Church Repairs: VAT

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 22nd July 2021.

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Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

What assessment the commissioners have made of the effect of the charging of VAT on church repairs on the affordability of undertaking those repairs.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church believes strongly that it does not make sense to put value added tax on the repair and restoration of listed buildings. While the Church is grateful that the Government have extended the listed places of worship grant scheme to refund this VAT for another year, we cannot continue with these short-term, sticking-plaster measures. We need to put the maintenance of our listed buildings on a sustainable basis.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his response. I am sure he will be aware that, in 2019, Historic England commissioned a report into the economic value of and repairs to a sample of 30 churches and discovered consequential costs of 26% to those projects. Obviously, if VAT is charged, it can be claimed back under the listed places of worship grant scheme, as he said. In two cases in my constituencySt Mary’s church, Warwick, and All Saints parish church in Leamington—that consequential cost could be up to £750,000 for both. Does he agree that we should just be scrapping VAT on these projects?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that when regular maintenance is not done, the final costs are much higher. We have had other one-off grants in the past, such as the roof repair fund, which we have been grateful for but which have not provided a long-term solution. Having left the European Union, the Government have gained new tax freedoms and could use them to permanently reduce or, even better, zero-rate value added tax on the repairs and restoration of listed buildings.