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02 August 2020

VAT on Building Work

Frequently Asked Business Question:

When do you need a certificate for 5% VAT on building work?

Top Tip:

VAT for most work on houses and flats by builders and similar trades like plumbers, plasterers, and carpenters are charged at the standard rate of 20% – but there are some exceptions.

Building work can be charged at 5% in the following circumstances:

  1. Renovating residential property that has been empty for more than 2 years
  2. Where the number of dwellings is being increased such as converting a house into flats
  3. Converting a commercial building into residential
  4. Converting a house into an HMO

There is a VAT notice which has the exact details and whether or not the 5% rate can be used is a matter of fact, not opinion. HMRC will not give specific clearance, they will refer you to the rules and ask you to check the rules with your builder for your project. The property owner doesn’t issue a certificate (as would be needed for Zero Rating), it is for the builder/developer to determine whether and on what the 5% VAT rate can be applied.

The only exceptions (when a reduced rate certificate would be needed) are

  • a home or other institution providing residential accommodation for children;
  • a home or other institution providing residential accommodation with personal care for persons in need of personal care by reason of old age, disablement, past or present dependence on alcohol or drugs, or past or present mental disorder;
  • a hospice;
  • residential accommodation for students or school pupils;
  • residential accommodation for members of any of the armed forces;
  • a monastery, nunnery, or similar establishment;
  • an institution that is the sole or main residence of at least 90 percent of its residents and will not be used as a hospital, prison, or similar institution or a hotel, inn, or similar establishment.

The builder may not have to charge VAT on some types of work if it meets certain conditions, including building a new house or flat or carrying out building and related work for disabled people in their home.

For work on a new house or flat to be zero-rated for VAT, it must qualify as a genuinely new, self-contained house or flat. This means:

  • It’s self-contained – there aren’t any internal doors or connections to other houses or flats
  • It can be used independently of any other property, including businesses
  • It can be sold on its own
  • It has proper planning permission
  • Any existing buildings on the site have been demolished completely to ground level (unless you’re extending an existing building to create a new house or flat)

There may also be situations where you may not have to be charged VAT on alterations made to a disabled person’s home, or certain equipment supplied for their personal use. To be zero-rated for VAT, the work being done needs to be for someone with a:

  • Physical or mental impairment that has a major long-term effect on their ability to do everyday activities
  • A condition that the medical profession treats as a chronic sickness (eg diabetes)
  • Terminal illness

Someone who’s temporarily disabled or incapacitated, or elderly and frail but not disabled, doesn’t qualify.

For more information and/or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at the email address below or phone our Tax Team

The advice in this column is specific to the facts surrounding the questions posed.  Neither FPM nor the contributors accept any liability for any direct or indirect loss arising from any reliance placed on replies.
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Contact Malachy

Malachy McLernon / Director

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