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HMRC internal manual

VAT Land and Property

What is a 'similar establishment' to a hotel, inn, or boarding house?: additional aspects to take into account

The following aspects should also be considered:

  • are the rules imposed consistent with those normally found in an hotel, inn or boarding house? For example, can additional overnight guests be invited into the accommodation free of charge? If so, this is not normally a feature of an hotel, and so on
  • is the accommodation the main place of residence of the occupant rather than temporary accommodation
  • is any form of tenancy agreement entered into, such as that required under the Landlord and Tenants Act? Such a formal agreement would normally be indicative of domestic accommodation. The same applies to formal occupancy agreements
  • how is the building treated for rating purposes? Hotels and the like would normally be classed as commercial buildings
  • are occupants able to bring their own furniture to the establishment or have phone lines, TV aerials and satellite dishes installed? This would not normally be possible in a hotel or similar establishment
  • is the physical appearance of the building consistent with an hotel, inn or boarding house? Does it display a sign indicating the nature of the establishment? Is there any advertising to obtain custom? Care, however, should be taken. Because an establishment has the outward appearance of a boarding house it cannot be automatically assumed to be a ‘similar establishment’. It is always necessary to consider whether any other characteristics are present, and
  • is the establishment in competition with hotels and the like? For example, does it try to attract a similar type of customer?

In cases of doubt relevant agreements should be obtained. For example, in the case of accommodation for homeless people you should obtain the agreement between the provider and the local authority. Where occupancy agreements are used these should also be obtained. Some marketing material can also prove useful.

Many establishments will use annexes as a way of accommodating people at a number of different locations. These should be considered in exactly the same way as above and the fact that they are referred to as annexes will make no material difference.