VAT & Property Digital Event 2021

8th + 9th November

Originally run by Tolley®, and now in its eighth year with Orca Law, this conference has been the premier event in its field since 2002.

Sponsored by:

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Why attend?


If you work in VAT, you probably can’t escape property and construction – it can affect any of your clients, it’s complicated, and it throws up new challenges all the time.  You need to know what’s going on.  And, sometimes, it’s reassuring to find that no-one else knows, either.

And if you work in property, or property tax, you’ll know that you can’t make assumptions about VAT.  Even if the deal or project you’re working on looks the same as the last one, trivial differences, or a new interpretation from HMRC, can suddenly add 20% to the costs.  Again, you need to know.


This year has seen a lot of activity, and the promise of more.  We’ll be hearing from HMRC about their call for evidence on the property exemption. And, after so much uncertainty, we’ll be looking at where they’ve got to with call options, and with compensation payments and dilapidations.  We’ll also be considering what ‘value shifting’ and ‘uncertain tax treatment’ might mean for building work and property transactions, and how new processes are helping the ‘customer journey’. 

Elsewhere, we’ll be exploring whether old VAT rules can serve newer trends, and reflecting on recent litigation – what it all means, what new doctrines might be emerging, and at what makes for a successful outcome.  

To manage risk and spot opportunities – whether in your own organisation or for your clients – you need to know what’s going on, and to be sure that you’ve not missed an important new development.  This event is your chance to hear a unique range of perspectives on current issues.



Colin Smith - M&G plc

Colin has worked at M&G Plc for over a decade, advising on VAT matters related to its property funds, having previously worked for a property regeneration company, Ernst & Young, PKF and H M Customs & Excise. He takes an active role in the industry, lobbying HMRC and HM Treasury for change, and is the current chair of the British Property Federation's VAT Committee.

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Philip Simpson QC

Philip is a Queen’s Counsel qualified in both England and Scotland, as well as a CTA. His practise combines advisory work and litigation, and he regularly appears in VAT disputes from the First-tier Tribunal up to the Supreme Court. Recent VAT cases have included both Balhousie and Moulsdale; others have concerned whether certain intra-group business transfers involved the assignment of claims for recovery of overpaid VAT; whether a scrap metal exporter had obtained and retained sufficient evidence to justify zero-rating its exports; whether a payment to exercise a break clause in a lease of commercial property attracted VAT; and whether certain fruit and nut bars are confectionery. He practises out of Old Square Tax Chambers.

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Phil Askew, HMRC

Phil is a Grade 7 (Principal) in HMRC’s VAT Policy function.  Since 2018 he has worked in the VAT Reliefs team, where he has overall responsibility for the property exemption and the option to tax, together with a range of other matters.  His previous roles have been in VAT Assurance for SME’s, as a VAT Specialist for Local Authorities, and in Partial Exemption policy.


Chris Nyland, Gowling WLG

Chris is a partner at Gowling WLG with a general real estate tax practice and a specific cross-sector VAT law focus. He works extensively with Gowling WLG's market-leading investment fund, property development and landlord-and-tenant practice groups, and has developed particular expertise in the interaction of taxes in these fields.


Tracey Wright, Osborne Clakre
Tracey is a partner at Osborne Clarke LLP where she leads the Real Estate Tax team.
She provides transactional and tax structuring support to a wide range of investors, funds, developers, landowners and occupiers. She has particular expertise in transactions with residential aspects, including build to rent and student accommodation

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David Millar, HMRC

David, is a Senior leader in HMRC’s Operational Excellence Directorate which has ownership of all VAT related operational processes. He is a key stakeholder across all of HMRC’s VAT work areas and regularly advises the Option to Tax and VAT Registration Units as well as the VAT Enquiries, Error Corrections and DIY Housebuilders teams.

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Elizabeth Small, Forsters
Elizabeth is Tax Partner at Forsters, with expertise in commercial and residential property transactions.
Her advice relates to the full-range of property-types, including hotels, bars, care homes and student accommodation, as well as offices and prime residential property.
Elizabeth frequently acts on forward-funding transactions for large institutional clients, the structuring of high end mixed-use property developments and advises on VAT and SDLT for landed estates.

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Ben Tennant, Deloitte

Ben is a Director at Deloitte and specialises in real estate VAT. He is a solicitor and, prior to joining Deloitte, was in legal practice for several years specialising in real estate tax. He has considerable experience of all areas of real estate, from residential and commercial development, to investment and asset management. He has acted for institutional investors, funds, occupiers, private developers, charities and housing associations. Ben is a member of the CIOT’s Property Tax and Indirect Tax Committees and a representative on HMRC’s Land & Property Liaison Group.

