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Pictures at an exhibition

31 January 2012 / Ray Chidell
Issue: 4339 / Categories: Comment & Analysis , Capital Gains
RAY CHIDELL takes a fresh look at the meaning of plant, saying artwork in offices should qualify for allowances


  • Definition of plant: CIR v Scottish & Newcastle Breweries [1982] STC 296.
  • Decorative assets such as artwork can be plant.
  • When is an asset incorporated in the building?
  • Treat HMRC’s guidance with caution.

The meaning of plant and machinery is a topic often discussed but never resolved. Despite at least a century of case law and some rather odd legislation we are not very much further forward than we were a couple of generations ago in seeking to pin the concept down.

The difficulties in reaching a definition are notorious. As Lord Justice Stephenson commented in Cole Bros Ltd v Phillips [1982] STC 307:

‘[Tax inspectors] may be pardoned for finding anything or almost anything to be or not to be plant and may...

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