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HMRC internal manual

VAT Water and Sewerage Services

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Supplies of water: ‘relevant industrial activity’

A “relevant industrial activity” is any activity described in any of Divisions 1 to 5 of the 1980 edition of the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). Generally speaking these activities relate to businesses that operate in the construction, engineering, manufacturing, mining, quarrying, fuel production, power and water industries. Supplies of water to customers whose main business activity is not listed in divisions 1-5 of the 1980 SIC list are zero-rated for VAT purposes.

Water supplied to customers whose predominant business activity is a “relevant industrial activity” are known as “industrial customers”. This is determined on the basis of all of the customer’s business activities at all of its locations and not the actual use of the water at the point of supply. Charges for water supplied to “industrial customers” are subject to VAT at the standard rate. See VWASS2600 for main activity test.

Although new standard industrial classifications were issued in 1992, 2003 and 2007, the legal basis for decisions remains the 1980 classification. Subject to VWASS2600 and VWASS2700 on mixed use, water supplied to a customer for use in connection with a relevant industrial activity is always standard-rated.

The table below gives the 1980 divisions and the 1992, 2003 and 2007 equivalents.

Division 1980 SIC 1992 equivalent 2003 equivalent 2007 equivalent
         
1 Energy and water supply industries C Mining and quarrying C Mining and quarrying B Mining and quarrying
    D Manufacturing D Manufacturing C Manufacturing
    E Electricity, gas and water supply E Electricity, gas and water supply D Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply
2 Extraction of minerals and ores other than fuels; manufacture of metals, mineral products and chemicals C Mining and quarrying C Mining and quarrying B Mining and quarrying
    D Manufacturing D Manufacturing C Manufacturing
3 Metal goods, engineering and vehicles industries D Manufacturing D Manufacturing C Manufacturing
4 Other manufacturing industries D Manufacturing D Manufacturing C Manufacturing
5 Construction F Construction F Construction F Construction