UKIP is the first political party to pledge abolishing the punitive
and discriminatory 20% VAT rate on listed buildings repairs introduced
by George Osborne in his 2012 Budget, replacing it with a rate of 5%.
The announcement was made by UKIP Heritage spokesman William Cash:
"None of the parties, other than UKIP, are committed to abolishing the
VAT rate pledge in their manifestos.
"Abolishing the 20% VAT rate is essential for maintaining Britain’s
historic architectural heritage, which is the envy of the world.
"Many buildings, from castles to cottages are crumbling away whilst
the Treasury unfairly rewards developers of new buildings with zero
This 20% VAT discriminates against not only the heritage tourism economy but also those who want to simply improve and repair their homes. Such a VAT measure is essential to ensure the preservation of our built heritage - the envy of the world – and should be a priority.
There are 375,880 listed buildings in England and a further 47,000 in Scotland and 20,592 in Wales. Over 45 % of Grade 1 listed
buildings are churches. Although listed buildings are often perceived as being owned by families with historic houses – often open to the public- the reality is that listed buildings owners come from a very diverse socio-economic groups.
According to the Heritage Alliance, UK’s leading heritage lobby group with 97 members including the National Trust and the Historic Houses Association, 50% of listed property owners in the lowest socio-economic groups C1, C2, D and E. 86 % of listed property owners are in socio-economic groups B–D.
Historic Houses Association president Richard Compton said recently that the backlog of repairs for member houses had risen from £390m in 2009 to £764m in 2013 – an increase of 96% in just four years. “Such figures should 'set alarm bells ringing'”, said Cash.
It is not just the operators of the heritage tourism sector and listed homeowners who will benefit by reducing the VAT rate for listed buildings repair and maintenance to 5%.
The other group are the skilled British builders and other skilled craftsman – plasterers, bricklayers, stone masons, thatchers and carpenters whose traditional skills and businesses have been hard hit by the 20% VAT rate since 2012.
Many small self-employed local builders and architectural and specialist building firms have been forced out of business by larger contractors who rely on less skilled, non-British born workers who will work for a cheaper wage.
UKIP’s pledge to abolish the 20% VAT rate on listed buildings repairs already has the wide support of the heritage, building and tourism industries. Loyd Grossman, chairman of the Heritage Alliance, said: "Why can’t the government grasp the value of heritage and do something positive? Get rid of the VAT regime which slaps a full rate of tax on the repair and maintenance of old buildings but levies zero per cent on new-build and demolition. The current system just doesn’t make any sense".
The current 20% VAT rate charged in the UK on repairs and maintenance is the most onerous VAT rate in Europe for heritage repairs. This compares with much lower rates across Europe: Belgium 6; France: 7%; Germany: 19%; Greece: 18%; Ireland: 12.5%; Italy 10%; Netherlands; 6% Portugal; 6% Spain: 8%; Switzerland; 7.5%.
The UKIP announcement was also welcomed by the Listed Properties Owners Club (LPOC), which has been lobbying political parties to reduce the VAT rate to 5% on works to dwellings in private ownership.
"The current VAT regime, where new building is incentivised over repair, maintenance and alteration of older properties creates a
perverse tax on conservation and maintenance that subsidises demolition and rebuilding" a spokesperson for LPOC said. "We call on all political parties to permanently reduce VAT to 5% on the repairs, maintenance and improvement of listings in private ownership as permitted under EU rules.
"Listed buildings provide accommodation for over 1 million Britons, yet the issue is on the fringes of the political debate. Considering
the importance of listed buildings to people’s livelihood and the large cultural contribution they make. This must change."
"The Coalition’s lack of support for heritage and tourism sector is made apparent by the fact that there is not even a proper Minister of Heritage and the department of Tourism is now relegated to being under the responsibility of the Ministry for ‘Sport and Equalities’" added Mr Cash, who is also UKIP’s prospective parliamentary candidate for North Warwickshire.
"Our planning and tax policies should support – not discriminate against – the rich heritage of our built inheritance and the craftsmen and women who preserve it and those who share its custody with others and for future generations to also enjoy. The planning system should should be a fair balancing act between old and new".