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HMRC internal manual

VAT Government and Public Bodies

Other local authority activities: miscellaneous (A to E): cemeteries and crematoria


Most supplies in local authority cemeteries are made under the Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Order 1977. In the case of Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council (VTD 16496) the Tribunal held that, in providing and maintaining cemeteries, the local authority acted as a public body and so was undertaking non-business activities. It was further decided that since the great majority of cemeteries are operated by local authorities, ‘the treatment of local authorities as non-taxable persons in connection with these activities would not lead to significant distortions of competition’. As a result a local authority can recover VAT under section 33 (see VATGPB4000) whilst not charging VAT on its income.


By contrast the provision of crematoria by a local authority is primarily a business activity. This is because local authorities act under the same legal regime (the Crematoria Act 1847) as private crematoria operators. Any costs incurred relating to exempt activities should be included in the section 33 method and partial exemption calculations.

There are some exceptions where the use of local authority crematoria can be treated as non-business. This applies, for example, to free cremations (often for young children) and cremations carried out under the Public Health Acts (such as for paupers).

Interment of remains of the dead

The interment of remains of the dead is covered by Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 and may be treated as a non-business activity whether in a local authority cemetery or crematoria. As such VAT incurred in maintaining a garden of remembrance can be refunded under section 33.