Monthly Archives: September 2012

VAT questions – answered

Written by stephen gale

We asked our friendly VAT consultant (Stephen Fennell) for some advice and got the following clarification on the questions we had on VAT issues.  If you have questions around VAT, you can reach Stephen via his website: www.sef-vatconsultants.co.uk.

1.       Given that we are converting two cottages into one, I assume that we are eligible for the reduced rate of VAT (currently 5%).  Is this correct?
This is correct and further info can be found in Section 7 of 708. You can find the document here: http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/downloadFile?contentID=HMCE_CL_000513

2.       We are converting the barn on the end of the property into residential use.  This attracts a VAT rate of 0%.  Is this correct?
If a Builder is undertaking the work for you he would charge Vat at the reduced rate of 5% but if you were undertaking the work yourself you would be able to reclaim all of the Vat expenses on materials via the DIY Housebuilder Scheme

3.       When converting the barn, it will be extended.  What rate of VAT applies to this element of the build?
This would be deemed to be part & parcel of the barn conversion and follow the same vat line (reduced rate 5%)

4.       The proposal is to build a triple garage with home office space above.  What level of VAT will this attract?
If this were part of a ‘new build’ of a domestic dwelling the construction of the garages would be zero rated as per the domestic dwelling so adopting the same principles if the garages are constructed as part of the conversion process there is an argument that they could be supplied at the reduced rate of 5%. However the Vat man/woman may well argue differently and insist that the build of a non domestic stand alone building should be standard rated at 20% Vat. Your builder may have an opinion on this but just to be sure we could apply for a categoric ruling from HMRC.

5.       If different parts of the build (even if completed at the same time), attract different levels of VAT how is this handled?
The builder would be obliged to provide separate ‘Tax Invoices’ to show the work undertaken & the relevant vat rate applied.

6.       If we qualify for the reduced rate of VAT, we have to prove this to our build who will then only charge us at the reduced rate.  What form of evidence will satisfy HM revenues and custom?
The ‘onus’ is on the builder to provide the relevant evidence as to the correct Vat liability and this is usually in the form of planning consent, plans & correspondence from the Land Registry. In truth a Vat Inspector would loook at the narrative on the builder’s invoices to you and form his/her own opinion as to whether the builder has applied the correct Vat liability and then take issue with the builder if there is any doubt.
 

7.       Certain energy saving technology has a VAT rate of 0%.  How is this handled when dealt with via the main contractor?
As mentioned above i’ve attached PN 708/6 Energy Saving Materials for your information and this gives a comprehensive outline of the Vat treatment of the various energy saving technologies and their treatment for Vat purposes. Much depends on whether the they are being provided as anxcillary to the major supply or whether they are the major supply. The Public Notice seems to cover every eventuality & scenario.

Dry stone walling: Day 2

Written by admin

Well after the progress made yesterday – wall dismantled, foundations dug and first course laid – today was somewhat disappointing.  Disheartening even.  In 4 hours, I managed 6 or so courses and the 2m section of wall I was working on reached about 0.5m, maybe less.  The main problem (besides my lack of skill) is that most of the stones that make up the wall are pretty much rounded boulders.  The rock is made up of very coarse gritstone which is very soft and crumbly – you could try and shape it with a hammer, but that is going to be real hard work.

Setting out the new section of wall
Setting out the new section of wall



So what do you do? In short, no idea.  Looking at the surrounding fields, the same problem is present – walls (or what used to be walls) made up of rounded gritstone.  There are some walls on the property that are made from a much finer sandstone and the stones here are much flatter with defined angles.  I would imagine that the stone for these walls has been brought in from elsewhere, but probably not too far away.
Option 1: Bring in building stone and remove the old boulders.  This isn’t going to work.  The new stone would cost a fortune to buy on this sort of scale, plus what would you do with the old stone?  This seems like a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
Option 2: Rebuild the wall using the existing gritstone.  Improving the wall isn’t going to be hard as part of it has fallen down and even if it hadn’t, it could do with being straight!  It won’t be perfect, or pretty for that matter, but it will do the job.  Since the wall does have some building material in it, I could sort these stones out and use them to repair some of the walls nearer to the house. 



