HM Revenue and Customs Brief 03/14
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Issued 31 January 2014
This brief has been produced in order to clarify the
definition of the term 'student', which is significant when considering
the VAT liability of construction works to buildings which are 'used
for a relevant residential purpose'.
Who should read this?
The brief should be read by providers of residential
accommodation to school pupils and students.
VAT relief is available for construction services in relation
to particular new buildings, including those which are used for a
relevant residential purpose, which includes student accommodation.
Previous versions of the definition of the term 'student' have been
misinterpreted in a small number of cases. This revised guidance to
replace VCONST15360 attempts to clearly set out HMRC's policy:
VCONST15360 - 'Relevant residential purpose' - interpretation of terms:
Note (4)(d) to Group 5 of Schedule 8 VATA - residential accommodation
for students or school pupils: what is a 'student'?
Note (4)(d) includes, as a category of relevant residential
purpose building, ''residential accommodation for students or school
pupils'. Whereas the term 'school pupil' is one that is reasonably
clear and uncontroversial, the term 'student' is less so and requires
further clarification to assist in the determination of whether a
building is intended for use for a relevant residential purpose for the
purpose of obtaining VAT relief. For the avoidance of any doubt, VAT
relief on the construction of residential accommodation for school
pupils who are boarders will be subject to the same rules that apply to
residential accommodation constructed for students.
The term 'student' in this context refers to a person
undertaking a course of educational study or instruction. It covers any
person who is receiving education or vocational training from a
university (or a centrally funded higher education institution or a
further education institution) or from any other supplier who is
providing similar, or the same type of, education or vocational
training to a similar, or the same, academic standard.
Examples include (but are not necessarily limited to)
individuals who have left school and are undertaking higher or further
education or training with a view to:
- obtaining a generally recognised academic or professional
- maintaining an existing professional qualification for
which accreditation is received
- undertaking a course of study which, whilst not leading to
a recognised qualification, has a high level of academic content and is
intended to improve the knowledge and understanding of the student in
an area of academic interest
The maintenance of existing professional qualifications would
include Continuing Professional Development (CPD) applicable in cases
- a professional body requires from its members the
continuing recognition of a qualification
- an employer requires employees to maintain or improve
relevant technical skills
Whilst it should be clear when an activity falls within the
scope of one of the first two categories (as numbered above) it may be
less clear when an activity falls within the scope of the third
category. The following are examples which are intended to illustrate
the kind of educational activity which is included:
- summer schools in which international students and others
have the opportunity to undertake a programme of study comparable with
the work done by full time students
- residential events the purpose of which is to show
aspiring university applicants what it is like to study at university -
whilst the academic content is high and the participants are school
pupils, the purpose of their attendance is not either part of their
A-level curriculum nor is it part of a programme which leads to a
- English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses (see paragraph
9.1 of Notice 701/30)
- academic conferences which offer development and ongoing
learning to the academic staff of universities and colleges to ensure
that academics are able to share ideas, learn from each other and embed
the latest thinking into their own research and teaching
People who attend classes, often badged as 'summer schools',
which may offer a life-enhancing experience and promote greater
cultural or spiritual awareness but the subject matter of which falls
into the category of hobbies or leisure interests (for example pottery
workshops, art or literature appreciation courses etc.) as opposed to
receiving educational or vocational training to an academic standard,
will not qualify as 'students'.
Whilst persons engaging in theological studies in order to
become a minister of faith (such as a priest, rabbi or imam) will
qualify as 'students', those attending seminaries or religious retreats
which do not serve this purpose but are intended primarily to foster or
reinforce faith, are not considered to be receiving educational or
vocational training to an academic standard and will not qualify as
For further information please contact the VAT Helpline on
telephone: 0300 200 3700.
The Helpline is available from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to
If you have hearing difficulties, please ring the Textphone
service on telephone: 0300 200 3719.
About the Author
© Crown Copyright 2014.
A licence is needed to reproduce this article and has been republished
for educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by
permission of HM Revenue & Customs.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2014-02-03 12:33:03 in Tax Articles