VAT on the costs of selling a subsidiary

When a holding company sells shares in a subsidiary, the VAT incurred on the professional fees involved would normally be irrecoverable, on the basis that a sale of shares is an exempt supply.

In a recent case a hotel group argued that a subsidiary was sold in order to finance the completion of construction of a new hotel and that there was a direct and immediate link between the raising of the funds and the group’s downstream activities of operating hotels. The Tax Tribunals were satisfied the VAT on the professional fees associated with the share sale was a general overhead of the group’s business and could be recovered as input tax. Based on the Upper Tribunal decision many other groups were advised to make protective claims for the recovery of input tax.

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal have now rejected the taxpayers arguments and found in favour of HMRC, thus denying recovery of input tax on the associated professional fees in connection with the share disposal as that is an exempt supply.

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