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VAT reverse charge for construction services March 2021


New VAT rules for the construction sector will come into effect from 1 March 2021.


HMRC will introduce its delayed “Construction Industry reverse VAT charge” which will affect sub-contractors who supply their services to other contractors within the sector.

The measure was due to commence in October 2019 but has been delayed twice due to Brexit and Covid-19 with its aim being to reduce VAT fraud in the construction sector, estimated to cost the Treasury nearly £100m a year. It is estimated that up to 150,000 businesses will be affected by the change.


What is the Change?

Supplies of standard or reduced -rated construction services between UK VAT and CIS registered businesses in the supply chain will not be invoiced in the normal ways. Under the new reverse charge system, the sub-contractor will not charge VAT on their invoice to the contractor for whom they are working. They will not account for output VAT either, although they will identify the rate and amount of VAT due and notify their customer that the VAT must be accounted by them on their VAT return.

The sub – contractor will then be paid only the net value of the work done without the VAT.

The contractor receiving supplies from the subcontractor will be obliged to enter the VAT identified on their sub-contractors’ invoice in box one of their VAT return as well as claiming this back in box four of their return.


Who and What is Affected?

The reverse charge is to be applied when all the following are met:

· The supply for VAT consists of construction services and materials

· The services provided are standard rated or reduced rated

· Supplier and customer are both UK VAT and CIS registered

· The customer will be making an ongoing supply of construction services to another party


However, the CIS reverse charge does not apply for:

· Supplies of VAT exempt or zero-rated services

· Supplies not covered by the CIS

· “End-Users” [1] i.e., a VAT registered customer who is not intending to make further on going supplies of construction.

· “Intermediary Suppliers” [2] who are connected e.g., two companies in the same group.

· Supply of staff or workers [3]


You must use the reverse charge for the following services:

· Constructing, altering, repairing, extending, demolishing or dismantling buildings or structures (whether permanent or not). This includes offshore installation services

· Constructing, altering, repairing, extending, demolishing of any works forming, or planned to form, part of the land. This includes, (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. This includes 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


You cannot use the reverse charge for the following services when they are supplied on their own:

· Drilling for, or extracting oil or natural gas

· Extracting minerals (using underground or surface working) and tunnelling, boring or construction of underground works for this purpose

· Manufacturing building or engineering components or equipment, materials, plant or machinery, or delivering any of these to site

· Manufacturing components for heating, lighting, air-conditioning, ventilation, power supply, drainage, sanitation, water supply or fire protection systems, or delivering any of these to site

· The professional work of architects or surveyors, or of building, engineering, interior or exterior decoration and landscape consultants

· Making, installing, and repairing art works such as sculptures, murals and other items that are purely artistic signwriting and erecting, installing, and repairing signboards and advertisements

· Installing seating, blinds, and shutters

· Installing security systems, including burglar alarms, closed circuit television and public address systems


Certain services can become included:

· If there is a reverse charge element in the supply, then the whole supply will be subject to the domestic reverse charge

· If there has already been a reverse charge service between two parties on a construction site, and if both parties agree, any subsequent construction supplies on that site between the same parties can be treated as reverse charge service

· If there is doubt whether a type of work falls within the definition of a specified service, as long as the recipient is VAT registered and the payments are subject to CIS, the reverse charge should apply

· The contractor is asked to consider all construction contracts with a sub-contractor. If they can see that reverse charge applies to more than 5% of contracts (by volume or value) with that subcontractor, then the reverse charge may be applied to all the contracts.


Key Definitions


1. End Users

The reverse charge is not intended to apply where a contractor works directly for an end user.

End users are consumers and businesses, or groups of businesses, that are VAT and Construction Industry Scheme registered but do not make onward supplies of the building and construction services supplied to them. Namely those who have an interest in the land where the work is being undertaken.

Where the end user is VAT and CIS registered, the reverse charge does not apply to supplies made to them where they notify the contractor in writing that they are an end user.


2. Intermediary Suppliers

Intermediary suppliers are VAT and CIS registered businesses that are in a corporate group with an end user as defined above. If an intermediary supplier buys construction services and re-supplies them to an end user in the same corporate group, they are all treated as if they are an end user and the reverse charge does not apply. They do however need to notify the contractor that they are an end user.


3. Supply of Staff or Workers

Employment businesses are treated differently for the purpose of the reverse charge. Supplies by employment businesses (also known as labour agencies) are not subject to the reverse charge, even if those supplies are within the scope of CIS.

Employment agencies supplying construction workers are, for VAT purposes, treated as supplying staff rather than building and construction services.

How to Prepare?

Guidance on whether the reverse charge applies to you


Using the reverse charge: Suppliers/ Sub Contractors

Suppliers must use the reverse charge from 1 March 2021. This applies if you’re VAT registered in the UK and you supply building and construction industry services and:

• Your customer is registered for VAT in the UK

• Payment for the supply is reported within the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)