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HMRC internal manual

VAT Business/Non-Business Manual

Specific issues: ecclesiastical legal appointments



The legal officers of the established Church of England are regarded as public office holders. If the office has been accepted in the course or furtherance of the holder’s profession the services provided by the holder are standard rated. Such officers are:

  • Diocesan Registrars;
  • Legal Secretaries to Bishops; and
  • Diocesan Chancellors

Each Church of England diocese has a Consistory Court, which hears a limited range of cases. The Diocesan Registrar is the Registrar of this Court with duties similar to those of a Clerk to the Court elsewhere.

The Registrar is also responsible for:

  • issuing writs;
  • preparing legal documents and licences; and
  • giving general legal advice to the Bishop.

In certain dioceses there is a separate office of Legal Secretary to the Bishop. Their duties also involve giving legal advice to the Bishop and other diocesan officials.

In other dioceses, the same person holds both posts. Both offices are regarded as being accepted in the course or furtherance of a legally qualified person’s profession.

Those holding these posts in the course of their business should add VAT to the relevant fees as set out in The Legal Officers Fees Order.

Diocesan Chancellors

The judge who presides over a Consistory Court is the Chancellor of the diocese. Although the Consistory Court is restricted in its jurisdiction, it is as much a court of the realm as, for example, the High Court. The Chancellorships are regarded as part time judicial appointments in the same way as Deputy High Court Judges.

The services provided by Diocesan Chancellors are outside the scope of VAT.