EU VAT rules – Exhibition Display goods and services

HMRC logo
As a UK VAT registered business, we have an obligation to charge VAT where appropriate on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs.
We often work with Non UK, and Non EU clients, supplying Exhibition Display and Trade Show Contracting services both within the UK, EU and Internationally.
HMRC VAT rules can become very onerous and require a good knowledge of the VAT rules to ascertain whether VAT should be charged or not, of course most clients outside the EU wish for the latter to be the case, 20% can add a substantial sum to any companies exhibiting budget.
VAT Status can further be complicated depending on whether a ‘service’ or ‘goods’ are being supplied, and if we are hiring any part of the job.
It is often difficult for someone at HMRC to define what ‘goods’ or ‘services’ are, but generally it can be defined as:
A good is something that can be held – a physical item.
A service is something intangible, it cannot be transported or stored.
(such as ‘Hire of Equipment’, although ‘Storage’ itself is classed as a ‘service’).
We sometimes bill separately for each type of supply, ie the physical stand components, and then the installation (a service), but the distinction between goods or services can become confused when an install is performed a distance from us here, the ‘service’ (install) part of the job becomes predominant – and so we can include the ‘components’ as being part of the service, as these are seen as being ‘incidental’, so a ‘service’ is charged for all.
HMRC themselves publish Notices to help ascertain VAT on goods or services we supply outside the UK:

VAT Notice 741a; Place of supply of services
and:
VAT Notice 703; Export of goods from the United Kingdom
(strictly speaking goods supplied within the EU are not classed as exports)
and
VAT Notice 725; The Single Market

A riveting night time read for all.

The simple rule to follow is:

A ‘Service’ follows ‘Goods’ in precedence.

– if ‘Services’ are being supplied, then ‘Place of Supply of Services’ (Notice 741a) applies.
(non UK, but EU VAT Registered customers, receiving a service outside the UK but within the EU – the supply is zero rated (it is outside the scope of UK VAT) and should appear in box 6 of the VAT return (Sage T4 VAT code), for non EU customers – that is outside the scope of UK VAT, and so is exempt, also box 6 of the VAT return (Sage T2 tax code).
if ‘Goods’ are being supplied, then ‘The Single Market’ (Notice 725) applies.
If supplying goods in the UK to a non EU customer, standard VAT is charged (Sage T1 VAT code), if supplying to an EU customer, ‘The Place of Supply’ applies, so the countries EU VAT rules apply – the sale here is zero rated (Sage T4 Vat Code), with the EU customer accounting their side with a reverse charge. Where supplying an EU customer with ‘Installed or Assembled’ goods (see Notice 725 Section 11) and place of supply is the UK, then standard UK VAT is applied.

Where we attend trade fairs in the EU, and our clients (most usually a business, B2B rules section 5 notice 741a apply) who reside outside of the EU (section 8.1.1 Notice 741a) , and we supply a service, we fortunately need not charge VAT, special conditions apply for services relating to ‘exhibitions’, and the place of supply is deemed to be the clients place of business (general rule), rather than the place of supply of the service, ie which is usually which ever EU exhibition hall we attend.

Where we supply a non EU company with goods and the place of supply is within the EU, it is still an export and VAT is Zero. When supplying an EU company (but not UK company) with goods, and the place of supply is in the EU, the supply is zero rated, entries in box 6 of the VAT Return.

Non EU companies supplied (and used) with goods (ie exhibition displays) and services (ie installation fees) within the EU, but which are then exported with a time limit (3 months) – then Zero Rating applies, although the customer is normally charged the full VAT then refunded once the correct evidence of export is provided, HMRC being very particular about the evidence, photo copies should be ‘authenticated’ – and any paperwork give comprehensive descriptions (ie serial numbers etc) VAT Notice 703 section 6.0 ‘Proof of Export’ explains.

When supplying a Non EU ‘B2B’ customer with a storage ‘service’ (ie we store for them here in the UK), the Place of Supply applies (VAT notice 741a, section 2.4.1). The rules on storage state that as long as we do not provide a specific piece of land, and storage is within our premises, but not an exclusive area just for them, it is considered outside the scope of VAT, and is exempt (Sage T2 Tax code).

