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It’s a very common question, the client pays you and keeps a retention of 5% reducing to 2.5% on completion to be released after the end of the defects period.
You do the same with your sub-contractors.
The retentions need to be held in balance sheet accounts as they can’t be invoiced to client and aren’t due to the sub-contractors. But they should be included within sales and sub-contract costs.
HMRC’s guidance is in BIM51520
In the construction industry it is a common feature of construction contracts for the customer to retain part of the contract fee over a maintenance period pending the satisfactory completion of any remedial work required by the contractor. Typically this may be for a 12-month period between a Certificate of Completion being given and the issue of a Maintenance Certificate.
In their accounts, builders will generally deal with retentions in one of the following ways:
- include retentions within turnover, provide for the estimated cost of remedial work, and make provision for any debt impairment (see BIM42700 onwards), or
- defer recognition of retentions until their receipt becomes virtually certain.
Each of the above accords with generally accepted accounting practice and should be followed for tax purposes unless an unrealistically conservative view has been taken.
In recent years, construction industry customers have become increasingly reluctant to pay retention monies, irrespective of whether there are defects to be made good. It is now common for such monies never to get paid. Consequently, it will often be the case that, whichever of the above approaches is adopted, there will be little or no difference in the figure of net profit.
A challenge will only be appropriate in worthwhile cases. For example, where retentions are only recognised on receipt but, in practice, a large proportion is in fact consistently paid over to the builder and there is a significant tax effect (compared with the alternative provisions method).
There is guidance on VAT in VATTOS5170
……the tax point for retentions is delayed until either a VAT invoice is issued or payment of the retention is received, whichever is the earlier. It must be stressed that this only applies to the retained element of the contract price. The rest of the supply is subject to the normal tax point rules.