‘Castles tax’ criticised by heritage groups

Conservationist and heritage groups have combined to oppose measures outlined by Chancellor George Osborne to remove VAT relief on changes to properties which are protected under the listed building status. Properties which have been renovated but would be taxed under the proposals include Aberdeen’s 19th-century Marischal College buildingKelburn Castle in North Ayrshire, and Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool.
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Under new plans, 20% VAT will be charged on alterations to a listed building, which will leave conversions of old and culturally valuable buildings requiring a far bigger outlay than in the past.

The National Trust for Scotland says the removal of tax relief outlined in the last Budget is ill-thought out and comparable to the fiasco over the much-derided “pasty tax”. The Scottish Government has joined widespread criticism of the proposal with Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop claiming the tax will have economic consequences for the building trade.

Archaeology Scotland, the Architectural Heritage Society for Scotland, the Institute for Archaeologists, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust have united in criticism of these changes . Cliff Hague, chairman of the Built Environment Forum Scotland lobby group, said many smaller-scale projects could be hit hard. He added: “The current fiscal arrangements incentivise sympathetic alteration of these buildings to enable their long-term survival through continued use.

“This Budget proposal will impact most significantly on small charities and private individuals involved in taking on these buildings, not only for themselves but for the benefit of everyone, now and in the future.

“The financial viability of these special and often complex projects means that the current VAT relief can make the difference between a project stacking up or not.”

Under the current scheme, VAT is charged on repairs and maintenance to listed properties but not on alterations, such as installing new window

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