Find out which disposals of assets from historic houses are within the scope of VAT.
This notice cancels and replaces Notice 701/12 (January 2002).
1. Assets of historic houses
1.1 Information in this notice
This notice explains which disposals (like sales, gifts or reallocations) of assets from historic houses are within the scope of VAT.
1.2 VAT and sales of assets from historic houses
The assets that you sell from a house used as a private residence are not normally business assets and therefore sales of these are outside the scope of VAT. This also applies to house clearance sales.
1.3 Historic houses that charge admission
You’ll be using the house for business purposes if you charge admission. Where you are VAT-registered (see paragraph 1.6) there is a presumption that any assets (like furniture, antiques, works of art) on public display are, for the purposes of VAT, business assets. As such, they will be within the scope of VAT when you dispose of them.
You may, however, choose to treat an asset as a private asset when it is acquired or to take a business asset outside the scope of VAT by reallocating it as a private asset. Further information on this can be found in section 2.
1.4 Assets you freely lend to someone else who charges for admission to their house
The assets are not treated as business assets because you have not used them for business purposes. You do not need to account for VAT on their disposal.
1.5 Charging VAT on all sales of business assets if you’re VAT-registered
If you sell a business asset it is normally liable to VAT at the standard rate. But, your supply is exempt from VAT when the business asset is:
- an antique or work of art
- exempt from capital taxes
You can find further information on exemption in section 3.
1.6 When you need to register for VAT
You’ll need to register only if the turnover from all your taxable business activities reaches the VAT registration threshold.
Exempt income does not count towards the threshold. You do not need to register if you only go over the threshold because of the occasional disposal of a business asset.
2. Business assets and reallocation as private assets
2.1 Treat an asset, used in your business, as a private asset
If you acquire assets for both business and private purposes, such as the furnishings of a historic house in which you live, you can choose to keep them as private assets. If you do this you’ll not be able to deduct any VAT on their acquisition. Where you have treated assets as private assets you need not account for VAT on their disposal.
2.2 Report that you’ve decided to keep an asset as a private asset
You should contact the VAT helpline and provide the relevant information.
2.3 Reallocate a business asset as a private asset
You should show us that you no longer use the asset for any business purpose. This can involve moving it to another part of the house used for private purposes only. You should inform the VAT helpline when you decide to withdraw a business asset from the business and advise them of the details.
2.4 Effects of reallocating a business asset as a private asset
If you were entitled to some deduction of input tax on acquisition of the asset then you’ll need to pay VAT when you reallocate it as a private asset. The taxable amount will be either the amount:
- you would have to pay to buy the goods at the time of their reallocation
- you would have to pay to buy similar goods at the time you reallocate them
- goods would have cost to produce at the time of their reallocation
Where the asset was not chargeable with VAT when acquired (such as an inherited asset) no VAT is due on the reallocation. When a reallocated asset is later sold the sale is of a private asset and, as such, is not liable to VAT.
2.5 What happens if you reallocate business assets that have been incorporated with other goods
This might arise, for example, where you buy a frame for a painting that you have inherited and recover input tax on it. At any time that the painting is reallocated as a private asset VAT will be payable on the frame, based on the value as calculated in paragraph 2.4. VAT is not due on the inherited painting as no VAT had been incurred at the time of its acquisition.
3. Exemption for disposing of business assets
3.1 Disposals that are exempt from VAT
If you dispose of a business asset it’s exempt from VAT if the disposal is either:
- by private treaty sale, or disposed of in a way not involving a sale, to a specified public collection or other body and Estate Duty, Capital Transfer Tax, Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax is not chargeable on the disposal
- for acceptance in lieu of Estate Duty, Capital Transfer Tax or Inheritance Tax
3.2 Definition of a ‘private treaty sale’
This is a privately arranged sale to bodies, such as the UK National Museums and Galleries and the National Art Collections Fund. These bodies are allowed to buy objects by private treaty in accordance with the relevant legislative provisions.
3.3 Definition of ‘acceptance in lieu’
This allows a person who is liable to pay HMRC Inheritance Tax, Capital Transfer Tax or Estate Duty to settle part, or all of the debt, by disposing of a work of art or other object.
3.4 Assets that qualify for the exemption
To qualify for exemption, an object must be of national, scientific, historic or architectural interest. These are often antiques, works of art and so on. You can find further information about the capital tax provisions in the guidance on Capital Taxation and the National Heritage.
3.5 How to support a claim for exemption
You should get a letter from the Capital Taxes Office confirming that the private treaty sale, disposal other than by sale, or acceptance in lieu, is exempt from capital taxes.
3.6 Work out the value of your supply
If you make a private treaty sale, the value of your exempt supply is the amount you actually receive for the object. If you make a disposal other than by sale, the value of your exempt supply will be the amount:
- you would have to pay to buy the goods at the time of their disposal
- you would have to pay to buy similar goods at the time you dispose of them
- goods would have cost to produce at the time of their disposal
If an object is accepted in lieu, the value of your exempt supply is the amount of Estate Duty, Capital Transfer Tax or Inheritance Tax actually satisfied.
4. Input tax on business and private assets
4.1 Deduct VAT incurred on the purchase of a business asset
If you buy goods wholly for your taxable business purposes you will normally be able to deduct the VAT.
If you buy goods partly for business and partly for non-business purposes you may apportion the tax, that will enable you to recover as input tax the proportion of VAT that relates to business use.
If you buy goods partly for business and partly for private purposes you may choose to apportion the tax. Or you may treat all the VAT as input tax but you must then account for VAT as output tax, in each accounting period, on the private use of the goods.
If you buy goods partly for business, partly for non-business and partly for private purposes you may to choose to either apportion the tax so that you only recover as input tax the proportion of VAT that relates to business use. Or you may apportion the tax so that you only recover as input tax the proportion of VAT that relates to business and private use. But you must then account for VAT as output tax, in each accounting period, on the private use of the goods.
4.2 VAT incurred on the purchase of a private asset
If you’re a VAT-registered person who chooses to treat an asset, used for both business and non-business or private purposes, as a private asset you’ll not be able to deduct VAT as input tax when you complete your VAT Return.
4.3 Deduct VAT incurred on the repair or maintenance of a private asset
If you use a private asset for both business and other purposes then you may claim back VAT as input tax on repair or maintenance services. Any claim must be in proportion to the extent the asset is used for business purposes (subject to the normal provisions concerning evidence and partial exemption). You can find further information in VAT guide (VAT Notice 700) and Partial exemption (VAT Notice 706).
The recovery of input tax on such services does not make the future disposal of the asset itself liable to VAT.
4.4 Deduct VAT incurred on selling a business asset
You can deduct, as input tax, VAT charged on costs that you use or intend to use in making taxable supplies. You cannot normally deduct input tax charged on costs that relate to your exempt supplies. If your input tax relates to both taxable and exempt supplies, you can normally deduct only the amount of input tax that relates to your taxable supplies. You can find further information in Partial exemption (VAT Notice 706).
4.5 VAT incurred in selling a private asset
You cannot deduct, as input tax, VAT incurred in selling or otherwise disposing of private assets.
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