Monthly Archives: December 2015

VAT – Building your new home. Claiming VAT on costs

By   December 14, 2015

Building your own home is becoming increasingly popular.  There are many things to think about, and budgeting is one of the most important. HouseBuilding_edited

The recovery of VAT on the project has a huge impact on the budget and care must be taken to ensure that a claim is made properly and within the time limits.  You don’t have to be VAT registered to make a claim, this is done via a mechanism known as The DIY Housebuilders’ Scheme.  It has specific rules which must be adhered to otherwise the claim will be rejected.

If you buy a new house from a property developer, you will not be charged VAT. This is because the sale of the house to you will be zero-rated. This allows the developer to reclaim the VAT paid on building materials from HMRC. However, if you build a house yourself, you will not be able to benefit from the zero-rating. The DIY Housebuilder’ Scheme puts you in a similar position to a person who buys a zero-rated house built by a property developer.

Who can make a claim?

You can apply for a VAT refund on building materials and services if you are:

  • building a new home in which you will live
  • converting a building into a home
  • building a non-profit communal residence, eg; a hospice
  • building a property for a charity.


New homes

The house must:

  • be separate and self-contained (eg; not an extension)
  • be for you or your family to live or holiday in (not for sale when complete)
  • not be for business purposes (you can use one room as a work from home office)
  • not be prevented from sale independently to another building by planning permission or similar (eg; a granny annexe).

A claim may also be made for garages built at the same time as the house and to be used with the house.

Contractors working on new residential buildings should zero rate their supplies to you, so you won’t pay any VAT on these.


The building being converted must usually be a non-residential building (eg; a barn conversion). Residential also buildings qualify if they haven’t been lived in for at least 10 years.

You may claim a refund for builders’ work on a conversion of non-residential building into home. These supplies will be charged at the reduced rate of 5% for conversion works.  If the standard rate of 20% s charged incorrectly, you will not be able to claim the standard rated amount. Care should be taken that the contractor understands the VAT rules for conversions as these can be complex.

Communal and charity buildings

You may get a VAT refund if the building is for one of the following purposes:

  • non-business – you can’t charge a fee for the use of the building
  • charitable, eg; a hospice
  • residential, eg; a children’s home

What can you claim on?

Building materials

You may claim a VAT refund for building materials that are incorporated into the building and can’t be removed without tools or damaging the building.

What doesn’t qualify

You cannot claim for:

  • building projects outside the UK
  • materials or services that don’t have any VAT, eg;  were zero-rated or exempt
  • professional or supervisory fees, eg architects and surveyors
  • the hire of plant, tools and equipment, eg; generators, scaffolding and skips
  • building materials that aren’t permanently attached to or part of the building itself
  • some fitted furniture, electrical and gas appliances, carpets or garden ornaments
  • supplies for which you do not have a VAT invoice

Examples of items you can, and cannot claim for are listed below.

How to claim

To claim a VAT refund, send form 431NB or 431C to HMRC

Local Compliance National DIY Team
NE98 1ZZ

What you need to know

You must claim within 3 months of the building work being completed.

You will usually get the refund in 30 working days of sending the claim.

You must include the following with your claim:

  • bank details
  • planning permission
  • proof the building work is finished – eg a letter from your local authority
  • a full set of building plans
  • invoices – including tenders or estimations if the invoice isn’t itemised
  • bills and any credit notes

VAT invoices must be valid and show the correct rate of VAT or they will not be accepted in the claim.

HMRC usually examine every claim closely and often query them, so it pays to ensure that the claim is as accurate as possible first time.  We find a review by us before submission ensures the maximum amount is claimed and delays are avoided.

Payments made after completion of the house cannot be claimed, and only one claim can be made for the whole project, so cashflow may be an issue.

