Other local authority activities: miscellaneous (N to Z): property searches
Local authorities have a legal obligation to provide certain information to people considering selling or purchasing property, or to their agents. This can be done by either allowing them to inspect the authority’s records, or by copying the information and sending it to them.
Allowing access to the records held by a local authority is regarded as a non-business activity, even where a fee is charged, and it is outside the scope of VAT. The activity is governed by a special legal regime, and it is not done in competition with the private sector. This also includes situations where the local authority simply sends a copy of information it holds to an enquirer.
The request form for this service is LLC1.
A distinction is made between providing copies of information held and using the information in order to answer questions asked of a local authority (often by conveyancing solicitors through an electronic hub). This is not governed by a special legal regime, and where – as is normal - the service is supplied for consideration, it is regarded as a business activity by the local authority which is standard rated.
The request form for this service is CON29.
The VAT treatment of the CON29 service had been under review and discussion before a final decision was reached. Following that and other than in exceptional cases where a short extension of time was allowed by HMRC Public Bodies Group, the CON29 service became liable to the standard rate of VAT from 1 January 2017.