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.
From 16 March 2016 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
Application forms should be requested from the relevant department or administration:
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport
- Welsh Assembly Government
- Northern Ireland Assembly
- Scottish Government
- Ministry of Defence
The completion of an application does not guarantee admission to the scheme, all applications and business cases will be thoroughly assessed, and the decision to include a museum or gallery is ultimately made by ministers.
Further information relating to the scheme can be accessed here, and will be updated in due course.
The closing date for this round of applications is Friday 24 June 2016. Applications will then be processed, reviewed and if successful added to the scheme in due course. Another round of applications will follow immediately after, with a closing date in June 2017.