We now have a lot of expertise in the area of VAT on River Works licences.  Contact David for details.
In brief the PLA have begun adding VAT to any River Works licence fee where there is at least one standard rated boat present. They charge VAT on the whole bill even if most of the boats are houseboats and so VAT exempt. UPDATE Nov 2010 The PLA have begun charging VAT only on the proportion of the bill that relates to standard rated boats!  Nevertheless it is likely that you do not need to pay them any VAT on two grounds - the wording of your licence (is VAT mentioned?) and the wording of the VAT Act (is a riverworks licence the grant of a facility to moor or is it grant of a right over land?) contact us for info.

A standard rated boat is any boat smaller in volume than 15 gross tons  that is capable of self propulsion or of being readily adapted for self propulsion.  Note 'gross tons' is a cargo volume measure not a weight measure but as a rough guide 30-40 tonnes weight or a boat 15m by 4m may be 15 gross tons.

If the boat is not designed for recreation and is over 15 gross tons in volume then it can be zero rated for VAT.  This applies to moorings fees in a 'Qualifying Port'.

Any boat designed or adapted for use solely as a place of permanent habitation, of any size, that is not capable of self propulsion or of being readily adapted for self propulsion is a 'houseboat' and is VAT exempt.  We think a boat with the engine, gearbox, propeller, mast and steering mechanism removed meets this definition but it has not been tested. HMRC say "It is unlikely that a vessel such as a barge or a yacht would be regarded as a houseboat for the purposes of VAT because they are likely to lend themselves to being readily adapted."

'Exempt' and 'Zero rated' are not the same thing. 

VAT goes up to 20% on 4th  January 2011.