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HMRC internal manual

VAT Clothing

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The scope of relief for school uniforms: the Smart Alec tribunal

We now have a tribunal ruling that supports our policy in this area.

In the tribunal case of Smart Alec Limited (LON/01/1307) the tribunal chairman stated that:

the relevant question is ‘Were the articles designed as clothing or footwear for young children?’ There is no evidence before us that the manufacturer (whom the tribunal chairman considered to be the designer) as the designer, intended that the articles in question were designed as clothing or footwear for young children.

The chairman continued:

in determining whether or not an item of uniform is ‘designed for young children’ the size of the uniform is important. The age of the eventual wearer of the particular item of uniform actually supplied is not relevant. It is the intent of the designer that matters not the age in fact of the wearer of a particular garment produced in accordance with that design. In most situations, it will only be uniforms up to a certain size which will qualify for zero rating…

The tribunal chairman ruled that the appellant failed this test and therefore the appeal could be dismissed.

However, he continued to consider a second relevant question:

Were the articles suitable for older persons? We consider an important factor in deciding whether an item of clothing is suitable for older persons is once again size… The fact that a logo has been attached to the garment does not in our opinion of itself make it unsuitable for older persons. It may reduce the class of those likely to wear it in fact but does not render the garment of itself unsuitable to be worn by older persons.