Secure Your Finances: Apply for VAT Exemption in the UK

Discover and learn eligibility, application procedures, and expert guidance to ensure compliance and optimize your finances with VAT exemption in the UK.
VAT Exemption in the UK

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Any legal return, whether VAT or tax, can be a financial hassle, but it can be avoided by applying for a VAT exemption.

Let me ask you something: Have you ever wondered if your business qualifies for VAT exemption in the UK? While most goods and services are subject to VAT, there are specific VAT exemptions in the UK. And understanding those VAT exemptions is crucial for businesses in the UK dealing with specific goods and services. If your company solely trades in these exempt products or services, you might qualify for VAT exemption.

Learn how to apply for VAT exemption in the UK with our comprehensive guide.

What Is a VAT Exemption?

Let’s begin with the fundamentals in our exploration of UK VAT regulations. What exactly is a VAT exemption?

VAT exemption refers to the exclusion of paying value-added tax (VAT) on specific goods and services that meet defined criteria set by a government or tax authority. This exemption is usually given to certain valuable or essential items. Businesses that only sell or provide these exempted goods or services do not have to charge VAT on those transactions. 

VAT exemptions vary from country to country. For instance, essential food items, healthcare services, education, and certain exports might be exempt from VAT in some regions. 

VAT exemption in the UK is granted to businesses exclusively dealing in these exempted products or services, relieving them from the VAT obligation on eligible transactions. It aims to lower the tax burden on specific goods or services deemed necessary or beneficial for society.

What Items are Exempt from VAT?

Curious about which items enjoy VAT exemption in the UK? Products and services that are essential, beneficial, and in the public interest can apply for a VAT exemption in the United Kingdom.

The government provides this exemption for specific goods, services, or transactions listed below:

UK VAT ExemptionsGoods or Services 

Health, education, welfare, and charities
–> A qualifying institution like a hospital, hospice, or nursing home provides care or medical treatment.

–> Registered doctors, dentists, opticians, pharmacists, and other health professionals offer health services.

–> Education, vocational training, and other related services are provided by a qualified organization such as a school, college, or university.

–> Burial, cremation of dead people, burial at sea, and Funeral plans written under insurance contracts.

–> VAT exemption for charities includes admission charges by charities, charitable fundraising events, and sponsored charitable events.

Financial services and investments, insurance
Financial services, including  

–> The issue, transfer, or receipt of securities for money or orders for the payment of money or dealing with money.

–> The granting of credit, such as loans.

–> The administration of credit by the individual who extended it.

–> The provision of installment credit finance facility, for example, hire-purchase.

–> The provision of qualifying financial intermediary services

–> The act of issuing, transferring, or dealing with securities such as stocks and bonds.

–> The functioning of a savings, current, or deposit account.

The administration of a qualifying special investment fund.

–> A financial service provided in conjunction with other products or services.

–> Gold investment coins

–> Financial service provided with other products or services as part of a single supply.

Friendly society subscriptions for insurance provisionInsurance and reinsurance transactions

–> Agents serving as intermediaries, such as insurance brokers.

–> Insurance that is supplied separately but with other goods or services

–> Insurance is supplied as part of a single supply with other goods or services.
Travel–> Houseboat moorings.

–> Garages or parking areas with houseboat moorings.

Land and property
–> Garages or parking spaces rented for permanent residential use in conjunction with residences (under shorthold tenancy agreements).

–> Property, land, and buildings: granting permission to use land or structures.

–> Parking: a grant or license to occupy land on which incidental parking takes place

Sport, leisure, culture, and antiques
–> Physical education and sports activities

–> Gaming and betting, such as games of chance and pool betting

–> Bingo, including online, phone, TV, and radio games that are played remotely.

–> Lottery ticket sales.

–> Retailer commission on lottery ticket sales.

–> Online lottery games.

–> Admission charges by public authorities or eligible cultural bodies to specific cultural events, such as visits to museums, art exhibitions, zoos, and performances.

–> Artworks, antiques, or comparable items (as part of historic homes’ assets) used to pay off an estate duty or tax debt with HMRC

–> Artworks, antiques, or comparable items (as part of historic homes) sold to public collections through private treaty.


Universal service obligation-compliant public postal services administered by the Royal Mail.

Additionally, businesses offering goods and services tailored for disabled people, like specific mobility aids and specialized medical equipment, might also fall under this VAT exemption in the UK.

These goods could include mobility aids like wheelchairs, equipment or appliances tailored for disabled individuals, and products to assist with daily activities.

  • To qualify for disabled VAT exemption, businesses must ensure their products or services meet the strict criteria outlined by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

  • Proper documentation and record-keeping are crucial. Businesses must maintain evidence to support their VAT exemption claims, such as eligibility certificates for products designed for disabled individuals.

