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When to apply for VAT refund

01 March 2013

Can you tell me when our church should apply for a grant from the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme for refunds on our VAT?

THERE are several updates on the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme website (www.lpwscheme.org.uk) which relate to the variety of queries that I receive on VAT.

Payments are now being made on a monthly basis; so your church can keep up to date during a building programme. This is a great help in keeping control of the cashflow, when you have paid out reclaimable VAT, but need the money for the next payment to the builder.

The current level of funding in the scheme is high, and churches are receiving 100 per cent of their eligible claims. I hear on the grapevine that a significant amount in the trust is unclaimed. So pull out all your building and maintenance invoices of the past year, and get your claim in quickly. The application form is very straightforward.

As you review past invoices - they are eligible for up to a year after the church paid them - remember that, despite incurring VAT, you cannot claim back fees for the architect and other professionals. You can, however, claim back for works that alter or repair the building.

Changes after October 2012 mean that works to plumbing and electrical installations are eligible, as are works on kitchens and lavatories, per- manent floor-coverings, and handrails. Works that enable disabled access - to a lavatory, for example - should still be zero-rated. Decorative work such as carvings, stonework, and repainting are covered. Work to pews and removal of asbestos are, again, also included. A new addition has been works to security and forensic systems to prevent crime.

Bear in mind that you must send original invoices. They will be returned safely, but send them only after you have paid the invoice, and only if the contractor is VAT registered.

Detailed questions are answered on the website, on topics such as churches' being closed for works, yet complying with the requirement to be open for worship six times in the year. Take a look.

There is a minimum threshold of £1000 on the value of the invoice(s); so you may need to accumulate a few before reaching this figure. There is no limit to the number of applications that your church can make; so, during a large building contract, you may be able to apply each month as you pay the contractor and keep up to date with your bank balance.

If your church has next to nothing in the bank other than the money for the building works, ask your quantity surveyor to help you with a detailed cash-flow projection, so that you can tell whether there will come a time when, still awaiting a VAT grant, you will be unable to pay the builder within the contracted time. In the past, a small diocesan loan has helped some churches: it can be repaid as soon as the VAT grant is received.

Apart from all the information and application material, the website includes a phone number for queries. I have always found the staff extremely helpful.

One question remains: are there churches - perhaps smaller ones - where there is no one with the technical know-how or equipment to deal with stuff that is online? Are dioceses able to help? I suspect that this will be an increasingly common issue with applications to, for example, the Heritage Lottery Fund, where the entire process, and most of the appended material, is online.

Send questions and issues to maggiedurran@vriginmedia.com.

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