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Keep up with your VAT claims

25 July 2014

THE subject of VAT comes around again and again, and this week I am summarising the latest review of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS). I précis from the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance news release. (My comments are in italics.)

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) reported that claims have gone up 25 per cent. Churches are catching on.

The most common reasons for claim rejection were that the Schedule of Works was not sent, and it is required for larger projects so that invoices can be checked against it. This can soon be sent electronically. The Schedule may come from your tender-return documents, or a summary from your quantity surveyor. Applicants have not always not ticked all the declaration boxes - this problem will be solved when applications are online, as the system will not allow people to complete the process unless all boxes are ticked.

Under the system provided by the new provider/administrator of the scheme, TopMark, the DCMS has read-only access to all live information on claims in process. Applicants will be able to leave feedback on the service, which will be visible to the DCMS. This will provide an early warning where processes are causing delays or frustration.

The DCMS confirmed that the plan is to ask TopMark, in a year's time, to develop an online system - once there is confirmation, after the General Election, that the scheme will continue. This scheme is at present quite vulnerable at times of change of government - remember: it was first drastically reduced, then expanded, by the present incumbents.

The Church of England explained that the new simplified Faculty System will be coming into effect from 2016. This will mean that fewer "works" will need faculty. Under the LPWGS, faculty has been used as proof that works - type, and method - have been approved. This change can be dealt with by amending the form so that applicants have to make clear which category their works fall into, and provide the appropriate documentation: List A - minor works that can be implemented without a faculty; List B - routine works that need archdeacons' approval; or List C - works that require consideration and approval under the full faculty process.

The issue of 12-month validity on VAT refunds on professional fees has been raised by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and others, in relation to large projects where the lead-in/development time, when a lot of professional fees are incurred, is longer than 12 months.

An HLF background note is that when fees became eligible again, the fees needed to relate to eligible capital works that are on site; and, as the timeframe for HLF grants means that there is up to a year of development, then up to three months of assessment, and then another month or so perhaps before works start on site, there is a risk that a fair chunk of fee invoices might fall foul of the 12-month rule.

The DCMS, in consultation with others, will draft a paper setting out the issues and possible options which will be discussed by the Review Group. Look at your overall programme, and suggest optimum dates for invoicing the early development works so that the fees are likely to be within that 12-month window.

These points may find their way into the guidelines on the LPWGS website (lpwscheme.org.uk). Keep an eye on the website at regular intervals if you are expecting to claim against a building project, so that you are prepared; past experience will be a help, but is not definitive.

In addition, ensure that you are always up to date with claims when the election gets closer, and also soon after, when a new government may change the rules.

Issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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