Guidance

Income Tax and National Insurance contributions for NHS WATS courses

Find out how to apply the tax rules for NHS employees who attend training courses, often known as widening access training scheme (WATS) courses.

As part of these courses, employees carry out clinical placements in their NHS trust or board and attend training at local universities or colleges. Each trust or board offers different courses, but most employees take a qualification in:

  • nursing
  • nursing associate
  • advanced practice in nursing
  • midwifery
  • health visiting
  • school nursing
  • clinical psychology
  • paramedicine
  • high intensity therapy
  • psychological wellbeing practice
  • child and adolescent psychotherapy
  • radiography

For courses starting from 1 September 2019 tax and National Insurance contributions are due on payments made to NHS employees attending these courses. This is because payments are salary and not scholarship income.

When tax and National Insurance contributions should be deducted

Courses starting before 1 September 2019

If you’re not currently deducting tax or National Insurance from payments and the course starts before 1 September 2019, you should carry on paying your employee in this way until the course is finished.

If tax and National Insurance has not been paid in the past, HMRC will not ask you to pay it.

If you’re already deducting tax or National Insurance, you should continue to do this.

Courses starting on or after 1 September 2019

You must deduct tax and National Insurance on any payments made to employees taking part in these courses.

How to deal with employees’ refund requests

You may have been giving refunds to employees or former employees where you’ve deducted tax or National Insurance from their pay when they were attending a course.

Refund requests received before 1 September 2019

You can continue to provide refunds under your existing procedures.

Refund requests received after 1 September 2019

Refunds should not be considered if the request is received on or after 1 September 2019, unless you’ve already told your employee they’ll get one at the end of their term or course.

How to claim a refund from HMRC

Training courses started before 6 April 2013

You should submit claims to HMRC on behalf of your employee.

You can do this by sending a schedule by email to HMRC’s Widening Access team nhswat.mailbox@hmrc.gov.uk and they will issue the refund.

HMRC will not process refunds sent after 1 September 2019.

Training courses started after 6 April 2013

You should deal with the refund through your payroll system.

Past refunds

HMRC will not ask you to pay back any refunds paid out in the past, or any Income Tax and National Insurance not previously deducted.

Published 19 December 2016
Last updated 10 June 2019 + show all updates
  1. Information has been added explain that no refunds of Income Tax and National Insurance contributions can be made for WATS courses starting on or after 1 September 2019.
  2. First published.