VAT refund scheme for museums and galleries to be extended

Introduced in 2001, the VAT refund scheme for museums and galleries (Section 33A of the VAT Act 1994) is aimed at supporting the provision of free access to museums and galleries in the UK. The scheme allowed national and university museums and galleries to claim back VAT incurred on most goods and services purchased in order to grant free rights of admission to their collections.

It was announced in Budget 2016 that the eligibility criteria for the scheme is to be broadened with applications welcomed from any museums and galleries that meet the basic criteria as set out below.

To be eligible for VAT refunds museums and galleries must apply via the relevant body.

To be eligible to apply for admission to the scheme museums or galleries must:

  • Be open to the general public for at least 30 hours per week, without exception
  • Offer free entry, without prior appointment
  • Hold collections in a purpose-built building
  • Display details of free entry and opening hours on the museum website
  • Museums and galleries will also be required to complete a strategic business case as part of the application process, including:
    • Proof of Arts Council England Accredited status (or equivalent)
    • Past and/or projected visitor figures
    • Information on existing and planned education programmes and community engagement work
    • Upon admission to the scheme museums or galleries will be required to provide:
    • Evidence confirming an obligation to providing or continuing to provide free entry
    • Visitor figures on a bi-annual basis