Happy Birthday VAT!

On the 1 April 1973 VAT was introduced into the United Kingdom.

“VAT is a simple tax” said Anthony Barber (with his fingers crossed behind his back).

I was 17. I was happy. I was naive. I put on my Careers Guidance forms that I wanted to be a vet. My handwriting was poor and it looked like “vat”. I ended up working for H M Revenue & Customs (Customs & Excise as it was then).

I thought that the introduction of VAT was an April Fools’ joke.

I still do.

Back in 1973 life was so simple. VAT was 10%. Everyone could work that out. Even those of us in HMRC. But then things started to change. They changed the standard rate to 8%. Then they brought in a “luxury” rate of 25%. Then they reduced that to 12.5%. Then they abolished that and almost doubled the standard rate to 15%. I still wanted to be a vet.

But I wasn’t. I was trying to work out whether anyone actually understood the VAT rules, and most particularly, me.

On rural visits I would gaze longingly at the animals in the fields and imagine walking up to the smiling farmer, vet’s bag in hand, and being welcomed as a friend of the family. I wasn’t. I was greeted as a VAT Inspector traditionally is. With hostility and disdain. And a carrier bag full of illegible receipts.

I resolved to leave HMRC and get out of VAT altogether. I applied to a number of recruitment agencies to be trained as a vet. My handwriting had not improved. I was sent on a number of interviews with professional firms to be trained in VAT.

Scroll forward 40 years and I still haven’t achieved my objective of sticking my hand up a cow’s nether regions. I am still dealing with the vagaries of VAT. Which is actually similar in a lot of ways.

Is a Jaffa cake a cake or a biscuit? (the clue is in the name). Is a pasty sold hot or at the “ambient air temperature”? Will Bobby come out of the shower again in Dallas and Larry Hagman will still be alive?

40 years dealing with VAT. Am I the oldest (and saddest!) swinger in town??

For all advice and help on VAT (not cow’s nether-regions), contact David or Gill from or VAT team on 0845 177 5500

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