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HMRC internal manual

VAT Business/Non-Business Manual

Specific issues: activities of museums and galleries

Although the main activity of most museums and galleries is the public display of a collection, many have a number of other activities. This is especially true of older institutions that started out almost as research based academic institutions.

When considering the business question it is important that all activities are identified. You should think about the business/non-business nature of each activity.

Many of the activities of a museum may not be immediately obvious. You should look at documents such as annual reports to gain a full understanding of the institution.

Examples of potential business activities:

  • charges for special exhibitions;
  • self-administered retail outlets;
  • retail concessions;
  • shop rental;
  • catering outlets;
  • car parking;
  • catering concessions/rental;
  • reproduction rights;
  • publications;
  • collection loans made for consideration;
  • premises rental;
  • corporate entertaining;
  • slot machines;
  • rides;
  • charged “experiences”;
  • membership scheme;
  • friends organisation;
  • consultancy for a charge;
  • supplies of staff;
  • sponsorship

Examples of potential non-business activities:

  • academic research;
  • free object loans;
  • free educational activities;
  • free “treasure trove” work;
  • free consultancy;
  • free photographic archives; and
  • establishment of internet site, virtual museum or archive.