The rate of VAT was reduced to 15% at the height of the country’s economic downturn. At the time, the chancellor warned that it would revert back to 17.5% as soon as the economy showed signs of recovery. HMRC have now confirmed that this will happen on 1st January 2010. This will affect the majority of businesses from the stroke of midnight at New Year. The only exception will be pubs and clubs who operate through the night. However, tax experts have said that such businesses can only expect a few hours grace period from HMRC before they will have to apply the full rate.
HMRC have issued guidance to support businesses through the transition of reverting back to the original VAT rate. It is expected that the change will cost businesses in the region of £125m.
Choosing to increase VAT on New Years’ Day has been met with criticism from business groups and economists alike.
George Bull, from accountancy group Baker Tilly, spoke to the Financial Times about the impending increase. He said that he believed that the VAT cut had failed to achieve an increase in consumer spending as had been hoped. He believes this is the reason why the reduction looks set to be cancelled at the turn of the year.
For many, it’s hardly surprising as recent indications suggest that the decrease barely impacted upon consumer spending. Although for campaigners wanting to postpone the imminent VAT rise, the refusal to prolong the period is seen as a significant disappointment.