Check if you can claim relief from VAT if you supply goods or services to a customer, but you are not paid.
1.1 What this notice is about
If you make supplies of goods or services to a customer but you are not paid you may be able to claim relief from VAT on bad debts you have incurred.
This notice explains:
- when you’re entitled to this relief
- how to claim it
Also, you may have to repay VAT you have claimed if you have received supplies of goods or services which you have not paid for.
This notice also explains:
- when you will be required to repay input tax
- how you will be required to repay it
1.2 Who should read this notice
Anyone registered for VAT who has made supplies of goods or services to a customer for which they have not been paid, and anyone who has received a supply of goods or services and has not made payments for the supplies.
1.3 The law covering this notice
The law that governs the claiming of bad debt relief is:
- The VAT Act 1994, Section 36, and Section 26A which covers the repayment of input tax when a customer fails to pay for supplies received within 6 months of the relevant date
- The VAT Regulations 1995, Parts XIX, XIXA and XIXB
Since the introduction of bad debt relief there have been various changes made to its availability, the way it operates, and the time limits that apply. As a general rule, relief must now be claimed within 4 years and 6 months of the later of the date payment was due and payable or the date of supply. Relief can still be claimed in respect of supplies made between 1 April 1989 and 30 April 1997, subject to certain conditions.
2. Claiming bad debt relief
2.1 What VAT bad debt relief is
If you have made supplies to your customers on or after 1 April 1989 and have not been paid, you can claim relief from the VAT on bad debts for the goods or services that you have supplied as long as you meet all the conditions. You may claim relief whether the payment due to you was in money or in goods or services to be provided to you in a barter arrangement.
2.2 The conditions
Conditions for claiming bad debt relief
|1.||You must already have accounted for the VAT on the supplies and paid it to HMRC.|
|2.||You must have written off the debt in your day to day VAT accounts and transferred it to a separate bad debt account.|
|3.||The value of the supply must not be more than the customary selling price.|
|4.||The debt must not have been paid, sold or factored under a valid legal assignment. See paragraph 3.12.|
|5.||The debt must have remained unpaid for a period of 6 months after the later of the time payment was due and payable and the date of the supply (one year after the date of supply for supplies made from 1 April 1989 to 31 March 1992), and|
|6.||if the goods were supplied before 19 March 1997, ownership must have passed to your customer, or through the customer to a third party.|
|7.||For supplies made to a VAT-registered customer between 26 November 1996 and 30 April 1997, you must send a notice to them. A copy of the notice must also be retained. (See paragraph 2.7 for an example.)|
If you account for tax under the Cash Accounting Scheme, see Cash Accounting Scheme (VAT Notice 731) or under one of the retail schemes, see Retail schemes (VAT Notice 727) which allows you to adjust your daily gross takings for opening and closing debtors, you’re only paying VAT on the amounts you have actually received from customers, so bad debt relief is unnecessary.
2.3 When you can claim bad debt relief
You must wait at least 6 months from the later of:
- when payment was due and payable
- the date of supply
The due date for payment may be determined by your normal credit terms, or by any longer period for payment which you agree with your customers. You cannot claim on a return for an accounting period earlier than the one in which you become entitled to the relief.
For supplies made after 30 April 1997, you must claim within 4 years and 6 months of the later of:
- when payment is due and payable
- the date of supply
2.4 How to claim bad debt relief
To claim a refund you should include the amount of the VAT you’re claiming in box 4 of your VAT Return which covers the date when you fulfil the conditions to make a claim.
2.5 Records you must keep
When you can claim a refund you must keep:
- a copy of the VAT invoices for the supplies on which you’re claiming a refund (if you did not issue a VAT invoice you must have a document showing the equivalent information)
- a separate bad debt account showing the:
(a) amount you have written off as a bad debt
(b) amount of VAT you wish to claim as bad debt relief
(c) VAT period in which you have claimed a refund
(d) total amount of VAT charged on each supply
(e) VAT period in which you originally accounted for VAT on the supply
(f) payment received for each supply
(g) name of your customer, and
(h) date and number of the invoice to which the bad debt relates (if you did not issue an invoice you must include sufficient information to allow the time and type of the supply to be readily identified)
(i) a copy of any notice issued (see paragraphs 2.6 and 2.7)
2.6 Notifying your customer when you’re making a claim
Claims covering supplies made between 26 November 1996 and 30 April 1997 to a VAT-registered customer require a notification letter to be sent. You must send a notice to your customer within 7 days from the date you make your claim. The date a claim is made is the date you send HMRC the VAT Return including the claim.
