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HMRC internal manual

VAT Government and Public Bodies

Police authorities: specific activities: community support officers

The Police Reform Act 2002 permits a limited extension of police powers from constables to civilian staff. In particular there is Home Office encouragement for the deployment of police community support officers (PCSOs) whose uniform is distinct from that of a police constable.

PCSOs primarily work in ward area teams under the guidance of a police constable and so ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Chief Constable. This means that the operational expenses of PCSOs are attributable to the police authority which can recover any VAT under section 33 (see VATGPB4000). Funding for PCSOs is generally by direct grant from the Home Office to the force and the level of charges are specified by ACPO in their ‘Guidance for charging of Police Officers’

Under sections 25 and 92 of the Police Act 1996, local authorities can enter into agreements with their police authority for additional PCSOs to be provided in public areas at the expense of the local authority. This amounts to a supply of an authorised member of police staff to another public body to fulfil a statutory wellbeing obligation. The supply is non-business. Any payment made by the local authority to cover salary and related costs is outside the scope of VAT.

Local agreements for the provision of PCSOs may vary in terms of who bears the costs of uniforms, equipment, accommodation and the like. Normally it will be the police who will claim reimbursement from the local authority. However, whichever body it is can recover any VAT incurred under section 33 subject to the normal rules. Any reimbursement of costs is outside the scope of VAT as a contribution from the other party.

Other organisations can also request and fund PCSOs in full or in part. Examples include housing associations, shopping malls, football clubs, sports stadia, concert stadia and the like. In these circumstances the supply is by way of business and taxable.