Church repairs to be hit by VAT

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A TOWN clergyman has hit out at “colossal” VAT charges ordered on repairs to churches and listed buildings from later this year.

About 200 listed buildings in Hartlepool and surrounding villages will have to pay 20 per cent VAT on repairs from October this year, as the full extent of the Government’s recent budget is revealed

The Government says it extended a grant available to “places of worship” and will add £5m a year to the budget to cover the increase.

The Rev Chris Collison, of St Hilda’s Church, on the Headland, said the VAT increase would prove “extremely difficult”.

The church is a Grade I listed building and repairs due in the next year are set to cost around £250,000. “It would put us between a rock and a hard place,” said Mr Collison of the position the church would find itself in if the increase does go ahead as planned.

“With those charges we couldn’t afford to start repairs but equally we couldn’t afford not to do it. It would be colossal.”

Mr Collison said 45 per cent of Grade I listed buildings are Anglican churches that rely on the people who worship there for the majority of their funding.

But he said it wouldn’t be fair in the current economic climate to ask residents to dip into their pockets to help cover a VAT increase.

A Treasury spokesman said: “Over time significant anomalies have developed in the VAT system, causing very similar products to be taxed very differently.

“The Government is taking steps to correct these anomalies, including aligning the alterations of listed buildings to align with the existing VAT treatment of repairs.

“The Government has extended the scope of the current listed places of worship grant scheme administered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“Currently listed places of worship, of any faith or denomination, can claim a grant equal to the VAT paid on eligible repairs and maintenance works.

“The scheme will be extended to include approved alterations to listed places of worship.

“DCMS will add £5m a year to the scheme’s budget.”