Tag Archive | "VAT"

Goals on Sunday, Legal Action on Monday.

More football-related accountancy news this week, this time courtesy of Goals Soccer Centre, who were forced to delist from the AIM stock exchange earlier this year as a result of financial irregularities, and have just admitted that their business accounts mayhave been overstated by a whopping £40m, since 2009. 

While £40m is mere small change to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, to your regular Goals five a side player, it’s a huge number to just lose down the back of the sofa. The accounting black hole was initially uncovered back at the start of 2019, and was attributed to a ‘VAT misdeclaration’ and pegged to be at around £12m, sending shareholders spinning. But, if that wasn’t bad enough, forensic accounting has since clarified the situation and suggests that that figure is in the region of the £40m being stated now. 

Goals Soccer Centre has, as a result of the mis-accounting, recently entered into pre-pack administration, administered by Deloitte and has been quickly sold to private equity-backed Northwind 5s Ltd. That move has, thankfully, helped to secure the 750 jobs that were at risk as a result of the scandal and kept the 49 UK Goals Soccer Centre sites open for the time being, at least. 

It appears that the mis-accounting happened when KPMG were at the auditing helm, and the irregulates were uncovered when the company got into financial problems and BDO were brought in to take a much closer look at the books. 

Given the situation, HMRC may be able to continue their investigation beyond the usual four-year period to try and piece together what exactly went on and if any other breaches outside of the VAT misreporting took place. The Serious Fraud Office has also allegedly been informed. Some wrong payments of cheques to individuals in 2014 is also being mooted by those in the know. It doesn’t bode well for the future of the company or for any of the everyday investors who had pension or investment funds held in the stock.

So, we’ll definitely need to watch this space to see what comes next, but it looks very much as though KMPG have struck a definite own-goal, and a yellow card may just be heading their way. 

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9 Year Ban For Restaurant Owner in Glasgow

What happens if you own a business and you dodge your tax and VAT duties? The HMRC will swing the ban hammer!

They have proven again and again they are not shy about getting tough on rogue business owners.

Take the recent story of a restaurant owner in Glasgow. He served good food and his customers were happy. But HMRC were left with an empty plate. Which means they were NOT happy.


This Scottish restaurant owner didn’t bother to file quarterly tax returns, although he was bound by law to do so.

It didn’t take long for HMRC to leap into action, and after a bit of snooping around they found he had been…

Concealing VAT since 2014.

It was now 2017, which means 3 long years had passed without any VAT payments.

As you can imagine, HMRC demanded immediate payment to catch up…plus a fine.

But instead of facing his duties the Glasgow restaurant owner decided to go out of business, despite the fact he owed around £195,000 to HMRC.

Fast forward to the present day and HMRC have eventually got their man. They might not have got the money back, but they have successfully banned this guy from doing business…

For the next 9 years!

That’s right. This former restaurant owner from Glasgow is now banned from directly or indirectly being involved with the promotion, formation or management of any company.

And what if he ignores the ban? Then you can expect to hear the familiar hammer of a judge being slammed down, and a stay in prison being offered to the Glasgow restaurant owner.

Let this to be a warning to everybody out there.

It doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant owner in Glasgow or a contractor in Cardiff. If you dodge your tax and VAT duties then HMRC will come after you and they will fine you, ban you, and even imprison you.

How would you feel if you found yourself behind bars, and then using the prison telephone to call up your contractor accountant.

“I should have took your advice…I should have paid my tax to HMRC,” you say.

“Yes you should have,” replied the contractor accountant.

“I will never ignore you again.”


The moral of the story – always listen to your contractor accountant and never ignore them, because if you do then expect to be in prison.

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Prime Minister vows to tackle EU VAT issues for contractors

Prime minister David Cameron has vowed to take on EU VAT issues that crop up when it comes to contractors, freelancers and other sole traders in the UK.

