For once the Budget has introduced a few interesting topics on VAT, not all of them good, of course:

• As ever, the VAT registration limit is rising – to £77,000 – with the new de-registration limit set at £75,000. Effective from 1 April 2012.
• Again as ever, the VAT fuel scale charge figures are going up, from 1 May 2012.
• VAT registration will move to ‘online’ only, from 31 October 2012

But now, the actual changes and what follows is a very simple summary. There is, of course, a fair amount of fine detail about the changes, which will take effect from 1 October 2012.

• Hot takeaway food: all hot food now liable to VAT if above the ambient air temperature when sold. This rules out a previous argument that, say, pasties were only hot because they were freshly baked. Not affected – bread.
• Definition of premises on which catering takes place: mainly affecting seating areas in shopping malls etc., which are shared by a number of retailers. This will mean that all food consumed in that type of location will be liable to VAT.
• Sports drinks: many such drinks have hitherto escaped VAT on grounds that there is a nutritional value. Not for much longer – all drinks of this nature will soon be liable to VAT.
• Self-storage: this measure is designed to create a level playing field between operators in this field, some of whom charge VAT, some of whom don’t. VAT will therefore be chargeable on all storage provided to the end user.
• Hairdressers chair rental: quite simply legislating to make “chair rent” in a hairdressing salon liable to VAT. This has been HMRC policy for many years, but many businesses have found ways of getting round it. All such rent will be liable to VAT unless what is being provided is a separate room, or even an entire floor of a salon.
• Holiday caravans: simply a change in the definition of a holiday caravan, preventing larger caravans being zero rated, when their main purpose is for holiday purposes. [Zero rating exists for larger, residential caravans] • Alterations to listed buildings: currently zero rated, but this relief will now be removed. The Treasury maintain that it was being abused, as there was an incentive to change a property rather than repair it. OK, so why not simply reverse the rules and give zero rating for repairs? No prize for guessing the answer. More detail to follow.

And a couple more proposals for some time in 2013:

• Small cable car rides will be subject to 5% VAT, where the ‘cabin’ carries less than 10 people each.
• A review of the VAT treatment of education, at university level.
• Simplification of invoicing rules.
• Supply and fit of energy-saving materials: currently 5% VAT for various types of buildings, this will be removed for charity run buildings and village halls.

All in all, a touch controversial in certain areas as evidnced by the amount of media interest in certain items.

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