The notice must contain all the following information:
- the date of issue of the notice
- the date of your claim to bad debt relief
- the date and number of any VAT invoice issued for each supply to your customer which is included in your claim
- for each relevant supply the amount which has been written off as a bad debt
- the amount of the claim, except where the claim is for a supply accounted for under a Margin Scheme, see paragraph 5.7
2.7 What the notification should look like
Your notice need not follow this format but all the details must be included. The notice may form part of your existing debt recovery procedures and the details can be added to correspondence you would ordinarily send to your debtor. Or you can send it separately if you prefer.
Example of notification letter
To: XYZ Ltd From: ABC Ltd
Notification of a claim for VAT bad debt relief
I hereby notify you of a claim for VAT bad debt relief in respect of the following supply/supplies made to you for which payment has not been received.
Date of this notice: 15 July 1997
Invoice date: 1 December 1996
Invoice no: 5/96
Total amount due: £117.50
Bad debt relief claim: £17.50
Date of claim: 10 July 1997
You are now required to repay any VAT claimed on these supplies to HMRC until such time as payment is made.
This notification has been issued to comply with the VAT Regulations 1995 (as amended). Payment including VAT in respect of the supplies remains due and should be made forthwith.
2.8 How long you should keep the records
After making the claim you must keep all the records listed in paragraph 2.5 for 4 years from the date you make your claim. This requirement does not alter the standard requirement to retain records for 6 years, see VAT guide (VAT Notice 700) for details.
3. How much you can claim
3.1 How to work out how much you can claim
Your entitlement to bad debt relief is based upon the outstanding amount in respect of the supplies concerned. In the case of a single supply for which you have received no payment your claim will be for the amount of VAT that you accounted for and paid. If you have received a part payment for the debt, you can only claim a refund on the VAT relating to the amount that is still unpaid.
3.2 How to attribute payments
Payments should be allocated to the earliest supply made unless the customer specifies that a payment is for a particular supply and pays for that supply in full. VAT guide (VAT Notice 700) provides guidance on establishing the time of supply.
This method of attribution allows for a fair distribution of payments across supplies with varying liabilities, for example standard-rated, zero-rated and exempt supplies.
3.3 How it works in practice
Example of attribution of payments
You have made the following supplies to your customer:
|Supply no||Date of supply and when payment was due||VAT-exclusive cost (£)||VAT (£)||VAT-inclusive cost (£)|
|1||30 June 2011||1,000||zero-rated||1,000|
|2||28 July 2011||1,000||200||1,200|
|3||25 August 2011||2,000||400||2,400|
|4||29 September 2011||350||Exempt||350|
|5||27 October 2011||800||160||960|
|6||24 November 2011||3,000||600||3,600|
You have received payments totalling £3,500 for these supplies, so the debt is:
Total value of supplies = £9,510
Payment received = £3,500
Debt = £6,010
As the payment does not relate to any particular supply it is treated as relating to the earliest supplies. Therefore payment is treated as made in full for supplies 1, 2 and for £1,300.00 of supply 3 (the difference between the totals of supplies 1 and 2 and the payment of £3,500.00). The debt outstanding for supply 3 is therefore £1,100.00. The VAT included in that outstanding amount is calculated using the VAT fraction as £1,100.00 × 1/6 = £183.33.
Bad debt relief can therefore be claimed on the following supplies:
|Supply||VAT-inclusive amount (£)||VAT (£)|
|Part of 3||1,100.00||183.33|
The total bad debt relief claim is £943.33.
3.4 What happens if you made a number of supplies on the same day
If you made a number of supplies on the same day, you should add up, separately, the VAT-inclusive amount of the supplies and the VAT included in those amounts. You then treat the supplies as one supply when working out the relief.