Examples of items that you can claim for
The items listed below are accepted as being ‘ordinarily’ incorporated in a building (or its site). This is not a complete list.
  • Air conditioning
  • Building materials that make up the fabric of the property (for example, bricks, cement, tiles, timber, etc)
  • Burglar and fire alarms
  • Curtain poles and rails
  • Fireplaces and surrounds
  • Fitted kitchen furniture, sinks, and work surfaces
  • Flooring materials (other than carpets and carpet tiles)
  • Some gas and electrical appliances when wired-in or plumbed-in
  • Heating and ventilation systems including solar panels
  • Light fittings (including chandeliers and outside lights)
  • Plumbing materials, including electric showers, ‘in line’ water softeners and sanitary ware
  • Saunas
  • Turf, plants, trees (to the extent that they are detailed on scheme approved by a Planning Permission) and fencing permanently erected around the boundary of the dwelling
  • TV aerials and satellite dishes
Examples of items that you cannot claim for
This is not a complete list.
  • Aga/range cookers (Unless they are solid fuel, oil-fired or designed to heat space or water. Note: not all cookers are ‘space heaters’ because they incidentally radiate heat while operating. To be classified as such they must be fitted to a heating module or boiler)
  • Free-standing and integrated appliances such as: cookers, fridges, freezers, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, coffee machines
  • Audio equipment (including remote controls), built-in speakers, intelligent lighting systems, satellite boxes, Freeview boxes, CCTV, telephones
  • Consumables (for example, sandpaper, white spirit)
  • Electrical components for garage doors and gates (including remote controls)
  • Bedroom furniture (unless they are basic wardrobes) bathroom furniture (for example, vanity units and free-standing units)
  • Curtains, blinds (unless they are integral, that is, blinds inside sealed double-glazed window units),
  • Carpets
  • Garden furniture and ornaments and sheds. 

Please contact us if you require assistance with a DIY Housebuild project.

VAT – Well, it is christmas…

By   December 7, 2015

Dear Marcus 2013-12-01 Bury St Eds Xmas Fair0072

My business, if that is what it is, has become large enough for me to fear that HMRC might take an interest in my activities.  May I explain what I do and then you can write to me with your advice?  If you think a face to face meeting would be better I can be found in most decent sized department stores from mid September to 24 December.

First of all I am based in Greenland but I do bring a stock of goods, mainly toys, to the UK and I distribute them.  Am I making supplies in the UK?

The toys are of course mainly for children and I wonder if zero rating might apply?  I have heard that small T shirts are zero rated so what about a train set – it is small and intended for children. Does it matter if adults play with it?

My friend Rudolph has told me that there is a peculiar rule about gifts.  He says that if I give them away regularly and they cost more than £150 I might have to account for VAT.  Is that right?

My next question concerns barter transactions.  Dads often leave me a food item such as a mince pie and a drink and there is an unwritten rule that I should then leave something in return.  If I’m given Tesco’s own brand sherry I will leave polyester underpants but if I’m left a glass of Glenfiddich I will be more generous and leave best woollen socks.  Have I made a supply and what is the value please?  My feeling is that the food items are not solicited so VAT might not be due and, in any event; isn’t food zero-rated, or is it catering? Oh, and what if the food is hot?

Transport is a big worry for me.  Lots of children ask me for a ride on my airborne transport.  I suppose I could manage to fit 12 passengers in.  Does that mean my services are zero-rated?  If I do this free of charge will I need to charge air passenger duty?  Does it matter if I stay within the UK?  My transport is the equivalent of six horse power and if I refuel with fodder in the UK will I be liable for fuel scale charges?  After dropping the passengers off I suppose I will be accused of using fuel for the private journey back home.  Somebody has told me that if I buy hay labelled as animal food I can avoid VAT but if I buy the much cheaper bedding hay I will need to pay VAT.  Please comment.

Can I also ask about VAT registration?  I know the limit is £82,000 per annum but do blips count?  If I do make supplies at all, I do nothing for 364 days and then, in one day (well night really) I blast through the limit and then drop back to nil turnover.  May I be excused from registration?  If I do need to register should I use AnNOEL Accounting?  At least I can get only one penalty per annum if I get the sums wrong.

I would like to make a claim for input tax on clothing.  I feel that my red clothing not only protects me from the extreme cold but it is akin to a uniform and should be allowable.  These are not clothes that I would choose to wear except for my fairly unusual job.  If lady barristers can claim for black skirts I think I should be able to claim for red dress.  And what about my annual haircut?  That costs a fortune.  I only let my hair grow that long because it is expected of me.

Insurance worries me too.  You know that I carry some very expensive goods on my transport.  Play Stations, Mountain Bikes, i-pads and Accrington Stanley replica shirts for example.  My parent company in Greenland takes out insurance there and they make a charge to me.  If I am required to register for VAT in England will I need to apply the reverse charge?  This seems to be a daft idea if I understand it correctly.  Does it mean I have to charge myself VAT on something that is not VATable and then claim it back again?

Next you’ll be telling me that Father Christmas isn’t real……….

VAT – The Default Surcharge. What is it, is it fair and will the regime change?

