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HMRC internal manual

VAT Cultural Services

VAT on cultural services: scope of the law

The exemption relates only to the right of admission to qualifying activities where they are made by public authorities (as defined in VCULTURE1300) and eligible bodies (essentially non-profit-making bodies), that meet certain conditions.

Qualifying activities are defined as the right of admission to :

  • a museum, gallery, art exhibition or zoo; or
  • a theatrical, musical or choreographic performance of a cultural nature.

A public authority can only exempt qualifying admission charges where it would not be likely to generate distortion of competition with commercial enterprises. More detail on the scope of the exemption for public authorities, including joint ventures, is provided at VCULTURE3000.

To qualify as an eligible body and be able to exempt admission charges to qualifying activities, a body must meet all of the conditions laid down in Note 2 to Group 13 of Schedule 9 to the VAT Act 1994.

Guidance on how these conditions should be interpreted and applied can be found in Section 4 of Notice 701/47: Culture (August 2011 edition). Further information on whether cultural bodies which have a Trustee member paid by a third party qualify for eligible body status can be found in VCULTURE4000.