As the third biggest contributor to the Exchequer (or second if you consider income tax and NIC as a single tax on personal income), VAT is vital to public sector finances, a point noted by keynote speakers Jim Harra, First Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive, HMRC, Professor Rita de la Feria, Chair of Tax Law, University of Leeds and Sephen Dale, Roosevelt Expertise Partner
Discussions throughout the day were wide-ranging. A major topic was the issue of what should be zero rated (not just Jaffa cakes and giant marshmallows, but solar panels and sanitary products) and whether any changes to the tax base actually filtered through to consumers, who they were supposed to help. The political challenges of reforming VAT were also highlighted: politicians have previously been stung by media-led backlashes to changes to the VAT base, even if unfounded.
Looking to the future, technology is disrupting the business models upon which the tax was built, and the EU’s VAT in the Digital Age (ViDA) project received a lot of airtime – including its importance to UK businesses.