Estimate your Air Passenger Duty

How and when to calculate your Air Passenger Duty if you do not have exact figures.


A Special Accounting Scheme is a way of calculating your Air Passenger Duty using estimates if you do not have enough information, or have trouble getting the information, to complete your return using actual passenger numbers.

Under a Special Accounting Scheme you can estimate the number of passengers that are exempt or liable for each rate of duty by using:

  • sampling and surveys
  • historic data
  • data from other systems

Special Accounting Schemes usually last for a year, but may sometimes cover a longer period.

You need approval from HMRC to use a Special Accounting Scheme.

When to use a Special Accounting Scheme

You may be able to use a Special Accounting Scheme if:

  • it is not practical to identify flight exemptions and passenger duty liabilities from your existing systems
  • it’s too complex and time consuming to calculate the duty for each individual passenger
  • you do not normally record passenger numbers, for example, if you charter planes
  • you use multiple systems and you will not be able to get enough data in time to submit an accurate return

Plan how you’ll calculate Air Passenger Duty

Calculate the duty in a Special Accounting Scheme by using either sampling or collecting data from other systems.

You’ll need to work out your duty by calculating the average percentages for each type of passenger and journey, and apply this to the actual number of passengers. You’ll need to plan your sampling method before you apply for a Special Accounting Scheme.

You can work out passenger exemptions and different passenger liabilities by:

  • collecting data from other systems, such as reservation, departure control and baggage transfer systems or flight plans
  • using historic flight records and data

Review your scheme

If you want to make changes to your scheme, or if you think your scheme is no longer appropriate or accurately reflects the number of passengers or exemptions you have, you must tell us so we can formally review it.

During formal review, as long as you have HMRC’s agreement, you’ll have the chance to decide to:

  • continue using a scheme
  • make changes
  • alter the scope of a scheme
  • stop using a scheme altogether

Any agreed changes to the scheme will begin a new scheme which will apply from a future date. Provided the previous scheme has been operated correctly changes may not be made retrospectively.

Amend your return

Your scheme may allow you to collect additional data and make a retrospective adjustment to your return.

If you’ve applied the scheme wrongly or used wrong data, but your scheme does not allow you to make an amendment, we’ll make an assessment of your duty liability based on your agreed scheme.

If you’ve followed the scheme and used the right data, but there is no provision for an amendment in your scheme, you cannot amend your return. However, if exceptional circumstances like a strike has affected your results, you should contact us.

Records you must keep

You need to keep the same records as those needed for the main Air Passenger Duty account. You must make sure that all:

  • data, whether used to develop a scheme or to account for duty, is either available or recoverable and readable
  • calculations you’ve used to complete the return are kept
  • internal tests, checks and reviews are recorded

We may also check your sampling procedures.

Information you should include in your proposal

HMRC approves Special Accounting Schemes on an individual basis so you should develop a scheme proposal that meets your specific circumstances.

There is no standard format for a proposal or an application form.

Your proposal must include:

  • the reasons you need a special scheme
  • why you’ve chosen a particular method and why it’s suited to the variations within your business
  • a list of which passengers, flights, tickets, and exemption categories you wish to include in the scheme

You must also include details of how you’ll collect the information including:

  • which data and systems you’ll use and how you’ll use them
  • the information you’ll get from a survey of passengers and the format of the survey
  • any statistical sampling exercises you’ll apply
  • how you’ll group flights, if appropriate

You need to explain how you’ll calculate your duty, including proof that your:

  • method can identify each type of exemption correctly
  • method will allow you to create accurate returns on time
  • scheme can be audited and that you can recover relevant data and it’s readable

In addition you’ll need details of how you’ll handle changes and adjustments including:

  • any known or possible changes that might alter the structure of your business and liability to the duty
  • proposals for reviewing the scheme and the circumstances in which you’d want to review the scheme
  • any provision you wish to make for carrying out adjustments to previous accounting periods based on the use of additional information

You should also list any other comments or proposals that you want us to consider.

Apply to use a Special Accounting Scheme

You should contact the Air Passenger Duty Central Assurance Team if you want to use a Special Accounting Scheme.

You’ll need to submit your proposal and get approval before you begin to use a Special Accounting Scheme.

Special Accounting Achemes normally run for an initial period of between 3 and 12 months, but you can agree other timescales with HMRC.

You must tell us that you’re using a Special Accounting Scheme on your return.

Published 29 January 2018