In a rare display of empathy, Downing Street recently said at this week’s European Council summit meeting that the PM will be speaking directly to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, about how VAT regulations are making the lives of self-employed Brits harder than they need to be. New rules, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, make it so that digital product sellers need to pay VAT at whatever rate is set at the buyer’s location instead of the seller’s VAT rate.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s insult added to injury as well as digital service providers have to keep sales records for a bloody decade. Not only that but while other sellers get an £81,000 threshold, purveyors of digital sales are most purposefully left out. I swear, it’s almost as if the regulations were drafted specifically to drive Brits completely and utterly mad!

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed has been campaigning for something to be done about this for a long time now. In fact, as soon as it was made known that Cameron would be going head-to-head with Juncker, the IPSE more or less started cheering wildly, especially since the trade industry body’s policy and external affairs adviser, Jordan Marshall, has gone on record calling the VAT policy changes “desperately wrong;” the changes were meant to trap Internet giants like Amazon and Google and prevent them from engaging in tax avoidance by funneling all their digital sales through low-VAT countries according to Marshall, but the regulations have turned out to be positively crippling for smaller firms – especially sole traders, contractors and other self-employed Brits.

Marshall also called the new rules “nonensical,” especially when it came to requiring sole traders to keep records for ten years. Honestly I have to agree wholeheartedly.

Of course, all our hopes and prayers now rely on the Prime Minister to get his act together and actually do something about it. I’m hopeful – but I’m not holding my breath!

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Military contractor targets tax avoidance for its next trick

Not content with blowing up bad guys in real life, military contractor BAE Systems has decided to target tax avoidance with some new digital software tools.

The biggest defence company in Europe is looking to begin selling its anti-tax cheat software, NetReveal, to a wide swathe of governments in central Europe, with the expectation that it can increase its client base twofold in just two short years. With something like €170bn in unpaid VAT that just disappears into the aether every year in Europe – and with “missing” payments and shell companies playing “hot potato” with money that should by all rights be taxed making up a sizable bit of this missing cash, industry experts say that in many cases technological advances in financial analysis can be highly effective in uncovering tax avoidance, tax evasion, and any other schemes that these sneaky bastards try to get up to just to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Whatever you may think of the military-industrial complex, NetReveal has a reputation for working – and working incredibly well. Slovakia enlisted the aid of the company in order to stem the seemingly unending flow of €3 billion per annum in VAT fraud, and within a month the program earned the country more money than it cost. In the half year following that, NetReveal increased Slovakia’s tax receipts by in excess of €500 million. That’s more or less vast shedloads of cash – and it generated an avalanche of interest in neighbouring countries like Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic to enlist BAE’s services as well.

Now, I have no good idea exactly how NetReveal works, besides running some incredibly detailed analysis of international payment patterns to look for dodgy activity in order to flag it for investigation later by teams of human beings, but if it works it works; I’m not going to argue with results, especially when it leads to more money in the pockets of countries that deserve their cut but aren’t getting it. Nothing makes me more incensed than tax fraud, especially when so many people think they can get away with it; it just chuffs me to bits when I hear about people geting caught and hoisted by their own petard. Greedy little gits deserve it, if you ask me!

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Taxman lauded for changes to its digital VAT approach

It’s a Christmas miracle: Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs has been given high praise for finally changing its approach to VAT for digital firms.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation, a group of blokes that definitely know what they’re talking about when it comes to VAT, corporation tax, and all other sorts of ways the Treasury fills its coffers, offered high praise to HMRC, recently stating that an untold number of firms that need to register digital service European VAT will save thousands of pounds under the tax authority’s new rules. Now, any of these firms won’t have to charge British customers VAT rates as long as they don’t go over an £81,000 turnover threshold. This new threshold is highly likely to include all sorts of sole traders like contractors and other self-employed people, so that’s just brilliant news if you ask me.

The regulations, comically known as the VAT Mini One Stop Shop, have thankfully been amended to exempt anyone under that threshold in the UK, where it previously covered absolutely everyone. CIOT says that it’s likely there will be something like 34,000 firms – almost all of them smaller operations – exempt from having to deal with VAT in the UK now as a result. That’s a serious boon for the economy, as now these small firms and little outfits like contractors and other self-employed sole traders can keep more of their cash and not have to say goodbye to so much of their revenue being sucked off into the ether through VAT. The trade industry body called a ‘common sense approach’ to European VAT, and I have to agree wholeheartedly.

