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Harriet Harman MP, Labour's Shadow Culture Secretary, in a letter to Jeremy Hunt on VAT changes for listed buildings, wrote:
17th April 2012
There is a great deal of concern among places of worships, heritage organisations and arts organisations about the plan to charge VAT on ‘approved alterations’ to listed buildings announced in this year’s Budget.
Listed buildings are our country’s heritage – our past, and our values, built into bricks and mortar. But this is not just about the past: approved alterations are needed to bring many historic buildings up to modern day standards so they can continue to be used by communities for the future. Historic buildings have been at the heart of many successful regeneration projects.
This measure will add 20 per cent to the cost of alterations to churches. The Budget says that the Listed Places of Worship grant scheme, which currently allows some VAT recovery on repairs and maintenance, will be extended to cover approved alterations. But this scheme has already been scaled back in recent years and even at the moment does not allow places of worship to recover all of the VAT spent on repairs.
Other listed buildings will not be eligible for this assistance. For arts organisations in listed buildings, this comes as yet another blow, on top of cutting the Arts Council’s funding by 30 per cent, squeezing local councils who fund local arts organisations, abolishing the Regional Development Agencies that helped arts organisations get funding and capping the tax relief on philanthropic donations.
In light of this, I would be very grateful if you could answer the following questions:
Were you consulted before the Budget about the changes to VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings?
What assessment have you made of the impact of the VAT changes on approved alterations on listed buildings?
Do you support the changes to VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings announced in the Budget?
Will you specify how you intend to extend the Listed Places of Worship grant scheme, and if any extra funding will be available?
What plans do you have to assist listed buildings that are not places of worship in recovering VAT costs charged on approved alterations?
The VAT changes proposed in the Budget threaten the very fabric of our nation’s heritage. With the changes not due to come in until October, there is still time for the Government to reconsider.