Chancellor extends VAT cut until March

October 15, 2020

The temporary reduced standard VAT rate of 5% for the tourism and hospitality sector was due to end on 12 January, but has now been extended to 31 March 2021.

With Covid-19 restrictions continuing for the foreseeable future, this winter is likely to be quite challenging for many tourism and hospitality businesses, so the extension will be welcomed across the sector.

The current reduced rate applies to food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes. Holiday accommodation and admission fees to tourist attractions are also included.

Businesses can choose to pass on the VAT reduction to customers and benefit from increased footfall or pocket the savings.

Flat rate scheme

Flat rate percentages have been correspondingly reduced and these will also continue through to 31 March 2021. For example, the rate for restaurants and takeaways has been cut from 12.5% to 4.5%. Given the reduced rates do not apply to alcohol sales, any decision on joining or leaving the flat rate scheme is currently quite complex. Professional advice is essential.

Some anomalies

  • A gin and tonic consists mainly of tonic, but the 20% standard rate still applies (the tonic being an incidental extra). On the other hand, VAT is apportioned for an offer combining food (5% rate) and a pint (20% rate).
  • Hot takeaway food benefits from the reduced rate, but not confectionery, crisps, and the like. However, they qualify if eaten on the supplier’s premises.
  • Off-premises catering is not included within the reduced rate as it is not on the supplier’s premises.

The use of the flat rate scheme eliminates these anomalies, as just the one rate is used across a business sector.

VAT deferral

The government has also introduced an interest-free payment window for any VAT payments deferred from 20 March to 30 June 2020. Instead of paying the full amount by March 2021, businesses will now be able to make 11 equal instalments over the 2021/22 financial year.

Full details of HMRC guidance can be found here.

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