Of course there are some that will argue that the exemption amount needs to be raised. Bollocks to that I say; if you’re making that much money then you can afford to pay UK VAT as far as I’m concerned. This is all about providing more support to small businesses here at home and we absolutely must do everything in our power to do so. It’s the best way to grow our economy here at home, and that’ll have a wonderful knock-on effect for the global economy as well; any VAT revenue we lose from the new threshold is so minimal as to be practically nonexistent anyway, if you ask me!

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VAT changes may take a page from the French

The UK based group known as the Association of Tax Technicians would like Value Added Tax to change to a model similar to the one used in France.

VAT reporting has always been a pain in the arse for most people, but sole traders such as freelancers and contractors have always had a devil of a time with it. The ATT knows this and has come forward with the proposal to change VAT after Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs opened a consultation on the upcoming VAT changes in April of next year and how firms can ready themselves for those changes.

Next year, changes fundamentally for businesses if they offer discounts for prompt payment. Essentially it’s getting more complicated for businesses and HMRC if customers choose to claim a prompt payment discount, and also if they decline it as well.

This is, of course, completely overly complex and should be thrown out and the whole thing should be started over again from scratch if you ask me. However, policymakers don’t like listening to anything that I have to say so we’re going to get whatever it is we get. Hopefully the ATT’s idea for changing the system slightly to make it easier on businesses by not having to issue nearly as many credit notes in the future – and it turns out that’s how the French have been doing it for years now.

Now I’m not necessarily a Francophone, as there’s a lot going on across the Channel that I’m not particularly fond of, but I have to give the French credit when it’s due. Altering VAT in this way is simply brilliant in that it reduces the amount of work for businesses by a sizable margin, and this can truly help even more when you’re a sole trader because you’re the only one doing all the work. Not everyone of us can afford to take on a contractor accountant to handle the financial details of their work-at-home business after all, so if you’re working out your home office and you’re billing customers yourself the French method should be a huge improvement if you ask me.

Hopefully HMRC will listen to the ATT and we’ll actually see some changes in policy before the April 2015 deadline. Knowing the Government though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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Online VAT return requirement challenged

Nobody is particularly enthused with the requirement to make online VAT return submissions, but three recent challenges to HMRC on the matter were upheld!

I’m really chuffed to have some good news for a change, and here it is: there were three appeals that were successful against the taxman for requiring online VAT returns. It turns out that the tribunal decided in favour of the appellants’ assertions that requiring online submissions was discriminatory against anyone with reduced abilities such as the disabled, the aged, or those without ready access to the internet.

The three appellants had quite a bit in common, besides being self-employed small business owners. Not only were they all advanced in years but one lived out in the country where broadband access is spotty at best, while the other two were physically disabled to the point that using a computer was a trial – and now that these appeals were successful, they mark a powerful precedent in no longer being able to require online submission for all sorts of tax forms.

For what it’s worth, I can sort of understand HMRC’s stance here in making it a requirement in the first place. Paper returns are slower and more difficult to process, create waste, and are undoubtedly more costly than doing everything online, but making it compulsory was a bad move and now the tax authority is paying the price. It certainly won’t be long now before this requirement is struck down completely, and good riddance as far as I’m concerned!

I don’t see why HMRC simply can’t encourage the self-employed such as freelancers, contractors, and small business owners to submit their VAT returns online whilst also preserving the option to make a paper return. Instead of making it a bloody requirement, why not offer an incentive programme to those using the online submission system instead? You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar after all – or does the taxman not understand that simple fact?

What am I thinking? Of course it doesn’t. This is the same organisation that thinks putting the thumbscrews to small business owners instead of going after major multinational companies for unpaid taxes is a good idea. This is exactly why the Government isn’t getting the tax revenue it wants: it keeps shooting itself in the damned foot. Is there no one with some common sense working down at the Treasury?

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HMRC backlog could be costly for contractors

It’s nothing new that the taxman has a massive backlog, but news has emerged that contractors and other sole traders could be even worse off because of it?

