A possible, unwelcome increase in service charges

From 1 November 2018, owners of properties on estates or sites that are obliged to pay service charges to a management company – for example, for the maintenance of common areas, gardens, or the employment of a site warden or caretaker – may be in for an unwelcome surprise.

It would seem that HMRC have applied a concession in the past that allowed the management companies to treat service charges collected on behalf of a landlord as part of an exempt supply for VAT purposes – in other words, when the management company charged a resident, no VAT was added to the fee.

From 1 November 2018, if the right circumstances apply, the management company will need to treat the supply of services as a standard rated supply for VAT purposes. As the current rate of VAT is 20%, residents affected may see an equivalent increase in their charges.

However, if the management company for your property is obliged to charge you VAT, it will also be able to claim back VAT on expenses related to your service charge: this is VAT that in the past was a cost to the management company. It is estimated that a more likely service charge increase due to this change in VAT rules will be between 10% to 15%.

Smaller management companies should not be affected by these changes.

As always, unpicking the various “grey” areas of the VAT regulations will likely prove to be a headache for residents and the management companies affected. If you are reading this short article and have concerns, please call for more information.

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