New VAT rules for building contractors and sub-contractors came into effect on 1 March 2021. The new rules make the supply of most construction services between construction or building businesses subject to the domestic reverse charge. The reverse charge only applies to supplies of specified construction services to other businesses in the construction sector.

HMRC’s guidance states that you must use the reverse charge for the following services:

  • constructing, altering, repairing, extending, demolishing or dismantling buildings or structures (whether permanent or not), including offshore installation services
  • constructing, altering, repairing, extending, demolishing of any works forming, or planned to form, part of the land, including (in particular) walls, roadworks, power lines, electronic communications equipment, aircraft runways, railways, inland waterways, docks and harbours, pipelines, reservoirs, water mains, wells, sewers, industrial plant and installations for purposes of land drainage, coast protection or defence
  • installing heating, lighting, air-conditioning, ventilation, power supply, drainage, sanitation, water supply or fire protection systems in any building or structure
  • internal cleaning of buildings and structures, so far as carried out in the course of their construction, alteration, repair, extension or restoration
  • painting or decorating the inside or the external surfaces of any building or structure
  • services which form an integral part of, or are part of the preparation or completion of the services described above – 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

This means that for these specified supplies, sub-contractors no longer add VAT to their supplies to most building customers, instead, the contractors are obliged to pay the deemed output VAT on behalf of their registered sub-contractor suppliers. This is known as the Domestic Reverse Charge. On the same VAT return, contractors can claim back the deemed input tax on the supply subject to the usual rules.

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