By   December 1, 2015

What is the Default Surcharge? 

calendar b&wDefault Surcharge is a civil penalty to encourage businesses to submit their VAT returns and pay the tax due on time.

When will a Default Surcharge be issued?

A business is in default if it sends in its VAT return and or the VAT due late. No surcharge is issued the first time a business is late but a warning (a Surcharge Liability Notice) is issued. Subsequent defaults within the following twelve months (the “surcharge period”) may result in a surcharge assessment. Each time that a default occurs the surcharge period will be extended. There is no liability to a surcharge if a nil or repayment return is submitted late, or the VAT due is paid on time but the return is submitted late (although a default is still recorded).

How much is the surcharge?

The surcharge is calculated as a percentage of the VAT that is unpaid at the due date. If no return is submitted the amount of VAT due will be assessed and the surcharge based on that amount. The rate is set at 2 per cent for the first default following the Surcharge Liability Notice, and rises to 5 per cent, 10 per cent and 15 per cent for subsequent defaults within the surcharge period.  A surcharge assessment is not issued at the 2 per cent and 5 per cent rates if it is calculated at less than £200 but a default is still recorded and the surcharge period extended. At the 10 per cent and 15 per cent the surcharge will be the greater of the calculated amount or £30.

Specific issues

The default surcharge can be particularly swingeing for a fast growing company. Let’s say that a small company grows quickly. In the early days the administration was rather haphazard, as is often the case, and a number of returns and payments were submitted late. Fast forward and the turnover, and the VAT payable, has grown significantly. Being late at this time means that the amount of default surcharge is considerably higher than when the original default which created the surcharge took place.  This leads us onto whether the surcharge is proportionate.

A business with cashflow difficulties may well ask whether it should be penalised by HMRC for having those difficulties; which of course will add to the problem.


The existing, long-standing default surcharge regime has always had issues with the principle of proportionality.  The regime has regularly been challenged in the Courts.

Is it proportionate that a same penalty is applied for a payment which is one day late and one which is one year late? This is a matter which has concerned both HMRC and the Courts for a number of years.

In the Upper Tribunal case of Total Technology (Engineering) Ltd the Judge concluded that it was possible for an individual surcharge to be disproportionate, but that the system as a whole was not fundamentally flawed. It is also worth noting that in In Equoland judgment the judge stated that a penalty which is automatic and does not take into account the circumstances is at the least tending towards being disproportionate.  The default surcharge is automatic and it is one of the few penalties that cannot be mitigated in any circumstances.

Defence against a surcharge

In order to have a surcharge withdrawn it is necessary to demonstrate that a business had a reasonable excuse for the default.  

This is a subject of an article on its own.  Certain factors, like relaying on a third party are not accepted as a reasonable excuse. HMRC state that a business will not be in default if they, or the independent tribunal, agree that there is a reasonable excuse for failing to submit a VAT Return and/or payment on time.

There is no legal definition of reasonable excuse but HMRC will look closely at the circumstances that led to the default.

If the circumstance that led to the default were unforeseen and inescapable and a business is able to show that its conduct was that of a conscientious person who accepted the need to comply with VAT requirements, then it may amount to a reasonable excuse.

What sort of circumstances might count as reasonable excuse?

HMRC provide guidelines on circumstances where there might be a reasonable excuse for failing to submit a VAT Return and/or payment on time. These include:

  • computer breakdown
  • illness
  • loss of key personnel
  • unexpected cash crisis – where funds are unavailable to pay your tax due following the sudden reduction or withdrawal of overdraft facilities, sudden non-payment by a normally reliable customer, insolvency of a large customer, fraud or burglary. A simple lack of money is unlikely to be accepted as a reasonable excuse.
  • loss of records


A recent discussion document sought views from businesses and individuals on potential improvements to how HMRC applies penalties (including the default surcharge) for failing to pay what is owed or to meet deadlines for returns or registration.

HMRC is considering whether and how it should differentiate between those who deliberately and persistently fail to meet administrative deadlines or to pay what they should on time, and those who make occasional and genuine errors for which other responses might be more appropriate.

In the document HMRC highlight two issues with the current VAT default surcharge regime. The first is the concern that while the absence of penalty for the initial offence in a 12 month period gives business the chance to get processes right, some customers simply ignore this warning.

The second concern is the issue of proportionality which fails to distinguish between payments that are one or two days late or many months late.

In my view, it is likely that in the near future we will hear proposals for the system being amended.  I think we may anticipate the introduction of mitigation and suspension.