And of course where goods are being supplied to an EU company, and place of supply is the UK, (and the goods have been used prior to export), Standard rating applies, VAT Notice 725, section 4.3 explains. EU VAT registered companies can reclaim UK VAT paid via the UK’s VAT Refund Scheme: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/managing/international/EU-visits.htm

Specialist reclaim companies exist to deal with VAT matters when dealing with non UK and EU customers, for $50 Quipsound will endeavour to reclaim VAT paid for clients who may have been charged VAT incorrectly:
Quipsound – ‘VAT Recovery Worldwide’
TMF Group – An accountancy firm engaged in VAT recovery, registration and advice

One last gasp for Earls Court

Earls Court

This iconic and now historic venue opened in 1937, and joined in 1991 by Earls Court Two, still Europe’s biggest unsupported roof span.

Giant Wheel at earls court

The site had previously contained various attractions, one being the Giant Wheel 300 ft high (the London Eye being 450ft) constructed in 1896, but dismantled and cut up for scrap in 1906/06.

constrof EC(7)

In 1935 plans were drawn up and construction started. Interesting to see an almost open expanse in the land around the site.

Constr of EC

Despite 4 sets of railway tracks crossing the site, a huge steel construction was formed to go over these.

Constr of EC(4)

The plan was to build a show centre (not just bland halls) to rival any in the world, it was also to create the largest structure by volume.

How very sad, the loss of Earls Court will be, for many years we have worked in this historic venue, you feel the history when your in there, bland venues like Excel give forth no more atmosphere than a shopping mall.
Capco who bought the 77 acre ‘site’, have done so purely do perform a sort of asset strip, to clear the land to build chicken cages, in the form of flats, no doubt they will have a small percentage of affordable homes. Trust that Eaton twit Boris Johnson to usher through plans, some have in fact questioned his role as Tfl chair, and the windfall they will receive from this deal.
Constr of EC(5)

Constr of EC(2)

Despite the over run of budget and time, the UK had a ‘Show Space’ to be envied the world over.

Enough of the political rant, the loss of Earls Court will see the loss of £1 billion a year income, 2.5 million visitors, and 30,000 exhibitors (all those exhibition display graphics 🙁 to West London.

From a contractors working perspective, access to the halls at Earls is so much better than Excel, who’s limited access ramp forces a time slot scheme, causing no end of stress when loading and unloading, it never seems enough time, the jobs worth in High Vid jackets constantly hovering. Seagrave Road seems such a more pleasant place to wait – than stuck on that landing strip at Excel, the wait at such can be as much as 2 hours – due to the limited access ramps, not so at Earls Court, we have never had to wait more than half hour to gain access – whether for set-up or breakdown days.

As a venue it is purpose made, I can think of no other venue in the UK with such facilities – right in the heart of London, where such a venue should be, like the Frankfurt Messe, not stuck out on some windswept deserted and disused dock.
Looking at the structure of Earls Court it was designed for putting on shows, the Stage Doors house huge cranes and access ways.
Which other venue houses a vast 60x30mt swimming pool, hidden under its floor, huge 750 tonne floor sections moved at the press of a button.

E Court Pool

Huge 750 tonne floor sections move away at the press of a button to reveal a 60x30mt swimming pool beneath the halls floor.

earls court pool

And the pool full, taking 4 days to fill up and 2 1/4 million gallons

Winter Calvalcade scaffolding

Build up of the Winter Cavalcade at Earls Court – 1938, the ski run structure rose 100ft into the roof space. A blockbuster success, 350,000 people came to the show – despite war looming.

Winter Calvalcade slope finished

The slope ran the length of the hall.

