Car parking: Pay & Display Machine Overpayments – National Car Parks Ltd

12th January 2016

December was the month for Car Parking VAT cases to take the stage with both the Isle of Wight and this case taking the headlines.

Local authorities have been busy submitting claims for the recovery of overpaid VAT which they had accounted for on “excess charges” made into their pay & display machines.

This had arisen from the times when, stuck for the right change for the machine in an off street car park, you would put in a £1 coin to cover a 70 pence parking charge knowing that you would not get the change back.

In accounting for VAT on the £1 value of income it was determined, following the First Tier Tribunal case of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk (2012), that in doing so the council had over declared VAT on the excess charge of 30 pence they received. Claims submitted by councils have been repaid by HM Revenue & Customs.

In this case National Car Parks Ltd (NCP) therefore appealed to a First Tier Tribunal that it too had over declared VAT on the monies in its machines which arose in the same circumstances - regarding them as “voluntary payments in excess of car parking tariffs”. HMRC had, however, refused to refund NCP’s claim.

The Tribunal in this instance dismissed NCP’s claim that they had over declared VAT on “excess charges”. Their view was that as the judgement in the King’s Lynn case was at First Tier it was not a binding decision to create a precedent for others and moreover this tribunal had “misgivings” about the basis of the judgement.

It seems that NCP’s argument of achieving “fiscal neutrality” held no sway. It will be interesting to see if this decision is appealed further by NCP or indeed whether it holds any repercussions for local authorities making their own refund claims on HMRC.

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