VAT is a notoriously complex tax and, with our imminent departure from the EU, it is likely to become more so. Get it wrong or file a VAT return late can leave businesses facing substantial penalties. But businesses in Milton Keynes have a secret weapon – Ruth Corkin, one of the UK’s foremost VAT experts who is a member of groups guiding the government on VAT policy and implementation.
Ruth is a VAT Director at accountants and business advisers Hillier Hopkins LLP and part of a four-strong team of VAT experts based across the firm’s three offices. Clients of the team include owner-managed businesses, charities and, increasingly, overseas businesses investing and establishing operations in the region. “We all know that tax is complex, and VAT is especially so,” explains Ruth. Government has long recognised that and turns to specialists for advice on how policy and changes to the VAT regime will impact businesses. I have been working alongside government and HMRC for over nine years.”
Ruth is part of the government’s Brexit team advising civil servants and Ministers on the notoriously complex Irish Backstop alternative arrangements, providing advice and insights on how businesses will manage the flow of goods across the border in Ireland and on how technology and alternative arrangements might work. She is also part of the VAT Practitioners’ Group and meets regularly with HMRC to discuss and resolve some of the practical problems businesses face with regards to VAT. She sits on a number of HMRC sub-committees that focus specifically on Making Tax Digital and financial services/insurance.
Ruth really does have the inside track on government policy and the approach adopted by HMRC, giving her clients a competitive edge. “Irrespective of whether we leave Europe on the 31st October or whether we leave with or without a deal, the way businesses account for and manage VAT will change,” says Ruth. “Add to that the customs declarations needed to move goods in and out of Europe, there is much businesses need to understand. “Whilst we do not yet know the nature of our relationship with Europe, it isn’t something businesses can ignore. They need to prepare now.” And Brexit is not the only concern businesses have at the moment. The way businesses file VAT returns has changed significantly following the introduction of Making Tax Digital. “VAT returns must now be filed online via Making Tax Digital compliant software,” explains Ruth. “But the filing of VAT returns is just the first step in the government’s Making Tax Digital journey. “Businesses from next year may be required to provide considerably more information when making VAT returns. And that will be a real challenge for businesses without the right software.”
It will also mean that businesses have little choice but to share ever more information with HMRC, with the tax authorities adopting sophisticated software that quickly spots errors and anomalies. “Businesses can expect HMRC to take a more proactive approach in requesting more detail, chasing payment and penalising errors. Now, more than ever, businesses need to be on top of their VAT,” says Ruth.
The VAT regime and the way government collects taxes is undergoing dramatic and considerable change and the need for businesses to have informed advisers has never been more critical.
Hiller Hopkins has invested in specialist software to help businesses stay on top of this rapidly changing landscape. It has, through Ruth Corkin, built a team with the inside track that helps businesses stay ahead of the curve. The need for good advice at the right time is the key.