Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New rule!

They've changed the VAT rules. The change comes in on January 1, 2015. I found out about it today, so I have just two days to make the changes. As you can imagine, I'm more than somewhat annoyed.

Maybe the vatman sent me an email to tell me about it. I get so many emails purporting to be from HMRC, of which the majority are scam/spam/malware pretending to be from HMRC. And the ones that really are from HMRC are always so long and complicated ... and irrelevant.

So maybe they "told me". But I don't think they did. And our accountant didn't mention it, and our bookkeeper didn't know. So how did I find out?

The bridge web site that ladysolly uses is having to close membership in order to make the changes, they put up a notice, she told me, and I found out the details on the web.

Go read it. The big change is, if you're supplying "digital services" (and who isn't these days?) then when someone in the UK sells to someone in Germany, under the old rules, you paid VAT in the UK at the UK rate (20%). Under the new rules, you pay at the rate that applies in the customer's country. Yes. Vat is no longer 20%, it's 28 different rates, most of which are more than 20%. My first thought was, they've found a really good way to make life for a small business 28 times more difficult.

I don't want subsidies. I don't want business advice. I don't even want to avoid paying the tax that I should rightfully be paying. But I do wish that governments (including the EU) should BLOODY WELL STOP TRIPPING US OVER.

Them and the banks. Again, it's not that they're trying to be a nuisance, but the card companies are caught between the desire to make credit cards more secure (which makes them more difficult to use) and the desire to make them easy to use (which makes them less secure) and they keep making changes which reflect this tug-of-war.

On calmer consideration, I decided that maybe it wasn't that bad. I need to track, for 28 different countries, how much I've billed to each. I've always asked customers what country they're in (because non-EU countries don't pay VAT, so I needed to know if they were EU or not). So now I have to add to my software, something that tracks the billing in each of those 28 countries. It's not as hard as it sounds; each time I do a billing, I'll output a line to a file "mosslog.txt" with the date, exchange rate, and the billing amount for each country. Then, once per quarter, I can pull that into a spreadsheet, get 28 totals, and then I know how much I sold in each country. Plus, I'll do a paper copy each day, which will act as an audit trail.

So then, either I register for VAT in each EU country (you must be joking) or use the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS), which lets me use a single web site to tell it about all the 28 amounts. It sounds fairly simple to use (but until I've actually used it, I can't be sure).

You can register for VAT MOSS here.

If you're using a commercial package for your accounts, maybe you're already covered. But since most people are using some third party software for billing customers cards, and a different third party's software for their accounts and VAT, there's a fair chance that this new rule has fallen between A) the card billing software, which knows what country is being billed and B) the VAT software, which doesn't.

And you have until January 1, 2015, to get this sorted out.

 ... update ...

I've done the software, it wasn't too bad, because I'm already identifying the customer's country. As well as updating this new "mosslog.txt" file, I'm also outputting the 28 numbers onto the paper printout, so there's an audit trail that could be checked.

Then I tried to register for VAT MOSS. It's a great name, but the web site isn't so great. I logged in with my usual VAT id, and it took me to a place where I could sign up for MOSS, but when I tried to fill in the form, it wouldn't accept a starting date before 1/1/2015. Or after. So I called their support line.

As you can imagine, they have a huge number of callers right now, and as you can imagine, a large number of staff are on holiday. So after holding for a very long time, I eventually talked to a guy who told me that I'd gone to the wrong place (although it was the place that the web site led me to, and it did promise to register me for MOSS). He got me to take another route, and told me that they were getting a lot of people with this problem. So I thanked him, and started filling in that form.

And guess what? I got a lot further, but it *really* didn't like me giving the date of 1/1/2015. So I phoned again for technical support, and since it was 16:30, after waiting another long time, the lady at the help desk couldn't help because there was no-one technical there now. But she did take my phone number, and said I'd be called back within a week.

A week?

And I might not be here. She suggested I give a mobile number, but if I'm in the middle of some muddy field, I can't be talked through registering a MOSS form. And anyway, this is supposed to be starting on January 1 2015. I pointed that out, but she already knew that. And there's nothing she could do.

So far, it's taken me about as long to try to register for MOSS VAT as it has to write the software for it. And I might actually be registered because I made some uneducated guesses, but who knows?

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