Partner An unnamed firm
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VAT and customs duties: The next big thing for accountants?

29th Aug 2019
Partner An unnamed firm
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Come 1 November, the UK may be heading into uncharted trading waters. While this may be scary the opportunities for accountants to earn consultancy fees are potentially phenomenal writes AccountingWEB's anonymous partner.

My guess is that almost every accountancy practice, from multinational to sole trader, is always trying to find a new niche that will give it an edge.

With the United Kingdom apparently about to leave Europe in only a couple of months’ time, it seems almost certain that VAT and customs duties will become and continue to be hot topics.

At the moment, Britain has its own VAT legislation but this is all based around a European model. Surely one of the big advantages to be derived from the impending exit is an opportunity to write our own rules.

Bearing in mind their stated antipathy to everything European, I would imagine that Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid will be looking to refine, if not completely overhaul, this area of taxation.

Is it too much to ask that they simplify the rules, making life somewhat easier for those of us trying to get up to speed with a brand-new way of working in a hurry?

In any event, this is going to be a rich source of business over the next few months and years. Assuming that there is new domestic legislation, everybody must expect to start from pretty much the same zero-knowledge position.

Adding extra spice to what is already a tricky topic will be the European dimension. At present, if we buy something from, let us say France, the VAT that you pay is theirs, with no further exposure on importation to this country.

However, on 1 November is it possible that while you will still pay VAT in France, there might be an additional VAT charge when you bring your shiny new car/gadget/diamond ring back home?

Similarly, anyone selling goods or services to a European client or customer will no longer be able to rely on the relatively simple regime that offered a blanket exemption.

By this point, readers will already have ascertained that the writer is no VAT expert and therefore please be generous if there are any incorrect assumptions. The key here is the underlying principle that, unless we completely abolish the principle of a VAT/sales tax, one system will become two.

In any event, wherever we are going in this field of taxation will be exciting for accountants.

There has been a lot of talk recently about customs duties and the fact that they will be chargeable as soon as Britain leaves Europe, particularly if there are no arrangements in place to ameliorate them.

Once again, the average person on the street will not have the faintest idea of how this works, but then there is every chance that nobody in your office or at HMRC will have much more of an idea. There will be the added fun of dealing with overseas authorities, with the strong possibility that inspectors will not even speak English, let alone be able to provide a translation of hastily implemented legislation.

There must be an opportunity for the profession here, especially since so many accountants and other advisers will be steering well clear of an area that is new and scary. Not only can you simultaneously please and liberally charge your own clients and hook those of your competitors but if you develop into either or both of these niche areas in a hurry, the opportunities for astronomical consultancy fees should be phenomenal.

There are a number of ways of capitalising on any opportunity of this kind. You could buy in expertise, convert an existing employee or partner into a resident expert practically overnight, learning as they go along or study the subject yourself, presumably initiating a marketing strategy as leading experts in the field as soon you have slightly more knowledge than your fellows.

If you take this advice and get rich quick as a result, please remember to send thank you gifts c/o AccountingWEB. On the other hand, if you get it wrong and are sued for incompetence, that will be your own fault.

Replies (5)

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By itp33asso
30th Aug 2019 10:18

Think you're over gilding the Lilly there anonymous.

To describe the future opportunities for additional income as "phenomenal" is I suggest a little hubristic.

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By C.Y.Nical
30th Aug 2019 11:07

Concerning import tariffs (not VAT) if this is completely new to you here are the starting points:
Newcomers may be surprised how many classes of goods are exempt from tariffs when imported to the UK, for example agricultural tractors with wheels (not tracks) in code 8701 This is because the UK is a member of the WTO.
So far as VAT is concerned I am really quite puzzled by the suggestion in this article that an item being exported from France to the UK will attract VAT in France and again when it is imported to the UK. In every country with which I have ever traded the rule has been that export items do not attract the local sales tax. I will be very surprised if the EU27 impose a rule that exports to the UK must attract local VAT. Even if the EU27 (or, more likely, the Commission) want to punish the UK for leaving they would (I think) be reluctant to inflict further damage on European finances by imposing a significant additional competitive disadvantage on their businesses.

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By Myshkin
30th Aug 2019 11:43

Is this article a parody of us accountants?

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By Tom 7000
30th Aug 2019 12:35

Very good whoever wrote that :)

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By mickeyparish
30th Aug 2019 16:55

However, on 1 November is it possible that while you will still pay VAT in France, there might be an additional VAT charge when you bring your shiny new car/gadget/diamond ring back home?

Answer : NO. the French exporter selling to a customer outside the EU will under current EU rules be able to zero-rate their export invoice

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