UK: H. Ripley FTT case – Zero Rating Dispatches To Other countries


We have recently seen an interesting case at the First Tier Tribunal which deals with the conditions for zero rating dispatches of goods to other countries.

For context, both EU dispatches before Brexit and exports after Brexit required certain conditions to be met in order to zero rate the supplies. The law on this matter outlines the evidence required in each case and also dictates that the evidence of removal has to be obtained within a certain timeframe (3 months from the time the of supply).

 

In the H Ripley FTT case a UK business (H RIPLEY & Co LIMITED) had shipped goods (scrap metal) to a client in Belgium in 2016 and zero rated the supply. During an audit carried out by HMRC the officers were not happy with the evidence the business had acquired and assessed VAT on the supply.

There were two main issues with the evidence:

  1. It consisted of a patchwork of documents which did not provide certainty that the goods had been exported.
  2. The evidence was produced in many cases 18 to 30 months after the export had taken place.

 

The FTT decided in favour of HMRC and pointed out, among other issues, that the onus for obtaining appropriate documentation in the given time frame is on the exporter. While supplementary evidence can be provided at a later date, HMRC has the right to reject it if it is beyond the 3 month time frame.

 

This is a First Tier Tribunal decision, therefore it is possible the decision might be appealed.

 

Takeaway

 

It is crucial for businesses selling goods to clients in other countries to ensure that they obtain appropriate evidence within the time frame set by law if they want to avail of the zero rating.

 

Zero rating evidence has always been one of the first things HMRC checks when it audits businesses that export goods, therefore we recommend this is periodically reviewed. Otherwise, there is a risk HMRC might assess VAT on the supplies along with penalties and interest