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VAT, Customs &
Indirect Taxes

VAT is complex, time-consuming…and can be costly.

We strongly advise that VAT is always on your mental checklist. Talk to us earlier. Before you borrow the money, sign on the dotted line or exchange on a property, stop and think about the implications and ‘think VAT’.

Planning in good time will give you the best chance of a smooth, hassle-free management of all things VAT and taking pre-emptive measures can mean that you avoid additional tax burdens too.

VAT and Customs – Why Choose PKF Francis Clark

If you’ve got an issue with VAT, you’ll want to get it sorted by people who really know about VAT inside and out with a strong track record of success. You cannot afford to take chances.

We’re the people who really ‘get it’ because we’ve been in business; we have ‘real world’ experience and half of our team are ex-HMRC. So, we know what to look for, how to fix it and then make it even better.

Our dedicated team has the right connections, asks the right questions and knows how to develop creative solutions to get you the results you need. We have close contacts at every level of HMRC, interpreting all the complexities on your behalf.

VAT Support and Advice

Getting to grips with VAT, customs and indirect tax requirements can be really tough, particularly post Brexit. It’s not an easy area to understand and it’s often a case of not knowing what you don’t know! There are so many hidden pitfalls to avoid, rules to learn – and useful tips you can use.

And, so often, VAT is the ‘forgotten tax’, the one so many businesses (and some professionals!) miss.

You could be in the middle of a VAT enquiry, being bombarded with lots of questions that you don’t understand or are unsure how to answer. Or you’re operating your business, unaware of the various ‘hidden taxes’ that you didn’t know were there, such as customs duties, Plastic Packaging Tax or landfill taxes. You might be introducing a new product line or service, starting to trade internationally or looking at a property acquisition, or maybe buying a new yacht. Or you may simply be looking to make your VAT / customs activity even more efficient.

You may not even be VAT registered and are unsure whether you should be, what to do, or even how to go about it.

That’s where we step in.

We also understand how to interact with other areas of our accountancy business to provide you with the right business solution that goes beyond dealing with a VAT matter.

We don’t believe in a one size fits all approach or textbook answers – we’ll leave no stone unturned to get the right results for you by fully understanding your business, finding out what you want to achieve, and looking into your particular situation in depth by becoming an extension of your team. We’re an extra pair of eyes who see what others don’t see.

You’ll be working with a team who are genuinely as interested in your business as you are. That’s what we mean by passion. We do business your way, not ours. And we want to do the best by you.

We’re part of the CPG, the VPG and represent British Marine (and other trade bodies) in lobbying parliament. We also chair and sit on committees of professional bodies like the ICAEW.

Our VAT, Customs and Indirect Tax Services

We can help you with:

VAT – registrations, compliance and VAT returns, planning and re-structuring.
Customs – moving goods across borders and understanding your obligations, whilst minimising your liabilities. Understanding classification, origin rules for preference claims, valuation and duty planning opportunities.
VAT recovery – VAT on costs; maximising VAT re-claims, partial exemption and capitals goods scheme considerations.
International trade – obligations when trading outside the UK.
Investigations and dispute resolutions – securing the best outcomes from HMRC inspections, investigations and tribunals.
E-commerce, international services and simplifications – there have been a lot of new rules in connection with using platforms and performing services worldwide, we have extensive experience in setting up supply chain routes and are part of an international network where we can get the right input from local advisors around the world to offer end to end solutions.
Mergers and acquisitions – structuring, mitigating VAT liabilities on costs, due diligence on targets or getting ready for sale.
Training – we pride ourselves in helping businesses be self-sufficient and helping them to operate their indirect taxes with confidence. Over the years we have carried out training for clients specific to their circumstances so they get the most out of it.
Marine – yachts by their nature regularly cross international tax and customs jurisdictions. Sales, international delivery and even sailing a boat from one country to another can trigger a tax or duty liability which can result in large, irrecoverable VAT or duty charges. Our marine team has the right skill sets, knowledge of documentation and contacts around the world to get this right for both private individuals and commercial operators.

Sector Specialisms

The breadth and depth of our experience spans all business sectors. However, we have a particularly strong reputation for our expertise in the following areas:


Land & Property

VAT on land, property and construction is frequently a minefield and makes up a large proportion of the VAT advice provided by our VAT team.  As most of our business clients trade from premises, we deal with queries relating to land and property, this could be anything from sub-letting a property to selling a business including the business premises.  We also advise charities where various reliefs may be available.  Non-business clients may also require VAT advice for example, when they build a new home and want to make a DIY claim or purchase a property that has been empty for some time. As the figures involved are invariably big, it is important that advice is sought at the outset.



Our Marine Team has decades of experience advising on all matters VAT, Customs and Tax across the full and diverse range of businesses and organisations within the sector. We provide member support to British Marine, have an active involvement with the RYA and a close professional relationship with HMRC’s Pleasurecraft Team. Our Team is equipped to provide advice and guidance with transactional issues, such as inter-border movements and Place of Supply queries for work on boats. We provide VAT Paid Status checks, Due Diligence and Opinion Reports, as well as oversee complex ownership and operating structures and set-ups. In addition, we advise on the consequential and attendance tax matters, such as Benefit in Kind and employment taxes. Our close working relationship with the leading marine lawyers and being part of the PKF International network gives us unparalleled access to top-class, on the ground marine expertise world-wide.

This year’s Berthon market report has now been published. Read PKF Francis Clark’s article about VAT and customs here.



