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HMRC internal manual

VAT Registration

Entity to be registered: local authorities and similar bodies


The law governing the registration of local authorities is contained in the VAT Act 1994, Section 42. Local Authorities are defined in VAT Act 1994, Section 96(4). If a local authority makes business supplies, it is required to be registered for VAT whatever the value of those supplies. (However, please see VATGBP2200 for details of a concession. External users can access this guidance at Local Authorities are defined in the VAT Act 1994, Section 96(4).

Public authorities covered by section 33

The other bodies listed at section 33(3) are required to be registered only if the value of their taxable supplies, made in the course of business, exceeds the registration threshold. Such bodies may also apply for voluntary registration where their turnover doesn’t exceed the threshold.

On the face of it, most of the bodies listed at section 33(3) are corporate bodies, but their status should be checked before the VAT 1 is processed. However, they are likely to be registerable either as a local authority or as an incorporated company.

Local Authority Joint Committee

Separate VAT registration is normally required for joint committees/boards made up of two or more local authorities. They may, however, as a concession, apply to account for VAT under the VAT registration of one of the member authorities. Applications requesting such treatment are generally sought in cases where one authority has responsibility for all the accounting records or where separate registration would result in the partial exemption de minimis limits being exceeded.

Any joint board/committee wishing to account for VAT under the registration of one of its member authorities must apply to its local VAT office in writing giving its reasons for wishing to do so. Each application must be judged on its own merits, but you should not generally withhold permission unless

  • there is evidence of a tax advantage to the authority which is to account for the VAT, and
  • that tax advantage would not have been available if the authority had undertaken the activity itself rather than jointly with another authority.

Separate VAT registration is also necessary for any committee or body which, although having close links with a local authority, is legally separate from it and is not eligible for Section 33 treatment, for example, housing trusts and enterprise agencies.

The registration should be raised in the name of the joint committee and be given the status ‘local authority’. The VAT 1 should be signed by a responsible officer of the management committee (for example, the secretary or treasurer).