Guidance on hospitality and tourism VAT cut published

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has published guidance on temporary cuts to the rate of VAT from 20 per cent to five per cent from Wednesday 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021 for certain goods and services in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

The reduced rate was announced by the Chancellor at the Summer Economic Update on 8 July 2020 and applies to:

  • food and non-alcoholic beverages sold for on-premises consumption, for example, in restaurants, cafes and pubs
  • hot takeaway food and hot takeaway non-alcoholic beverages
  • sleeping accommodation in hotels or similar establishments, holiday accommodation, pitch fees for caravans and tents, and associated facilities

The reduction also applies to admission to the following attractions, where they do not qualify for the cultural VAT exemption:

  • theatres
  • circuses
  • fairs
  • amusement parks
  • concerts
  • museums
  • zoos
  • cinemas
  • exhibitions
  • similar cultural events and facilities.

The dedicated guidance documents that set out the VAT treatment of catering and takeaway food and hotels and holiday accommodation have also been updated to reflect the temporary change.

The guidance informs small businesses that use the Flat Rate Scheme that certain percentages have been reduced in line with the new temporary five per cent rate of VAT.

Further guidelines also set out the arrangements that apply where supplies straddle the temporary reduced rate.

Details of ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme confirmed

The Government has now confirmed details of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, announced by the Chancellor at his Summer Economic Update on Wednesday 8 July.

The scheme covers the cost to restaurants, cafes and pubs that sell food of providing a 50 per cent discount, capped at £10 per head, on food and non-alcoholic drinks purchased for consumption on the premises from Mondays to Wednesdays in August.

The scheme is open to businesses that were registered with their local authority as food businesses on or before 7 July 2020, provides or shares a dining area for eat-in meals and sells food for consumption on the premises.

HM Revenue & Customs says this could include:

  • restaurants
  • cafés
  • public houses that serve food
  • hotel restaurants
  • restaurants and cafes within tourist attractions, holiday sites and leisure facilities
  • dining rooms within members’ clubs
  • workplace and school canteens

Participating businesses are expected to provide the offer throughout their opening hours on the days that the scheme is in operation.

The scheme applies to food or non-alcoholic drinks, meaning that a coffee purchased without food to drink in a café’s seating area would be eligible for the discount.

The guidance also gives details of how businesses should apply the discount to customers’ orders. Service charges are not covered, while the £10 a head cap is based on the number of people at the table, including children. This means that the discount available to a table of six would be capped at £60, even if the discount for one or more individuals exceeds the £10 cap, assuming the table is covered by a single bill.

The scheme does not apply to takeaway food and drink, or catering services for private functions. It also does not apply to mobile vans or takeaways that provide tables and chairs on the pavement.

However, the guidance does confirm that the scheme can still be used where a customer orders food for dining in but then takes away the remainder of their meal.

The scheme also cannot be put towards:

  • alcoholic drinks
  • tobacco products
  • food or drink that is to be consumed off-premises
  • food or drink that is sold as part of a private party, event or function taking place within an eligible establishment

Eligible businesses can register to take part in the scheme using an online portal, which is set to go live from 13 July 2020 here.

The discount can be provided alongside existing offers and comes in addition to a cut in VAT from 20 to five per cent for food and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as for accommodation and admission to attractions, which will apply from Wednesday 15 July until 12 January 2021.