When I started working with serviced accommodation providers some 20 years ago, guests generally looked at places to stay in the brochure produced by the local tourism body (in our case Cumbria Tourism, Keswick Tourism Association etc).  They selected what suited their needs and budget, picked up the phone and if there was availability, made a booking.

How things have changed now that millions of people in the UK have smart phones, tablets/ipads, laptops and PC’s!  Online booking agents or Online Travel Agents (OTAs) acting as disclosed agents for commission, are now the web “platforms” that millions of people use to book their accommodation.  They provide many hotels and guest houses with a substantial portion of their bookings.

The problem is these agents are not all structured in the same way and many are based outside the UK.  To account for the resultant transactions the hotel/guest house proprietor needs to look at the documentation provided, where the head office is established and whether they are paying gross or net of their fees and commission charges.

I’m not going to produce a list of the multitude of on-line agents I see clients using but outline the basics below:-
identify VAT outputs from VAT inputs
If you adopt the Flat Rate VAT scheme then there is no need to pay the Flat Rate VAT on the value of the reverse-charged service or include it on your VAT return.

Regrettably, this is just another thing for a hotelier to think about when preparing the periodic VAT Return.  However, HMRC have confirmed that a VAT Return is not properly completed if agent’s commissions are not accounted for correctly.  The best approach is to identify the booking agencies you deal with, establish where they are based and set up an accounting system to deal with the VAT in the appropriate manner.

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