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HMRC internal manual

VAT Construction

Alterations and repair or maintenance - case law and agreements: organs: work on existing organs in listed churches

Any work to an organ in isolation (that is work that does not also involve altering the structure of the church in which it is housed), is not an alteration for VAT purposes and so must be standard-rated.

Examples include:

  • work to the casework
  • relocation of the console or other parts
  • adding or removing pipes
  • work to the stops or mechanism
  • substitution of organ parts using modern materials, for example plastic instead of leather
  • restorations
  • rebuilding
  • tuning
  • re-voicing
  • any repair or maintenance work.

However, where work is carried out on an organ and this work does involve an alteration to the fabric of the church in which it is housed, or alternatively if an ‘approved alteration’ is carried out on the fabric of the church and this involves work to an organ, then all of the work to both the organ and the church will be in the course of an ‘approved alteration’. All will be eligible for zero-rating so long as the following conditions are met:

  • the alteration must be approved
  • the alteration must be more than de minimis, that is, it must be more than a slight or insignificant alteration to the church, such as simple screwing or bolting to floors or walls and so on
  • the organ must be a fixture - by this we mean it must be affixed to the building in such a way that it is not easily removable. As a guide, an organ will be a fixture if it is fixed to become part of the building but is still capable of being removed without doing serious damage, but will not be a fixture or a fitting if it is any of the following:

    • mounted on a free standing platform
    • fitted on castors
    • simply plugged in to an electricity socket


    • designed to be moved
  • a qualifying use certificate must be given by the church to the supplier
  • the supply must be made directly to the church rather than to a developer.

An example of what would be accepted as an alteration to the fabric of a church is the setting of a steel or wooden framework into the wall perhaps as part of the first time installation of an organ or as part of the relocation of an existing organ. All of the work would be eligible for zero-rating, subject to the five conditions above.

An example of work that would not be accepted as an alteration would be minor works, such as simply screwing an organ to the floor or the wall. All of the work would have to be standard-rated.

Where work of repair or maintenance is carried out on the church and this involves work to the organ, all of the work must be standard-rated because it is not an ‘approved alteration’.