B2B and B2C – The distinction and importance
A key feature of the place of supply rules is the distinction between B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) supplies. The distinction is important because it determines, inter alia, whether GB VAT is applicable to a supply made by a GB supplier.
Status of the customer:
- B2C: A supply is B2C when the customer is a private individual, an organisation with only non-business activities or the supply is wholly for private use (eg for the private use of a business owner)
- B2B: A supply is B2B when the customer has any level of business activity (though if a supply is wholly for private use it remains B2C). It does not matter if the supply is for a non-business activity of the customer or if the customer is not VAT registered. All that matters is the customer has some level of business activity – this includes VAT exempt activity and taxable activity below the VAT registration threshold VAT place of supply.
- If the customer is VAT registered, the customer’s VAT number is evidence of status and it is good practice to quote this on the supplier’s invoice. A GB supplier should check the customer’s VAT registration number is in the correct format for the country concerned. This can be done via the EC Vies website. for EU customers. NB: Special evidence rules apply to electronically supplied services.
- If the customer is not VAT registered, a GB supplier should obtain and retain evidence that the customer has business activities. HMRC state “If your customer is unable to provide a VAT number, you can accept alternative evidence. This includes certificates from fiscal authorities, business letterheads or other commercial documents indicating the nature of the customer’s activities”.
A supplier needs to identify where his customer belongs in order to establish the place of supply.
VERY broadly, depending on the nature of the supply, the rule of thumb is that a B2B service is GB VAT free (it is subject to a reverse charge by the recipient as it is deemed to be “supplied where received”) but a B2C service is generally subject to GB VAT, regardless of the place of belonging of the recipient. There are exceptions to these rules however, such as the use and enjoyment provisions, land related services, hire of transport and admission to events.
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