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Our previous article on RCT and VAT pitfalls for non-resident contractors provided a general overview of the RCT regime in Ireland. We will now look at a case study analysis of RCT and VAT treatment and explore scenarios in which we have observed mistakes commonly being made among taxpayers.

1. Supply of Labour for Relevant Operations

We have observed cases whereby contractors in the construction industry, particularly non-resident contractors, engage recruitment firms to supply labour to carry out construction operations on a site in Ireland.

While it is commonly interpreted that RCT only applies to construction operations, in fact the definition of “relevant operations” extends to both the carrying out of and the supply of labour for the performance of, relevant operations in the construction industry.

Case Study – Example 1

Company A (based in Spain) is engaged by Company B (based in Ireland) to carry out demolition works on a number of properties in Ireland. Company A, in turn, engages Company C (a recruitment firm based in the UK) to provide the personnel required to complete the demolition works in Ireland.

RCT Obligations

Company B is a Principal Contractor in respect of these works and is required to operate RCT on the payments made to Company A. This brings Company A within the scope of RCT as it is regarded as a Subcontractor carrying out construction operations in Ireland.

Whilst Company A is a subcontractor in respect of its engagement with Company B, Company A is also a Principal Contractor in respect of its engagement with Company C. Company A will be required to operate RCT on the payments made to Company C because Company C has arranged the supply of labour for the performance of the demolition works on the sites in Ireland.

This brings Company C, the non-resident recruitment firm, within the scope of RCT, as it is regarded as a Subcontractor carrying out construction operations in Ireland.

In this example, Company B must register for RCT as a Principal Contractor, Company A must register for RCT as both a Principal Contractor and a Subcontractor, and Company C must register for RCT as Subcontractor.

VAT Obligations

The provision of the services by Company C to Company A and Company A to Company B falls within a reverse charge provision for the supply of labour and construction services, which is subject to RCT.

Company C, as a Subcontractor, does not have an output VAT liability in respect of the provision of services provided to Company A. As such, Company C will issue its invoices to Company A with no VAT charge.

Company A, as a Principal Contractor, must self-account for VAT on a reverse charge basis (typically at 13.5%) on receipt of the invoices from Company C. Company A should have an entitlement to a simultaneous VAT input credit as it has used the services to make taxable supplies to Company B.

Company A, as a Subcontractor, does not have an output VAT liability in respect of the provision of the services provided to Company B. As such, Company A will issue its invoices to Company B with no VAT charge.

Company B, as a Principal Contractor, must self-account for VAT on a reverse charge basis (typically at 13.5%) on receipt of the invoices from Company A. Company B should have an entitlement to a simultaneous VAT input credit as it has used the services to make taxable supplies to Company B.

In this example, only Company A and Company B are required to register for Irish VAT. Only Principal Contractors are required to account for VAT on the receipt of construction services that fall within the RCT regime.

Company C is not required to register for VAT in respect of its supplies to Company A.

2. Mixed Contracts

A major risk with the definition of a relevant contract arises for contracts that cover both RCT-type and non-RCT-type supplies.

Case Study – Example 2

Company A engages Company B to carry out repair and maintenance works on a number of properties in Ireland.

Is the contract liable to RCT?

The definition of “construction operations” includes contracts for repair work which is interpreted as the replacement of constituent parts i.e., the repair of a broken window by installing a new pane of glass, mending a faulty boiler etc.

However, the definition of “construction operations” specifically excludes maintenance work i.e., cleaning, unblocking of drains etc.

In this example, Company A and Company B have entered into a repair and maintenance contract. This is referred to as a mixed contract. Revenue’s view on mixed contracts is that if any part of a contract includes “relevant operations” then the contract as a whole is considered a relevant contract and all payments under that contract are liable to RCT.

As Company A and Company B have entered into a mixed contract, the contract as a whole, is considered a relevant contract, and all payments made by Company A to Company B are liable to RCT.

This treatment applies even where no repairs are actually carried out by Company B in completing a particular job under the contract.

In this example, Company A must register for RCT as a Principal Contractor and Company B must register for RCT as a Subcontractor.

A common pitfall we see in this area is for a company to raise separate invoices for the maintenance work and the repair work. They then only treat the invoice for the repairs as being subject to RCT. This is incorrect as it is the overall contract, not the elements being invoiced, that governs whether RCT should be applied or not.

However, if there are separate contracts, one covering maintenance and one covering repairs, then only the contract covering the repairs is subject to RCT.

3. VAT Reverse Charge

VAT is normally charged by the person supplying the goods or services. However, under the RCT regime, the person receiving the goods or services (i.e., the Principal Contractor) accounts for VAT as if they had supplied the service and pays it directly to Revenue. This is known as the VAT Reverse Charge.

We commonly see the VAT Reverse Charge being applied incorrectly in cases where a subcontractor supplies goods or services, other than construction services, as part of the overall contract.

Contractors must be aware that while the overall contract may fall within the RCT regime, that does not mean that the VAT Reverse Charge applies to all goods or services invoiced under that contract.

Case Study – Example 3

The facts are the same as in Example 2. See below for reference:

Company A engages Company B to carry out repair and maintenance works on a number of properties in Ireland.

In this case the repair and maintenance contract in place between the parties provides that a separate charge will apply where repairs are carried out.

Company B has now completed repair and maintenance works for Company A and is looking to raise a sales invoice to Company A for the following:

  1. Repair Works – €4,500 (exclusive of VAT)
  2. Maintenance Works – €10,000 (exclusive of VAT)
VAT Obligations

Generally, the VAT Reverse Charge only applies to payments that are in respect of construction operations which in this case, are the repair works.

