Adviser hints & tips

Value Added Tax (VAT)

If a company is registered with HMRC to pay VAT then this will be added to their bill. You will be able to claim this back if your organisation is also registered to pay VAT with HMRC. Advisers do not need to be registered with HMRC if their turnover is less than the required threshold.

It may be possible to reclaim VAT on construction costs. HMRC can advise about this.


If you engage a consultant on a day rate it is important to be clear about what they are expected to do within the time allotted. Be aware that because of the nature of the work and timescales involved some services are priced as a percentage of the total project cost.

Preparing a specification and securing quotes

You will be expected to show funders that you have achieved value for money to ensure that funds are spent wisely. It is good practice to get prices for the work from more than one supplier, usually three. Set out a brief or specification indicating what services you need, when it is needed by and how the work will be assessed as being finished satisfactorily.

Prepare this and send it out with a request for fixed price quotes, setting a deadline for these to come back. You should not accept any further bids after the deadline. For costing a full design service, a percentage of the cost of the building works may be more appropriate.

You should set out how you will decide which bid you will accept. This may be the lowest price or a combination of both price and quality. You can consider the quality of the bid by asking questions about previous experience and evidence of their commitment to your values through completed projects. You can also ask how they will deal with situations or issues that might arise.

You must score bids you receive based on the scoring method you have set out. This will help you explain your decision should any challenges which may arise.

You may score quality as a higher proportion, but make sure that the highest quality proposal is not more than you can afford to pay, or your funders will allow.

Once you have chosen who you want to work with you will issue a contract. This is based on the tender and sets out what you expect to be done, when you expect it and when you will pay. This protects both parties from misunderstandings and can help resolve disputes. You may want to take legal advice on this.

Power to Change has a guide to Working with Consultants.

The Plan of Work published by the Royal Institute of British Architects sets out what is needed at each stage of the project and is used throughout the development industry. You may find it helpful if you are managing the project yourself.