Not much for two days work – a (very small) wall and a lot of left over boulders


As far as I can see, Option 2 is the only real practical solution.  I could do with getting some advice from someone with a lot more experience than me.  Just in case I am missing something obvious – it is a lot of work for some to then point out that there was an easier solution!

The next step has to be looking at the other field walls and finding a section that is relatively intact.  This will give an idea of the size and proportion of the walls.  I can then see if we can build something that is similar.  Ho hum.

Dry stone walling: Making a start

Written by admin

It would have been easy to have started making minor repairs to some of the walls, but I decided that it would be better (and more rewarding) to completely dismantle a section of all and rebuild it. 

I decided that the best place was one of the walls where I could make some mistakes, well out of sight.  With potentially 150m of wall to be repaired, the task is fairly daunting.  So I thought it would better to strip down and repair a 2m section.  Let’s not strip down 10m, then work out that I can’t really rebuild it! 

All in n a day’s work

A stripped out section of wall and the foundation stones

So today in 4 hours, I managed to strip down a 2m section, dig the foundations and put in the foundation stones.  Tomorrow, I will see if I can rebuild this section of wall up to the coping stones.

I did take a while to mark out the line of the wall (to ensure that my 2m section is in line with the remainder of the wall).  The road pins in the photos are set to be 600mm at the base of the wall and 300mm at the top (set as a metre high).  The top of the road pins are held in place with some home made wooden clamps.

Dry stone walls – Yikes, where do you start?

Written by admin

I spent sometime last weekend taking a closer look at the dry stone walls and their condition.  The good news is that the ones on the roadside are in reasonable shape.  The bad news is that the rest are in various different conditions – most of them not good.  And there is a lot!  Probably 150-200M of wall that needs to be completely rebuilt and maybe another 50M that needs to be repaired.

Dry stone walls in various states of decay

The images above (all from around the property) give some clues about the task at hand. Pretty daunting. It is difficult to know where to start.

I reckon that some of the walls that in better condition date from around the time of the enclosure acts (1845-1880).  However, some of the other walls (e.g. top most left image above) show up on the 1788 map and barely qualify as a wall.  So they are at least another 100 years older. They almost look like a field boundary where the stones have been piled up at the edge of the field as the fields were ploughed.

With a bit of practise (remembering that I have only done a weekend course on dry stone walling), I reckon I might be able to do a metre per day.  With a 150M, that is a lot of days!

Front elevations

Written by admin

Ok, so these are the front elevations – today and in May 1978 before it was converted from three properties into two.  I have included the rear elevations here.

You can quite clearly see where the old front door used to be for number 9 as well as the fact that new windows appear to have been added upstairs (as stated on the old plans).

The old plans were in a bit of a “distressed” state.  To view a larger image, just click on the picture.


Front elevation – today (above) and in 1978 (below)

Rear of the property

Written by admin

Well, we have been struggling to work out what the property used to look like in the past.  And now we know.  At least, what it looked like 34 years ago – in May 1978.  We have the architects drawings when the property was three separate cottages and before they were combined into two. The present owners found the plans when clearing out.

I have scanned in the architects drawings and matched them up with the recent elevations that we had done.  I have combined them in single images so that you can see the differences.  To view a bigger version, just click on the image itself.

Rear elevation: Today (above) and in 1978 (below)

The old drawings show that the ground level at the back of the property used to be just underneath window level at the back. This was reduced when the work was completed. We aren’t show if the conservatory was added at the same time.

Searching for treasure

Written by admin

As men grow old, they face an undeniable urge to go in search of treasure.  Like so many that have gone before me I had to submit to the urge………and bought a metal detector!