Company B must therefore issue two VAT invoices as follows:

  1. An invoice for the repair works of €4,500 on which the VAT Reverse Charge applies. Company A will be required to self-account for VAT at 13.5% on the receipt of this invoice from Company B.
  2. An invoice for the maintenance works (i.e., not considered a construction service) of €10,000 on which VAT at the 13.5% rate is applied. Company A will be required to pay Company B the total invoice value including VAT amounting to €11,350.
RCT Obligations

As set out in Example 2, where a contract is for repair and maintenance, RCT applies to all payments under the contract.

As such, Company A is required to notify the total payment to Revenue. This should include the VAT exclusive payment for the repair works plus the VAT inclusive payment for the maintenance works. Assuming for the purposes of this example that only one payment is to be made by Company A to Company B for the works, Company A would file a Payment Notification with Revenue as follows:

  1. Repair Works (VAT Exclusive) – €4,500
  2. Maintenance Works (VAT Inclusive) – €11,350
  3. Total Payment Reported to Revenue – €15,850

It is important to note that if a repair and maintenance contract provides for a single consideration for all works completed under the contract, then the VAT Reverse Charge must be applied to the full consideration.

Should you require any assistance in this area, please contact us.

An area that has continued to cause challenges and risks for businesses is the operation of Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT) and VAT.

The most common mistakes we see being made in this sector are by non-resident principal contractors who engage a subcontractor to carry out construction works in Ireland.

This article will focus on the most common pitfalls that we see occurring within this sector by non-resident principal contractors and the steps that can be taken to avoid making costly mistakes.

1. Compliance Obligations for Non-Resident Principal Contractors

When a non-resident principal contractor engages a subcontractor to carry out construction works in Ireland, the RCT system must be applied to payments made to the subcontractor.

The first potential pitfall for a non-resident principal contractor is not taking the reasonable care to familiarise themselves with their tax obligations under the RCT regime. In such a case, the non-resident principal contractor will eventually be contacted by Revenue, informing them of their failure to operate the RCT regime. This usually occurs following the commencement of the works in Ireland, at which point the mistakes have already been made and costly penalties can be imposed by Revenue.

As such, it is very important that a non-resident principal contractor is aware of their tax obligations prior to the commencement of any construction works in Ireland so that the necessary administrative steps can be taken to ensure that they are set up for the RCT system and fully compliant in operating RCT on payments to subcontractors.

The administrative steps to be taken by a non-resident principal contractor include registering for RCT on Revenue’s Online Service (ROS) and operating the RCT regime throughout the duration of the project in Ireland (further detail on this below).

2. Operation of the RCT System

Once a principal contractor is registered for RCT with Revenue, there are a number of steps that must be taken each time a principal contractor enters into a relevant contract with a subcontractor and each time a payment is made to the subcontractor. These steps are summarised as follows:

a. Contract Notification

  • The first step is to input a “Contract Notification” through Revenue’s online RCT system. A principal contractor must notify Revenue each time it enters into a new relevant contract with a subcontractor. The Principal will then receive a contract reference number and an indication of the applicable RCT deduction rate for the subcontractor.

b. Payment Notification

  • Before making a payment to a subcontractor, the principal must notify Revenue’s online eRCT system of the intention to make the payment and provide details to Revenue of the gross amount to be paid. This process is known as “Payment Notification”. This must be done for each payment made to the subcontractor.

c. Deduction Authorisation

  • Revenue will issue a deduction authorisation to the principle contractor which will specify the rate and amount of tax to be deducted from the payment to the subcontractor. This process is known as “Deduction Authorisation”. The principle is required to provide a copy of this authorisation to the subcontractor.

d. Deduction Summary (RCT Return)

  • Revenue’s eRCT system prepares a pre-populated period end return known as a “Deduction Summary (i.e. RCT Return)”, which is based on the deduction authorisations issued during the period. The due date for payment of the RCT withheld is the 23rd day after the end of the period covered by the return.

The most common pitfall we see occurring in practice are inconsistencies in notifying Revenue of each and every payment made to a subcontractor by the principal contractor. This can be a costly mistake for the principal contractor as the penalties Revenue can impose for failure to operate the RCT system in this way range between 3% to 35%, depending on the RCT deduction rate applicable to the subcontractor.

To put this into perspective, if a subcontractor has been assigned a 35% RCT deduction rate and the principal contractor makes a payment of €25,000 to the subcontractor without first notifying Revenue of the payment and deducting the appropiate withholding tax, Revenue can impose a penalty of €8,750 (i.e. 35% of the invoice value) on the principal contractor for its failure to operate the RCT system.

These penalties can become very costly for a business where they fail to operate the RCT system on high value invoices.

3. Operation of RCT and Reverse Charge VAT

Typically, VAT is normally charged by the person supplying the goods or services. However, under the RCT regime, the person receiving the goods or services (the principal contractor) calculates the VAT due on the invoice from the subcontractor and pays it directly to Revenue. This is referred to as Reverse Charge VAT and it is common area in which mistakes are made by non-resident principal contractors.

The following should occur when a subcontractor invoices a principal contractor for construction services that are subject to RCT:

  1. The subcontractor raises an VAT invoice with the zero rate of VAT applied;
  2. The invoice should include the VAT registration number of the principal contractor and include the narrative “VAT on this supply to be accounted for by the principal contractor”;
  3. The principal contractor calculates the VAT due on the invoice value and records it as VAT on sales (Box T1) on its VAT return. Where it is entitled to do so, the principal contractor can claim a simultaneous VAT input credit (Box T2) on the VAT return, thus resulting in a VAT neutral position.

Although the RCT system can seem like a heavy administrative burden on a business, it can be managed relatively smoothly with the proper administration. Our tax specialists look after all administrative issues regarding RCT, provide effective advice and answer questions you may have regarding RCT.

Should you require any assistance, please contact us.