Croner Taxwise question of the week covered this
My client purchased a small industrial unit in 2010 on which he was charged VAT. He lodged an option to tax on the building and charged the tenant VAT on the rent. The last tenancy expired in 2014 but he found he could not get a new tenant easily because the unit was built in the early 1970s and businesses looking to rent space were more attracted by newer units with modern facilities. My client decided that to reap real benefit from the investment he would demolish the existing unit and build a new one on the site, which would then command a higher rental figure. He has now done this at a cost of around £100,000 and is ready to market the unit for rental. He is assuming that he will not charge VAT on rents to any new tenant as he has not lodged an option to tax on the new property. Is he able to do this?
Legislation on the option to tax underwent some changes in 2008 and since then it has no longer been possible to opt land and buildings separately. This means that the option to tax made on the unit in 2010 covers not only the original unit, but also the land on which it was built and also to any buildings later constructed on that land if the original building is demolished. Therefore in your client’s case, as he opted to tax the unit, the option is still in force and will apply to his supplies of the new unit, and allow him input tax recovery on the redevelopment.
The corollary is also true that if he had placed an option to tax on the land then that option would apply to any buildings on the land at the time of the option and to any future buildings constructed on the land. However, where the option to tax has been made on land, rather than on a building, it is possible to exclude a new building constructed on the opted land from the option to tax, provided the new building is not within the curtilage of any existing building. Notice 742A explains how this is done in paragraph 2.7.
2.4 What is covered by the option to tax?
2.7.1 In what circumstances can I exclude a new building from the effect of an option?
If you construct a new building on opted land (and that building is not within the curtilage of an existing building – for the meaning of ‘curtilage’, see paragraph 2.4) you may exclude the new building (and land within its curtilage) from the effect of the option to tax by notifying us of the exclusion.
If you decide to do this, the new building will be permanently excluded from the effect of your existing option to tax. But you may, if you wish, make a fresh option to tax in the future, subject to obtaining permission from us if appropriate – see Section 5.
If you choose to exclude a new building from the effect of an option to tax this may affect your entitlement to recover input tax on your costs. See Section 9 for further information about input tax.