It's been 10 years since that Very Awful Tax (VAT) was 'simplified'. In the last decade I have yet to hear any sort of printable joke on the subject (if you have any at all, even lame ones, do pass them on).
As a self-employed writer whose laptop regularly blows up and requires replacing, I am therefore registered for VAT, as indeed are all of you, and undoubtedly we all agree that it's just a pain in the neck - although I personally have a much lower opinion of it, anatomically speaking.
It crops up in all sorts of places, other than food. In fact, it has just cropped up for David Basrai, who trades in Washington, Tyne & Wear. He says that since January his ATM supplier has been charging VAT on his commission. He's had the machine for a year so this is a new departure. He also says that he has heard that other retailers, using different ATM suppliers, do not pay VAT.
His ATM is self-fill. "Customers pay £1.65 and we get £1. For example, from January 1 to January 31 we did 263 transactions so this put £263 into the account. But then they took off the VAT and I was left with £223.55."
On the plus side, his contract says he can terminate at any time. But before he confronts head office, he wants to know - are the rest of you really paying no VAT on commission?
I did some general research to refresh my memory and offer the same to you. Value added tax is a tax on exchanges and differs from a sales tax because the latter is levied on the total value of the exchange. VAT is an indirect tax, in that the tax is collected from someone other than the person who actually bears the cost of the tax (namely the seller rather than the consumer).
This artful tax was invented by Maurice Lauré, a French economist in 1954. In France, it's dead important, accounting for approximately 45% of state revenues.