by Steve Coleman

If you’d rather not be bothered with the next 7 paragraphs, here’s the speed-read summary.

PCCs definitely CAN reclaim the VAT on bell ropes.

The Background

And I’m repeating that for the umpteenth time because a large number of PCCs believe they can’t. They’ve read the Rules of The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme saying that all materials must be incorporated into the structure by a VAT registered contractor, and they’ve realised that bell ropes generally aren’t because the ringers put them on instead.

Worse, just recently a couple of church treasurers phoned the Scheme operators to check, and were told that bell ropes are not an exception and that I’d got it wrong.

So completely understandably, they wrote me letters severely ticking me off for misleading them.

The Discussions

So I’ve now been in discussion with the senior officers responsible for implementing the Scheme. They’re all very nice and kind people and they genuinely want to help everyone claim everything they’re entitled to. But civil servants get moved from one post to another, and the details of previous agreements aren’t always easy to find; and besides, bell ropes had been specifically excluded from the Scheme from 2010 until 1st October 2013, so the policy could have changed during that time anyway.

So, very helpfully, the lady in charge allowed me to start at the beginning again and go through in detail all the particular reasons why bell ropes, alone, should be treated as a special case – though I won’t bore you by going through all those reasons again here. She and her ministerial colleagues then held detailed and sympathetic discussions between themselves, and decided that, yes, bell ropes are eligible.

But they are absolutely clear that this exception applies only to bell ropes, and the other Rules of the Scheme haven’t altered in any way. Nothing in this decision is a precedent for other expenditure in any way whatsoever.

The Other Rules

And just to recap for the sake of complete clarity, you can reclaim the VAT on bell ropes from The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme as long as:

  1. Your church is a listed building;
  2. It holds regular services;
  3. The PCC pays for the ropes – not the “Tower Fund”.
  4. You claim within 12 months;
  5. Your total claim – including other eligible items possibly – is in respect of at least £500 of pre-VAT expenditure.

There are full details of all this in my article on p.1032 of The Ringing World of 11th October 2013, but if it all makes your head spin and you’d like to chat about it, just email or ring me and I’ll be pleased to help.

Steve is happy to answer all other Ringing and Money questions – do eMail him.

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers