What is the annual adjustment? Why is it required?
An annual adjustment is a method used by a business to determine how much input tax it may reclaim.
Even though a partly exempt business must undertake a partial exemption calculation each quarter or month, once a year it will have to make an annual adjustment as well.
An annual adjustment is needed because each tax period can be affected by factors such as seasonal variations either in the value of supplies made or in the amount of input tax incurred.
The adjustment has two purposes:
to reconsider the use of goods and services over the longer period; and
to re-evaluate exempt input tax under the de minimis rules.
Throughout the year
The first stage in the process of recovering input tax is to directly attribute the costs associated with making taxable and exempt supplies as far as possible. The VAT associated with making taxable supplies can be recovered in the normal way while there is no automatic right of deduction for any VAT attributable to making exempt supplies.
The balance of the input tax cannot normally be directly attributed, and so will be the subject of the partial exemption calculation. This will include general overheads such as heating, lighting and telephone and also items such as building maintenance and refurbishments.
When a business makes exempt supplies it will be carrying out a partial exemption calculation at the end of each VAT period. Some periods it may be within the de minimis limits and, therefore, able to claim back all of its VAT and in others there may be some restriction in the amount of VAT that can be reclaimed. Once a year the business will also have to recalculate the figures to see if it has claimed back too much or too little VAT overall. This is known as the partial exemption annual adjustment. Legally, the quarterly/monthly partial exemption calculations are only provisional, and do not crystallise the final VAT liability. That is done via the annual adjustment.
Using the partial exemption standard method, the calculation is based on the formula:
Total taxable supplies (excluding VAT) / Total taxable (excluding VAT) and exempt supplies x 100 = %
This gives the percentage of non-attributable input VAT that can be recovered. The figure calculated is always rounded up to the nearest whole percentage, so, for example, 49.1 becomes 50%. This percentage is then applied to the non-attributable input VAT to give the actual amount that can be recovered.
Once a year
Depending on a businesses’ VAT return quarters, its partial exemption year ends in either March, April, or May. The business has to recalculate the figures during the VAT period following the end of its partial exemption year and any adjustment goes on the return for that period. So, the adjustment will appear on the returns ending in either June, July, or August. If a business is newly registered for VAT its partial exemption “year” runs from when it is first registered to either March, April or May depending on its quarter ends.
The majority of businesses use what is known as “the standard method”. However, use of the standard method is not mandatory and a business can use a “special method” that suits a business’ activities better. Any special method has to be “fair and reasonable” and it has to be agreed with HMRC in advance. When using a special method no rounding of the percentage is permitted and it has to be applied to two decimal places.
Commonly used special methods include those based on staff numbers, floor space, purchases or transaction counts, or a combination of these or other methods.
However, even if a business uses a special method it will still have to undertake an annual adjustment calculation once a year using its agreed special method.
De minimis limits
If a business incurs exempt input tax within certain limits it can be treated as fully taxable and all of its VAT can be recovered. If it exceeds these limits none of its exempt input tax can be recovered. The limits are:
£625 per month on average (£1,875 per quarter or £7,500 per annum) and;
50% of the total input VAT (the VAT on purchases relating to taxable supplies should always be greater than the VAT on exempt supplies to pass this test)
The partial exemption annual adjustments are not errors and so do not have to be disclosed under the voluntary disclosure procedure. They are just another entry for the VAT return to be made in the appropriate VAT period.
If a business fails to carry out its partial exemption annual adjustment it may be losing out on some input VAT that it could have claimed. Conversely, it may also show that it has over-claimed input tax. When an HMRC inspector comes to visit they will check that a business has completed the annual adjustment. If it hasn’t, and this has resulted in an over-claim of input VAT, they will assess for the error, charge interest, and if appropriate, raise a penalty. It is fair to say that partly exempt businesses tend to receive more inspections than fully taxable businesses.