Customs and Excise Commissioners v Reed Personal Services Ltd: 1995

The court consideerd the basic nature of Value Added Tax (VAT): ‘First, . . .. the concept of supply for the purposes of VAT is not identical with that of contractual obligation. Secondly, in consequence, it is perfectly possible that although the parties in any given situation may conclude their contractual arrangements in writing so as to define all their mutual rights and obligations arising in private law, their agreement may nevertheless leave open the question, what is the nature of the supplies made by A to B for the purposes of A’s assessment of VAT. In many situations, of course, the contract will on the facts conclude any VAT issue, as where there is a simple agreement for the supply of goods or services with no third parties involved. In cases of that kind there is no space between the issue of supply for VAT purposes and the nature of the private law of contractual obligation. But that is a circumstance, not a rule. There may be cases, generally (perhaps always) where three or more parties are concerned, in which the contract’s definition (however exhaustive) of the parties’ private law obligations nevertheless neither caters for nor concludes the statutory question, what supplies are made by whom to whom. Nor should this be a matter for surprise: in principle, the incidence of VAT is obviously not by definition regulated by private agreement. Whether and to what extent the tax falls to be exacted depends, as with every tax, on the application of the taxing statute to the particular facts. Within those facts, the terms of contracts entered into by the tax-payer may or may not determine the right tax result. They do not necessarily do so.’


Laws J


[1995] STC 588


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedRevenue and Customs v Debenhams Retail Plc CA 18-Jul-2005
The store introduced a system whereby when a customer paid by credit card, the charges made to them for card handling were expressed as a separate amount on the receipt. The store then said that VAT was payable only on the net amount allocated to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 17 May 2022; Ref: scu.229021