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VAT treatment of education and vocational training

Jarlath O'Keefe Jarlath O'Keefe

Revenue issue guidelines clarifying the uncertainty in relation to the VAT Treatment of Education and Vocational Training

Brief background

By way of background, Finance Act 2015 amended the VAT exemption that applies to education and vocational training. The purpose of the amendment was to reflect judgements of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

What changed?

The amendment provided that the VAT exemption applies to providers of children’s or young people’s education (and school or university education) where it is provided by a “recognised body” e.g. a school or college as defined in the Education Act 1998. Private tuition covering school or university education is similarly exempt from VAT.

While the amendments did not impact on many education providers such as primary schools and colleges, it created uncertainties for many commercial organisations offering vocational type education e.g. computer training or dance schools. As a result, if the provider was not regarded as a recognised body, the training would be potentially liable to VAT at 23%.

Can vocational training and retraining services fall within the VAT exemption?

On 19 April 2017, Revenue published eBrief 37/17 which clarifies the VAT treatment of the above services.

Vocational training and retraining services continue to be exempt from VAT provided each of the requirements set out below are satisfied:

  • it must be vocational in nature, therefore it must be directed towards improving an occupation and its associated skills;
  • it must be provided to improve the vocational rather than the personal skills of the trainee;
  • the vocational skills that the trainee acquires can be transferable from one employment to another, or to self-employment;
  • the training will generally be provided by means of a structured programme, have concise aims, objectives and anticipated outcomes; and
  • there should be a clear trainer/trainee relationship between the student and the teacher or instructor.

Nonetheless, the course will be subject to VAT at the appropriate rate in the event that:

  • any of the above requirements are not achieved;
  • the course is primarily directed towards personal development; or
  • the course is primarily undertaken for recreational benefits.


A cookery school offers classes to trainee chefs seeking to acquire the necessary expertise to become professional chefs. On completion, the trainee will have gained the requisite experience and qualifications to attain employment as a professional chef. As the course prepares these individuals for future employment and is directly related to a profession or trade, the training course is exempt from VAT.

The same cookery school runs classes which are open to anyone who has an interest in cooking. As the course is not directed towards a trade or profession and is primarily undertaken by the participants for recreational purposes, the course is subject to VAT at the appropriate rate.  

Contact us

If you are unsure as to whether the exemption will continue to apply to you or any of your clients, please feel free to contact a member of our VAT team to discuss any aspect of the above, or the comprehensive Revenue guidelines, in further detail.