The rules are in the VAT Notice 708 and in section 17.1 it states
There’s no requirement to hold a certificate for zero-rated or reduced-rated supplies in connection with buildings that will be used as one of the types of dwelling described at paragraphs 14.2 to 14.5.
Zero Rating – an example would be building a new house
Reduced Rating – this applies to converting a non-residential building to a dwelling or multiple dwellings
If your builder needs further details just point them at VAT Notice 708.
Don’t accept invoices which have the wrong VAT rate on them, even if you can claim the VAT back because HMRC will only accept the recovery of VAT when its charged at the correct rate
When do you need a Certificate?
You need to hold, within your business records, a valid certificate when you make any zero-rated:
- or reduced-rated supply in connection with a building that will be used solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’ – see paragraph 14.6
- supply in connection with a building that will be used solely for a ‘relevant charitable purpose’ – see paragraph 14.7
Possession of a valid certificate does not mean that you can automatically zero rate or reduce rate your charge. The certificate merely confirms that the building is intended to be used solely for a qualifying purpose. You must meet all of the conditions explained in the relevant sections of notice 708 to zero rate or reduce rate your supply.
The customer for the zero-rated or reduced-rated work issues the certificate. The certificates at section 18 of VAT Notice 708 can be used, or the issuer can create their own certificate provided it contains the same information and declaration.
The 2 available certificates confirm that you’re either eligible to receive:
- zero-rated or reduced-rated building work (the certificate can be found at paragraph 18.1)
- a zero-rated sale or long lease (the certificate can be found at paragraph 18.2)
What if you get it wrong?
If you issue an incorrect certificate, you may be liable to a penalty equivalent to the amount of VAT not charged. A penalty is not VAT and, if you’re registered for VAT, you will not be able to recover it as input tax.
A penalty will not be issued, or will be withdrawn, if you can demonstrate that there’s a reasonable excuse for issuing the incorrect certificate.
What if the use changes?
If you have obtained zero rating for the construction or acquisition of a building (or part of a building) because you certified that it would be used solely for a ‘relevant residential purpose’ or a ‘relevant charitable purpose’, HMRC expect that the building will be used solely for either or both of those qualifying purposes for a period of, at least, 10 years following completion of the building.
If the building ceases to used solely for either or both of those qualifying purposes within that 10-year period, if that use decreases or if the building is disposed of, a taxable charge comes about, on which you must account for VAT.
What about Materials?
Retailers and builders merchants charge VAT at the standard rate on most items they sell.
Builders charge VAT on ‘building materials’ that they supply and incorporate in a building (or its site) at the same rate as for their work. Therefore, if their work is zero-rated or reduced-rated, then so are the ‘building materials’. But some items are not ‘building materials’ and remain standard-rated.