What are disbursements?
Disbursements are payments you make on behalf of your customers for goods or services received and used by them.
For example, in building work, you purchase and pay for the materials of a renovation.
When You Can Claim VAT Back
If you are a VAT registered business and you claimed back the VAT on the disbursements costs (costs you passed onto your customers), you can charge VAT on these costs to your customers but only if they goods or services were supplied to your business and not your customers.
But remember, in order to claim the VAT back on a purchase, you must have an invoice from the supplier containing a VAT registration number and a breakdown of the VAT element.
When You Cannot Claim VAT Back
If you paid a VAT registered supplier for goods or services on a customer's behalf, there may have been VAT on what they charged. You cannot claim this VAT back if the goods or services were supplied to your customer and not to your business (i.e. the invoice was invoiced to the customer), and you treated this as a disbursement for VAT purposes when you invoiced your customer and did not charge VAT.
Your customer may also be unable to claim back the VAT if they don't have a valid VAT invoice for goods or services.
What Isn't A Disbursement?
Goods or services purchased and used by you in the course of supplying business to your customers are not disbursements for VAT purposes. Meaning, you must charge VAT on these costs to your customer weather those costs included VAT or not. These costs are known as recharges.
Examples of such recharges could be:
travel - train, bus, mileage, flight
bank fees incurred when transferring money from your business account to the client account