VAT relief on church repairs is welcomed
By Rebecca SheppardRELIGIOUS groups have welcomed the Chancellor's announcement of an increase in VAT relief for church building repairs.Gordon Brown said churches and other sacred places would now be able to reclaim VAT at the full amount of 17.
By Rebecca Sheppard
RELIGIOUS groups have welcomed the Chancellor's announcement of an increase in VAT relief for church building repairs.
Gordon Brown said churches and other sacred places would now be able to reclaim VAT at the full amount of 17.5%, up from 12.5%.
A Treasury spokesman said the measure would be in place from now until March 2006 and applied to listed buildings.
He added it was estimated to be worth £10million within the next financial year, cash which had already been set aside.
The Rev John Eley, rector of St Peter and St Paul Church in Kedington – which has had £114,000-worth of repairs carried out – said he welcomed any initiative that helped churches.
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The cost of the work at the Kedington church to the nave roof included VAT and Mr Eley said it was in the process of claiming some of that tax back.
Although he welcomed Mr Brown's initiative, Mr Eley said the future of church buildings was still not guaranteed as the money would have to be found to pay the VAT before it could be reclaimed back.
“The communities do respond and they put the work in and they may not be regular church attendees or of the Christian faith, but they like their buildings,” he added.
“But I cannot see any political party coming forward and paying for the upkeep of the buildings. The church will probably have to make some sacrifices.
“Some of these places will have to close as places of worship and put to other uses, but what do you do with a medieval church in the middle of a village?”
The Rev John Cox, the Archdeacon of Sudbury and chairman of a group in the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese that has been campaigning for the changes in VAT, said: “It is very good news indeed.
“This will apply to churches that are listed, as one or two star, for their architectural value or heritage. Most of our East Anglian churches are listed because they are medieval.”
Mr Cox added the extension of the scheme would be advantageous for many churches in East Anglia, which mainly needed repairs to roofs, stonework and windows, as it would give them more time to plan the work.
Arun Kataria, a Church of England spokesman, said it spent about £130m a year on repairs to its 16,000 buildings, 13,000 of which were listed.
He welcomed the move by the Chancellor and said: “We have for several years raised the case about VAT on repairs to church buildings being anomalous.
“We are very grateful for the relief that has been granted hitherto on repairs to listed buildings which is of enormous help to the church, which is the major owner of listed buildings in England.”
The Committee for Patrimony of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, which deals with issues relating to historic Catholic churches, chapels and other buildings, also welcomed the Chancellor's announcement.
A spokesman said: “In England and Wales alone there are 656 listed Catholic churches and chapels and so the Chancellor's announcement should make a considerable difference, both financially and administratively.”