value added tax

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See: ad valorem

value added tax (VAT)

a tax on consumer expenditure collected on business transactions, imports from outside the EU and acquisitions from other EU countries. All EU countries apply VAT in accordance with the Sixth Directive. Many non-EU countries have adopted a tax very similar to VAT, e.g. Mexico, Russia, New Zealand and Australia. The UK law is based upon the Value Added Tax Act 1994, statutory instruments made under that Act and parts of certain VAT notices published by HM Revenue & Customs which are law because of powers given by statutory instrument. The main charge to VAT applies where there is a supply of goods or services in the UK, or the Isle of Man, by a taxable person in the course or furtherance of business and the supply is not specifically exempted. A taxable person is any individual, partnership, company or other entity which is registered for VAT, or ought to be registered because of making taxable supplies above certain value limits. A person who makes taxable supplies below these limits can register voluntarily in order to recover VAT incurred on purchases of goods and services (inputs) related to making those taxable supplies.

There are three rates of VAT: a standard rate, a reduced rate and a zero rate. There is a fundamental distinction between zero-rating and exemption because a business making zero-rated supplies can recover all the related INPUT TAX whereas the VAT incurred on goods and services acquired in order to make exempt supplies cannot be recovered and forms an additional cost to that business. Even businesses which could otherwise reclaim VAT on their inputs cannot normally do so in respect of cars and business entertainment. All taxable persons must keep and preserve records and accounts of all taxable goods and services which they receive or supply in the course of their business, as well as records of any exempt supplies that they make. Such records must normally be kept for six years. There are a range of financial penalties and interest charges to encourage people to register for VAT on time, to send in accurate VAT returns and to make payments on time.