In HMRC v Anna Cook [2021] UKUT 0015, the Upper Tribunal (UT) reversed a decision of the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) decision, Ceroc dance tuition is not exempt from VAT. It is not a supply of private tuition in a subject ordinarily taught at school or university.

The relevant law is contained in Value Added Tax 1994 (VATA) which is the UK’s enactment of Principal VAT Directive 2006/112 EC. 

Section 31 VATA gives an exemption from VAT for the supply of private tuition, in a subject ordinarily taught in a school or university, by an individual teacher acting independently of an employer (via Schedule 9).

This exemption has been the subject of case law which has rejected the application of the exemption where the tuition is for purely recreational purposes.

  • Ms Cook provided Ceroc dancing classes to the general public under a franchise agreement in a number of capacities.
  • For the period between October 2010 and September 2012, she operated as a sole trader.
  • For the period Ms Cook did not register or account for any VAT.
  • HMRC considered that she was suppling standard-rated services.
  • Ms Cook appealed contending that the supplies were exempt from VAT on the basis that they were supplies of tuition, meeting the exemption in Schedule 9; “in a subject ordinarily taught in a school or university, by an individual teacher acting independently of an employer”.

The FTT allowed the appeal finding that:

  • Ceroc shared the features of various different dance styles so represented the teaching of dance in a generic sense, rather than a specific style of dance.
  • As dance was taught in schools and universities and there were some similarities between Ceroc and formal assessment in schools, Ceroc was ordinarily taught in schools or universities as required by the exemption in Schedule 9.
  • As dance was taught in schools, it could not be purely recreational.
  • The classes taught by Ms Cook were not purely recreational.

HMRC appealed to the UT.

The UT found that:

  • The FTT had erred in law.
  • Ceroc was a distinct style of dance, rather than the generic teaching of dance.
  • There was no evidence that Ceroc, jive or salsa (with which Ceroc shared elements) or pairs dancing were commonly taught in schools or universities.
  • The exemption in Schedule 9 was not met.

The UT went on to consider further grounds in the appeal for completeness, finding that:

  • Activities that were purely recreational did not fall within the private tuition exemption even if they were commonly taught in schools or university.
  • That the Ceroc classes themselves were not purely recreational.

HMRC’s appeal was allowed.

Useful guides on this topic

Appeals: VAT
How do I appeal an HMRC decision?  How do I appeal a penalty?  How can I request a Statutory Review? 

Education & VAT
What rate of VAT applies to education? What sort of services are classed as education? What do you do if your have multiple supplies including education? What cases are there on VAT and education?

External links

HMRC v Anna Cook [2021] UKUT 0015


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