Using the same figures as in the example in paragraph 3.3 but where supplies 1, 2 and 3 are made on the same day the bad debt relief should be calculated as follows:
|VAT-inclusive value of supplies 1, 2 and 3||£4,600 (VAT included is £600)|
|Debt outstanding on supplies 1, 2 and 3||£1,100|
To calculate the bad debt relief claimable on this debt you should apply the following calculation:
The balance of the debt × (amount of VAT in supplies 1, 2 and 3)
Total VAT-inclusive of supplies 1, 2 and 3
Therefore: £1,100.00 × £600.00/£4,600.00 = £143.48 VAT
|So the total bad debt relief claim will be||Amount|
|VAT in supplies 4, 5 and 6||£760.00|
|Proportion of VAT claimable on supplies 1, 2 and 3||£143.48|
3.5 Attribution of payments when goods are supplied with associated finance
Bad debt relief can be claimed on supplies of goods made by hire purchase, conditional sale or credit sale where the customer has defaulted.
Such transactions involve 2 supplies, a supply of goods and a separate supply of associated finance. Unless the supplier seeks an agreement with HMRC to treat the supply of finance as occurring at the same time as the supply of goods, then the supply of goods occurs first.
This would normally mean that all payments received would be first applied to the goods and only when the goods are fully paid for would any payments be attributed to the supply of finance. Particular rules apply for businesses that supply goods and finance in this way.
For agreements entered into before 1 September 2006 suppliers must attribute each payment received, upon which interest is charged, to goods and to finance in the same ratio as the total cost of goods and the total cost of finance to the customer. This calculation should exclude any deposit payment which should be wholly allocated to the goods. This is the Old Method.
Example of the Old Method
If company A supplies a car to a consumer on hire purchase terms, over one year:
|Car price (including VAT)||£10,000|
|Total interest (A)||£1,800|
|Total amount payable (B)||£10,800|
The customer pays the deposit and 3 monthly payments and then defaults. The payments should be attributed as follows:
|Payments made (P)||£2,700.00|
|Interest element of instalments received
= P × (A/B)
|£2,700.00 × £1,800.00/£10,800.00 = £450.00|
|Goods value = £2,700.00 less £450.00||£2,250.00|
|Net outstanding = amount financed (£9,000.00) less goods value (£2,250.00)||£6,750.00|
|Bad debt relief claim amount||£6,750.00 × 7/47 = £1,005.32|
The New Method
From 1 March 2007 the method used to calculate the attribution of payments has changed so that it better reflects the actual commercial attribution.
For supplies of goods made before 1 September 2006 the old method of calculation must be used.
For supplies of goods made between 1 September 2006 and 31 August 2007 suppliers may choose either method.
For supplies of goods made on or after 1 September 2007 the new method of calculation must be used.
The new method requires suppliers to use figures which are derived from their existing commercial records. These records should reflect the commercial apportionment made between capital and interest, and are likely to be based on an actuarial or Rule of 78 accounting method. If the apportionment has been calculated correctly within the records, then applying the new method of calculation will result in the same figure and this can then be used as the basis of the bad debt relief claim.
Example of the New Method
Note for the purpose of the following example, assumed figures have been used for the rebate of interest figure and the capital value unpaid figure.
Payments made on or before the termination of the agreement must be attributed to the supply of credit by multiplying the amount of the payment by the fraction A/B and the balance is attributed to the supply of goods.
Calculation of ‘A’
Total charge for interest paid under the agreement £1,800.00
Less rebate of interest granted (£1,038.46)
Less interest attributable to any unpaid instalments (£0.00) (£1,038.46)
Total interest due £761.54
Calculation of ‘B’
Total amount payable under the agreement
(total for the goods + total of ‘A’)(£10,000.00 + £761.54) £10,761.54
Less any reduction as a result of termination (£0.00)
Less amounts on which interest was not charged
(for example fees, deposits) (£1,000.00)
Less any capital value unpaid at the time of termination (£7,061.54)
Total amount payable £2,700.00
The calculation then continues:
Payments made on or before termination (P) x (A/B) = interest element (I)
£2,700.00 x £761.54/£2,700.00 = £761.54
Payments (P) minus interest element (I)
= Goods value (G)
£2,700 - £761.54 = £1,938.46
Amount financed minus the goods value (G)
= bad debt relief amount
£ 9,000 - £1,938.46 = £7,061.54
Bad debt relief amount × 7/47ths
= bad debt relief claim
£7,061.54 ×1/6 = £1,176.92
3.6 How the proceeds from the sale of repossessed goods should be treated
When goods are supplied with finance the seller may have the right to repossess the goods if the customer does not make the payments required by the agreement at the right time. The net proceeds from the sale of goods in this situation should be taken into account, and any relief should be based upon the remaining amount unpaid.
