Getting to know us – Vaughn Chown

Vaughn Chown

Partner and Head of VAT

Joined Gabelle in May 2011


Following an unusual path

Gabelle Partner Vaughn Chown is an unusual adviser – he actually enjoys VAT !

How did you first become interested in VAT?

Nobody sets out to be a VAT adviser and I sort of fell into the role. My first job was as a navigating officer in the merchant navy. I had always wanted to travel and after a few years thought I could use my skills either as a Trinity Lighthouse keeper or as a Customs Officer boarding ships. After successful interviews for both, I decided I didn’t really fancy a 12 month stint in the North Sea on my own in some remote lighthouse and accepted the HMRC Officer’s job.  Only after I joined HMRC did they tell me that they had no Customs jobs and that’s how I started in VAT. Eight years later I went into practice and have headed up VAT teams for several firms since.

What is the best part about your job?

I love the challenges that VAT throws up – whether it is getting to grips with new legislation, new interpretations or VAT Tribunal cases.

Often the VAT liability of goods and services in respect of things we take for granted can be a challenge e.g. supplying services overseas, performances in different countries and the liability of everyday things like hot and cold food.

Sharing the success at Tribunal with clients whom I have represented always brings a warm glow.  My cases have involved both familiar – items such as toasted baguettes and bagels, freshly prepared shredded duck, samosas and naan bread – and the more esoteric – such as VAT bad debt relief, international services, partial exemption issues and VAT relief for not for profit organisations.

What is new in VAT?

VAT is never still for long with recent changes to the VAT liability of the place of supply of services rules and changes to HMRC’s interpretation of the VAT liability of cosmetic surgery.  Intrastat declarations are also changing from April 2012 with deadlines for submission being shortened to the 21st day of the month following the transactions and all declarations requiring to be electronically filed. 

HMRC have also issued further guidance on the treatment of salary sacrifice arrangements.  From 1 January 2012, following the ECJ’s judgment in the AstraZeneca case, VAT will be due on sums sacrificed under “cycle to work” arrangements and under other salary sacrifice arrangements involving benefits that are subject to VAT.

Arrangements put into place on or before 27 July 2011 (the day before HMRC’s announcement of the new policy) will not be caught by the change immediately; however, care will be needed around the timing of the expiry or renewal of such arrangements and, of course, in relation to any arrangements put in place after that date.

Golf clubs have also come under review recently.  In the Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club Limited case before the First Tier Tribunal it was decided that the current UK legislation, which limits VAT exemption to charges made to members by “not for profit clubs” and standard rates green fees charged to non-members, does not reflect EC law. The club successfully claimed that the charge for green fees to non-members should be exempt from VAT.  HMRC have appealed the decision to the Upper Tier Tribunal but if upheld, this will have a significant beneficial impact for golf clubs around the country.

It is also understood that a legal challenge to the disparity of VAT treatment between charges made by members clubs and proprietary clubs is underway and is expected to be heard in the First Tier Tribunal shortly.

How does working at Gabelle differ from other places you have worked?

I have always enjoyed working with firms of accountants and solicitors and it is great to be at a firm dedicated to providing specialist tax and VAT matters to this market.  Even though I only joined Gabelle in May, a number of very interesting and challenging VAT problems have already been referred to me and I like to think that I can provide a straight, practical answer to even the most involved VAT problem, saving clients both time and money.

What’s the best way to get you involved?

The easiest way is to pick up the phone, call TaxDesk on 0845 4900 509 and ask for me.  Alternatively, if a meeting would be helpful, why not come and visit me in Cavendish Square and we can discuss your VAT issue face-to-face.

I am keen to get to know as many Gabelle clients as I can and so for the rest of October and the month of November, I would be happy to have an initial telephone chat or meeting free of charge with any interested client.