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General Information

The University’s VAT registration number is GB 672 3905 24.

Like many other UK universities, Ulster operates under a special partial exemption method which allows it to recover only a small percentage of VAT incurred – currently 6%.

How does this operate in practice?

In common with all VAT registered entities, the University must account for Output tax on income and Input tax on expenditure. The main proportion of the University’s income is derived from teaching and research which is exempt from VAT (with some exceptions). Other income arising from consultancy, catering, car parking and theatre is standard rated and the University must account for VAT on these.

Conversely, Ulster has to pay VAT on many of the goods and services it purchases – however it can only recover a small proportion of this through its VAT returns. For example, of the total input tax charged to the University in 2015/16 of £7,943,134 we were only able to recover £588,364.

There are currently 3 rates of VAT in the UK:

  • Standard rate 20%
  • Reduced rate    5%
  • Zero rate            0%

Effect of VAT on University Cost Centres

Many University cost centre cannot recover VAT incurred on expenditure. This means that the cost reflected in these cost centres will be the full cost of the goods/services purchased (net plus VAT).

A number of cost centres can claim partial recovery of VAT incurred at a rate of 6%. These cost centres are typically administrative and provide services to the University as a whole. This means that the cost reflected in the cost centre will be net plus 94% of VAT.

A few cost centres within the University can reclaim all the VAT they incur. These are typically Research or Self-financing codes where income or funding received is from commercial or charitable resources.

VAT exemptions and zero-rating

As a charity the VAT zero-rating relief in the following areas of expenditure:

  • Medical Research
  • Advertising
  • Printed matter
  • Disabled works

Reverse Charges

Goods or Services acquired from other EU member states should not attract VAT on the invoice from the supplier where we supply the University’s VAT number when placing the order.

These costs will however be liable to a self-assessed UK VAT Charge (Reverse Charges), if the goods/services purchased would have been liable to VAT if purchased in the UK. This self-assessed charge will be posted to the relevant cost centre by the Finance Department on a monthly basis.

VAT Queries

This information is for general guidance only. For further information, please refer to our detailed VAT Guidance or contact Mark Harvey.