Philip Dunne calls on the Government to help occupiers of listed premises in town centres, with freehold or full repairing lease obligations, a VAT exemption on repairs and maintenance of those premises. This is a cost they have to bear but their online competitors do not.
High streets are at the heart of our communities, and they serve a social as well as an economic purpose. To support them, at Budget 2018 I cut business rates for small and medium-sized retail premises operated by independent retailers by a third for two years from April 2019, saving businesses over £1 billion. We have also set up a £675 million future high streets fund.
I very much welcome those measures in last year’s Budget, but for this coming comprehensive spending review, will my right hon. Friend consider offering occupiers of listed premises in town centres with freehold or full repairing lease obligations a VAT exemption on repairs and maintenance of those premises, which is a cost they have to bear but their online competitors and other retailers outside high streets do not?
I have to say to my right hon. Friend that, under EU law, we cannot introduce a reduced rate of VAT that is limited to repairs, maintenance and renovation of listed buildings. In any case, VAT incurred on their properties by VAT-registered businesses may be recoverable from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, subject to the normal VAT recovery rules. However, the good news is that we remain committed to supporting our high streets, and on Saturday we announced a £62 million fund to breathe new life into historic buildings on heritage high streets, which I hope will go some way to helping.