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Richard Pickles

Richard's January Reflections

22 Jan 2018   |   Sophie Roberts   |   0 Comments

 Good Afternoon

Even though it’s a New Year, 2018 and all that and we should be looking forward, I would like to refer back to the Brabners LLP v HMRC tribunal back in September last year. You know the one, it’s the “Local Searches are not a disbursement and are therefore VAT’able” case.

Now I’m a mere bystander (with an obvious interest) but it strikes me that the ruling is pretty sound in that “The appellants are not simply a conduit or post-box for search results.”  And “The payment is part of the overall consideration which the client pays for the service supplied by the solicitor.” (Judge McNall). Fair enough! And yes, before you start; it’s more complex than that, I know!

At the time the Law Society, who had supported Brabners’ case commented  that “We are considering the implications of this decision for our practice note on VAT and disbursements.” Consequently it was comforting to read the Law Society’s release last week that, whilst they recognise the uncertainty caused, they have (in the intervening  4 or 5 months) decided to establish a working group…………………

I have heard that the release was later withdrawn.

Anyway, December is a strange time for search/purchase volumes. Most of the “I must be in by Christmas” deals are done in October/November and it’s just a case of holding the chains together for the completions that are ‘live’, it’s certainly not  a traditional house-hunting period and the numbers drop as soon as people start disappearing off on holiday etc. So you would expect an improvement in TATs, but this is often counter-acted by staff shortages in the councils. However this year there was a really good half-day plus reduction in the overall PLAS (Personal) average TAT whilst the OLAS (Official) TAT held steady.

So here are the slowest TATs overall:

OLAS (Official)                                                                                 PLAS (Personal)               

North Wiltshire District Council  42                                           Mid Suffolk District Council 29

West Dorset District Council 30                                                  Babergh District Council 27

Mid Suffolk District Council 29                                                    Hackney London Borough Council 24

North Shropshire District Council 24                                         West Dorset District Council 24

East Lindsey District Council 22                                                   Neath Porth Talbot County Borough Council 23

Bridgend County Borough Council (Residential) 21           Cannock Chase District Council 22

Derby City Council/Res  20                                                           Mendip District Council 22

Epping Forest District Council 19                                                South Derbyshire District Council 22

North Tyneside Borough Council/Res 19                                                Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council  21

West Wiltshire DC 19                                                                      Havant Borough Council  21

Blaby District Council/Res 18                                                       Harlow District Council   20

East Northamptonshire Dist Cncl 17                                         Rochford District Council 20

East Staffordshire Bor Cncl/Res 17                                           Torbay Borough Council                20

Harlow District Council   17                                                           Epping Forest District Council 19

Pembrokeshire County Council 17                                           East Cambridgeshire District Council 18

Gloucester City Council 16                                                           Fenland District Council 18

High Peak Bor Cnc/Res  16                                                           Gwynedd Council 18

Hounslow London Bor Cnc/Res  16                                           Harrogate Borough Council 18

Torfaen County BC 15                                                                    North Dorset District Council 18

Bolsover District Council/Res 14                                                 North East Derbyshire District Council 18


Who knows what we’ll have to talk about next month?

Will one of the new cabinet have already messed up? I don’t know, but one thing I do know (as do those clients of ours that came to our October evening with him when he was Housing Minister), is that Brandon Lewis is a clever and approachable chap and a very sound choice as Chairman of the Tories.

 Kind Regards



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