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Disabled Access: 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 goods and services to adapt buildings for the benefit of disabled students and staff 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 certain adaptations to buildings that improve the access to and movement within the building for disabled people when supplied to a charity.


What is covered by the relief?

The construction of a ramp or widening an existing doorway or passage where the work is done to help a disabled person gain access to or move about within a building.

The construction, extension or adaptation of a bathroom, washroom or lavatory in student accommodation where the work is necessary to suit the condition of a disabled person.

The construction, extension or adaptation of a washroom or lavatory, but not a bathroom, in any other University building where the work is necessary to facilitate the use by a disabled person.

A washroom means a room containing a lavatory or washbasin (or both) but not a bath or shower.

The installation of a chair or stair lift and lifts designed solely for use by disabled persons, where the lifts have been installed to meet the needs of specific disabled individuals. The installation of an ordinary lift will always be subject to VAT at 20%.

Where any of the works listed above require preparation and necessary restoration work, this can also be purchased free of VAT. For example, when widening doorways, the removal of bricks and mortar, the supply and fit of a wider door, the installation of a new frame and surround and the restoration of the immediate décor.

The supply of an emergency alarm call system designed to be capable of operation by a disabled person, which enables that person to call for help in case of illness, injury or similar emergency to a specified person or a control centre.

Induction loops installed in lecture theatres to enable students that are hard of hearing.

VAT relief also applies to the repair and maintenance of the system.


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 is available here.

Article last updated: Monday, November 2, 2015

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