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Further calls for historic building VAT exemption lead to online petition

The government is again being urged to reconsider its position regarding VAT on repairs to historic buildings - this time through an online petition to Downing Street.

The petition, which already has nearly 2,000 signatures, is the latest in a long line of attempts to change the current rules under which repairs to ageing buildings are not VAT-exempt.

It has been claimed that this policy has meant it is often cheaper for developers to knock down and replace deteriorating gems than to refurbish them.

At present the only exemption is the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which allows for tax refunds on repairs to listed religious buildings owned by charitable bodies.

Last year a select committee, charged with looking at how the current tax regime 'worked against [the] conscientious maintenance of historic assets', suggested the worship grant programme should be extended to building preservation trusts and other charities ( Select committee makes fresh demand for VAT exemption on 'historic buildings' ).

However, the committee's calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears. In a letter leaked by Heritage Link, the representative body for a raft of conservation and preservation bodies, Culture Minister David Lammy effectively rules out a broadening of the tax-exemption programme.

It reads: 'The Government believes that listed places of worship justify a special case, because of their contribution to the spiritual life and heritage of their communities, the vital communities services often hosted, and because, uniquely, the costs of repair and maintenance often fall on small congregations.

'As such this scheme was not intended to create a precedent for schemes to cover other types of building.'

The petition can be found at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/NoVAToldBuildngs

by Richard Waite

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