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HMRC internal manual

VAT Clothing

How to decide if the article is clothing: General

It is always important to remember that not everything that a person wears is necessarily clothing for the purposes of Group 16. Claims that an article is clothing have been made for:

  • accessories (e.g. purses, headbands, pouches, sashes);
  • toys (e.g. ‘Batman’ capes, play shoes);
  • safety aids (e.g. reflective armbands, baby harnesses);
  • haberdashery (e.g. shoulder pads, textile lengths).

These are all articles which we have previously ruled do not qualify as clothing.

There have also been a number of Tribunals on whether articles qualify as clothing, as a result of which various articles have been specifically mentioned in the corresponding section in Notice714 as either qualifying or not. The Tribunals only have a direct bearing, however, in the areas of baby wear and headgear, which are covered elsewhere in VCLOTHING. For the majority of articles, you should follow the following procedure.

If you have to decide whether an article is clothing or not, it can be helpful to consider the following questions:

  • Does the article give you the initial impression of clothing?
  • Is the article a variation on an established garment?
  • Alternatively, is the article a variation on an established accessory?
  • Does the article fulfil the function of clothing?

This is basically a matter of common sense, but provides a useful starting point to the process.