In All Answers Ltd v HMRC [2018] TC06845, the FTT held that there was no agency arrangement in an essay-writing service for students.

  • The company was an online service that produced essays, theses and coursework for students. 
  • HMRC raised an assessment for £900k in VAT on the basis it was acting as a principal and not as an agent.
  • If a principal, VAT is charged on the whole amount paid by the student. If an agent, VAT is charged only on the commission element.
  • The company appealed to the FTT.

The tribunal noted that the essays were written by teachers, lecturers and others. Its terms of business contained “euphemisms” such as referring to essays as “research”. The terms also included “artificial premises” such as saying that the student must not pass off the essay as his or her own work, when that was clearly the whole purpose of the business. 

Finding that the company ensured that the writer and student did not know each other’s identity, the FTT concluded that there was no agency. The company was acting as principal. The case has been appealed to the Upper tribunal.


Useful guides

VAT: Agents and Principals
Where someone is acting as agent for a principal, it is possible that the income received by the agent on behalf of the principal is outside the scope of VAT for the agent. What is an agent for VAT purposes? When do these rules apply?

VAT: Place of supply: The Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS)
From 1 January 2015, the place of supply for business-to-consumer (B2C) suppliers of digital services changed to the place where the customer who receives the service lives or is located, and the suppliers therefore account for VAT at the applicable rate in the relevant member state.

How to appeal a decision of HMRC
Key steps in appealing a decision of HMRC.

How to Appeal a Tax Penalty
Step by step guide to ensure that you appeal all the right things

Agency workers 
This Practical Tax Guide looks at the changes to the treatment of workers supplied through UK based agencies, employment businesses or other intermediaries.

External links

All Answers Ltd v HMRC [2018] TC06845