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Applying for the VAT Refund Scheme for museums and galleries

Overview

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) VAT Refund Scheme for museums and galleries has now reopened for applications and we urge applications from eligible museums and galleries. The closing date for this round of applications has been extended to Wednesday 1st March 2023.

The VAT Refund Scheme has been running since 2001. It was last open to new applicants in 2018/19 and is estimated to have refunded up to around £1 billion to museums and galleries in the UK so far.

We strongly urge museums and galleries to apply for the VAT Refund Scheme as it provides a much-needed boost to finances. This enables museums and galleries to maintain public access to their collections, encourages increased visitor numbers, and builds the financial resilience of museum organisations.

Who can apply?

To be considered for inclusion in the scheme museums and/or galleries must:

  • Be open to the public for at least 30 hours per week, without exception
  • Offer free entry, without prior appointment
  • Hold collections in a purpose-built building
  • Display details of free entry and opening hours on the museum or gallery website

Museums who open on a seasonal basis may be eligible for the scheme if: 

  • The museum is open for at least 30 hours a week during it's open season, excluding public holidays, emergencies, and unforeseen events.
  • The museum does not operate an alternative access policy during it's seasonal closure, such as private opening hours, whether free or for payment. This condition does not apply to hosting limited ad hoc access to the museum site, such as for the purpose of school visit or hosting limited ad hoc income generation events in line with their charitable or organisational objectives. However, claims must be apportioned to exclude the costs associated with non s33A activity. For example, if such activities represent 10% of the year, then 10% of the costs associated with the permanent collection would not be recoverable.

Please ensure to read the guidance published on Gov.uk for more detailed information on eligibility for refunds before making your application. The completion of an application does not guarantee admission to the scheme. All applications and business cases will be thoroughly assessed, and the decision to include a museum or gallery is made by Government ministers.

In addition to meeting the eligibility criteria, museums and galleries will also be required to complete a strategic business case as part of the application process, which must include:

  • Proof of  UK Museums Accreditation Status (the MGS Museums Accreditation list can be viewed here)
  • Past and/or projected visitor figures
  • Information on existing and planned education programmes and community engagement work

Upon admission to the scheme museums or galleries will be required to provide:

  • Evidence confirming an obligation to providing or continuing to provide free entry
  • Visitor figures on an annual basis

How do I apply?

Application forms can be requested from DCMS by emailing vat33a@dcms.gov.uk.

Completed applications should be emailed to the Scottish Government who are collating applications in Scotland on behalf of DCMS. 

If you have any questions about the Refund Scheme please contact DCMS directly at vat33a@dcms.gov.uk

Application timings

The closing date for this round of applications has been extended to Wednesday 1st March 2023. 

Learn more

Detailed newly published guidance about the scheme can be found here.

Please also see the press announcement here.