Well, it’s true – according to industry expert Jason Collins. An expert on tax law with a major accountancy firm, Mr Collins says that foot-dragging on the part of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs could cost smaller firms a pretty penny, thanks to the vicissitudes of how tax disputes are resolved. VAT payments are required by HMRC ahead of any resolutions, and while a contractor could see that cash refunded if they prevail in their dispute, that money could be tied up for months and months – and good luck getting by without that working capital in this economy!

Even worse is that you can still lose out if by some stroke of luck you manage to postpone your payments until the resolution of your case, said Mr Collins. It turns out that the taxman collects underpayments at plus 3.5 per cent interest, but if it turns out you overpaid HMRC, you’re only going to pull down a 0.5 per cent interest rate on your overpaid funds.

Is it just me or does this seem incredibly unjust by more or less every angle? I mean come on – for what it’s worth, HMRC should provide at the very least an interest rate equal to the current cost of living on funds that are overpaid to it, especially since inflation is still much too high in my opinion. If it’s going to take months to get your cash back from the tax authority, the value of that money is eroding slowly but surely over time – and at 0.5 per cent interest, that’s simply not enough to counteract the slow burn of inflation over any period of time.

Then again I don’t see how we should expect any sort of fairness from the taxman, especially when it comes to small business owners and the self-employed. HMRC has a rather unfortunate reputation for going after the little guy even though there are wealthy multinational companies making money hand over fist and ferreting away their ill-gotten gains overseas in tax shelters, yet somehow the fact that these massive corporations aren’t paying their fair share doesn’t seem to register on HMRC’s radar. Maybe if your local freelancer made a multi-million pound donation to the Tories, the taxman would change its tune, hmm?

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HMRC sets sights on security sector to root out tax cheats

Sound the alarm: security sector contractors may have some explaining to do soon, as Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs prepares to peer into the entire industry.

HMRC, in its infinite wisdom and its unfailing dedication to the stamping out of as much tax evasion and tax avoidance as possible, is turning its gaze towards security sector workers, especially those located in the South East or in the capital. Treasury officials say that the new spate of investigations could bring as much as £10 million in unpaid taxes into the taxman’s coffers, most likely from fraudulent VAT repayment claims.

This is nothing new for HMRC, as it’s already gathered more than £90 million from 2011, when tax investigation taskforces were initially launched to look into as many sectors as possible. Of course the cost of these investigations is never mentioned, so there’s no knowing how much net revenue the tax authority is actually raking in; with this Government’s proclivities in cutting costs in the wrong places it wouldn’t surprise me if the administrative costs of these tax collection endeavours end up taking a rather large bite out of that £90 million.

The sad thing about this is going after contractors and small business owners may actually be the most cost-effective way of stamping out tax evasion. Yes it’s true that even the most ambitious contractor couldn’t even come close to the types of tax avoidance a large multinational can get up to – that £90 million looks like pocket change in comparison to the amount of money big businesses such as Starbucks, Amazon, or Google owes the taxman – however, the likelihood of seeing even a penny of that money from these multinationals is absolutely nil, thanks to corporate lobbyists buying the influence of MPs and ministers alike.

So what’s a cash-strapped Government to do? Naturally it goes after those that it can easily brutalise, like sole traders. Heavens forbid HMRC went after a company that registers its tax evasion in the billions of pounds – no, instead let’s bleed small business owners dry. It’s not like they’re actually contributing to the economic recovery efforts here at home, eh lads?

Cor blimey, I swear I just want to slap the sense in to people in power sometimes. That’s it, I’m running for MP – things are going to change. First step is to get HMRC’s house in order so it leaves alone hard-working contractors!


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Taxman going for broke – and falling flat on its face!

Industry experts say that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has been knuckling under from government pressure and taking a hardline approach to tax penalties.

The government has HMRC jumping at shadows when it comes to tax evasion and tax avoidance and has been pushing the taxman to take an incredibly aggressive stance towards prosecuting possible instances of wrongdoing. Unfortunately tax investigators seem to have more zeal than sense, as new information was revealed this week that a full 60 per cent of VAT appeal cases are actually lost by HMRC.

