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HMRC internal manual

VAT Retail schemes guidance

Point of sale (POS) schemes: Functions of a modern electronic checkout

VRS11200 and VRS11250 assume that an EPOS system operates broadly on these lines:

  • the customer presents an item or basket of items at a check-out; and
  • a scanner reads a bar code on the product: this is then looked up in a product file to pull down price, description, and other detail (including, potentially, VAT rate) which is used in subsequent processing by the till software or back office computer systems.

EPOS systems have developed beyond merely being used for stock control purposes and now provide a number of additional functions:

  1. providing information and help at the sales point;
  2. real-time controls on the checkout procedure;
  3. controls on store post-sale accounting processes;
  4. control of movement of merchandise;
  5. commercial information to management;
  6. financial information to management;

and can include (this list is not exhaustive):

  1. identifying the items the customer has selected and bringing up the prices;

  2. capturing any special offers on those items (reductions, multi-saves);

  3. reflecting staff discount and accumulating an individual’s discounts taken;

  4. recording cash-back, if available and requested;

  5. calculating the transaction total;

  6. recording the means of payment, type of tender (including vouchers, if taken), and calculating and displaying any change due;

  7. printing the customer’s cheque if appropriate;

  8. processing the credit/debit card, validating the card and capturing data by which the claim to the credit card company/bank is made;

  9. producing a hard copy record of the transaction/receipt for the customer;

  10. maintaining a copy of the core transaction detail against any later need;

  11. updating stock records, for stock management and re-ordering;

  12. providing “telegram” totals to management of trading pattern (for example to identify busy/marginal times of day);

  13. providing controls on the cashier/salesperson by eliminating (accidental or deliberate) keying of incorrect prices;

  14. providing controls on the cashier/salesperson by facilitating till reconciliation;

  15. facilitating reconciling bankings to till receipts as part of store cash control;

  16. capturing marketing information, including identifying fast and slow moving lines, tracking promotions, building customer profiles;

  17. accumulating sales totals for central management purposes (for example to compare store profitability, sales per square foot, profit by department);

  18. accumulating sales totals for financial reporting (eg drawing up profit and loss account, direct and perhaps indirect tax calculations).

The earlier items in this list are at individual transaction level to meet commercial needs, for example individual stock movement records so that the right goods can be re-ordered. Similarly, records of sales charged to customers’ credit cards need to be passed through the systems at transaction level to make the appropriate debits to their accounts.

The items lower down the list are aggregates, since, for example, for financial reporting purposes only cumulative totals are necessary.

Individual transaction detail is normally store-based; information transmitted to head office accounting sections tends to be cumulative.