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Martin Scammell

Martin Scammell is the author of the leading reference work VAT on Construction, Land and Property, published by Scammell & Nyland, and an occasional consultant in these areas. Martin started out in VAT Policy in Customs & Excise, was a Partner at Ernst & Young, and then head of indirect tax at Eversheds. He is technical secretary to the BPF’s VAT Committee, and a member of the JVCC, of HMRC’s Land and Property Liaison Group, and of the CIOT’s indirect taxes and property taxes committees. In 2017 he served on the OTS’s consultative committee for their review of VAT.



Please note that this event will be spread across two days.

Each day's programme will contain entirely unique and distinct content, so be sure to attend both for the full experience.

Monday 8th November - morning sessions
10.30 - 12.15

Colin Smith - Chair

Elizabeth Small

Philip Simpson QC

Chair's Introduction

Consideration or compensation?  RCB 12/20, and its aftermath

Elizabeth Small - Forsters

HMRC’s new guidance in 2020 created a year of uncertainty. Were we supposed to add VAT to dilapidations or not?  And what else no longer counted as compensation?  

  • Commercial context – why are these payments made, what are they for, and how are they agreed?

  • The case law behind HMRC’s rethink

  • What we know now, and what we don’t 


VAT litigation – the ingredients of success
Philip Simpson QC

Following his triumphant return to the Supreme Court in Balhousie, Philip Simpson shares his insights into the litigation process.

  • When would you litigate, and when wouldn’t you?

  • Getting your ducks in a row – the importance of evidence

  • Knowing when to stop – whether to appeal to the next level

  • What to expect, and why the Supreme Court really isn’t like the First-Tier Tribunal

Monday 8th November - afternoon sessions
13.00 - 14.45

Colin Smith - Chair

Ben Tennant

Phil Askew

The property exemption

Ben Tennant - Deloitte

If the words on the page haven’t changed in nearly 50 years, their interpretation has. So what were they supposed to mean, and how should we read them now?

  • The land law roots – what actually is an interest in land, a right over land, or a Scottish personal right?

  • Evolving interpretation – an EU meaning?

  • Recent controversies – call options, overage, rights to light

Simplifying the property exemption?  HMRC’s call for evidence

Phil Askew - HMRC

HMRC sought views over the Summer on some bold ideas for reform. So what was that about, and what might happen next?

  • Drivers for change – why have a call for evidence?

  • Perspectives – what people said

  • The way ahead?

End of day Q&A

Tuesday 9th November - morning sessions
10.30 - 12.15

Colin Smith - Chair

Chris Nyland

Tracey Wright

The part of the deal

Chris Nyland - Gowling WLG

VAT has always seen a sale-and-leaseback, or a lease-and-leaseback, as two steps. But other taxes see just one, shorter, step, and so did the ECJ in Mydibel.  A flash in the pan, or a guiding light?

  • The commercial why and how

  • Angles – barter, disapplication, TOGC, CGS

  • The ECJ, HMRC’s reaction, and the impact in Balhousie and A Blue (UK)

  • Changes in deal patterns, and lessons from elsewhere?

Build to Rent

Tracey Wright - Osborne Clarke

A new concept, or just a new label?  From being almost unknown a decade ago, the build to rent sector is booming.

•    What it is, and why it’s popular
•    How it fits with planning and housing policy
•    VAT and tax treatment – a hindrance or a help?
•    Dealing with the issues in practice

Tuesday 9th November - afternoon sessions
13.00 - 15.00

Colin Smith - Chair

Martin Scammell

David Millar

David Mourning

Liz Meechan

What else is new?

Martin Scammell

A round-up of the other hot topics, and their day-to-day implications

  • No simplification here – value shifting, uncertain tax treatment, and other bright ideas

  • After Balhousie and Moulsdale – should we do anything different?  

  • The rest of the case law, including Netbusters, Eynsham, Westow, Colchester, King’s Lynn, Wickford, R K Fuels, Richmond Hill, AS Pilsētas, Titanium and Apcoa

HMRC operational update

David Millar, David Mourning, and Liz Meechan - HMRC

We welcome back HMRC’s operations team, to give us their perspectives, and to hear ours.

  • From its regional centres, what does HMRC look like now?

  • New penalties for late return submission and late payment

  • Improving process, improving communication

  • Use of electronic signatures, and the end of the 90-day notification easement

  • What still needs fixing?

End of day Q&A