Construction sector VAT – Domestic Reverse Charge Recap

After several delays, the Domestic Reverse Charge for construction services (the DRC) finally came into force on 1 March 2021.

We seem to have been talking about preparing for the DRC for some time https://chw-accounting.co.uk/news-and-blog/vat-reverse-charge/. However, here is a re-cap of the DRC for construction businesses and if you are encountering any issues with the new rules please do get in touch.

Background to the DRC

The aim of the DRC is to combat missing trader fraud in the construction sector.

Its introduction has brought a significant shift in the way VAT is brought to account in construction industry supply chains.

In many cases it results in the customer, rather than the supplier, being required to account for the VAT due on supplies they receive.

Which services does it apply to?

The DRC applies to supplies of ‘specified services’ between VAT registered businesses where the recipient makes an onward supply of those specified services. Specified services are generally services that are defined as construction operations for the purpose of the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

The DRC applies to a broad section of businesses involved in property development, even those who may not typically consider themselves to be construction companies. Among those included are construction, alteration, repair, extension, painting and decorating, plus the demolition of buildings, civil engineering and the installation of heating, lighting and air-conditioning.

Some services do not fall within the scope of the DRC however, where there is a reverse charge element in a supply then the whole supply may be subject to the DRC.

The DRC applies to specified services unless:

  • The services are supplied to an end user, such as the property owner, or directly to a main contractor that sells or lets a newly completed building
  • The recipient makes onward supplies of those construction services to a connected company
  • The recipient is not VAT registered, or required to be VAT registered
  • The recipient is not registered for the CIS
  • The supplier and recipient are landlord and tenant or vice versa, or
  • The supplies are zero-rated.

Who is an end user?

An end user is a person who receives the specified services for any purpose other than making an onward supply of those services. The customer must state if it is an end user. Where the customer has not provided this confirmation either in writing, an email, or in the contract, HMRC’s guidance is that the supply comes within the scope of the DRC and no VAT is charged.

On occasions it is clear to the contractor that its customer is an end user and should be charged VAT, but the customer has not given confirmation.  In these instances HMRC’s guidance says that it is acceptable to charge VAT in the normal way. In addition to confirming if your customer is an end user you should also require them to confirm their VAT and CIS status and provide their VAT number. We would recommend that this is confirmed in the contract before any invoices are raised.

What about building materials?

Where goods and building materials are provided together with construction services in the course of the construction work then the DRC also applies to these goods. There are cases where it is difficult to determine if there is a separate supply of goods that is excluded from the reverse charge, or whether they are to be included as part of a single supply of construction services.  In these cases, a business needs to consider the position further to ensure the correct VAT treatment.

What is required on invoices for supply of these services?

Invoices for services subject to the DRC must include all the information required on a normal VAT invoice and they must make it clear that the DRC applies and that the customer is required to account for the VAT. HMRC suggests the following wording:

  • “Reverse charge: VAT Act 1994 Section 55A applies”
  • “Reverse charge: S55 VATA 94 applies”
  • “Reverse charge: Customer to pay VAT to HMRC”.

If a customer issues authenticated tax receipts or self-billing invoices HMRC’s recommended wording is:

  • “Reverse charge: we will account for and pay the output tax due to HMRC”; or
  • “Reverse charge: as the UK Customer we will pay the VAT due to HMRC”.

The new rules seem simple in concept but can be complex in the detail, and construction businesses must get it correct to avoid creating unnecessary VAT costs.

If you need our help, get in touch at hello@chw-accounting.co.uk


This article is for general guidance only. It provides an outline, and may not include points which are important to your situation. You should not depend on this blog without taking advice based on the full facts of your case. The information given was correct at the time of publication.

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