Heritage Funding Directory

VAT 2012: campaign toolkit

The Heritage Alliance is calling on Government to reverse completely the surprise Budget 2012 decision to withdraw VAT relief on approved alterations to listed buildings.

The issue:

This unexpected announcement came as a shock to the heritage sector, which is now grappling with the devastating implications of this change for our irreplaceable protected buildings.

Due to come into force on 1 October 2012, this measure would add 20 per cent to the cost of alterations approved under listed building consent. This change could have a devastating impact on the future of listed community buildings, village halls, community spaces and places of worship across the UK, as it raises significantly the fundraising targets for communities working to give them a new lease of life for the 21st century through alterations such as adding toilet facilities, disabled access or kitchenettes. Where heritage buildings are the catalyst for wider regeneration, the adverse effects will be felt even more widely.

How you can support the campaign:

Members of The Heritage Alliance and anyone at all who’s concerned about the impact of this proposal on our unique historic environment can support the campaign in three easy steps:

Step 1: Write to your MP

Writing your own letter, however brief, is much more powerful than sending in a template letter. For help with the content of your letter see our concerns listed below and here, look at our Chairman’s letter to the Chancellor, or email us for advice: mail@theheritagealliance.org.uk

If in your letter you’re able to reference projects in your local constituency area which you believe would be affected by this VAT change please do so, as case studies will really aid the campaign.

Get started: click here to find your local MP’s contact details. Explain your concerns in your own words and be clear what you are asking for. Include your full contact details so that your MP knows you are their constituent and can contact you with a reply.

Step 2: Sign the e-petition

You can also support the campaign by signing the e-petition entitled ‘Save our heritage: say no to VAT on work on listed buildings’ here. This e-petition was initiated by Wakefield Cathedral, but the reversal it calls for applies to all listed buildings.

Step 3: Respond to the consultation, challenging the principle instead of commenting on the implementation

If you feel able please respond to the consultation, which is open until 4 May, here and do copy your response to us for information. Numbers count!

Do note that the formal questions refer only to implementation, whereas we are calling into question the very principle in order to challenge the rationale for this change.

The Heritage Alliance will also be responding, and we will post our full submission on this page shortly.

Our concerns:

1. Viability

The withdrawal of this VAT concession will act as a sharp disincentive to just the sort of sympathetic adaptation of historic buildings that is so often necessary to secure a viable use for these buildings for the future.

As direct public funding for heritage declines, it is all the more important for Government to promote – not remove – any leverage that encourages the charitable and private sector to take on responsibility for our heritage. This measure will have severe consequences for our listed buildings where the financial viability is often marginal

2. Sustainable development

This proposal runs counter to the Government’s policies on re-use of materials to minimise greenhouse gas emissions. There is much evidence that re-using existing buildings is much more positive for the environment than new construction, but instead of putting right an anomaly this measure exacerbates the differential

Making the best use of existing resources avoids the loss of embodied energy, prevents landfill associated with demolition and waste and avoids the high levels of carbon emissions and energy involved in new development.

3. Economic context

Our listed buildings (some 400,000 in England) are the heart of our outstanding national heritage, the backbone of our tourism industry and essential to many working in the creative industries – two of the sectors acknowledged by Government to be fastest-growing. Our heritage is one of the drivers for economic recovery, not a brake on it[1]

We believe the withdrawal will have a hugely negative effect on our heritage. HMRC says the consultation is intended to ‘address some of the loopholes and anomalies in our VAT system’, but this is a rare fiscal incentive to help our historic environment earn its own keep. This anomaly remains firmly in place, creating a disincentive to invest in historic buildings and promote sustainable development.

Distinctive historic buildings are often the centrepiece of regeneration schemes, which generate income for HMRC in different forms.

The measure threatens to undermine the positive initiatives in the Penfold Review and the newly published National Planning Policy Framework to encourage the economic use of historic buildings and to realise the potential of these buildings to support economic growth.

What we’ve been doing:

The Alliance has been busy writing to Ministers and officials, briefing MPs and liaising with a wide range of colleagues across the heritage, voluntary and construction sectors. We’re also working on our full response to the consultation, and planning our communications around this issue. You can keep up-to-date with our work on Listed Building VAT via Twitter: @Heritage_NGOs and #LBVAT, via our fortnightly e-bulletin Heritage Update, or on this webpage. To get in touch with the team, email mail@theheritagealliance.org.uk