B U F meeting

Sir Oswald Mosley packed Earls Court on the 16th July with a final rally to the British Union of Fascists. During the war years huge Barrage Balloons were built, repaired and inflated inside the 119ft high halls

Eric Pickles is due to decide whether to have a public enquiry, but I get the sad feeling its all a done deal, and another of London’s iconic landmarks will disappear beneath the bland construction of glass and concrete and the occupants who fuel the demand,

Exhibition displays – plastic adhesives

800px-Methyl-acrylate-3D-balls

Following on from our post on Velcro Adhesives, I though it pertinent to go on and explain in more detail the issues surrounding bonding of substrates, namely plastics, in our work supplying Exhibition Displays we are often required to stick a wide variety of substrates together to fit a clients requirements.

To the layman, adhesives should be a simple process … 1. go buy some glue 2. apply and stick … unfortunatley not, this is a complex technical area prone to failure, unless there is a proper understanding of each substrates makeup, and then applying the suitable adhesive, the bond between surfaces will simply fail, proper knowledge and testing are crucial. Advice across the trade is sometimes patchy and not awlays reliable, and often going higher up the technology ‘food chain’ is required to gain a better understanding.

Plastics are a completely man made material, the term ‘Plastics’ covers a range of materials, each with it own distinct qualities.

Plastics start as a ‘Monomer’, this is extracted from a process of refining petroleum, coal also can be used to extract monomers. A chemical reaction called polymerisation turns the monomers into a type of plastic resin, this can be in the form of pellets, granules, powder or flakes, which when processed using heat and pressure are forced into a desired shape, and allowed to cure into a finished plastic product.

Adhesive bonding is assisted in 3 ways:

  1. Surface Roughness (surface energy)
  2. Chemical Reaction
  3. Electrostatic Forces

The process of ‘wetting out’ and keying of the adhesive into the substrate (flow of adhesive into the substrate) are important factors.
Some polymer based substrates can be described as possessing a ‘low surface energy’, one such, Polypropelene (used in the production of our ‘Seamless Semi Rigid Rollable Shell Scheme Panels‘) which has a hard surface, and can require a softer adhesive that will flow better.
Surface Energy can be tested with a ‘Dyne Pen’, Dyne Technology© manufacture a simple system for testing the surface energy of most substrates, using a Dyne Pen a line is drawn across the substrate, the liquid will either form a continuous film on the surface or pull back into small droplets depending on the value of the Dyne Pen, buy using different pens a ‘Dyne’ level, expressed in mN/m (Dynes), the exact surface energy can be determined.

dyne_pen

Dyne Pen (also referred to as a Corona Pen) –  used for measuring the ‘Surface Energy’ of polymer substrates.

Surface preparation greatly assists adhesion, treatment of the surface using various methods:

  1. Corona Treatment, removal of static field by high voltage, high frequency electrical discharge or corona discharge, this forms a strong chemical attraction to inks, paint, coatings, adhesives etc
  2. Plasma Treatment, the surface of the substrate is altered using special energy that changes its molecular structure  – allowing better ‘wetting’ and improves adhesion or other applications (such as printing ink) to the products surface.
  3. Flame (Plasma) Treatment, the surface of the substrates molecular structure is changed by ingredients within the gas used, heat is actually an unwanted by product of the process.
  4. Surface Abrasion

The two most common adhesives found are Acrylic and Rubber Based, these are compared:

Acrylic adhesives come in 2 forms:

  1. Water based
    Good for most clean smooth surfaces.
  2. Solvent based
    Some are a 2 part adhesive with a surface activator/catalyst (Methyl acrylate)
    This etches the surface and provides a key for the adhesive to then bond.

Acrylic is a hard adhesive, with strong cohesion properties, although has a lower wetting out, and so is suitable for plastics with a higher ‘surface energy’.
It has good longevity, and is better designed for strong loading.
As a general rule an Acrylic based adhesive will work fine with products containing a plasticiser, although it has been known for these to migrate out of the plastic and into the adhesive causing failure.
Plasticisers are added to allow the plastic to be flexible, take PVC as an example, your double glazed PVC windows have no plasticers, but PVC vinyl does (hence its flexibility), in essence any plastic on a roll will contain plasticers. Occasionally products on a roll maybe produced with a back coating of silicon or plasticers, which increase the difficulty in bonding of adhesives.
Foam PVC board whilst flexible, though, does not contain plasticers, it is a rigid board.
With a pressure sensitive Acrylic adhesive work should be left for 24 hours to bond, once applied.

