VQOTW: Cultural Admissions

My client is an amateur dramatic society operating via a company limited by guarantee. They own their own premises and charge admissions to their productions. The admissions have grown to £80,000 in the last 12 months, and alongside this income, they have £20,000 from bar sales and they also occasionally perform at other theatres. They don’t control the box office for these performances at other theatres; instead, they are paid a fixed fee by the theatre for performing, and income from this is £10,000. As their total sales are now £110,000 for the last 12 months, I’m assuming they have to register for VAT?

Despite the level of turnover, your client may not have to register for VAT. This is because Group 13, Schedule 9 VAT Act 1994 exempts the right of admission to a theatrical performance of a cultural nature, made by a public body or an eligible body. You will see the term ‘eligible body’ used across many of the VAT exemptions, but in this context, an eligible body is any body (other than a public body) which:

  • is precluded from distributing, and does not distribute, any profit it makes,
  • applies any profits made from exempt admission fees under this provision to the continuance or improvement of the facilities made available by means of the supplies, and
  • is managed and administered on a voluntary basis by persons who have no direct or indirect financial interest in its activities.

This third bullet-point is the one which may need some explanation as your question does not address this aspect. This condition has been held to mean that the strategic management and decisions are in the hands of a person with no financial interest in the body’s performance, as explained in the HMRC’s manuals via the following links:



So in your client’s case, if they are an eligible body, their income from admissions of £80,000 would, in fact, be exempt income and therefore would not count towards their registration threshold.

Bar sales will, of course, be standard rated irrespective of eligible body status and will count towards the VAT threshold. In terms of your client’s third source of income, this will also be taxable and count towards VAT registration. This is because, despite your client’s possible status as an eligible body, the supply they make is not for admission to the performance, but actually a supply of performance services made to the theatre. The theatre is then the entity making the onward supplies of admission to its customers.

As well as admissions to theatrical performances, the exemption under Group 13 includes admissions to museums, galleries, art exhibitions, and zoos and musical or choreographic performances of a cultural nature.

More information on this VAT exemption can be found in VAT Notice 701/47 – Admission charges to cultural events.

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If you have a VAT query why not contact the VAT Advice Line on 0844 892 2470 to discuss the implications. Our team of experts have a wealth of experience and can also provide a written consultancy service at competitive rates.

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Tony joined HMRC in 2015 where he managed a cross-tax Hidden Economy team specialising in failure to notify compliance work and evasion. He developed a sound understanding of VAT as well as gaining significant knowledge of the compliance penalties regime and Schedule 36 compliance powers.

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