EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT: Make your mind up

EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT: Make your mind up

We’ve got an apology to make. In the October issue of the print version of PHPI you may have noticed an article regarding the reverse charge VAT changes that were set to come into force on 1 October this year. As it happens, these changes have since been delayed until 1 October 2020, so if you were planning on reading it, save it for 11 months’ time!

To be fair, the Government’s decision was made a day after the magazine left the building to be printed, roughly three weeks before the changes were due to come into force. Now we understand things change, but surely such last minute decisions are good for no one? Least of all, us. And this isn’t the first time this has happened to PHPI either – Part G of the Building Regs was deferred last minute, and the Domestic RHI delays were a constant thorn in the side for everyone involved.

While this is frustrating for us, it is far worse for those whose livelihoods are beholden to these things. Companies could have been preparing for months, only to be told three weeks in advance to postpone those plans for another year. It’s almost laughable, if it wasn’t so infuriating.

We received numerous communications in the months leading up to the changes from industry bodies arguing for a delay. SNIPEF, for instance, called for a government review in August, joining 15 other UK construction bodies to share serious concerns regarding the implementation of the changes. As was pointed out, the industry is already under strain from rising material prices and skill shortages, so changing VAT practices will only have added to the burden.

It certainly seemed like there was a consensus amongst the experts who represent the construction sector, so why did it take the Government so long to make up its mind? We know there are plenty of other issues for them to assess at the moment – Brexit is arguably the best ever example of government indecision – but decisions that could affect the hundreds of thousands of businesses and individuals involved in construction should not be left until the last minute.

Let’s put it this way, imagine if you won the business for a customer’s bathroom replacement, then a day before you were due to start, the customer decided they were actually going to wait another month to start it. You’ve suddenly lost out on a week-long job that you’ve had scheduled for months, leaving you with a last minute gap to fill and no income during that period. While I have no doubt that this scenario probably happens far more often than it ever should, it’s not exactly ideal.

I started this comment rant with an apology, but really it’s the Government who should be apologising – not just to us, but to the entire construction sector. While there’s a hint of a silver lining in the fact that they (eventually) listened to industry experts and delayed the changes, is it too much to ask for a little more of a heads-up in the future?

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