A rubber based adhesive is a softer adhesive, with a lower cohesive strength, it will flow better (good wetting), so good on plastics with a ‘low surface energy’, such as Polypropylene (PP), it is also better on wood and paper, bonding within just half an hour. But its use is more temporary than acrylic, with lower loading capability, it will degrade quicker with continued exposure to heat (dries out) and cold (less sticky).

To conclude, the number of factors determining which adhesive type to use on what substrate – is best proved by testing on a bespoke basis, with correct surface treatment. The length of use, environment, load, all have an influence, as does production time, often jobs are last minute, and testing time available is limited.

Dyne Technology, Copyright © 2012 Dyne Testing

A Sticky Situation

We take the quality and suitability of the products we use to manufacture and supply our exhibition display work as paramount, to ensure our products are made to the best standard that can be produced, ensuring durability and longevity, all options need to be considered.
Often there are cost implications to this, meaning our offerings maybe a little more costly, but for that extra you can be assured it will function as you expect it to on the day, and for the long term.

Small details make a huge difference, take our Seamless Semi Rigid Rollable Printed Shell Scheme Stand Panel Graphics, these are fixed to click in adapters with hook and loop (Velcro), hook on the adapter, loop on the rear of the panel, the adapters attaching to the shell booth upright supports.
velcro-crp
The finishing process requires the Velcro to be applied to the rear of the graphic panel and then carefully sliced, a cut made between each of the corrugations on the Corriboard, leaving just small areas of the self adhesive backing on the Velcro to bond to the board.

corriboard
We use a polypropylene based machined corrugated board (like your estate agents board, but it can be rolled). Using the incorrect adhesive backed Velcro leads to failure of the adhesive over time – so when its time to take down the panels or pull them out of storage for reuse – the Velcro loop will have lost its adhesion to the board.

Velcro manufacture 3x types of pressure sensitive roll hook and loop:
1) PS14, a rubber resin based adhesive, for most clean and smooth surfaces. (except any kind of plastifying)
2) PS15, Rubber block copolymer, (except any kind of plastifying). Works well on Polyolefin substrates (ie polyethylene and polypropylene).
3) PS18, Water based acrylic polymer, good on most clean and smooth surfaces. (Except polypropylene and other non-polar materials)

In the interests of balance, 3M® produce a competing product called Dual Lock®, this is a one part self engaging mushroom fastener (ass opposed to ‘hook and loop’ which is 2 part), with an Acrylic adhesive.

So, in essence, when a product is manufactured by us, we make sure its right, we take a proactive approach to ensure the components that are mixed together work correctly.

Velcro® is the registered trade mark of ©Velcro Industries B.V. 2008 All rights reserved.
3M® is the registered trade mark of © 3M. All rights reserved.

Abobe PDF/Postscript Output – ‘Pages’ document

adobe_pdf_logo2desktop-publishing-dtp-softwareAdobe_Postscript-logo-2

In the 25 years we been outputting Postscript, we have seen many page layout applications come and go, the likes of Aldus Page Maker, Microsoft Publisher, Corel Ventura – all fraught with technical issues and draw backs.
We are not here to promote Adobe Indesign per se, just simply to explain why it has become the defacto page layout tool.

We have had an enquiry to run out a 27pp full colour A3 ‘Pages’ document, this is a small simple Mac application, here are our thoughts to using such ‘fringe’ applications for professional postscript output.

We have 25 years experience running jobs for Postscript output going to general print, magazine, newspaper and exhibition display work.

Our professional opinion:

There is a myriad of minor ‘page layout’ applications out there (and not so minor, Coreldraw), all written by different programmers, all doing different things under the hood.

In the stressful world of Postscript output (all now wrapped in a lovely PDF) us lucky people at the sharp end need applications we can rely on – and at present there are just 2 page layout apps, Quark and Indesign … the former now fallen from grace.
Work is often time sensitive, so you need tools that you can trust, outputting letters on your home or office PC is a very different to outputting in a production environment.

