At Historic Houses we aim to improve the legislative, policy and regulatory framework within which owners of historic houses look after the nationally important heritage in their care. A key part of this framework is the tax system, which can have a significant impact on owners' ability to fund the conservation of these places people love to visit.
The majority of historic houses open to the public are not owned by national charities or government agencies; most of these much-loved visitor attractions are in fact owned by independent owners, with their upkeep and conservation funded through their owner’s resources. These places are already welcoming over 26 million visitors every year and generating £1 billion for the economy, but their inability to chip away at a conservation backlog that stands at £1.38 billion holds them back from doing and contributing more.
Practical, cost-effective improvements to the tax framework are essential to tackle the huge backlog of repairs these special places require. Having assessed a wide range of potential solutions to this conservation challenge, our evidence indicates that reforming Heritage Maintenance Funds (HMFs) would be the most cost-effective tool.
OUR CAMPAIGN – IMPROVING HERITAGE MAINTENANCE FUNDS
Our tax campaign calls on government to reduce income tax on HMFs to 20%, so that they can work harder for conservation and public access purposes.
HMFs are designed to enable nationally important historic houses that are open to the public to ring-fence funds (from their own resources) for maintenance. HMFs are exempt from inheritance tax to enable more of the money in them to be devoted to conservation. In their current form, however, with income tax levied at 45%, HMFs are not being used to their full potential – just 8% of Historic Houses places have one.
In 2018 Historic Houses commissioned a comprehensive independent economic analysis to model the costs and benefits of reducing the income tax charged on HMFs to 20% or 0%. This analysis concluded that in both cases the benefits would outweigh the costs, however the 20% scenario delivered the most benefits for all stakeholders. The headline finding was that reducing income tax rate on HMFs to 20% would result in a net economic benefit for the UK economy of £85.5 million by 2023.
We are working closely with government, politicians and stakeholders to highlight the benefits of reducing income tax on HMFs – for public access and enjoyment of nationally important heritage, for conservation and for the rural economy.
Find out more about the benefits of reforming Heritage Maintenance Funds by downloading our infographic and campaign briefing: