VAT on conference speakers and speaking engagement fees is, unfortunately, a fairly dull topic. Possibly even more so when you consider that previous blogs about our conference speakers contain more than their fair-share of name-dropping (ahem, Nicole Scherzinger… see, I can do it too!) but VAT is something I get asked about at least weekly, and it’s relatively straightforward once you’ve got the facts to hand. So here they are with links to the relevant .gov website, for your reading pleasure.
We bill numerous companies based in multiple countries worldwide for many different conference speakers, presenters, awards hosts and corporate entertainment each year, and are constantly checking and double-checking the requirements for Value Added Tax (VAT) so that we don’t overcharge anyone. Until January 2011, VAT for fees for conference speakers was based largely on where the event took place. This changed to the ‘Place of Supply’ rule after January 2011, which means we now have to check where our client ‘belongs’ e.g. their registered business address, where their main office is based, and adjust tax accordingly.
It should be quite straightforward; the basic requirement for us as a business registered for VAT means that regardless of who we’re billing, we are legally obliged to add VAT to fee invoices to any client we bill within the UK (apart from Guernsey and Jersey*) and essentially we base this on the addresses we are asked to send our invoices to in each instance. If we bill for conference speakers attending an event taking place in London, but need to send the invoice to a client with just one office based over in Malta, then VAT doesn’t apply because the place of supply is considered to be Malta, even though your conference speakers might be giving a keynote at the Langham just around the corner from us.
Books, Planes, Cars and Trains – VAT on expenses
The fact is, we don’t have much of a choice about what we charge VAT on, rather we charge VAT based on where you, our client, is based. We know that if you buy your conferences speakers’ books from a publisher, or train tickets directly from VirginTrains, then VAT does not apply. However, when we purchase something like this on your behalf, 50 hardback copies of Wonders of the Solar System by Professor Brian Cox for example, and charge you for this expenditure with other expenses, then it’s known as a recharge and therefore we are legally obliged to charge VAT on the total. And we understand why this confuses and annoys, because if you’d bought books directly from a publisher then VAT might not apply. However, HMRC expects us to charge it as essentially we’ve bought the goods and resold, much as bookshops are obliged to, and the reality is we can generally get a decent discount on your next conference speakers’ wonderful books and premium economy travel, so it’s all worth it the end. It is part of our job to keep costs down for you, and we are very much dedicated to that. WE have to pay any VAT we charge on our conference speakers and related costs over to the taxman, though if you are VAT registered and are charged VAT you can usually claim the VAT back. Here’s further explanation of this from HMRC
*The Channel Islands are usually exempt from VAT on services provided by JLA