VAT News

Customs Duty and VAT Reliefs on Imported Goods: Blood grouping, tissue typing and therapeutic substances; Substances for biological and Chemical Research; Museum & Gallery Exhibits


Couple of Import Duty and VAT reliefs were announced this week which will be of interest to those in the Life Sciences and Pharmaceutical sectors as well as in Universities, Museums and Local Councils.

The first area relates to:

        1.  Blood grouping, tissue typing and therapeutic substances

It should be noted that for some types of imported products in this category there is already a NIL Tariff rate and from the VAT perspective there is a VAT Exemption that can apply to human blood products but this news will broaden the reliefs.

Like other reliefs however, they are particular in their application to imported items by specific bodies. In respect of this relief those who can apply for the relief are a:

  • public institution or laboratory
  • private establishment approved by the Department of Health and Social Care to have goods free of duty and VAT

Public institutions include:

  • Strategic Health Authorities (England)
  • Special Health Authorities in Scotland
  • Ministry of Defence Hospitals
  • public health laboratories
  • research laboratories of government departments
  • research laboratories of research councils and similar bodies
  • all blood transfusion service establishments
  • the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control
  • all schools and pharmacy
  • medical schools


This is a relief for which approval must be applied if you are not a public institution or laboratory.

In a University environment It will be important to identify what departments are purchasing these types of products and to set a process up to ensure that correct documentation and approvals are held. The application requirements can be found here and products that qualify will NOT include anything used for COMMERCIAL exploitation. The list covers:

Therapeutic substances of human origin

This means human blood and its derivatives:

  • whole human blood
  • dried human plasma
  • human albumin
  • fixed solutions of human plasmic protein, human immunoglobulin and human fibrinogen)


Blood-grouping reagents

This means all reagents used for blood-type grouping and for the detection of blood incompatibilities whether of:

  • human origin
  • animal origin
  • plant origin
  • other origin


Tissue-typing reagents

This means all reagents used for the determination of human tissue types whether of:

  • human origin
  • animal origin
  • plant origin
  • other origin


Another area of Relief is for:

       2. Substances for biological and chemical research

The relevant bodies that can apply for this relief are:

  • private establishment involved in education or scientific research and approved by HMRC to receive eligible goods duty and VAT
  • public establishment involved in education or scientific research, including:
    • university medical schools
    • pharmacy or chemistry schools and colleges
    • National Health Service and teaching hospitals
    • medical schools and research laboratories
    • research councils and similar bodies


Again, the relief only applies to goods used for non-commercial research purposes only.

Details of the goods covered and how to get approval can be found here

              3.  Importing museum and gallery exhibits

This relief is available to a slightly different range of bodies than those noted above. Relief can be claimed by:

  • museums
  • galleries
  • state (or government) agencies such as:
    • the Arts Council
    • local councils


The VAT relief applies if the exhibits have been donated free of charge to you, but you may also benefit if:

  • you buy the exhibits from a private person
  • the supply to you is not in the course or furtherance of any business


Some goods, including works of art, may already be subject to a nil rate of duty in the Tariff.

In brief the items eligible for relief will be those of a scientific, educational or cultural nature which are NOT be for resale and any exhibits imported must also be:

  • dispatched directly on import to your approved establishment
  • used exclusively as exhibits under your control


The detailed guidance note is here

As ever get in touch with your Centurion adviser is you have questions on this or any related VAT aspect. We’re here for when VAT gets complicated on


For the avoidance of doubt, the content recorded in this news article does not constitute formal advice and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It is always recommended that you seek professional advice before acting on any of the news articles or information included.

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