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BMF slams EU ruling on insulation VAT

Builders merchants organisation the Builders Merchants Federation has criticised an EU ruling that could raise the rate of VAT levied on the supply and installation of energy-saving materials.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that the United Kingdom contravened the EU VAT Directive in applying a reduced VAT rate to energy-saving materials such as insulation and solar panels.

The ruling affects insulation, central heating & hot water system controls, heat pumps, solar photovoltaic & solar thermal panels, and wind & water turbines. The Court ruled they can no longer enjoy a 5% rate to increase uptake by homeowners and landlords – they must be charged at the standard 20% rate.

For three years, the BMF has repeatedly urged Whitehall to stand firm and defend 5% VAT since the European Commission referred the UK Government to the European Court of Justice in the summer of 2012.

John Newcomb, BMF managing director, said: “BMF members are directly affected by this unwelcome judgement because businesses we represent make and deliver the materials and products involved. I am very disappointed the European Court has overturned the merits of having a reduced rate aimed at encouraging people to improve the thermal performance of their home. UK housing stock is among the least energy-efficient in Europe and this flies in the face of a valid incentive to increase the rate of improvement.

“Losing this case has major repercussions for BMF members. Ministers are compelled to change UK law to enforce the EU Directive. It will scupper energy-efficiency policies like the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation and make home insulation more expensive due to higher VAT”.

Newcomb pointed out that elevating VAT to the standard 20% rate will affect the Golden Rule calculation and cause many Green Deal energy-saving projects to become financially unviable.

Only last week (1 June), the BMF wrote to the Government again to urge ministers to stand firm against Brussels and defend current arrangements. At the General Election, the Conservatives pledged not to raise Income Tax, National Insurance or VAT in the next five years. Losing this legal action means the new Government faces the prospect of having to put VAT up from 5% to 20%.

He concluded: “We wait to see how ministers will interpret and react to this judgement. They may decide that only social housing tenants can benefit from energy-saving improvements using inputs supplied at the 5% rate. If so, it will mean owner-occupiers will end up paying VAT at the higher 20% rate”.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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