Under new rules that came into force on 15 March 2018, HMRC has enhanced powers to make online marketplaces accountable for VAT fraud committed by online sellers on their platforms. These measures are correctly referred to as joint and several liability (JSL) for marketplaces. The rules previously applied to overseas retailers that supplied goods already in the UK at the point of sale, to UK consumers through an online marketplace (such as eBay or Amazon).
The rules have now been extended:
- Any future VAT that a UK business selling goods via the online marketplace fails to account for once they have been notified by HMRC. This spreads the rules to UK registered businesses (in addition to existing rules for retailers based overseas).
- Any VAT that an overseas business selling goods via the online marketplace fails to account for where that online marketplace knew, or should have known that that business should be registered for VAT in the UK.
In addition, online marketplaces will also be required to display the VAT numbers of any sellers using their website and to check that the numbers are valid. HMRC wants to send a clear message that all businesses selling goods in the UK follow the same rules, and are required to pay the correct amount of VAT due.
Further planning note
Businesses can also apply to register for the Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme from 1 April 2018. This scheme requires businesses that store any goods imported from outside the EU, to keep certain records and perform certain checks on the goods they are storing. Taken together, these measures will help protect around £1 billion of tax revenue by 2023.