VAT clause threatens museums' free entry

The Government's policy of free admission to museums for pensioners, children and students could be scuppered because of a tax anomaly.

Customs and Excise has warned that the recent decision to allow in pensioners without paying may stop museums being able to reclaim VAT.

At some charging institutions, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, more than half the number of visitors are soon likely to be entering without paying. As soon as that happened, Customs and Excise warned, the museum involved would no longer be considered a business and socould not reclaim VAT.

The spiral wing the V&A is developing will, alone, involve a £14m VAT bill, which it can currently reclaim.

Yesterday David Barrie, the director of the National Art Collections Fund, which campaigned for free admission and has highlighted the VAT anomalies, said the latest information could scupper the policy of free entry for children and those aged over 60. He said: "Naturally, the National Art Collections Fund applauds the latest step the Government has taken towards universal free entry. However, it would be ludicrous if a VAT anomaly were to cause the whole free admission policy to unravel before our eyes."

Mr Barrie is proposing an amendment be made to VAT regulations to allow free museums to recover VAT, in the same way the BBC, ITN and local authorities do.

The proposal does not require new legislation.

Lord Freyberg, another campaigner for free admission, said non-paying visitors would be likely to account for half the numbers now entering national museums. Visitor numbers have increased by 18 per cent in the past year, since children were allowed in free.

He said: "What a nonsense it would be if we have a situation whereby 'too many' free visitors results in in museums having to 'compensate' Customs and Excise."

Currently, museums that charge adults admission can claim back VAT, while the free museums such as the National and Tate galleries cannot. That in itself has proved a huge anomaly. The disclosure that allowing free access to the over-60s might stop the charging museums from reclaiming VAT is certain to put pressure on the Government to release national musuems and galleries from such payments altogether.

Tonight the independent candidate for London mayor, Ken Livingstone, will add his voice to those opposing VAT on museums when he launches his cultural policy. The Labour mayoral candidate, Frank Dobson, has called the VAT regulations of museums "preposterous."

A spokesman at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said yesterday: "We are in constant touch with Customs and Excise. Yes, there is a concern here, but [they] have assured us they will not review arrangements until 2002."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'