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
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
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
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