Building alterations [items 8 to 13]: background and scope of the law
The Group 12 construction reliefs were introduced in 1984 when alterations, extensions and home improvements became standard-rated. Initially the only clear cut case for relief was where a disabled person needed a downstairs bathroom or lavatory in his or her private residence where none already existed, or where doors needed widening or ramps constructed to facilitate the use of wheelchairs. The relief for bathroom and lavatories was subsequently extended to cover charity-run residential homes catering for disabled persons.
VAT law focused upon bathrooms, washrooms and toilets because it was considered that disabled people were most likely to encounter difficulties accessing personal hygiene and sanitation facilities. Relief was also given to certain work designed to facilitate access, namely the construction of ramps, widening of doorways and passages.
The current reliefs are capable of clear definition, but it would be very difficult to justify a borderline which, for example, distinguished between bedrooms and living rooms; and in practice it would be pointless to try and do so, since the use to which the room was put could be easily be changed.