Will VAT be charged by a supplier?

If you are buying goods and services from a UK supplier then that purchase is likely to be subject to VAT, and you will need to decide whether or not that VAT is recoverable.

Occasionally, a UK supplier may not charge VAT when you are expecting them to. This may be because the business is too small to register for VAT (eg small taxi firms, sole traders), or it could be an error on their part. If you are not sure why no VAT has been charged, please contact the Tax section for specific advice.

The VAT regulations state that a supplier only needs to issue a VAT invoice and/or VAT receipt for purchases if one is requested. A credit card receipt is NOT a VAT receipt, nor is an on-line order confirmation page print-out. To comply with HMRC regulations the University needs to request a VAT receipt or VAT invoice for purchases.

There are two types of VAT invoice/receipt:

1. A 'less detailed' VAT receipt for purchases under £250 (eg a till receipt in a store). To be valid it must have ALL of this information on it:

  • supplier's name
  • supplier's registered address
  • supplier's VAT registration number
  • the amount of VAT charged on your purchase (even if that is £0.00)

2. A valid VAT invoice (issued by most suppliers for purchases through University Purchase Orders). To be valid this must contain ALL of the information above. It will also include information such as the University's registered address, and information about the separate items purchased, the VAT amount of each item, etc.

When is VAT not charged?

VAT is not generally charged on purchases from overseas suppliers, but special rules apply to these types of transaction. Please see the guidance on buying goods and services from outside the UK for more information.

VAT is NOT chargeable on these types of purchase from UK suppliers (use Tax Code M0 on a purchase order, purchasing card, or expenses claim):

  • books, leaflets, newspapers and paper journals (VAT is chargeable on stationery, electronic journals, questionnaires and posters)
  • education provided by a HEI, FE College or school and most charities (‘education’ includes academic conferences and similar events)
  • most cold food (eg groceries, sandwiches, biscuits (excluding chocolate biscuits) tea and coffee)) but VAT is charged on hot food and anything supplied in a café/restaurant
  • passenger transport (flight and train tickets, coach hire) but VAT is charged on taxis, car hire and travel agent’s fees
  • insurance and most financial services such as bank charges, foreign exchange charges
  • health care such as eye examinations, dental checkups and most other services provided by medical professionals
  • the University, as a charity, can also claim VAT relief on certain goods and services for use in medical research, and advertising services


Need help or more information?

Who to contact
If you need advice or guidance on which VAT code to use for purchasing goods and services from UK suppliers then contact the Tax section before making your purchase.