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HMRC internal manual

VAT Place of Supply of Services

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Belonging: Fixed establishment

The term fixed establishment is not defined in law. However, following the test set out by the ECJ in Gunter Berkholz (C-168/84) we take it to mean an establishment, other than the business establishment, from which the activities of the organisation are carried out and which has the permanent presence of both the human and technical resources necessary for making or receiving the supplies of services in question (and it is not appropriate to deem the supplies in question to have been provided at or from the place where the supplier has established their business).

There have been several cases in which the Tribunal has found that the registered office of a limited company in the UK amounts to some other fixed establishment for the purposes of receiving services, even if no business activities are carried out there, but are carried out from other addresses overseas. This was the case in Binder Hamlyn (EDN 82/55), [1983] VATTR 171, (VTD 1439), concerning a company registered in Scotland but trading in Jamaica, and Vincent Consultants (LON 88/254), [1988] VATTR 152, (VTD 3091) concerning several companies trading in Switzerland but registered in the UK.

In Singer & Friedlander Ltd (LON/87/159), [1989] VATTR 27, (VTD 3274) the Tribunal also considered whether a company had a fixed establishment in the USA. It found that there was no defined place such as an office in the USA and therefore no fixed establishment there. However, following Binder Hamlyn and Vincent Consultants, it held that the registered office in the Isle of Man was a fixed establishment.