VAT clarity for DIY housebuilders and converters

The first supply of new dwellings and non-residential buildings converted into dwellings is zero-rated. Such supplies are usually made by businesses but sometimes individuals undertake the work themselves in building their own homes.

To avoid an unfair VAT position in favour of businesses, the DIY refund scheme exists to allow those building new houses to claim back VAT on appropriate materials and those converting non-residential buildings to claim it on materials and conversion services (which would carry 5 per cent VAT).

The different types of claim have often confused claimants. For example, they can misunderstand what is required on the form, whether or not services can be claimed and sometimes claim the wrong rate of VAT, notably where contractors providing conversion services have charged 15 per cent VAT in error instead of 5 per cent.

HMRC has introduced some changes to the scheme with the simple objective of bringing clarity and avoiding unnecessary queries and, thus, delayed refunds.

From 15 August 2009, there are separate forms for new build and conversions. Form 431NB will be for new build claims and Form VAT 431C for conversions. Most of the required information is the same as before, but there is now be a clear distinction between what is required for each type of claim.

Also, the current public notice for the scheme, Notice 719, has been replaced by two separate sets of guidance for each type of claim, again to bring clarity for claimants.

It is hoped that the notorious delays in refunds being paid due to requests for the right sort of supporting evidence or general misunderstanding of how the scheme works on the part of claimants will now be a thing of the past.