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
VAT Notice 703; Export of goods from the United Kingdom
(strictly speaking goods supplied within the EU are not classed as exports)
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:

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.

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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.

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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.
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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,