancing, H&S considerations apply to us and our families too.
Everyone, so far, has been nothing but understanding.

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