Fifteen organisations, including the Countryside Alliance, have had a letter published in The Times today, urging the Chancellor to U-turn on the decision to levy VAT on alterations to listed buildings. Read on for the letter in full.
Despite recent u-turns on a VAT hike for pasties and caravans, the Treasury still appears to be planning a 20% tax rise that will damage the nation's finest and most loved buildings. Worse still, this tax rise is based on completely insufficient evidence. When the Treasury announced plans to remove the current VAT relief on approved alterations to listed buildings in the Budget it stated that ‘the majority’ of the work covered by the relief was ‘not necessary for heritage purposes’, the complete opposite of our experience. A Freedom of Information request has subsequently revealed that this was based on just 105 cases despite the fact there are almost 30,000 Listed Building Consent applications every a year.
Since the Budget, ministers have repeatedly told MPs and the public that this VAT increase was about stopping millionaires installing swimming pools tax free. When we looked at a sample of 12,049 recent applications from across the UK, we found only 34 applications for swimming pools (and much less than half of these had any chance of qualifying for the VAT relief).
50% of people who live in listed buildings are in socio-economic groups C1, C2, D and E. So why does the Treasury continue to feed MPs with this ‘millionaires’ swimming pool’ line and encourage them to send it on to angry constituents who are rightly concerned about the future of the buildings they cherish and care for?
The Government’s decision to provide additional compensation to listed places of worship is a clear admission that the VAT increase will put our historic buildings at risk, but offers nothing to help community centres, town halls, village halls or privately owned listed buildings.
We are already seeing evidence of many projects that have been cancelled or put on hold as owners worry about how to raise an additional 20% and projects become unaffordable. This is having a negative impact on the construction industry at a time when weak demand is holding back wider economic recovery.
As Chancellor, we want you to recognise the risks are simply too high to carry on as planned and therefore we call on you to review the proposed implementation of VAT on alterations to listed buildings before it is introduced – before it is too late.
Listed Property Owners Club
Federation of Master Builders
Electrical Contractors' Association
Country Land & Business Association
National Federation of Builders
Dr Noël James
Historic Towns Forum
National Home Improvement Council
Dr Seán O'Reilly
The Institute of Historic Building Conservation
Bathroom Manufacturers Association
The Heritage Alliance
Group Chief Executive
Glass and Glazing Federation
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Historic Houses Association
Sir Barney White-Spunner KCB CBE