Generally the sale of repossessed goods is not treated as a supply. There are exceptions, and in the following cases VAT will be due on the sale where the:
- condition of the goods has been changed after repossession and before resale
- goods have been repossessed from a customer who was entitled to reclaim input tax on the original supply to him (such as a customer who used a car for private hire or driving instruction)
- goods were delivered to the customer under the finance agreement on or after 1 September 2006, and on termination of the agreement the supplier has adjusted the VAT accounted for to reflect the payments not made by the customer
If any of these exceptions apply and you have accounted for VAT on the sale of repossessed goods, you do not need to take into account the proceeds of sale when calculating bad debt relief.
3.7 If you also owe the debtor money
This example shows you how to work out bad debt relief where you owe a sum of money to the debtor, which you’re able to set off against monies the debtor owes you (sometimes called a mutual debt).
A bad debt has arisen relating to a supply for which you charged £720.00 (£600.00 + £120.00 VAT). At the time you have written off the debt, you owe the debtor £115.00.
Amount of the debt is £720 - £115 = £605.00.
To work out how much VAT is included in the debt, multiply by the ‘VAT fraction’.
So you can claim bad debt relief of £605.00 × 1/6 (VAT at 20%) = £100.83
3.8 If you hold a security against the debt
If you hold an enforceable security against the debt you must reduce the amount you claim bad debt relief on by the value of that security. If you hold a security which cannot be enforced you may write off the full amount of the debt and base your claim to relief on that amount.
3.9 If you have insured against bad debts
If you pay a premium for insurance against bad debts, payment by the insurers does not affect your entitlement to relief.
3.10 If you receive payment from a guarantor or other person
If you receive payment, in full or in part, from a guarantor or other person (for example, a director of the debtor company), entitlement to relief is reduced by the amount paid. If full payment is made by the guarantor or third party there is no entitlement to bad debt relief.
3.11 If the debtor’s insurers pay
If you make a supply to a debtor who is insured for the costs of that supply (for example, when a garage repairs a damaged vehicle), for convenience the insurer may pay you direct. If the insured is VAT registered the VAT exclusive amount is usually paid. If the customer does not pay you the VAT element, you can only claim relief on the actual balance written off. Any payment is to be treated as in paragraph 3.2.
3.12 What happens if you assign or factor the debt
Some businesses employ factoring companies to improve their cash flow. If debts are factored bad debt relief is not available where an assignment of the debt is absolute (that is where there is no provision for the reassignment of the debt in the contract).
Where there is provision for the reassignment of a debt, bad debt relief will be available once the debt is reassigned to the trader. No bad debt relief can be available during the period in which the debt remains assigned to the factor.
If you receive a payment from the factor for the unencumbered sale of a debt, this is considered to be for an exempt supply of finance and therefore will be disregarded for the purposes of bad debt relief.
3.13 If your customer pays everything but the VAT
If your customer refuses to pay the VAT charged, or you did not charge VAT when the supplies were made but issued supplementary invoices to recover the VAT from your customer, the claim to relief is limited to the VAT element of the total debt. For example, if you originally charged £100 which your customer paid, and you unsuccessfully attempt to recover the £20 VAT charge originally omitted, you are only entitled to claim the VAT fraction of £20 as bad debt relief.
3.14 If you receive payment after claiming bad debt relief
If you have claimed a refund under this scheme and you later receive a payment for the supplies, you must repay to us the VAT element included in the payment. All payments you receive for the supply or supplies must be shown in your separate bad debt account. When you’re repaying all or part of your refund, put the amount you’re repaying in box 1 of your VAT Return for the period in which you received the payment.
If you are no longer registered for VAT and therefore do not make VAT Returns, you must still repay all or part of the refund. Contact HMRC for guidance, using the contact details given in paragraph 5.3.
If you’re insured for the VAT-inclusive amount of the debt, and your insurer pays you, your bad debt relief entitlement is not affected and you may still claim for the full amount.
