A PRIEST in Warwickshire has begun a David and
Goliath battle with the Treasury over the imposition of insurance
premium tax (IPT) on listed places of worship.
The Revd Christopher Wilson, Priest-in-Charge of All
Saints', Leamington Priors, and Holy Trinity, Leamington Spa, says
that churches in the Warwick and Leamington deanery pay a combined
total of about £6000 per year in IPT. He estimates that a total of
£5 million per year is paid by the Church of England and other
faith communities as a result of IPT.
When it was introduced in 1994, IPT was added to
insurance premiums at a rate of 2.5 per cent. Over the past 20
years, it has risen to six per cent.
Ecclesiastical Insurance, which insures most C of E
churches, could not put a figure on the amount of IPT paid by
churches, but said that the latest estimates from the Association
of British Insurers for the 2010/11 tax year, put the total value
of IPT for the Treasury at £1.6 billion per year.
"Insurance premiums for churches have also risen year
by year, and the result is that churches are paying an amount of
tax which is significant to the Church, but negligible to the
Treasury," he said. "I am of the view that churches and charities
can use the money more effectively, and also that voluntary giving
is encouraged when more of it is spent on the mission of the church
or charity rather than on tax."
Mr Wilson met Treasury officials earlier this month.
He later described the meeting as "positive", saying: "I think I
put forward quite a strong case for consideration. . . We have this
wonderful heritage of church buildings to care for, but, actually,
our primary focus is on individuals and communities; it is for the
sort of needs that we see around us - Street Pastors, foodbanks,
and so on - that people are more willing to give their time and
money to. Anything like Insurance Premium Tax detracts from that by
making us raise money for what you might call overheads.
"Churches are not mapped out according to current
needs and current levels of wealth. We do have inherited buildings
in places that no longer have the wealth to sustain them in the way
that was envisaged when they were built. The maintenance burden,
and the Insurance Premium Tax that goes along with it, is quite an
unfair tax based on historical accident."
A government e-petition, set up by Mr Wilson, calling
for IPT to be removed on listed places of worship, had attracted
338 signatures by the middle of this week.