LIFE Services Limited VAT case – Upper Tribunal decision

*Update*: HMRC has issued a Revenue and Customs Brief following a Court of Appeal decision in this case – read the latest at

The LIFE Services Limited (UKUT 0484) case covers the exemption for welfare services applicable, under UK VAT law, to charities and to state regulated private welfare bodies.

LIFE Services Limited is not a charity and is not required to be registered under the English law in respect of its care services. Had it been required to be registered, or was exempted from registration as such, exemption would apply. Despite this, the First tier Tribunal held that the exemption should apply by reference to the principle of ‘fiscal neutrality’.

HMRC appealed to the Upper Tribunal which has allowed its appeal.  In the Upper Tribunal’s view the grounds for the First tier Tribunal to hold that fiscal neutrality applied were not sustainable, and that argument was therefore rejected. However, another case relating to incompatibility of the distinction between the English situation, where it is not regulated, and the Scottish situation, where it is regulated, (The Learning Centre Romford) is under appeal, and may yet confirm that fiscal neutrality issues do apply, but on the basis of the inconsistency between different parts of the UK.

Subject to that last point, the exemption does not apply to such suppliers. This is of relevance to charities which may use a trading company to provide the unregulated services where the application of VAT is helpful (such as supplies made to local authorities). It also has relevance in respect of the competitive environment that charities face in providing such services.

Graham Elliott is CTG’s Technical Advisor

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