What is a Specified Construction Activity?

VAT reverse charge started on 1st March 2021 if you buy or sell building and construction services, but what are construction services?

The CIS rules for reverse charge were set out in statutory notice 2019/892 (The Value Added Tax (Section 55A) (Specified Services and Excepted Supplies) Order 2019)

Specified services

4.  The services referred to in article 3(1) are construction services as defined in articles 5 to 7 together with any goods supplied with those services which fall to be treated as part of a single supply of services.

5.  “Construction services” comprise—

(a)construction, alteration, repair, extension, demolition or dismantling of buildings or structures (whether permanent or not), including offshore installations;

(b)construction, alteration, repair, extension or demolition of any works forming, or to form, part of the land, including (in particular) walls, roadworks, power-lines, electronic communications apparatus, aircraft runways, docks and harbours, railways, inland waterways, pipe-lines, reservoirs, water-mains, wells, sewers, industrial plant and installations for purposes of land drainage, coast protection or defence;

(c)installation in any building or structure of systems of heating, lighting, air-conditioning, ventilation, power supply, drainage, sanitation, water supply or fire protection;

(d)internal cleaning of buildings and structures, so far as carried out in the course of their construction, alteration, repair, extension or restoration;

(e)painting or decorating the internal or external surfaces of any building or structure;

(f)services which form an integral part of, or are preparatory to, or are for rendering complete, the services described in paragraphs (a) to (e), including site clearance, earth-moving, excavation, tunnelling and boring, laying of foundations, erection of scaffolding, site restoration, landscaping and the provision of roadways and other access works.

6.  “Construction services” do not include

(a)drilling for, or extraction of, oil or natural gas;

(b)extraction (whether by underground or surface working) of minerals and tunnelling or boring, or construction of underground works, for this purpose;

(c)manufacture of building or engineering components or equipment, materials, plant or machinery, or delivery of any of these things to site;

(d)manufacture of components for systems of heating, lighting, air-conditioning, ventilation, power supply, drainage, sanitation, water supply or fire protection, or delivery of any of these things to site;

(e)the professional work of architects or surveyors, or of consultants in building, engineering, interior or exterior decoration or in the laying-out of landscape;

(f)the making, installation and repair of artistic works, being sculptures, murals and other works which are wholly artistic in nature;

(g)signwriting and erecting, installing and repairing signboards and advertisements;

(h)the installation of seating, blinds and shutters;

(i)the installation of security systems, including burglar alarms, closed circuit television and public address systems.

But the more detailed definitions are in Construction Industry Scheme: CIS 340 Appendix A, B, C

Under the new Construction Industry Domestic Reverse Charge identifying whether the activity is a construction activity is the first test you need to apply.

VAT Reverse Charge has a wider scope than CIS in that it covers Mixed Supplies, these are supplied where part of the supply is a construction activity and part is not but the whole contract is treated as within VAT Reverse Charge.

Services with reverse charge and normal VAT charging

Supplies where the reverse charge element is a minor part

Normally if any of the services in a supply are subject to the reverse charge, all other services supplied will also be subject to it. However, if the reverse charge part of the supply is 5% or less of the value of the whole supply this can be disregarded (this is referred to the ‘5% disregard’) and normal VAT rules will apply if the customer makes an end user or intermediary supplier notification.

Supply and fix works will be subject to the reverse charge because the services and goods are part of one supply for VAT purposes. For example, a joiner constructing a staircase offsite then installing it onsite, will be making a reverse charge service even if the charge for installation is only a small (subject to the 5% disregard) element of the overall charge.

In addition, if 2 parties have already had a reverse charge service between them on a construction site, for convenience they can both agree that any subsequent construction supplies on that site can be treated as reverse charge services.


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