Chancellor gives tax inspectors new powers to tackle overseas sellers active in UK.
In yesterday’s budget speech, George Osborne pointed out that there has been a big rise in overseas suppliers storing goods in Britain and selling them online without paying VAT. “That unfairly undercuts British businesses both on the internet and on the high street,” he said.
As a result, the chancellor is giving tax inspectors new powers to warn high-risk overseas sellers active in the UK through eBay and Amazon. If, after those warnings, sellers do not correctly collect VAT within 30 days, eBay and Amazon can potentially be held liable for the missing tax. The Treasury estimates this measure will recoup £875m in lost VAT receipts over the next four years – the total cost to the taxpayer of this abuse was officially estimated at £1bn to £1.5bn a year.
In addition, the chancellor set out plans for a new “fit and proper” test for warehouse operators dealing with goods shipped to the UK for sale online. Warehouses will be required to be registered by 2018. They will have to be able to show they have made checks to ensure they are not facilitating VAT fraud for online sellers based overseas.
“We welcome these changes but are concerned that HMRC doesn’t have the resources to chase hundreds of overseas traders,” said Richard Allen of campaign group Retailers Against VAT Abuse Schemes (Ravas). “We want measures that will force Amazon and eBay to effectively police VAT compliance themselves.”