The treatment of recharged expenses is a common cause of VAT errors. A disbursement is where you act on behalf of your customer in arranging and paying for goods or services, but the underlying supply remains between the supplier and your customer.
A common example of a disbursement is the Companies House filing fee. Here the supply is between Companies House and the company, but it is common practice for an accountant to file and pay the fee on their client’s behalf. Because the ‘supply’ remains between Companies House and the client, the accountant can treat this payment as a disbursement, as long as the disbursed amount is clearly shown on an invoice separately from any other supply, and the exact cost is passed on. The accountant, therefore, does not need to account for VAT when they recharge this cost on to the client.
However, expenses such as hotel accommodation, travel and meals are being supplied to and are consumed by you, not your customer. Therefore, this is not a disbursement, and your must treat any recharge of these types of expense as further consideration for the main supply.
Guidance on how to show recharges and disbursements on your invoices can be found on the GOV.UK website VAT: costs or disbursements passed to customers