Alliance Chairman Loyd Grossman’s letter to The Times appears today (1 June), congratulating the Chancellor on coming to the aid of our edible heritage (by reversing the ‘pasty tax’) but highlighting the fact that the future of our world class built heritage is still in jeopardy. The proposed’ heritage tax’, which will levy 20 per cent on the cost of alterations to Listed Buildings, will damage our economic prosperity as well as the national assets that provide us all with inspiration and pleasure.
Referring to the scant evidence produced by HMRC, he calls for the zero rating to be retained for all building types and for all owners.
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I am delighted that the Chancellor has come to the aid of our edible heritage by reconsidering his decision to impose VAT on the Cornish pasty. Perhaps he would now also consider similar measures to secure the future of our built heritage?
The ‘pasty tax’ was an attempt to tidy up the VAT regime and, in principle, the removal of such anomalies is to be welcomed, but taxation policies must deliver long term, net benefits to the public rather than just convenience to the Treasury. The withdrawal of an extremely rare EU concession allowing a zero rate of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings will, I believe, damage this country’s economic prospects as well as our quality of life.
Our heritage is the vital national asset upon which our fast growing, money earning tourism industry is based. Beyond the tourism industry, the three per cent of buildings in this country that are listed are, by definition, a public good which provide all of us with inspiration, pleasure and the context in which enterprise and creativity can flourish.
Owners of listed buildings take on responsibilities on behalf of the nation. All over the country, community groups, private individuals and small charities now face the prospect of a further 20% being added to their costs.
Our Freedom of Information request revealed that a sample of just over 100 cases (out of 29,000 listed building consent decisions in 2010-11) was used to imply that the zero rating is unnecessary for heritage purposes. Nor can HMRC substantiate the claim that this ‘loophole’ is being used to get tax relief on swimming pools and other lifestyle improvements for the super rich.
The Chancellor has already wisely conceded that this proposal would inflict huge damage on historic places of worship. It is clearly in the long term interest of the country to retain the zero rating for all building types and for all owners.
Chairman, The HeritageAlliance