charging 20% VAT for domestic-use firewood - advice?

I've enquired of two local companies regarding possibly buying firewood from them, in the form of unsplit logs, which I would saw and split myself, for use on our woodburner at home.
The VAT rate should be 5%. (Source: HMRC Notice 701/19, August 2012: s2.1, on fuel for domestic use, and s3.2.2, defining "domestic use" as including use in "houses, flats or other dwellings".)
Both companies insist on charging 20%.
I've offered to give them written confirmation that I am buying the wood for domestic use as fuel, but they aren't interested. They both say that they won't sell wood to anyone, domestic customer or otherwise, except if they can charge VAT at 20%.
If I did pay four times as much VAT as I should, I strongly doubt that I would be able to get my money back from the HMRC.
Advice?
If they do get someone to pay 20% who should only pay 5% (and I imagine they have done that in loads of cases), is that VAT fraud? Or just a tort against the customer?
(PS I've only recently encountered the world of buying firewood, and there seem to be loads of sharp practices, but I digress.)
Harry
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On 14/01/2013 18:38, Harry Davis wrote:

Phone HMRC, they can be very helpful. If the local company are wrong then I'm sure HMRC will mend their ways.
I guess it depends on how these "logs" are described.
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On 14/01/2013 18:47, Fredxx wrote:

Agreed. Charging 20% would be ripe for exploitation by then telling HMRC they only charged 5%.
Also, I think that they must post their prices inclusive.
If they insist on charging 20% then they are, IMHO, saying that 15/120 of the price is VAT but without the legal basis for doing so.
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wrote:

They do have some justification. Most transactions involving large quantities of cord wood are going to be business to business transactions and VAT should be charged at 20%. If they charge 5% to a business customer HMRC could be down on them rather hard.
Having said that, there are suppliers who will supply cord to domestic users with 5% VAT.
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On 14/01/2013 19:28, Bill Taylor wrote: <>

When VAT first started they were absolute sticklers for everything. Charging the *wrong* rate was the issue rather than whether that wrong rate was too high or too low. And I think something of that continues - but maybe they have become as crappy at collecting the tax as the government is at deciding how to spend it?
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VAT? On logs? Don't you pay for them with grubby fivers?
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wrote:

.........................or a bow-saw & keep warm twice.
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Would his local Trading Standards office help? Perhaps they might (or might not) be a bit quicker in action that the HMRC.
Mck.
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On 14/01/2013 20:50, McKevvy wrote:

They might, but the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the correct rate of VAT is applied is with HMRC.
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wrote:

& the HMRC would be very interested in whether the trader was charging 20% & keeping 15%.
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On 09/02/2013 10:29 PM, Ian Field wrote:

Look for local volunteering site that do country conservation(BTCV being such. On many occasions when dropping the odd tree in various places, they often want it cleared. The tree is usually cut to ~20 inch trunk lengths.
...Ray.
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wrote:

I emailed local trading standards, but got an email back telling me they don't handle "consumer complaints" and to contact 'Consumer Advice' (nationally) with any such complaint, but that they'd get back to me within so many days if I was a business customer (!)
Also emailed HMRC, and got an acknowledgement. Charging too much VAT (so long as it gets paid to the HMRC) doesn't seem to be within their stated definition of tax fraud, but I am hoping they will be interested, because as someone said, it's as if a company were charging 30% for VAT, or 20% on food. Incidentally, the company operates in the name of the guy who runs it, who claims a string of qualifications and professional memberships in the arborical world, so one would have thought he should know about VAT.
Harry
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On Tue, 15 Jan 2013 08:42:27 +0000 (UTC), Harry Davis

And he almost certainly does.
And is almost certainly acting correctly.
Unless he is holding it out for sale *specifically* as firewood *and* is selling it ready prepared for use as firewood, then he is correct to charge the full rate of VAT, regardless of what you will actually use it for.
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wrote:

On the company's website, they say they are selling split logs ready for burning on woodburning stoves. But surely if I buy an unsplit log and split it myself for burning as domestic fuel, all the taxable value has been added to it before I get hold of it, and I should pay 5% VAT only.
N
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On Tue, 15 Jan 2013 23:08:21 +0000 (UTC), Harry Davis

You may think it *should* be that way.
But that isn't what HMRC say.
It must be held out for sale *purely* as firewood, and it must be prepared in such a way as to match the description of it as firewood, otherwise standard rate VAT must be charged.
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Correct
The rules do not state that, merely that it must be held out as firewood, and the purchaser must not re-sell it. There is no rule that the wood must be pre-cut or split, or that the purchaser may have to do that himself, as long as the intention of the seller is that the wood is purely for firewood.
Jeff
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The only rule on the form of the wood is that it mustn't be prepared for use as constructional timber. However if it is constructional timber then cutting it into short lengths and offering it for sale as firewood means it can be sold at reduced rate VAT. That seems to be the section that is confusing Mr Heney.
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On Thu, 17 Jan 2013 11:49:24 +0000 (UTC), Steve Firth

Nope.
That section is irrelevant to this discussion.
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Oh well you're just confused and giving misleading advice then. I'm glad we cleared that up.
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FFS, give it a rest.
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