Section 18B of the Value-Added Tax Act[1] was introduced effective 10 January 2012 in a bid to grant relief for residential property developers caused by the slump in the property market at that time. Many property developers, registered for VAT, would develop residential properties with a view to dispose of these properties in the short-term as trading stock and as part of its VAT enterprise. However, following the global financial crisis of little less than a decade ago, many property developers found themselves in a position where they were increasingly forced to rent out residential properties once a development was completed due to the slower rate at which properties could be disposed of compared to earlier.

The letting of residential property is typically exempt from VAT. Due to a change in use of the properties therefore (albeit temporarily) from being held for sale as trading stock to now being put up to be let in the interim while being on market constituted a change in use of the properties. Due to the change in use of the properties, from being used to make taxable VAT supplies in the ordinary course of business and being sold as trading stock by the developer, to now being used to make VAT exempt supplies in the form of being used to generate residential rental income, the provisions of section 18(1) of the VAT Act would ordinarily have applied. In terms of section 18(1), where goods have been acquired previously for purposes of making VATable supplies, and these goods are subsequently used to make exempt supplies, the VAT vendor must be deemed to have disposed of all those assets for VAT purposes. In other words, even though no actual disposal of assets has taken place, such a disposal is deemed to take place for VAT purposes and which gives rise to output VAT having to be accounted and paid for by the developer based on the open market value of the property at that stage.[2]

As one could quite easily imagine, having to account for output VAT in these circumstances may be prohibitive, especially considering that the value of a property will likely have been enhanced due to the development and that VAT inputs thus far claimed by the developer would be overshadowed by the output VAT amount that is now required to be claimed.

It is in acknowledgement hereof that section 18B was introduced to the VAT Act in 2012. In terms of that provision, property developers were granted a 36-month grace period within which to sell properties, and during which time these residential properties could be rented out without a deemed supply being triggered for VAT purposes.

When introduced originally, it was made clear at that stage that the relief for temporary letting as explained above will only be in effect until 1 January 2018. However, it is arguable that the property market has not recovered sufficiently yet for the relief to be withdrawn at this stage.

[1] 89 of 1991

[2] Section 10(7) of the VAT Act

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)