This is a simple and concise guide to understanding VAT on house conversions. Please note that there is different guidance in relation to new builds. Be aware that all projects are unique and some projects will not be eligible for tax reductions – please consult with your architect / quantity surveyor in relation to your specific tax liabilities prior to starting your project.


In summary

The DIY housebuilder scheme allows you to claim a VAT refund on conversion projects. You may be eligible to pay a reduced rate of VAT at 5% on many aspects of your project (instead of the standard rate at 20%) so this could be a huge saving that you don’t want to miss out on!

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VAT house conversion


VAT on conversions

What counts as a ‘house conversion’? under the VAT reclaim scheme?

According to HMRC, a new build eligible for VAT exemption is defined as:


‘A non-residential building that has either never been used for residential purposes or has not been used as such in the last ten years before the work started. The results of your project must be to convert that non-residential building into a dwelling.’*

  • from the VAT431C VAT refunds for DIY housebuilders – Claim form for conversions.


Are there any situations where a house conversion would not qualify?


Yes, your new house will only be eligible for VAT exemption if:

  • It’s for you and/or your family to live or holiday in.
  • You do not intend to sell it on or let it out.
  • It is separate from other buildings and self-contained. If, due to a term in the planning conditions it cannot be used or sold separately, it will not qualify for a VAT refund.
  • It will not be used for business purposes.
  • If you have purchased a completed conversion from a developer or builder you will not be able to claim further work on the property, e.g. a conservatory or new floor finishes.


Is a garage conversion VAT exempt?

For domestic garages you would need to show that it was not used to store motor vehicles for ten years before the work started.


What about other new buildings in the same grounds as our new house?

No, they will not qualify –  with the exception of a garage, providing it is constructed at the same time as the main house and intended to be used at the same time as the house. So, unfortunately, your detached workshop/swimming pool/annexe will not be VAT exempt.


New builds pictured are from architects on Design for Me. Click on the images to see their full profile and invite them for a consultation about your project!




Reclaimin VAT on conversions

Reclaiming the VAT will be undertaken by your builder, not you. Your builder will buy materials at a standard rate of 20% and will apply to reclaim the money later. You will however, make sure you have evidence to make this application, for example, council tax records proving that the property has been empty fore 2 years prior to work starting.


Is my builder required to comply?

You may get some pushback from builders who are not abreast of the rules. Refer them to the website for clarification of the rules, otherwise, find a builder who is prepared to apply the correct rates.


Building materials qualifying for a reduced rate

The reduced rate of VAT only applies for building materials NOT goods, and your builder will need to also reduce their installation costs for these items. Here is a list of what are considered as ‘building materials’:

Building materials subject to reduced rate of VAT include those that are:

  • ‘incorporated’ in the building or its site
    • where its fitting or removal would require the use of tools and would result in the need for remedial work to the building’s fabric or damage to the goods themselves.
  • ‘ordinarily’ incorporated by builders in that type of building.


Does fitted joinery qualify for 5% VAT rate?

Aside from kitchens, fitted furniture (finished or pre-fabricated) is specifically excluded from the definition of building materials above.


Other items excluded from reduced rate VAT

  • Electrical or gas appliances (except those needed for space heating/cooling, heating water, ventilation and other devices listed in 13.6 here)
  • Carpets are excluded. Other forms of flooring or floor covering, such as linoleum, ceramic tiles, parquet and wooden floor systems are considered building materials and benefit from reduced rate VAT.


Architect’s fees?

Professional fees – e.g. architects, surveyors or engineers – do not qualify for VAT exemption. However, you may find that some small practices or sole traders are not VAT registered, which means they would not charge VAT on their fees in the first place.


What will I need to make the application?

I’d strongly recommend reading through the VAT refund claim form at the beginning of the project. This will help you plan for the eventual application. For example, you will need to keep all  the invoices for building materials you are claiming for, and all these invoices will need to show the amount of VAT paid, shown as a separate figure. It’s also much more straightforward if all invoices are in your name, as otherwise you will have to explain why (on the claim form). When submitting the form you will need to provide:

  • planning permission confirmation
  • a completion certificate from Building Control.


When should I make the claim and how long will it take?

You should apply within three months of completing the work and can only claim once. Please note that you will need to provide the Completion Certificate issued by building control.

You’ll usually get the refund within 30 working days of sending the claim.


If you are still unsure about VAT liabilities in relation to your project, a good architect will be able to advise. Here at Design for Me we can match you with the best design pros for your project and arrange initial consultations for free. Use the form below to get started and we’ll be happy to help!

Emily  Design for Me

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