Partial Exemption VAT in the UK

Expanding on VAT exemptions in the UK, there’s also a concept of partial VAT exemption. This scenario arises when businesses engage in both exempt and taxable activities.

In the UK, a partial VAT exemption comes into play when businesses engage in VAT-taxable and VAT-exempt activities. When a business operates in such a mixed-use scenario, this situation leads to a partial VAT recovery. Businesses can only reclaim the VAT incurred on purchases directly related to their VAT-taxable activities. They’re unable to recover VAT that relates to their VAT-exempt activities.

For example, if 40% of a company’s turnover is from VAT-taxable sales and 60% from VAT-exempt healthcare services, they can only reclaim a portion of the VAT paid on expenses based on that percentage. This concept ensures a fair reclaim of VAT that aligns with the taxable portion of a business’s activities.

Companies need to determine what proportion of their overall sales are subject to VAT and apply that figure to their expense claims to recover the VAT. This process requires meticulous record-keeping, such as in your quarterly VAT return alongside the taxable VAT supplies, and careful accounting. This helps to ensure compliance with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) regulations.

How Does VAT Exemption Affect UK Businesses?

Wondering how VAT exemption affects businesses in the UK? Let’s explore the impact—both advantageous and challenging. If you’re VAT registered, dealing with a mix of exempt and taxable supplies may lead to partial VAT exemption. This scenario influences businesses in several ways, offering benefits and drawbacks worth understanding.

Advantages of UK VAT Exemption

  • Cost Reduction: Businesses dealing exclusively in VAT-exempt goods or services can avoid charging VAT to customers, potentially making their offerings more competitive.

  • Support for Essential Services: Exemption on certain goods and services, like healthcare and education, ensures accessibility and affordability for essential needs.

  • Enhanced Financial Position: Partial exemption allows businesses engaged in exempt and taxable activities to reclaim some VAT, contributing to improved cash flow.

Disadvantages of UK VAT Exemption

  • Limitations on VAT Reclamation: The inability to reclaim VAT on related purchases can increase costs for businesses with exempt supplies.

  • Complexity in Accounting: Managing partial exemptions adds complexity to VAT accounting, requiring meticulous record-keeping and calculations.

  • Impact on Cash Flow: Restrictions on VAT recovery might affect cash flow, as businesses can’t reclaim all input VAT, potentially impacting profitability.

    To sum up, businesses face problems when they do not have to pay VAT, especially those that do a mix of activities. When doing business in the UK, you must be careful with your VAT management to stay in line and make the most money possible.

Who Qualifies for VAT Exemption in the UK?

Whether or not you can apply for a VAT exemption in the UK depends on your circumstances. There are several factors that HMRC will consider when assessing your eligibility, including the type of goods or services you sell, your turnover, and your business model.

If your annual turnover exceeds the VAT registration threshold, you must register for VAT unless you qualify for an exemption. As we said above, there are several different types of VAT exemptions available, including;

  • VAT exemption for medical and healthcare services.
  • VAT exemptions for charities.
  • Exemption for education and vocational training.
  • Exemption for fundraising events by charities.
  • Exemption for selling, leasing, and letting of commercial land and buildings.

If your annual turnover is below the VAT registration threshold (£90,000 in 2023–2024), you are not required to register for VAT and, therefore, do not need to apply for an exemption. However, you can still choose to register for VAT voluntarily, which may be beneficial if you sell many exempt goods or services.

However, meeting the government’s specific criteria is essential for eligibility, and not all goods or services within these categories automatically qualify for exemption. Consulting tax advisors or referring to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) guidelines can provide detailed insights into VAT exemption qualifications.

How Do I Apply for a UK VAT Exemption?

Interested in applying for a UK VAT exemption? The process involves a few key steps that businesses and individuals must follow. Let’s explore the procedure to understand how to apply for VAT exemption in the UK.

  • Understand Eligibility: Determine if your business or the goods or services you provide qualify for VAT exemption based on the criteria set by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

  • Register for VAT: If your business meets the VAT threshold (currently £90,000 taxable turnover in a 12-month period), you must register for VAT with HMRC. You can use the HMRC website to do this.

  • Declare Exemption: When registering for VAT, if your business deals solely in VAT-exempt goods or services, declare this information on your VAT registration form. This might involve completing specific forms or providing supporting documents to demonstrate eligibility in the respective category.

  • Maintain Accurate Records: Keep comprehensive records and documentation supporting your VAT exemption claim. This includes invoices, receipts, and any relevant paperwork related to the exempt supplies.

  • Consult a Tax Advisor: Lastly, getting advice from a tax professional or advisor familiar with VAT regulations can be immensely helpful. They can guide you through the application process, ensuring accuracy and compliance.