3.15 How to work out how much to repay to you
Suppose you sold goods for £100 (plus VAT) for which you received no payment by the relevant date and claimed bad debt relief (assuming the usual conditions were met).
If you subsequently received £75 from your customer for the goods, you must repay to HMRC the VAT element of that payment.
You calculate the amount of the repayment as follows:
Amount of claim × payment received ÷ consideration outstanding when claim made
(a) If the supply was standard-rated this would result in the following calculation:
Gross value of supply is £120.00
Bad debt relief amount is £20.00
£20.00 × £75.00 ÷ £120.00 = £12.50
Thus you should add £12.50 to box 1 of your VAT Return.
(b) If the supply was at the reduced rate of 5% this would result in the following calculation:
Gross value of the supply is £105.00
Bad debt relief amount is £5.00
£5.00 × £75.00 ÷ £105.00 = £3.57
Thus you should add £3.57 to box 1 of your VAT Return.
4. Repayment of input tax when supplies are not paid for (clawback)
4.1 Repaying input tax when you do not pay your supplier
There are different rules depending upon when the supply was made to you. For supplies after 26 November 1996 but before 1 May 1997 you’re only required to repay input tax if you receive a notification that your supplier has made a claim for bad debt relief, see paragraph 2.7.
For all later supplies you’re required to repay input tax if you do not pay for the supplies within 6 months of the relevant date. Your suppliers will not be required to issue a notification so you will need to monitor the time you take to pay your suppliers.
4.2 Relevant date
The relevant date is the date of the supply, or if later, the due date for payment.
4.3 Using the invoice date when calculating the time at which you should repay
If your supplier allows you time to pay, for example 30 or 60 days, then you are not required to repay any input tax until 6 months from this later date. In the absence of any separate agreement you can use the invoice date as the due date for payment and so use this as the time at which the 6 months starts.
The only exception is any case, (which is expected to occur rarely) where the invoice is not issued within 14 days of the date on which the goods were supplied or service performed; and where the due date for payment falls before the date on which the invoice is ultimately issued. In this instance the input tax will become repayable 6 months after the date on which the goods were supplied or service performed, or (if later) the date when payment was due.
4.4 If you are in dispute with your supplier over the value of supplies made
This will depend upon whether your supplier agrees to extend the due date for payment of the amount in dispute. If they agree to extend the date then they will not be able to claim bad debt relief until 6 months after the extended date and equally you will not be required to make a repayment until 6 months after that date.
If your supplier does not agree to such a change the repayment of input tax will be required 6 months from the relevant date. You will only be required to repay the unpaid element. Should you subsequently agree to pay the balance your entitlement to input tax will be restored.
4.5 How to calculate the amount of input tax that you have to repay
The same methods as outlined in calculating how much you can claim are used in calculating how much of a repayment you’re required to make. The repayment is based upon the unpaid amount at the ‘relevant date’. If you have been unable to claim the full amount of VAT charged by your supplier – for example, because the supplies were used partly for a non-business or exempt activity the repayment will be based upon the amount of VAT originally deducted.
Supply received £1,000 + £200 VAT = £1,200
By the time of the relevant date you have only paid £500
Unpaid amount = £1,200 - £500 = £700
(a) if business originally entitled to deduct (£200.00) £200.00 × £700.00/£1,200.00 = £116.66
(b) if business originally entitled to deduct 50% of the VAT charged (£100.00) £100.00 × £700.00/£1,200.00 = £58.33
4.6 How to make a repayment of input tax
You should make a negative entry in the VAT allowable part of your VAT account, and account for the repayment on your return covering the date when repayment became due. This will reduce the amount of input tax recoverable in box 4 of the return by the amount of the repayment.
4.7 Payments made to suppliers after clawback of input tax
If you have repaid input tax claimed following a supplier’s claim for bad debt relief and then you make payment for the supply, you can reclaim the input tax, in proportion to the payment made, subject to the normal rules. Reclaim the input tax by including it in box 4 of your VAT Return in the accounting period in which the payment is made.
4.8 Clawback of input tax following a transfer of a business
If you have taken over a business and the VAT registration number of that business using form VAT68, you acquire the obligations of the seller to repay input tax. That is, you must repay to us any VAT claimed by the seller on purchases that he has not paid for, or, where those purchases were made before 1 May 1997, he has received a notification that the supplier has claimed bad debt relief. More information about transfers of businesses can be found in Transfer a business as a going concern (VAT Notice 700/9).
