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HMRC internal manual

VAT Business/Non-Business Manual

Specific issues: legal offices


Members of Legal Aid Committees are holders of public offices. In principle they have a potential liability under Section 94(4) to charge tax on the services they provide to the Law Society.

In England and Wales a special accounting procedure has been agreed with the Law Society for fees and expenses received by members of Legal Aid Committees. The various committee members submit claims for fees and expenses on a tax-exclusive basis. The claims include a declaration that the member is or is not registered for VAT purposes and also a space for the VAT number. When the member is registered, the Law Society adds VAT to the claim.

The Law Society cannot recover as input tax any VAT charged on committee members’ services. It has therefore been agreed that tax invoices need not be issued by Committee members for these services. Committee members who are registered for VAT are, of course, required to account for the tax in their records.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland the normal accounting procedures apply.

Notaries Public

Notaries Public belong to one of two societies:

  • Society of Public Notaries of London; or
  • Provincial Notaries Society (England and Wales).

They are appointed by The Master of Faculties who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the Church of England, under the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533. A Notary Public is not a Public Office holder and the notarial fees are taxable.

The Public Notaries Act 1801 prevents a Notary wishing to stay in practice from sharing fees with a person who is not a Notary. Unless a Notary is in partnership with other Notaries the fees from notarial work will:

  • not be paid into the partnership account; and
  • will not be regarded as supplies made by the partnership.

If a Notary practices solely in partnership with a person who is not a Notary there is no requirement to charge VAT on the notarial work unless the value of the notarial work exceeds the registration limit.

Commissioners for Oaths

Any qualified solicitor can act as a Commissioner for Oaths.

Where solicitors or Commissioners for Oaths administer oaths the VAT treatment depends on whether:

  • a sole proprietor;
  • a partner; or
  • an associate or assistant solicitor within a VAT registered firm

makes the supply.

Law Society regulations state that oath fees are earned in a personal capacity. They may not be shared with another person. VAT registered sole proprietors and partners administering oaths must continue to account for VAT. This is because the supply is made by the registered entity.

Associate or assistant solicitors administering oaths will be making a taxable supply. However, they make the supply in a personal capacity. Therefore they need not account for tax unless the total of all supplies made in a private capacity is above the registration threshold.

This treatment of oath fees has been agreed with the Law Society.