Relief as church VAT changes scrapped for a year

St Mary the Virgin, Burgh St Peter.Ziggurat tower.Picture: James Bass

St Mary the Virgin, church, Burgh St Peter. - Credit: James Bass

An extension to a VAT tax “concession” until March 2022 has been warmly welcomed by Norfolk Churches Trust.

There have been growing fears that the 20-year VAT relief under the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme would end on March 31.

But on Wednesday, Nigel Huddleston MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the department of Culture, Media and Sport, revealed in Parliament that it would continue on the same terms.

Peter Sheppard, chairman of the Norfolk Churches Trust, said that the one-year extension was welcome news.

“This is great news for churches and I know that those facing major repairs will be relieved,” he said.

The Round Tower Churches Society has also voiced concern because it would have added to the cost of repairs and conservation.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who will present his Budget on March 3, had been asked to extend the VAT relief.

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The Norfolk Churches Trust had contacted Norfolk MPs in December seeking support for the scheme to continue. It had been started by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2001.

General The Lord Dannatt will officially open the Northgate High School and Dereham Sixth Form Commu

General the Lord Dannatt, president of the Norfolk Churches Trust. - Credit: Bill Smith

Lord Dannatt, who is the trust’s chairman, also said: “This VAT relief has helped to maintain our precious heritage of churches and for future generations to appreciate.

"I would urge the Chancellor to help parishes maintain churches and our national heritage."

Michael Sayer, chairman of the NCT’s grants’ committee, said that it should now enable some major church repair schemes to go ahead.

“I think it is fair to say that we would really appreciate more long-term certainty about the scheme but the one-year extension is welcome,” he said.

The LPW grant scheme, which is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, was worth about £42m in 2020.

The Trust, which gave £102,000 towards repairs of 36 places of worship in 2020, helped 41 churches in 2019 with £171,825 of grants.

Mr Sayer, added: “Repairing the tower of St Mary’s, North Tuddenham, will cost about £461,000. Adding 20pc VAT would add £76,000.”

The NCT has identified 47 churches on its “anxiety” list, which includes about 15 Norfolk churches on Heritage England’s official “at risk” register.

It calculates the total repair cost at around £12m – and loss of VAT relief would add £2.4m.

Since 1976, when it was founded, it has raised more than £6.5m to safeguard religious buildings of all denominations across the county.

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