The law on whether VAT must be charged on storage facilities changed from 1 October 2012. Before that date if you let out space for storage to individuals or businesses, that service could be exempt from VAT, if you had not elected for the whole building to be subject to VAT (AKA: ‘opted to tax’). Since October 2012, if you are VAT registered, you generally need to charge VAT at 20% on the supply of storage areas.
The Taxman has recently confirmed in a new VAT information sheet (10/13) that any let space which is used for storage carries 20% VAT, not just the lock and leave facilities marketed as ‘self-storage’. This could affect businesses who let out properties or unused parts of their buildings to others who use that space to store goods or materials. For example a farmer might let out surplus farm buildings on a temporary basis.
There are only a few exceptions to this new VAT rule. Those include where the space is let to a charity and it is not used for business purposes, and where the space is predominately used for an active purpose such as retail, and the storage is an ancillary activity.
It is the landlord’s responsibility to know how the let space is used and charge the relevant rate of VAT. If you have not charged VAT when you should have done for periods from 1 October 2012, you may need to correct this error in your next VAT return.