Converting a property? Convert the VAT rate to 5% to make huge savings

The 5% reduced rate of VAT is available for a wide range of residential conversion and renovation projects, but it is often overlooked. Applying 5% rather than 20% VAT can dramatically reduce the construction budget.

The conversion of a non-residential building into a house or flats will usually qualify for the 5% VAT rate. For example, if an office building is converted into a house at a cost of £500,000, the VAT charged would be just £25,000 rather than £100,000.

The 5% rate also applies to conversions that change the number of dwellings, for example, converting flats into one house, or a single property into multiple apartments. Furthermore, if a residential building has been empty for two or more years, the 5% is also available for most renovation and alteration works.

The 5% VAT relief has been around for many years, but is still not widely known about. Contractors may be reluctant to apply 5% VAT in case it is challenged by the VAT inspector. However, contractors familiar with this valuable VAT relief often use it to gain a competitive advantage when tendering for new work. So it offers benefits for suppliers and consumers alike. Our team of VAT specialists advises contractors, developers and their customers on how to correctly apply the VAT rules.

Not only does the reduced rate cover a wide range of residential construction services, it also covers most building materials supplied by the contractor. In contrast, if customers source materials themselves, they will pay the 20% VAT rate. If the contractor sources them, 5% VAT will apply in most cases. The services of architects and other professionals could also benefit from the reduced rate, if supplied as part of a design and build contract.

Do-it-yourself builders also have VAT advantages that should not be overlooked. The VAT DIY scheme puts them in broadly the same position as a developer, as long as they are building a new home or converting a non-residential building into a dwelling. It means they can recover much of the VAT they incur on construction and conversion costs. The timing of these claims is crucial, as claims must be submitted within three months of completion. HMRC also scrutinise claims very carefully, so providing the correct evidence to support the claim, and knowing what VAT to include, is vital.

Whether you are a contractor, developer or a DIY builder, we will be happy to advise on how you can benefit from the valuable VAT reliefs that are available for residential construction projects. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss further.

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David Baldwin


We are in the process of converting a large garage and garden store into a two bedroom house. It was built five in 2014 and has been used during the intervening period. We have been charged 5% for new utility connections, but have paid the full 20% VAT for conversion and all the materials e.g. kitchen, windows.

I have assumed we cannot reduce the VAT rate for the conversion and materials to 5% as it has been occupied in the last ten years and is part of the overall property which we own.

Would be interested to know if this correct and if not, how I can go about claiming the VAT back for the difference.

Mobile - 07742 100417

Kind Regards
David Baldwin

Andy Hancock

Hello Richard. If you would like to find out if we can assist you with this project please call me on my office number – 01733 397300 – Andy Hancock

richard croasdale

I am converting the unused cellar of our house, which we have lived in for 3 years, into a self contained flat. I am doing the bulk of the work, so in this case I am acting as a DIY builder. Will I be able to claim back VAT at 5%? Thank you.