Let’s put this into real world figures, shall we? During the 2011-2012 tax year, there were some 30,000 VAT appeal cases brought. More than 18,000 of them were reversed, and not in HMRC’s favour – and out of the 12,000 or so that weren’t reversed outright, less than 10,000 – not even out of every three – were actually upheld.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m enamoured of VAT. Nearly everyone thinks it’s a bit of a burden to pay, but let’s be honest: the government needs the money. The £32 billion tax gap is made up of around £9.6 billion in VAT alone, so it’s obvious there are cases of tax avoidance going on here, but I have to wonder how much it costs HMRC to spearhead all these investigations and then defend them at appeal; if three out of every five are reversed isn’t that just more wasted money that could have gone on to have been used somewhere else more important?

The taxman says that the lion’s share of these review cases aren’t really substantive and are in fact just late filing penalties. These are overturned quite easily if a taxpayer can prove he had a good reason for missing the paperwork deadline, and this contributes to the majority of reversed appeals; in fact, HMRC says that when you leave off these late filing cases, the number of penalties that were cancelled as a result of an appeal stood at only around 4 per cent.

On top of that, the taxman says that it’s not really all that costly, the appeals process, which means that these issues are getting resolved quite swiftly and without undue expense, especially since it’s a new review process that’s been streamlined and made more efficient. If this is all true, then good on HMRC I suppose – but it still feels like a waste of time and effort to me.

Indeed, the tax authority said that its new review system means appeals are being resolved quickly and at a much reduced cost to the taxpayer.

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Online accountants – who else needs an online accountant?

There’s no doubt about it, the wholesale contractor accountancy marketplace is big business and everyone wants a piece of the action.

In recent months, a new wave of online accountants have been hitting the forums and contractor portals hard in the hope of gaining a foothold in what is already a fragmented market. Their message is clear – why pay £130 a month for the ‘old school’ contractor accountants when you can get the same, if not better service for a third of the price?

It’s a pretty compelling argument and their proposition is almost too good to be true.

Lets dig a little deeper.

Was is an online accountant?

An online accountant offers contractors an ‘end-to-end’ accounting service. This usually combines a bespoke web-based accountancy package that is backed up by a team of accountants and personal account managers. The idea here is that the contractor or freelancer is able to create invoices, manage their expenses and calculate a real-time view of their business. This then enables them to work out how much they can pay themselves (in PAYE salary, expenses and dividends) without having to produce in-year accounts or time-consuming reconciliations.

Obviously there is an element of work required by the end-user but certainly no more than you are asked to do when working through a traditional contractor accountant, and in some cases much less. The technology is also impressive. Real-time feeds into HMRC, Companies House and the government Gateway make online accountants the perfect choice for any time-precious contractor.

Of course, the more challenging aspects of accounting are managed by the online accountants who will submit VAT, corporation tax and personal self assessment returns on behalf of their clients. They will also handle the Companies House annual return and accounts as well as advising on complex issues such as IR35, family business tax, ESC 16 and the agency workers directive.

How much does an online accountant cost?

Most online accountants pitch their monthly fees around the £50-£60 mark. This includes all of the above services as well as unlimited telephone support and free company setup.

Why are online accountants so cheap?

One word – volume. Most high street accountants are happy with 100-200 clients and are therefore keen to maximise their return on investment for what is a relatively small client base. By making their business scalable, online accountants on the other hand are able to service more and more contractors without taking an enormous hit to their margins. This is why their fees are way cheaper than some of the more well-known contractor accountants.

Where can I find out more?

We have a selection of online accountants in our top 10 directory although companies such as Crunch and Boox are definitely worth a closer look. A quick search in Google will throw up at least another 20 providers at the time of writing so take the time to do your research. My guess is that this is just the start of a new and exciting time for the contractor accountancy marketplace……I shall watch with interest.

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VAT and the small business – should you register?

Value added tax is 40 years old this year and it deserves a birthday celebration. VAT wasn’t born as such, he was simply a rebranded form of something called purchase tax that we had in the UK previously.

