The Managing Director of a company, Mr Jones, works from home a lot, and is considering having his loft converted into an office to give him more room. The office will contain the usual computers, desks, etc., and be decorated and furnished in line with the proposed use.
The full cost of the building work, decorations and equipment will come to £20,000 plus VAT which the company will pay because it will all be used for business purposes. The VAT on the work and equipment will come to £3,000, and Mr Jones wonders if the company can recover this.
The normal answer is that the company can recover the VAT on the equipment, as they own it, and it is for business use. However, the VAT on the building work and decorations cannot be recovered because, prima facie, it is specifically blocked by the VAT legislation (s.24 (3) and (7), VAT Act 1994). This states “where a company purchases, acquires, or imports goods or services which are used or to be used in connection with the provision of domestic accommodation by the company for a director, those goods or services are not treated as used or to be used for the company’s business, and any input VAT is not recoverable”.
There is a little known (even to HMRC) concession to this rule that allows the recovery of input VAT in certain circumstances. HMRC’s published and internal guidance states “Where a domestic room or rooms is put to business use, you may agree to an apportionment using an objective test to the extent to which the room is put to business use” (HMRC Manual V1-13, Section 14, para 14.7, and VAT Notice 700, Section 33,).
This means that if Mr Jones can show HMRC that he intends to use the loft conversion for entirely business purposes, then the company will be able to recover the VAT on the building work and materials. If he can show that the carpets and decorations are for a business purpose as well, than the company will be able to claim that VAT back too.
The staff dealing with VAT written enquiries are more experienced in this area than normal VAT Officers, and have more time to consider the matter without the pressure to make a quick assessment. If you make a reasonable case, you should have no trouble getting the VAT back.
The same principle used in this article would also apply to extensions, garage conversions, and even using a shed at the bottom of the garden as your office. Provided there is genuine business use, and the purchases and decorations are in line with the proposed use, the VAT should be recoverable by the company.