4.9 Applying clawback where insolvency procedures have commenced
As a result of an Extra Statutory Concession (see paragraph 3.20 in VAT Notice 48: Extra statutory concessions, where an insolvency procedure commences after the date of the supply, but before the requirement to repay input tax occurs, see paragraph 4.1, the business will not be required to repay input tax.
For supplies made after 26 November 1996 but before 1 May 1997, businesses will not be required to repay input tax where the supply was made prior to the insolvency procedure commencing but the notification from the supplier is received afterwards. This does not affect the requirement on the supplier to issue a notice when claiming bad debt relief where his supplies are made between these dates.
5. Summary of key points
5.1 Claiming bad debt relief on an existing debt when you buy a business
You can only claim relief if you were the actual supplier of the goods or services. Where a business is transferred, the purchaser cannot claim bad debt relief on supplies made before the transfer because the purchaser did not make the supplies. From 1 May 1997 there is an exception to this rule where the purchaser also takes over the VAT registration of the seller (using form VAT68). In these circumstances the purchaser acquires the seller’s entitlement to bad debt relief on supplies made by the seller.
5.2 Reservation of title agreements or hire purchase
The rules for claiming bad debt relief on goods supplied under an agreement with a clause reserving title until they have been paid for (known as a Romalpa clause) changed from 19 March 1997. If you supplied goods before that date, you can only claim bad debt relief if you have sent your customer a statement formally giving up your rights under the clause. For supplies made on or after 19 March 1997, the requirement that title to the goods must have passed no longer applies. This change allows claims for bad debt relief for supplies of goods on hire purchase and other reservation of title agreements without the requirement to formally give up the rights to title under the agreement.
5.3 How and when a claim is made
Claims for bad debt relief should be made on the VAT return for the accounting period in which the entitlement to make a claim arises.
The amount claimed should be included in the input tax claim box.
If a business is operating the annual accounting scheme, it is possible to account for VAT on the supply made and claim bad debt relief on the same return, if all the conditions for relief are met by the end of the accounting period.
Use form VAT427 to claim bad debt relief after deregistration. Post your completed form, together with original invoices, to:
HM Revenue and Customs
VAT3 (VAT27 Processing)
5.4 If you’re part of a group registration
If you’re registered under a group registration for VAT purposes, each member must keep its own separate bad debt record for debts written off. The representative member of the group will claim any refund on behalf of each member while they are in the VAT group. Bad debt relief claims for supplies made by a group member who has left the group before the time a claim can be made, are proper to the former group member and not to the representative member of the group.
5.5 If you’re on Annual Accounting
If you account for VAT using annual returns, relief can be claimed on debts over 6 months old on the same return in which the supply was accounted for. Debts over 6 months old are those where 6 months has elapsed from when payment is due or payable or, if later, 6 months from the date of supply.
5.6 Sending a credit note instead of claiming relief
You may not issue a credit note simply because your customer has not paid you for your supply. You may only issue a credit note where there is a genuine mistake or overcharge or an agreed reduction in the value of your supply.
5.7 Claiming bad debt relief if you’re using a Margin Scheme
From 1 May 1997 (subject to the overall 4 years and 6 months time limit) bad debt relief can be claimed on supplies made under margin schemes, subject to a maximum of the VAT on the margin. If the debt is equal to or less than the profit margin, bad debt relief may be claimed on the VAT fraction of the debt. If the debt is greater than the profit margin, bad debt relief is limited to the VAT fraction of the profit margin since this is the amount of VAT that will have been paid to HMRC. Paragraph 5.8 provides an example of the amount of bad debt relief that will be allowable for goods sold under a Margin Scheme.
5.8 How much of the debt you can claim if you’re using a Margin Scheme
|If for example you||Amount|
|Purchased goods for||£400|
|and sold them for||£500|
|Margin on which VAT is paid to HMRC||£100|
|If your customer pays you||£350|
|then the debt is||£150 which is greater than the margin|
|So bad debt relief is||VAT fraction of £100 (margin)|
|But if customer pays||£450|
|then the debt is||£50|
|So bad debt relief is||VAT fraction of £50 (debt)|
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