Not many people are aware, but VAT (previously purchase tax) was only supposed to be a temporary measure while the war was on? Back in 1940, we were a bit short of cash, so the chancellor had the idea of taxing the people with the least amount of money. He couldn’t very well raise income tax for the poor, so instead he decided to add a sales tax onto everything they purchased instead. In fact, in his speech to Parliament, Sir Kingsley Wood made sure the act would not be retrospective as that would affect poor families that had lost their belongings in the Blitz. But he seemed more than happy to tax items that would be destroyed in the future.

After the war, other governments realised what a brilliant wheeze this was and all began to add in purchase taxes of their own, albeit with different names. This brings us up to 1973 and the UK joins the EEC. Under the joining regulations, we had to fall in line with everyone else and rename our purchase tax. And by some strange coincidence – we had to increase it as well. Purchase tax was 10% at most and Vat was set at 25% for some goods by a man with huge eyebrows about a year later.

Nowadays, any business with an annual turnover of more than £77,000 has to register for VAT. More importantly, the question a business must ask is shall I avoid taking work on that will mean I go over the threshold? What business needs to ask itself is who do I usually sell to? If your business mainly sells its goods/services to other business that is VAT registered, then going over the threshold and becoming VAT registered is the best path.

However, if you mainly sell your goods/services to members of the public, be careful. They can’t claim your VAT back from HMRC and so you run the risk of being 20% more expensive than your competitors. More importantly, once you are VAT registered – you have to charge VAT on all of your goods/services (exceptions apply), not only the ones that go over a £77,000 annual limit. Taking all of this into account, if your business is hovering around the £77,000 per annum turnover limit, don’t do any more work. Simply sit at home and do nothing, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be 20% more expensive than your competitors for another year.

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New Year to bring welcome changes for some contractors

Limited company contractors are set to see VAT rules easing in the New Year, thanks to new EU regulations.

There are several new legislative changes going forward from 1 January of next year that have been instituted to make contractors’ lives easier and allow them to save money. In fact more than £14 billion could stand to be saved by by businesses every year by the new measures, which aim to reduce administration costs, says the European Commission.

One of the changes will be to the way invoices are handled, with paper and electronic invoicing to be considered one and the same. This means that firms may choose the solution that is the easiest and saves them the most money when it comes to VAT invoicing.

Additionally, all EU member states – which includes the UK – will be permitted to offer small businesses with turnover of around £1.6 million a year (€2 million) a cash accounting option. This will leave these smaller businesses with the option of not paying the VAT until customer receipt, which should reduce the potential of problems with cash flow.

Taxations, customs, anti-fraud and audit commissioner, Algirdas Semeta, commented on the new changes, remarking that firms operating within the eurozone need such changes in order to have their needs met in a better way. These changes to VAT will make procedures simpler, costs less, and increase support for solutions that help EU member country business – especially small business – to grow, added the commissioner.

Hopes remain high that these reduced and streamlined VAT requirements will enable these smaller businesses to grow and help contribute to the economic recovery in greater numbers. In the UK alone smaller businesses are often referred to as the backbone of the economy, and contract workers especially so due to their flexibility and high value for money.

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Government redefines hot pasties to keep them free from VAT

It is believed that the Government has bowed to public pressure and is to do a U-turn on its plans to impose the pasty tax. Furthermore, the intended 20% VAT charge, which was going to be imposed on static caravans is to be reduced to 5%.

Bakers and caravanning enthusiasts have been vocal in their disapproval of George Osborne’s plans to impose VAT on Cornish Pasties and static caravans. The government has now already its definition of a hot pasty in order to save face but Labour was quick to say that ministers were “incompetent”.

Under the amendment, foods such as pasties and sausage rolls that are cooling down will not be subject to VAT. Under the current regulations, most food and drink does not attract VAT, but takeaway food designed to be eaten hot does.

The problem of ambient temperature had caused a lot of debate. Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, was concerned that an army of tax inspectors, wielding thermometers, would start invading bakers’ shops to poke around in pasties.

A spokesperson from the Treasury said that the Budget announcement was designed to take away the ambiguity in the current system and leave a level playing field for the takeaway food market. After extensive consultation, the government has improved its initial policy to make sure the new regime would be easy to apply.

However, Chris Leslie, the shadow Treasury minister, said the government should have thought the proposals through before announcing it is making new policies.

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