The Students Union sought to argue that sales of stationery, art materials, etc. should be exempt from VAT as being goods ‘closely related’ to supplies of education. Doubtless the recent ruling in Brockenhurst College encouraged them to pursue this argument. If you are involved in the education sector, this case is essential reading. A number of interesting points arose in the decision:
The Tribunal criticised the breadth of the exemption allowed by HMRC (paras 25 & 27). I wonder if HMRC will revise its guidance following these comments;
HMRC seemed to contradict its own agreement of a Partial Exemption Special Method (para 28; paras 49 & 50);
One key element in the decision was whether surpluses generated by LSU’s activities were applied to the continuance or improvement of educational supplies. The difficulty was that supplies of education were made by Loughborough University, a separate legal entity (paras 70-76);
Another argument that went against LSU was that the Tribunal held that the shop sales were not ‘closely related’ goods (paras 86-90);
And, finally, there was some concern about the quantification (paras 91-97). The Tribunal invited the parties back if they could not reach agreement on this issue.