Understanding how to reclaim VAT on many elements of self build and conversion projects can save you many thousands of pounds.

However, large amounts of VAT can be lost because the opportunity to reclaim the tax is overlooked or given low priority during the build.

It is also difficult to rectify errors or mistakes down the line.

Ensuring that you incur the minimum amount of VAT overall on your project is key to its financial success.

VAT Reclaim Rules

The DIY Housebuilders Scheme (Notice VAT431NB for new builds and Notice VAT431C for conversions) allows you to reclaim from HMRC some of the VAT that you have paid out for your project if you are:

  • building a new house
  • converting a building into a new dwelling
  • bringing an existing dwelling that has not been lived in for 10 years back in to use.

To claim, your project must be eligible and lawful, for personal occupation by you or a family member and evidence of completion must be provided.

The VAT reclaimed must be correctly incurred, all relevant VAT invoices must be included and only one claim can be made.

Your claim must also submitted within three months of completion.

You will usually get the refund within 30 working days of sending in the claim.

Consider the VAT implications before starting your self build or conversion project.

How Much VAT Can You Claim on Your Self build?

Many self builders regularly overlook this area. You should ensure that you are charged the correct rate(s) of VAT on all costs associated with your project.

Getting this right is very important, as HMRC will not refund any VAT that has been incorrectly charged.

For new builds, conversions, and renovations that bring a dwelling that has not been lived in for 10 years back into use as a dwelling:

  • The supply of materials only is always at the standard rate of VAT, which is currently 20% (5% on some energy items). You can recover all of the VAT incurred on eligible materials via the scheme.
  • The supply of labour only or the joint supply of labour and materials should be at the zero rate (0%) for new builds and at the reduced rate, currently 5%, for conversions and renovations that bring a dwelling that has not been lived in for 10 years back into use as a dwelling. At the end of the project, the owner can reclaim the 5% VAT on eligible joint supply of labour and materials.

Obtain and keep all relevant invoices to ensure that you can recover all eligible VAT.

Remember, you can recover the eligible VAT on invoices that include both eligible and non-eligible items.

Projects You Can Claim VAT Back On

The type of projects you can claim VAT back under the DIY Housebuilders’ scheme include:

  • New builds. Creating a new dwelling built from scratch, providing it is to be used by you or your relatives as a family home for residential or holiday purposes. Any existing building must be demolished to ground level. Where required by planning consent, an existing façade can be retained
  • Garages for use with the new dwelling and covered by planning permission at the same time
  • Conversions that create a new dwelling. Converting a non-residential building, for example, a barn, old church, business premises, into a new dwelling
  • Renovations that bring a dwelling that has not been lived in for 10 years back into use as a dwelling
  • If the new build or conversion is a holiday home for you and your family’s personal use
  • Landscaping and outside works covered by your planning permission. This may include paving, fencing, turf and shrubs, and so on.

Examples of projects you cannot claim VAT back on include:

  • Extensions and self-contained accommodation (for example, a granny annexe) that do not create an independent dwelling in their own right, unless built at the same time as part of a new dwelling
  • Separate buildings that are part of your planning permission, apart from a garage — for example, a garden store or a detached swimming pool building
  • Refurbishments of existing dwellings (unless empty for 10 years)
  • A new dwelling constructed for any business use, such as a holiday rental or buy to let

Which Materials Can You Claim VAT Back On?

Examples of the materials you can claim VAT back under the DIY Housebuilders’ scheme:

  • All materials normally incorporated in a new dwelling — all construction materials, for example, concrete, blocks, bricks, insulation, sand, cement, plaster, timber, roofing, stairs, windows, guttering, doors, paint, etc
  • Electrical and plumbing materials
  • Fitted furniture such as kitchen units and worktops   
  • Extractor fans
  • Light fittings, wooden floor systems, linoleum, floor tiles, door furniture, fireplaces and fires, fixed towel rails, mirrors, solar panels, boilers, sewage treatment plants, TV aerials, curtain poles
  • Swimming pools and saunas inside or linked to the new dwelling
  • Delivery charge included on an invoice for materials

Examples of materials you cannot claim VAT back on include:

  • Equipment hire, for example, scaffolding, JCB hire (machine only), WC hire, etc
  • Consumables, for example, paint  brushes, hand tools, etc
  • Professional fees, for example, architects’ fees, Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) Calculations, project manager
  • Kitchen appliances, including those integrated, for example hob, oven, dishwasher
  • Bedroom furniture, bathroom furniture, such as vanity units and free-standing units
  • Carpets
  • Delivery costs, when separately invoiced by a courier

Getting Advice on Reclaiming VAT

Many tradespeople and contractors are not experienced in dealing with the VAT rules on new builds and eligible conversions.

They sometimes say: ‘it doesn’t matter now, as you will get the VAT back at the end anyway’.

However, this is not true. Don’t leave it to the contractor.

If you are unsure of any aspect of VAT on your project, engage the services of a professional to help you get it right.

If your project changes in nature during the course of works, for example, from a remodel to a demolition and new build, you must obtain the appropriate paperwork to prove this.

Special Circumstances

  • Renovations to dwellings empty for two years or more are eligible for the reduced rate of VAT of 5% via a VAT-registered contractor.
  • Works involving a net change in the number of dwelling units are also eligible for the reduced rate of VAT of 5%. Examples include converting two cottages into one house or reverting three flats back into a house.
  • Some adaptations work to alter a house for someone who is disabled is zero rated for VAT.
 These reduced VAT rates are only available via VAT-registered contractors and not under the DIY Housebuilders Scheme.

Valid VAT Invoices

Ensure you retain all valid VAT invoices, as the originals must be submitted to HMRC with your claim.

Electronic payment receipts and emails confirming orders are not valid VAT invoices and so any VAT paid is potentially lost.

Invoices should include:

  • the supplier name
  • their VAT number
  • the invoice date
  • a description of the goods supplied (and services if applicable)
  • the value of the invoice.

If one of your tradespeople/contractors uses their trade account to source your materials and so is in their name, ensure that you pay the supplier direct and keep the evidence, as it will be required.

The VAT incurred on invoices from VAT-registered suppliers in the EU can be claimed too, as long as the invoice includes the relevant information (including their VAT number).

Many purchases are made online these days, so ensure that you obtain a valid VAT invoice when buying, as this may prove difficult to obtain at a later date.

VAT Reclaim Summary

  • Ensure your project is eligible
  • Ensure that you are charged the correct rates of VAT throughout your project
  • Don’t ask a non-VAT registered contractor to supply materials, as you won’t be able to reclaim VAT on those materials
  • Obtain a valid invoice for all of the eligible materials that you purchase
  • Keep all of your relevant invoices together
  • Ensure your claim is made within three months of completion
  • Engage the services of a professional to ensure you recover the maximum VAT

Andrew McDonald (MAAT FCCA) is a qualified accountant who has built his own house.

He prepares and submits VAT claims for domestic clients and assists clients who require VAT advice throughout their project.

He also deals with HMRC reviews and appeals, and tribunal cases following rejected VAT claims.

Our Sponsors