Q&A: Covid-19 small business grants

The government has made grants available for small businesses who are currently feeling the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic, but what are the VAT implications of these grants? Croner Taxwise VAT consultant, Vivienne Scott at explains

Q. In the current climate of uncertainty for businesses, with many having to close during the lock-down and others losing significant levels of trade I have had many calls from clients who will be applying for the grants being made available by the government via local authorities. Will they need to treat this income as subject to VAT?

A. For those who may not have seen the details on the support available, information is available via: Coronavirus business support grant funding - guidance for businesses

HMRC have not spelt out the VAT implications in any of their announcements. However, the basic principles of supply and consideration can be expected to apply. VAT is a tax on supplies for consideration, so where a grant is made, and nothing is expected to be done in return it will not be subject to VAT.

HMRC’s approach is set out in the Supply and Consideration manual at VATSC06312 as follows:

When deciding whether a payment is within the scope of VAT you must treat each agreement on its own merits and apply the basic rules of VAT to it, as set out in the legislation VATSC06313.

For a transaction to fall within the scope of VAT there must always be a supply, a consideration and a direct link between the two. A payment is not consideration for a supply if one of these factors is missing.

The following points will help in deciding whether a payment is consideration for a supply for VAT purposes:

  • Does the grantor receive anything in return for the payment?
  • Are there any conditions attached to the payment that go beyond merely having to mention it in account statements?
  • What will the payments be used for?
  • If the funder does not benefit directly, does any third party receive a benefit?
  • Is there a contract and what are the terms and conditions?

Factors indicating whether or not a payment is consideration for a supply are contained in VATSC06317, VATSC06318 and VATSC06319

Grant funding can be a complex area in some circumstances as it is common for funding bodies to use the term ‘grant’ when, in reality, it is payment for a contractual obligation.

However, the business support funding being made available to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 does not fall into this category and will be outside the scope of VAT.

About the Author

Vivienne Scott is a senior VAT consultant at Croner-i

This update is subject to change at short notice as the government releases its own updates – this guidance was last updated Wednesday 15 April 2020

Further information on covid-19  is available here, Croner Taxwise consultants

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