Existing elevations

Written by admin

Here are the architect’s drawings of the elevations of the existing property.  I think they have done a great job, but there again I am always a sucker for these sort of engineering drawings!  You can zoom in by clicking on the images.

My hand drawings are elsewhere on the blog, so these just go to show how bad my drawings really are!  I didn’t want to publish any of this material until after we had completed on the purchase – it seemed to be tempting fate otherwise.





Front elevation
Front





Rear elevation
Back





Left hand end
Left hand end





Right hand end
Right hand end

VAT questions

Written by admin
So having read the material on VAT rules, I have a number of questions.  Fortunately, we know a VAT professional and will get some advice (and hopefully) some answers.  I’ll post them here once I have them.  In the meantime, here are the questions:
  1. Given that we are converting two cottages into one, I assume that we are eligible for the reduced rate of VAT (currently 5%).  Is this correct?
  2. We are converting the barn on the end of the property into residential use.  This attracts a VAT rate of 0%.  Is this correct?
  3. When converting the barn, it will be extended.  What rate of VAT applies to this element of the build?
  4. The proposal is to build a triple garage with home office space above.  What level of VAT will this attract?
  5. If different parts of the build (even if completed at the same time), attract different levels of VAT how is this handled?
  6. If we qualify for the reduced rate of VAT, we have to prove this to our build who will then only charge us at the reduced rate.  What form of evidence will satisfy HM revenues and custom?
  7. Certain energy saving technology has a VAT rate of 0%.  How is this handled when dealt with via the main contractor?

Update: You will find the answers here.

VAT on house renovations in the UK

Written by admin

One thing is for sure – VAT is complicated. And VAT on building renovations is one of the more complicated topics.

Two other things we can be sure about: firstly, I am not a tax accountant so make sure you get proper advice (there are a number of specialists around who can help you with this); and secondly, trying to correct the situation after the wrong amount of VAT has been charged, seems to be very difficult.  So it would be wise to get it right from the start.

The standard rate for VAT (or Value Added Tax) in the UK is 20%, so this can add a considerable amount to your renovation.  So it is well worth investing some time in this subject.  Not matter how boring it may seem!

There are exceptions to the standard rate where either a zero rate of VAT is due or a reduced rate (currently 5%).  But this all depends on the time of renovation that you are undertaking.

You can find more information (a lot more information) on the HM Revenue & Customs site here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/sectors/builders/construction.htm.  Once you start looking into the material you will find that the definitive source is “VAT Notice 708: Buildings and Construction”.  But before you get to carried and download it, you should note that it is 120 pages long!

Fortunately, there are some more understandable, and slightly shorter, texts available.  You certainly might still need to dip into the official documentation for reference, but this is not where I would start.  There is a great article in this month’s (Oct 2012) “Homebuilding and Renovation” magazine.  You can access a version of the text online here: http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/existing-homes/renovating/vat

Zero rated VAT
Building a new house attracts 0% VAT.  The VAT is paid on goods and labour as the house is built and then a SINGLE claim is submitted to the Revenue and Customs to reclaim the VAT.

Converting a non-residential building into a dwelling also attracts VAT at 0%.

Reduced rate VAT (5%)
There are a number of categories of construction/renovation that attract a reduced rate of VAT.

  • Renovating or altering an empty house or flat (assuming that it has been unoccupied for ten years or more);
  • Converting a house into flats;
  • Converting a residential building into a different residential units – for example combining two cottages into a single house.

The method of reclaiming the VAT here seems to be different – you provide evidence to the builder that you are eligible for the reduced rate of VAT and then you get charged (for labour and goods) at this reduced rate.  Thus there is no VAT to be reclaimed at the end of the project.  This sounds like a better approach, however, many builders do not seem to be aware of the rules and once the VAT is paid, it is very difficult to get it back.

There are exceptions to these rules, and it is not possible to get a reduced rate of VAT on everything (for example, architects fees attract the standard rate of VAT), so it would be wise to fully understand the rules before you embark on your project.

We had some questions when we looked into the details and the questions are here.