VAT Refund Scheme for Museums & Galleries

8 September 2022 Lynne Gill View all News

Museums and Galleries are being urged to apply for VAT refunds to support opening free of charge as part of plans to boost visitor numbers and give more people access to arts and culture.

The VAT Refund Scheme, which has been running since 2001, was last open to new applicants in 2019 and it has been estimated that almost £1 billion has been refunded to museums and galleries since it was launched. The Scheme re-opens for new applicants this autumn.

How does the VAT Refund Scheme work?

Under normal VAT rules, VAT paid by museums and galleries on goods and services that relate to free admission would not be able to be reclaimed.

A museum or gallery open to the public free of charge for 30 hours a week, and which meets certain other conditions, can apply for the VAT Refund Scheme. Those museums and galleries whose applications are successful will be entitled to a refund on VAT incurred on goods and services purchased to provide free admission to collections including:

  • The items and collections on display 
  • goods and services necessary for their upkeep.  
  • upkeep of the part of the building (including common areas) in which they are housed.
  • Information, advertising, and promotional material in relation to them.

Museums and galleries which are considering putting on exhibitions for free, as well as institutions already eligible but not currently taking advantage of the scheme are encouraged to apply.

How can we help?

The VAT Advisory Team at Shorts can provide information on the detailed conditions which must be met to apply, how to apply and how to obtain refunds if you are not VAT registered.

Related VAT resources and guides

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