VAT is a complex area for the charity and not-for-profit sector but our VAT team has the considerable experience and expertise necessary to support our clients. They see us as an extension to their team and we work closely together on both compliance matters and project work. Our team also includes several ex-HMRC staff who have worked as both visiting and reviews officer, giving us that added advantage when negotiating with HMRC on matters such as VAT repayments, registrations and disputes. We regularly provide VAT advice and guidance on issues such as partial exemption, irrecoverable VAT, business-non-business apportionment, grant income, VAT treatment of income and contractual arrangements.


International Trade

Over the last 20 years, developments in international marketing and logistics has made it possible to reach many more customers effectively. However, to maintain national security and protect local industries there is often documentation, compliance and tax requirements imposed when moving goods internationally. Our team has helped many clients navigate through these complexities to ensure businesses are aware of the costs and obligations involved. BREXIT has also meant that many businesses are having to understand how imports and exports work as well as be aware of the latest rules which are changing almost daily. Understanding these changes will be vital to maintain a competitive edge by maximising cash flows, minimising time delays and maintaining profit margins.


Tourism & Leisure

With the majority of our offices based in the South West, the Leisure and Tourism sector forms a big part of our daily working life. We understand the particular issues affecting hotels, holiday and the catering industry, such as the treatment of booking fees, holiday and wedding packages, furnished holiday lets and developments, and the perennial matter of ‘take-away vs on-site’ consumption. But our expertise extends way beyond the regional geographic, with our team being acknowledged specialists in areas such as the Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS), transport services and international conference activities and with our PKF International network we have the ability to call upon on-the-ground expertise pretty much anywhere across the world.



Many providers of healthcare will not be required to register for VAT as their income will be exempt for VAT purposes, for them VAT is simple. However, many healthcare providers such as opticians or dispensing GPs, have a mixture of taxable and exempt income and are required to be registered for VAT. They are likely to be partially exempt which means calculations are required to calculate the amount of VAT that can be recovered on expenditure. The calculations can be complicated and may involve the agreement of special methods with HMRC to ensure that the recovery of VAT on expenditure is fair and reasonable.  Our VAT team frequently provides advice on the classification of sources of income in order to determine whether VAT applies.



Our VAT team is experienced in dealing with queries from the legal sector.  The most frequently asked queries relate to the VAT treatment on the recharge of costs and whether these are disbursements for VAT purposes.  This is a particularly difficult area and has been the subject of several tribunal cases in recent years.  Other queries arise where services are provided to persons who belong outside the UK and it may not be clear whether VAT should be charged. We can advise on the VAT treatment of other sources of income such as finance or insurance commissions and oath fees. Our experienced team, which includes former VAT inspectors, can also provide assistance with VAT visits.

Customs Duties

With the vote to leave the EU in 2016 and the advent of an additional 27 ‘third countries’ with whom the UK has for the last 27 years traded without fiscal borders, the dynamics have significantly changed and now more than ever the importance of understanding International trade, the mechanics of cross-border movement of goods and the attendant Customs requirements and duties applicable has become critical.

PKF Francis Clark is in the unique position of having within its VAT, Customs & Indirect Team six qualified and accredited Customs specialists, who can provide detailed and expert advice, guidance and assistance on all matters relating to Customs activity and cross-border trading.

  • Commodity codes / classification
  • Customs Warehousing
  • IPR / OPR / RGR
  • Incoterms
  • Origin
  • Clearances
  • Licences
  • Customs Training

Not just VAT & Customs…

Our team is also fully versed in and able to advise on other areas of indirect tax, including the ‘green’ and land taxes:

  • SDLT
  • Climate Change Levy
  • Aggregates Levy
  • IPT
  • Passenger Transport

Topical VAT, Customs & Indirect Tax advice/information

Our Approach

We pride ourselves on solving difficult VAT problems in a practical, timely and cost-efficient way. We identify cash-saving opportunities, advise on the correct VAT treatment, and help our clients manage VAT risk. Our team is pro-active, knowledgeable and commercially aware, and we have a friendly and professional approach when working with clients.

Our ethos is that of working with you, to understand your business and your goals, so that we become an effective extension of your business.

We work closely with the firm’s direct tax, corporate finance and business recovery teams to make sure new structures and significant transactions are put together in the most tax and VAT efficient way, to produce the most effective result and avoid unintended or adverse consequences.

Meet our team

We are recognised for having one of the largest VAT, Customs & Indirect tax teams in the country. Our advice and expertise are called on by both existing and new clients, other accountancy firms who do not have the in-house expertise needed, as well as Government bodies and a variety of large organisations.

The team is comprised of specialists who have been brought together from varying backgrounds, with a number of ex-HMRC/Customs & Excise officers, tax specialists, accountants and auditors and also from outside industry, resulting in a blend of talent that is able to bring a balanced, comprehensive and unique approach to our VAT & Customs advisory service.

“The VAT team at PKF Francis Clark is the best I have worked with. For an impatient CFO, working in a fast paced business, they are almost always on the end of the line and can answer most things straight off the bat. If they cannot answer a question, they always have the resources in the team to find out the answer and give a speedy response and will work through issues with you to provide guidance if the answer is not straightforward. Their industry knowledge is up to date and relevant and helps you to identify issues that you might not have been aware of.”


CFO, INEOS Team UK, the British America’s Cup team

“Thank you for your irreproachable services, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”


VAT, Customs & Indirect Taxes Client

Talk to our VAT and Indirect Tax
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