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Medical Equipment and Supplies: Zero-rate VAT relief guidance

This document has been prepared by the University┬┐s taxation manager, Mark Smith, to provide guidance to MMU staff on items of equipment and medical substances that can be purchased VAT free. For additional assistance, please contact Mark on extension 1870 or email


The University is charged VAT on most purchases of goods and services. As the University’s main activities of education and research are VAT exempt, it cannot normally recover the VAT it incurs on its expenditure. There are some specific VAT reliefs that the University can claim, by providing an eligibility certificate to its supplier, so that the goods and/or services can be supplied free of VAT, thus saving the University 20% of the cost.

VAT relief is available for the purchases of medical equipment and supplies that are used by a charitable organisation in medical or veterinary research, training, diagnosis or treatment.


What items are covered by the relief?

The following items are covered by the relief when purchased mainly for medical or veterinary research, training, diagnosis or treatment:

  • medical equipment;
  • scientific equipment;
  • computer equipment and certain software;
  • video equipment;
  • sterilising equipment;
  • laboratory equipment;
  • refrigeration equipment;
  • Parts and accessories for use in or with any of the above equipment.
  • the repair and maintenance of qualifying goods.

If you are in any doubt as to whether the goods or services that you are purchasing qualify for relief, please refer to the examples provided at Appendix 1 in the first instance. If you are still not certain, please contact Mark Smith on the details above.

As well as medical equipment, there is also VAT relief available for medical substances and medicinal products.

A charity engaged in medical or veterinary research can purchase substances directly used for testing, or for mixing with other substances in the course of that research, at the zero rate.  A ‘substance’ can be natural or artificial, and can be in solid or liquid form or in the form of a gas or vapour. If the substance is purchased in the form of gas, the zero-rating will also apply to the cylinder rental. 

A ‘medicinal product’ is a substance presented as a medicine, or an ingredient for a medicine, capable of being administered to people or animals for a medicinal purpose. The zero rate covers medicinal products purchased by a charity for the purpose of testing the efficiency of those products. 

‘Medicinal purpose’ means:

  • treating or preventing disease;
  • diagnosing disease, or ascertaining the existence or degree of a physiological condition;
  • contraception;
  • inducing anaesthesia;
  • otherwise preventing or interfering with the normal operation of a physiological function, whether permanently or temporarily, and whether by terminating, reducing or postponing, or increasing or accelerating the operation of that function, or in any other way.


What is medical or veterinary research, training, diagnosis or treatment?

‘Medical or veterinary research’ means original research into human or animal disease and injury.

‘Medical or veterinary training’ means the training of doctors, nurses, surgeons (including dental), and other professionals involved in medical or veterinary diagnosis or treatment.

‘Medical or veterinary diagnosis or treatment’ means the diagnosis and treatment of a physical or mental illness or injury  by a medical or paramedical practitioner or a veterinary surgeon.


Is MMU a charity?

Yes - The University enjoys charitable status as an exempt charity under Schedule 2 to the Charities Act 1993 (amended by the Charities Act 2006).

It is therefore subject to charity legislation but is not required to register with the Charity Commission and is not regulated by it. As an exempt charity, the University does not have a registered charity number.


How to claim the relief

A completed VAT relief eligibility certificate must be completed, signed and sent to the supplier along with the purchase order. The supplier can then rely on this certificate as evidence to invoice the University without the addition of VAT.

The relevant certificate for equipment purchases, repair and maintenance can be found at Appendix 2.

The relevant certificate for medical substances and medicinal products can be found at Appendix 3.

Article last updated: Monday, November 2, 2015

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