As you may have heard in the national press, the recent budget proposes to remove the current exemption from VAT of works to Listed Buildings which requires listed building consent. 

Organisations concerned with the protection of the historic environment such as English Heritage and SPAB, have lobbied for some years for an opposite move, to remove all works to listed buildings from the need to pay VAT – this reflects the additional costs in specialised labour and materials often associated with the proper care of such  buildings.

There are petitions on the subject located at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32056 and http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32229 and http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29102

If you feel strongly on this issue our MP can be contacted at: guy.opperman.mp@parliament.uk  and the Chancellor at: ministers@hm-treasury.gov.uk

The e-petitions are of course worth signing, but direct responses to HMRC’s consultation will carry much more weight.

The HMRC consultation ends 4th May. Respond to:
David Roberts
HMRC
VAT Projects Team 
100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ

Email: david.roberts4@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

The summary of the views of SPAB are as follows:

From the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) website:

VAT & LISTED BUILDING

 VIEWS OF THE SPAB   APRIL 2012

The SPAB opposes the government’s proposal to apply VAT to works of alteration to listed buildings.  Our interest is the care and protection of historic buildings and the promotion of building craft skills.  VAT affects the ability of owners to care for their buildings, the viability of projects involving historic buildings at risk, and the survival of firms that work in this specialist field.  We wish to see works of care and repair to listed buildings supported, with no “perverse incentive” to alter or build anew. 

  • The government indicates that it wishes to remove the “perverse incentive” that currently encourages alteration rather than repair of listed buildings.  The Society has long argued that this perverse incentive should be removed, but not through the imposition of VAT on alterations.  We believe that zero-rating should be applied to works of repair, or that there should be a lower rate of VAT for all works of repair and alteration to listed buildings.
  • While the current proposal might remove the perverse incentive to alter not repair, it would retain the incentive to build anew rather than re-use listed buildings.  Building afresh rather than re-use of existing structures offers a less sustainable approach to construction and so, in our view, conflicts with the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  • It is sometimes the case that alteration benefits the building, the wider community and visitors, not just the owner. Examples might include the replacement of an inappropriate existing roof covering with a more suitable one.  Also, minor alterations sometimes enable or make viable a necessary new use.  Owners will be discouraged from such work by the imposition of VAT.  Building preservation trust projects, involving historic buildings at risk, may be particularly hard hit since even slight increases in costs can affect their viability.
  • Owners of listed buildings fall within all income brackets.  Poorer owners could be hit disproportionately by the proposal, particularly as wealthier owners sometimes use their homes as businesses.  With very little public sector grant aid for secular listed buildings now available, owners are subject to additional controls and sometimes additional costs when appropriate traditional materials have to be used, but very rarely benefit from any corresponding state grants.  Loss of any VAT concession for private secular owners would remove what little financial assistance there is for those who maintain many of the country’s listed buildings.
  •  If the overall level of work to listed buildings reduces as a result of a new financial burden through VAT, professionals and contractors who specialise in conservation work will suffer at a time when their businesses are already struggling to remain viable.  This may have a particularly serious impact on small firms of the kind that carry out much historic buildings work.
  • Some less scrupulous listed building owners may no longer seek consent for alteration if the incentive to obtain it is removed.   This is of particular concern in view of the recent reductions in numbers of Conservation and Enforcement officers within local planning authorities.
  • With listed places of worship, it is proposed that the LPOW scheme should provide grants against the cost of alteration work.  In principle this is welcome, but in practice the LPOW only returned 46% of the cost of VAT on repairs in the most recent quarter.  This is, in itself, unacceptable and the problem would be compounded by the proposal unless the government can offer assurance that 100% of VAT costs for repair and alteration would be returned by the scheme’s grants in future.