Defining Business Non-Business Supplies for VAT

Business Non-Business Supplies for VAT

In the United Kingdom, there’s no specific definition for businesses. HMRC defines a business as an ongoing operation that receives payments for products or services, whether it’s cash or any other form. This distinction matters for Business Non-Business Supplies for VAT

What are businesses for VAT?

HMRC has clearly explained the legal justification for classifying specific activities as businesses for VAT liability. It includes the following activities:

  • If you make money engaging in a profession, trade, or any other form of employment
  • You offer membership privileges as a club, association, or any other organization in exchange for money for a subscription.
  • You charge for the premises.
  • Any activity that is carried out with discernable continuity

However, if your activities are primarily a pastime, a form of recreation, or a one-off transaction, they may not be considered commercial activities in spite of fulfilling all the characteristics of a business. Therefore, you are not liable to pay VAT if your taxable Supplies for VAT are minimal. This includes the occasional or one-time sale of your personal items, but routinely purchasing products to resell is undoubtedly a business activity.

Criteria for a business test

From the historical cases, HMRC formulated six criteria for depicting whether an activity is business or non-business Supplies for VAT.

  • If  the activity is pursued with serious intent,
  • The activity was carried out in a reasonable or recognizable way
  • Whether a business activity has a certain level of substance in terms of quarterly or annual taxable supplies
  •  carried out regularly
  • If the primary focus of the activity is the production of taxable supply for consideration
  • Is the activity generating some sort of profit?

Non-Business Activities

The law does not define non-business activity; however, HMRC published some activities falling under this category. 

Examples of non-business activity

Following are examples of VAT non-business supplies activities. 

Example 1: Products or services offered without profit:

A local community organization providing free tutoring sessions to underprivileged students.

An artist creating and sharing their digital artwork online for anyone to download and use without charge.

Example 2: The activity performed in a private vicinity, for instance, hobbies:

A person gardening in their backyard as a hobby and not selling the produce.

Someone collecting vintage stamps purely for personal enjoyment and not for commercial purposes.

Example 3: Money is given as a donation:

Donating money to a wildlife conservation organization to support their efforts to protect endangered species. Contributing funds to a disaster relief fund to assist those affected by natural disasters.

Example 4: Any payment made that does not ensure the provision of goods and services exempt from the business activity:

Paying an entry fee for access to a public park where no specific services or products are provided in return. Purchasing a ticket to a charity gala event where the ticket price primarily goes to the charity, and attendees don’t receive goods or services in exchange.

Other mandatory public duties are not included in this category:

  • Serving on a jury is a civic duty when summoned by the court. 
  • Volunteering as a firefighter to protect the community during emergencies.

Distinguish between Business Non-Business activities

Business aims for profit, while non-business is for charity or public purposes. Businesses are private entities, while non-business is sponsored by trustees or a board of directors. So, when starting a business in the UK, follow HMRC’s rules and regulations.

VAT Business Non-Business manual

HMRC made it easier for the owners by providing manuals including all the necessary details about business and non-business activities. Therefore, it enables you to find out if you are liable for VAT. 

Manual also includes the following details

  • Laws prevailing in the UK
  • All the precedent cases related to business
  • Guidance to determine business or non-business activity
  • Procedures of apportionment and their approval

What are the methods of apportionment 

Organizations must employ an apportionment method that will result in fair and reasonable taxes. Therefore, they keep records of the process they followed to calculate. In this way, HMRC has easy access to it.  

If there are changes in the nature of business or nonbusiness activities, an organization must keep its techniques under review and make adjustments accordingly.

  • Income-based methods
  • Expenditure based methods 
  • Time-based methods 
  • Transaction based methods
  • Fixed Apportionment


Q1 What is Business Non-Business for VAT?

Answer: When an activity is done in the course of furtherance it is called a business for VAT purposes. This is liable if taxable Business Non-Business Supplies for VAT supplies are done. However, non-business activity means services are provided without any profit or margin, like charity or counseling.

Q2: What is a non-business supply for VAT?

Answer: A non-business supply means transactions unrelated to a company’s work, like personal shopping, gifts, or nonprofit activities. You usually can’t get back the VAT paid on these.

Q3: What is VAT for business?

Answer: VAT for business is a tax companies add to their sales, and they can often recover the tax they pay on their expenses. Businesses must follow rules, like record-keeping and VAT return submissions. Rates and rules vary by country.

Also Read

VAT on Food and Drinks for Goods & Services

how to submit a VAT Return

VAT Calculator UK

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