The DBKAG & K (CJEU) decision: an opportunity for investment funds?
On 17 June 2021, the European Court decided the joint cases K (C-58/20) and DBKAG (C-59/20) regarding whether the supply of certain services constituted the “management of special investment funds”, benefiting from the VAT exemption enshrined in Article 135(1)(g) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC.
In the first case, K computed the taxable income of unit holders in the funds. In the second one, DBKAG acquired the right to use software used for risk management and performance measurement. The Austrian tax authorities argued that the exemption could not cover these services since: (a) they were not specific to and essential for the management of special investment funds; and (b) they were not sufficiently autonomous to come within the scope.
The European Court decided that the exemption did apply to these services. First, it clarified that VAT could not be said to apply only because the services are not outsourced in their entirety. Secondly, the Court emphasised that the list of Annex II to the UCITS Directive is not exhaustive, so whether certain services are included or not in that list is not conclusive.
The impact for the UK post-Brexit
Following the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (the “WA”), UK courts are no longer bound by principles laid down by the European Court, whilst general principles of EU law are not part of UK domestic law if they were not recognised as such in a case decided before Brexit. In addition, Chapter 5 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU, which governs tax issues, does not establish any exceptions regarding VAT legislation but only obligations related to fraud.
However, the WA does allow UK courts to consider European Court decisions post-Brexit if they are relevant to any matter before a UK court. UK VAT rules remain the same after Brexit, including the investment management exemption (Group 5, Schedule 9 of the VAT Act 1994), so UK courts could take the DBKAG & K decision into account if they considered it relevant.
What does this mean for UK taxpayers?
The European Court decision widens the scope of services that benefit from the exemption, although it is unclear how far it goes, particularly considering that the Annex II list is not exhaustive.
Certain services which had not previously been considered to be within the scope of the exemption could arguably now be included. Where input VAT has not been deducted by customers, suppliers of the relevant services could potentially seek to recover the VAT charged on those services from HMRC and then reimburse it to the customers under HMRC’s reimbursement arrangements.
Offshore Structures and Onward Gifts
The so-called “onward gift” tax anti-avoidance rules were introduced by the Finance Act 2018 to complement the changes brought in the previous year aimed at restricting the UK tax privileges afforded to non-UK domiciled individuals. The rules were designed to close some perceived loopholes in relation to the taxation of non-UK resident structures (including but not limited to non-UK trusts). With effect from 6 April 2018, it would no longer be possible for an individual to receive a gift without questioning its providence, particularly where family trusts are involved.
The rules were designed to prevent non-UK structures from using non-chargeable beneficiaries as conduits through which to pass payments in order to avoid tax charges. Gone are the days of “washing out” any trust gains that could be matched to offshore income or gains by prefacing a payment to a UK-resident taxable beneficiary with a non-taxable primary payment to a non-UK resident beneficiary.
“It is notoriously challenging to prove a negative (especially to HMRC) and even more tricky where the taxpayer must speak to someone’s intention other than their own.”
Note that the new rules will apply where funds are received from non-UK resident structures before 6 April 2018 to the extent that they are subsequently gifted after that date.
Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK
Changes in public opinion, advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout have prompted governments to increase transparency in relation to investments by wealthy foreign individuals in their countries.
The UK’s HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work.
It should therefore be well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly against the backdrop of the already extensive network of bilateral tax treaties in the UK, and not forgetting that the UK was a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.
This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.
Case note: Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC)
As HMRC continue to apply the Kittel principle to increasing numbers of industries and businesses, taxpayers need to be vigilant about evidential requirements that HMRC must fulfil in order to discharge their burden of proof. Read JHA’s latest insight into the First-tier Tribunal’s decision in Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC).
If you require any further information about the Kittel, Mecsek, and Ablessio principles, or any other allegations by HMRC of fraud or fraudulent abuse, please contact Iain MacWhannell (email@example.com).
Preparing for the Possibility of a Domicile Enquiry
Helen McGhee, a director and chartered tax advisor at Joseph Hague Aaronson, explores who might be vulnerable to an HMRC enquiry on domicile and how best to deal with such enquiries.
The Kittel Principle - Sweet Sixteen
The following is an article written by David Bedenham about HMRC’s wide-ranging application of the ‘Kittel principle’. The current focus appears to very much be on the labour supply industry and the allegation of ‘Mini Umbrella Company Fraud’ (or ‘MUC Fraud’). This article highlights the need for taxpayers to get specialist advice at an early stage when faced with a Kittel decision. If you have any queries about Kittel-related issues or similar denials of input VAT or assessments to VAT, please contact Iain MacWhannell (firstname.lastname@example.org).