Wednesday, January 05, 2005

VAT Guidance

On the 23rd of December the DCA added a further section relating to guidance on charging VAT, the guidance is reproduced below: VAT
6.1 Sections 9 and 13 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives public authorities the option to charge for information in accordance with the fees Regulations (SI 2004/3244). As the Act does not set a specific fee, any monies charged are not statutory fees. However, if the information could only be provided by a public authority (ie the information is not also held by organisations that are not public authorities), Customs do not consider that information released under the Act constitutes an economic activity. As such, any fees charged in these circumstances will be outside the scope of VAT. This means that no VAT should be added to the fees.

6.2 If, on the other hand, a public authority is not the only possible source of the information (ie the information is also available from a source that is not a public authority), any fees charged would attract VAT, as this would be classed as economic activity. This distinction is made so as not to distort competition between the public and private sector.

6.3 These rules apply equally to requests that are above or below the appropriate limit – the key determining factor as to whether VAT is charged is whether the information is available from another source that is not a public authority.

6.4 So, to summarise:

If an authority was asked for information, and the information was only available from that authority or another public authority, any fees charged would not attract VAT.

If an authority was asked for information that was available from another source, any fees would attract VAT. This would still be the case even if the authority was obliged to supply the information because the cost of answering was below the appropriate limit.

Fees charged for information that is provided in accordance with a public authority’s publication scheme will attract VAT.

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