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Tax agents' GST advice

Am I an agent for GST purposes?

We consider an agent to be a person who acts for or represents someone else (known as the principal). This might include an estate agents and solicitors.

An agent arranges supplies of goods or services between the principal and a customer by:

  • obtaining goods or services for the principal (a buying agent), or
  • finding customers for the principal to sell to (a selling agent)

Agents are always involved with two supplies of goods or services at any one time:

  1. the supply between the principal and the third party
  2. the supply of their own services to the principal (for which they charge a fee or commission)

How is a relationship of agency created?

An agency can be created by a formal agreement or it can be implied by the relationship between the agent and principal. For example, an employee is an agent of their employer, even though not formally appointed as an agent.

The word agent is often applied to people who are not agents at all. For example, car dealers may describe themselves as agents, although they are actually principals who buy and sell cars in their own right.

Apart from a formal agreement, there are six factors normally present in an agent / principal relationship:

Title

The agent never assumes ownership of the principal’s goods, but merely buys and sells them on the principal’s behalf.
Identification The goods or services bought or sold by the agent on behalf of the principal are clearly identifiable.
Value The principal knows the exact value at which goods or services have been bought or sold on his behalf and any discounts which the agent obtains are passed back to the principal.
Separation The value of the agent’s service is separately identifiable from the supply of goods or services, and is normally known to the principal - although it can be based on an agreed percentage of the sale or purchase price.

It is an established legal principle that a true agent cannot make a secret profit from his agency, but the fact that the exact amount of the agent’s commission is not disclosed to the principal would not, of itself, invalidate an agency arrangement. However, the agreement between them must make it clear that a charge is to be made and establish the basis of its calculation at least.
No intervention The direction of the supply of goods and services between buyer and seller cannot be altered by the intervention of the agent.
Nature and value Agents cannot alter the nature or value of supplies which they arrange for their principal - although the principal may give their authority for the agent to negotiate a different price.

It is not essential that all of the elements above are present for there to be a relationship of agency. If more of the above elements are present than not, agency is likely to exist.

I'm an agent. How do I account for GST?

The only supply of goods and services you make will be your own services to your principal, unless you are acting in your own name.

Although you aren't required to treat supplies of services you arrange as made to you and by you, you can do so in certain circumstances under Article 13(2) of the GST law 2007.

If you choose to do this, you can either:

  • treat the supply as to you and by you (effectively you act as principal, and both transactions take place at the same time); or
  • you can allow the transaction to pass through your hands, and inform the principal of the value to be invoiced or paid (known as the 'disbursement' procedure). Under this procedure, input and output tax are the responsibility of the supplier and customer, and you only charge GST on the value of your own services

Goods and Services Tax (Jersey) Law 2007 on Jersey Law website

If you act as an agent in your own name

If you issue your own invoice for the whole cost of a sale and not just your own services, even if it is on behalf of your principal, you will be regarded as acting in your own name. You are responsible for charging and accounting for GST on the full value of the goods or services supplied.

If you act in your own name, the supplies to you and by you are treated as taking place at the same time. You must therefore account for GST on the sale at the same time as you deduct GST on the sale to you.

Undisclosed agency

Undisclosed agency is where the identity of the agent’s client (the seller or buyer) needs to remain unknown.

For undisclosed agency, the supply of goods or services is always treated as being to, or by, the agent. The agent is treated as the principal, acting in their own name.

Download undisclosed agency leaflet (size 30kb)

Disbursements

A disbursement is where an agent makes a payment on behalf of a principal for goods or services received by the principal. In other words, the goods or services are not used by the agent, who merely makes the payment and recharges it to the principal.

To find out how disbursements are treated for GST, see the 'GST and disbursements' page.

Disbursements and GST

Examples

Download the document below to see examples of how GST works for different types of agents and disbursements, such as:

  • estates agents
  • postal charges
  • advocates and solicitors
  • collectors who act as agents / principals
  • assigned debts

Download examples of how GST works for agency and disbursements (size 24kb)

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