Meet the Expert is our series of blogs where we share more about the team behind our innovative software and managed services.
As a global organisation with indirect tax experts across all regions, our dedicated team are often the first to know about new regulatory changes and the latest developments on tax regimes across the world, to support you in your tax compliance.
We spoke to Russell Brown, senior IPT consulting manager, about Sovos’ IPT consultancy, supporting tax teams and his thoughts about the future of IPT.
Can you tell me about your role and what it involves?
I head up the Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) consultancy practice within Sovos. We’re responsible for providing advice, mostly to compliance clients on tax issues of different types of insurance that they write in EU and non-EU countries. We provide clarity on applicable tax rates and their compliance requirements in various countries, as well as location of risk queries.
One of my main responsibilities is to review and approve the reports written by consultants in the team. I also assist our sales team with clients interested in registering for IPT in different countries. This involves discussing the insurance the client provides and the countries involved and helping to onboard new customers. I also participate in writing regular IPT blogs and articles on a variety of subjects, and in webinars and other client events where we discuss a wide range of IPT issues around the world.
We also assist the compliance managed services team with any questions from their clients that they need help with. This can include legislative references or just confirmation of tax rates.
Can you tell us about Sovos’ IPT consultancy and typical projects you help with?
The short answer is we help insurers with their IPT compliance queries but that can vary from project to project.
A typical project for the consultancy team would be for a client to approach us and say, “We’re thinking of writing this type of insurance policy in 10 countries. Could you please tell us all the taxes and tax rates that apply, who bears the cost of those taxes and how they’re calculated. Could you also provide us with guidance on the compliance requirements in each country?”. This could be for EU and non-EU countries.
Another common project is to look at insurance policies and confirm the type of insurance to ensure its taxed correctly or looking at location of risk for an insurance type. This will involve analysing a sample policy from the client to confirm what the insurable risk is so that the correct rules are applied on taxing it in the relevant countries.
Sovos’ IPT customers tend to deal in non-life insurance; we’re often asked to look at property policies or liability risks. Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium are the countries we’re asked most about due to their complicated IPT and parafiscal charges regimes and different rates.
We are also asked questions about non-admitted insurance. For example, if a company is writing insurance but isn’t licensed in that country, they might have questions about how the taxes are calculated, who is liable for the taxes, who should settle taxes etc. These questions tend to be from non-EEA insurers writing policies in EEA countries.
Brokers are another type of client we deal with, or as part of discussions with insurers when there are queries around who is responsible for settling taxes on premiums. We’re able to offer advice to both the insurer and the broker in these cases.
Where do tax teams need support and how does Sovos help?
Tax teams want certainty that they’re charging the correct taxes, and that they’re compliant in settling those taxes with the relevant countries’ authorities. That’s where we come in, providing guidance as well as reporting. We’ve received feedback from clients saying the reports have been especially useful to show senior stakeholders that tax compliance is being maintained. The reports are also an important document to have on file that demonstrates that there was an issue identified and they received external advice. Having this activity on record for senior managers and both internal and external auditors is important. If a tax team is asked any questions by tax authorities, they can provide evidence.
We tend to work with tax teams in the planning stages, when an organisation wants to identify any potential tax issues ahead of time to ensure systems are updated and compliant from day one.
What are your thoughts about the IPT landscape the future of IPT?
I have a few thoughts.
The first is about Germany’s IPT laws. When the country changed its IPT law at the end of 2020, the authority extended the scope of who could potentially be taxed for German IPT. There was some thought that other countries in Europe might try to do the same, the Dutch being a good example where current legislation does potentially allow this under certain circumstances. But because the application of Germany’s law wasn’t the most successful, there’s a feeling that other countries are unlikely to follow this path for the moment.
There is also the question whether or not IPT will be abolished in the UK and replaced with VAT. The government is in the process of starting a VAT consultation on financial services, and it’s likely that this proposal will be included in the discussions between HMT, HMRC and the insurance market including both insurers and brokers. This consultation will likely run for a couple of years, so we won’t know the results for some time, and it is possible that any decisions on this point may be delayed by the timing of the next general election.
There is also always the discussion of the digitization of IPT. There hasn’t been much movement on this recently. Ireland is in the process of digitization and France was due to follow suit but has postponed until next year. We are already helping our customers to possess the ability to file IPT online when this does become a requirement.