Comments on the Coinstar Ltd Upper Tier decision

Les Howard
VAT Consultant
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I am not sure how relevant the Coinstar Upper Tier decision will be for other taxpayers. Not many offer a ‘coin counting service.’ But the decision is interesting in a number of respects:

  • The taxpayer’s description of its services “Coin Counting Fee” was not definitive of the actual supply that was made (para 47). Just because you call something a ‘widget’ does not mean it is a widget!
  • The First Tier Tribunal had correctly looked at the economic reality of the transaction, and identified that there was more than merely the counting of coins.
  • The FTT, approved by the Upper Tier, considered that the service was similar to a foreign exchange transaction. “We see no reason why the exchange of one currency for another should be treated differently from the exchange of one type of sterling(coins) for another type of sterling (notes)” (para 73).
  • Also, the Upper Tier stressed that this was not a re-hearing of the FTT Appeal, but an Appeal against the decision of the FTT. The question is not ‘was the FTT right?’ but ‘did the FTT reach a decision that it should not have reached?’ HMRC seem not to appreciate this distinction.

The Upper Tier decision is here:

About Les Howard


Hi, I am a VAT Consultant, working mainly with charities. I am based in Cambridgeshire

I have over 20 years experience in VAT, and am currently also a part-time member of the Tax Tribunals.


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