    Remember, the application process and requirements for VAT exemption in the UK can vary depending on your business activities and the nature of your goods or services.

UK VAT Exemption After Brexit.

Differences Between VAT-Exempt And Zero-Rated VAT

People often get puzzled about VAT exemption and zero-rated VAT. Have you ever wondered if there are any differences between these two terms?

Let us say you are out shopping, and you notice some labels saying things like “VAT-exempt” or “Zero-Rated VAT.” What’s the difference? Well, for buyers, they both mean no extra VAT cost. But when you are a businessperson or seller, it’s a whole different story that affects your money matters with the tax system.

Let’s clear up the confusion around VAT-Exemption and Zero-Rated VAT by learning the differences:


Tax Status: Goods or services under VAT exemption are not subject to VAT.
VAT Charged: No VAT is charged on selling these goods or services.
VAT Reclaim: Sellers cannot reclaim VAT on costs related to VAT-exempt supplies.
Examples: Healthcare, specific financial services, and most educational services fall under VAT exemption.

Zero-Rated VAT:

Tax Status: Goods or services under zero-rated VAT are still taxable but at a 0% VAT rate.
VAT Charged: Sellers charge 0% VAT on these goods or services; however, they’re still considered taxable.
VAT Reclaim: Sellers can reclaim VAT on costs associated with zero-rated supplies.
Examples: Certain food items, children’s clothing, books, and specific construction services fall under zero-rated VAT.

VAT-ExemptZero-Rated VAT
Tax StatusNo VAT charged0% VAT charged
VAT ChargedTax Status0% VAT charged
VAT ReclaimCannot reclaim VATCan reclaim VAT
ExamplesHealthcare services, certain financial services, education, etc.Certain foods, children’s clothing, books, and some construction services, etc.

In a nutshell, VAT exemption in the UK means no VAT applies to the sale, and no VAT can be reclaimed on related expenses. Zero-rated VAT involves a 0% VAT rate on taxable goods or services, allowing for VAT reclaims on associated costs. Understanding these differences helps businesses manage their finances and VAT obligations effectively.

How Do I Know Whether My Sales Are Exempt from VAT or Zero-Rated?

Now that you have learned the differences, you might wonder whether your business sales are exempt from VAT. For both VAT exemption and zero-rated VAT, it’s essential to review the specific categories outlined by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to identify which bracket your sales fall into. Then, you need to follow the considerations:

AT-Exempt Sales:

  • Check if your goods or services align with the categories specified by HMRC as VAT-exempt. These might include healthcare services, certain financial services, or educational provisions.

  • Verify that the items you sell fit the criteria for VAT exemption. If they do, they won’t incur VAT, and you can’t reclaim VAT on related costs.

Zero-Rated Sales:

  • Ensure the goods or services you’re selling match the categories listed by HMRC under zero-rated VAT. Examples might include specific food items, children’s clothing, books, or construction services.

  • Even though these items are taxable, they are charged a 0% VAT rate. VAT can be reclaimed on costs associated with these sales.

Carefully understanding the criteria HMRC sets for VAT exemption and zero-rated VAT helps you correctly classify your sales, ensuring compliance with VAT regulations and facilitating the reclaim process where applicable.


Q1: Is insurance VAT-exempt in the UK?

Answer: In the UK, most insurance-related services are exempt from value-added tax (VAT). This exemption covers various types of insurance, including life insurance, health insurance, travel insurance, and most general insurance policies, such as car and home insurance.
However, some insurance-related services might fall under the standard VAT rate or a different VAT treatment.

Q2: Is postage in the UK VAT-exempt?

Answer: In the UK, specific postage and delivery services are exempt from value-added tax (VAT). Royal Mail’s standard services for sending letters and parcels and some delivery services provided by other carriers are typically VAT-exempt.

However, certain additional services or unique delivery options might be subject to UK VAT.

Q3: Can I apply for a VAT exemption?

Answer: Whether or not you can apply for a VAT exemption in the UK depends on your circumstances. There are several factors that HMRC will consider when assessing your eligibility, including the type of goods or services you sell, your turnover, and your business model.

Q4: Is there anything like a VAT exemption certificate?

Answer: No. The UK has no formal or official VAT exemption certificate.

Q5: Can goods or services be both zero-rated and exempt from VAT?

Answer: In the UK, goods or services can be either zero-rated or exempt from VAT, but they cannot be both simultaneously.


In conclusion, applying for VAT exemption in the UK involves understanding the nature of your business activities and ensuring they align with the specific categories outlined by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Whether you deal exclusively with exempt goods or services or engage in a mix of taxable and exempt activities, seeking professional guidance can help you navigate the complexities of VAT exemption and make informed decisions.

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