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Is a certificate required to confirm the rate of VAT on residential conversions?

Q: My client has bought a house and is converting it into flats. It looks like this should get 5% on conversion work. The builder is asking for a certificate to support this but none of the examples in Notice 708 seem to cover this scenario...?

A: If the building is being converted from 1 single household dwelling ('SHD') to several SHDs, no certificate is required as the conversion will qualify for reduced-rating based on the design of the completed dwellings and associated planning permissions - see the 1st and 3rd conditions under para 7.1.2 of Notice 708. A certificate is only required if the end result is not a qualifying building based on design and permissions alone, but is reliant on the fact that it will be used by the customer for a "Relevant Residential Purpose" ('RRP') - see 2nd condition para 7.1.2 and para 17.1. VAT rules aside, there is no harm in your client providing a written confirmation that the development meets the reduced-rating criteria if they wish, but this is not a VAT requirement and this alone would not be sufficient for the builder to apply the reduced-rate; the builder would still need copies of planning permissions, plans etc. to show that the work is part of a qualifying conversion.