VAT, Online Transactions and Vouchers Case – Philip Simpson QC

Philip Simpson, QC, has successfully represented Findmypast in an appeal concerning VAT on the supply of online services.

Findmypast operate a website that contains a database of documents of genealogical interest. Customers can purchase credits and then use them to view documents on the website. If not used within 2 years of purchase, the credits expire.

The question arose as to whether VAT was due on amounts paid for credits that had expired. The Court of Session (Inner House) held that the supply in question was individual documents when viewed. When credits were purchased, it was not known which documents would be viewed, so the supply was not sufficiently precisely identified at that time to trigger a tax point. The credits did not count as face-value vouchers – they were simply an accounting tool between Findmypast and its customers to record how much customers still had available to spend. Accordingly, VAT was not due on credits that expired.

The decision can be found here.