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Getting listed

23 November 2012

We have some queries about VAT: our church is unlisted; so we are not eligible for the grant scheme. Would it help if we got the church listed? Could we then claim a grant for the works we are now doing in our first phase? Can we get back VAT now, with our unlisted status?

HAVING an unlisted building (church or not), you are under a different category from listed churches whose VAT status did change with this government. It would appear that the rules that applied two years ago still apply to you. That is, certain new works and improvements, but not repairs, may be zero-rated for VAT. This means that your builder should declare that he believes you are zero-rated, and not charge you VAT; you are not able to claim back any you have paid out.

If you were now to get your church listed (make sure you contact English Heritage, as well as the local authority), you would not be able to claim back VAT on any works that happened before your listing took place. In addition, you are not able to claim back VAT on any invoice that is more than 12 months old - and listing is not the quickest of processes.

If your church were to be listed, some of the works you mention, such as asbestos removal, would be eligible under the VAT scheme for listed churches, and you would get at least part of the VAT back. How much you would get back would depend on how many other applications were submitted in that month.

Each application to the scheme, at www.lpwscheme.org.uk, is considered individually, and each application must be for VAT against works valued at £1000 or more. You may need to accumulate invoices, and time smaller works well; so that you meet the various time criteria, as well as the minimum amount.

Since various works - electrical, heating, kitchens and lavatories, decoration, pew repairs, asbestos removal, and security systems - are now all eligible for the scheme, it is worth checking recent maintenance and small works items, as these may help you make up a single application that totals more than £1000.

The guidelines on the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme website are very helpful.

New chairs. I have had several emails about the column I wrote on pews (7 September). To change from pews gradually, as people sponsor chairs, is a tempting thought, but I think that people who love pews will not be "fooled" for very long. I would recommend that a few pews are retained somewhere, so that they are not forgotten, and that you do the pastoral work of helping people to cope with essential change.

Designing cloth book-holders to hang from chair backs sounds workable, but not many people use the ledge on pew backs - more often they use the seat of the pew beside them; so some retraining may be needed.

Pews can be as comfortable as chairs, and, at times, can seat more people, as well as being more familiar. Generally, for worship, taste seems to be the biggest issue. Remember, the pews will seat far more people - who, on occasion, will squash up together - than chairs.

But the real test comes if a church wishes to host a variety of less formal events, from concerts to exhibitions. When varied seating arrangements, or even open space, is needed, then pews are too inflexible.

Issues and questions to maggiedurran @virginmedia.com.



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