It is now common practice to shy away from accepting customer made PDF’s – unless the source can be trusted to produce them correctly – which seems a rarity.

If you want something you can trust , then Adobe Indesign is your one and only choice … Quark Express is still out there, but we handle very few files from that application now. Even on occasion theses high end applications will cause issues which require a specific work-flow to resolve.

As a side comment: Acrobat PRO is not a page layout application ! it is a ‘re purposing tool’.

Our unprofessional opinion:

I doubt ‘Pages’ will enclose a document within a PDF to the Adobe Standard, it is designed for just simple work (ignore the glossy images on the box), in essence it may work, but if it doesn’t and the costly process of ‘drop on demand’ print spews out incorrect ‘data’ – you’ll still get a bill from your ‘Service Provider’.

So your call, take a risk (assuming you can put the PDF together properly in the first place), or take the trusted route with the one and only trusted professional package – Adobe Indesign (manual reading obligatory).

Space Only Exhibition Display Stand

This is a typical requirement for an exhibition stand due to show at:
World Travel Market – Excel 4-7 Nov 2013

Plan and isle views

Working well ahead of time.
A request for a space only stand, the space to be filled 3.5×3.0 metres, elevation 3.5 metres.

Design, fabrication, installation, break down and storage.

Octonorm profiles used to create frame, with 3mm rigid PVC graphic panel in-fills, 2x logo panels on clear acrylic with frosting to allow for back lighting.
17x 50w Low Voltage, or 6w LED spot lights, arranged on track rails.
Laminate floor, with trims.
2x literature racks.
2x Bar stool tables and 6x chairs.
1x counter with 2 shelves.
2x pot plants
2x Electricity supply, including sockets for laptops

Octonorm profile framework

Plan view, note curved sections, can be costly if bespoke.

ISO, Front and Side Elevations

Exhibition stand break down time

A recent ‘letters’ article in the trade press complained about the amount of time given to exhibition stand contractors at the end of some shows to allow for breakdown, we will testify to the mad scrum that can occur – in some cases just 2/3 hours, there are no time slots as its such a short period, and needless to say it can feel like waiting at the starting block for the event hall to clear.

The article went on to explain how one of the staff members breaking down trapped his foot under the tail lift on the truck under time pressure, very nasty, all for the sake of the organiser saving a bit of money !
A retort was then published by an organiser trying to explain that profits their end were being squeezed, and cost savings needed to be made – hence the reducing time given by organisers to contractors to breakdown and clear the hall. The reply went on to blame customers (and contractors) for wishing to exhibit with ‘overly’ extravagant stands stating that the large budgets given one year – with most likely a poor ROI meant a no show at the next event, which hurt both organiser and exhibition stand contractor – surely that is the choice of the customer, if a stand is unsuccessful they will scale back the next time they wish to exhibit – how can the organiser be sure the ‘low ROI’ is a result of having a ‘swanky’ stand. A show with good stand design will attract more visitors surely – who wants to attend some dull show with unattractive stands.
Any bespoke stand design is a complex delicate beast, and needs to be handled with care – especially if to be reused. Trying to rush the taking apart and repacking will mean broken components and parts of the stand, some of which may have taken hours of hand work to create.
My question is how much does it cost to keep a hall open for a few hours longer ?? maybe the person shuffling the numbers should work at the sharp end and do a few shows to experience the chaos … sounds like penny pinching, if the organisers end up with a hall full of dull uninteresting stands, with a low turn out, they know who to look to.

US Storm Sandy brings unexpected orders

The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel in New York City flooded

The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel in New York City flooded

A UK customer flying to a trade show in the New York area has required some exhibition display graphics and digitally printed handout leaflets with a very quick turn round, as their US suppliers in New York have unexpectedly had to close due to the storm.

Powerpoint files were supplied, which we re-purposed for output on our Postscript RIPs, often a troublesome file format for some digital print companies, but no trouble here. Work is being produced now so its ready for the client, before he flies out Friday Morning.

Hopefully the US East Coast will all be back on its feet as soon as possible.