VAT refunds for museums and galleries

This short guidance note provides detail on the broadening of the VAT refund scheme for museums and galleries on 3 May 2018.


VAT Notices 998: VAT refund Scheme for national museums and galleries


UPDATE: Please note that the deadline has been extended to 4th January 2019

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 was broadened with applications welcomed from any museums and galleries that meet the basic criteria as set out below.

The scheme was re-opened in May 2018 to invite applications from eligible museums.

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 by emailing

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.

The closing date for this round of applications is Friday 4th January 2019.

Published 16 March 2016
Last updated 30 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Closing date has been extended to 4th January 2019.
  2. Updated guidance for 2018.
  3. First published.