Saturday, 18 September 2021

Owners must pay VAT on toll bridge rebuild

DRIVERS face higher tolls on Whitchurch Bridge after its owners were ordered to pay £700,000 in tax.

DRIVERS face higher tolls on Whitchurch Bridge after its owners were ordered to pay £700,000 in tax.

A High Court judge has ruled that the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge must pay the VAT on the bridge’s £3.2million reconstruction, which is due to start in October.

The company had argued it should not have to pay the 20 per cent levy on building materials, citing a 1792 Act of Parliament exempting it from any “rate, tax or duty whatsoever”.

But presiding judge Mr Justice Burnett sided with the Treasury, saying the Act had only ever applied to “assessed taxes” and not to excise duties on materials.

He said: “There is nothing in the Act which suggests [the company] should be relieved of taxes which others were liable to pay, which were passed on by those others in the price they charged for goods or services.

“The company would not have been liable to account for any of these taxes, that would have been the responsibility of the suppliers of the goods and services, but the bridge and its proprietors undoubtedly bore the economic burden of them. The claimant’s submission that the intention was to relieve them of all and every tax is too widely stated.”

The judge added: “The likelihood is that the users of the bridge will pay higher toll charges than would otherwise have been the case.”

Company secretary Geoff Weir said tolls were unlikely to rise for at least 18 months.

He said: “Our business plan has always been based on the fact that we would pay the VAT, so we reckon we’re okay this side of the restoration. You can never say never, but unless there’s something unforeseen we don’t expect any rises until the bridge re-opens.”

Work on the 18th-century structure is expected to finish by May next year. There will be a temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclists while the work is carried out.

More News:

POLL: Have your say