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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee


HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has issued guidance on the VAT status of the national contract payments. Details can be found in VAT Info Sheet 04/06 entitled "Liability of essential and advanced services supplied in England/Wales under NHS" on the HMRC website.

HRMC Guidance

Where dispensing or repeat dispensing is undertaken by a registered pharmacist, against a prescription issued by a doctor, dentist or nurse, that activity is currently zero-rated for VAT purposes. HMRC have concluded that the following payments within essential services relate to the core dispensing activity and so are zero rated:

Item fee
Establishment payment
Protected Professional Allowance
(Ceased from 31st March 2008)
Repeat dispensing annual payment
Transitional payment
Special fees

The situation relating to other aspects of the essential and advanced services is slightly more complicated. We have summarised the position below but for a fuller picture please consult the Information Sheet referred to above.

The Disposal of Unwanted Medicines is a standard-rated supply. Signposting does not need to be performed by a registered pharmacist and is also standard-rated.

The Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles is likely to involve individually tailored advice given by the pharmacist to patients in certain identified at-risk groups. This utilises the pharmacist’s professional expertise and thus this service is exempt.

Support for Self-Care also involves providing patients with pharmaceutical advice about medicines and other products available over-the-counter. The pharmacist’s provision of advice will be exempt. Any medicines sold over the-counter will be a separate, standard-rated supply.

Support for People with Disabilities is extra support provided to patients in response to their assessed need, in order to facilitate their safe selfadministration of medicines. This support is a requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and ranges from special labelling of containers for use by visually disabled patients to MDS. This activity is a further aspect of the dispensing of prescribed medicines and is zero-rated where the medicines themselves are zero-rated.

Clinical Governance is not a supply for VAT purposes and its funding is outside the scope of VAT.

Thus of the six elements of the practice payment, five of these constitute payment for supplies attracting various different liabilities whilst the sixth is funding to support and encourage good quality delivery through the clinical governance requirements.

Accordingly, pharmacies will need to apportion the practice payment to reflect the different liabilities of the activities it supports. 

Following the significant increase in the Practice Payment from October 2008, PSNC has been working closely with the Department of Health and HMRC to revise the percentages used to apportion the payment for VAT purposes. PSNC is pleased to announce that the percentages used in the apportionment have been revised as follows:


 Element Value to Sept 2008 script payments  Value from Oct 2008 script payments
Standard Rated Disposal of Medicines, Signposting 10% of Practice Payment 4% of Practice Payment
Exempt Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles, Support for Self-care 33% of Practice Payment 14% of Practice Payment
Zero Rated Support for People with Disabilities 19% of Practice Payment 66% of Practice Payment
Outside Scope Clinical Governance 38% of Practice Payment 16% of Practice Payment

This means that HMRC has agreed with PSNC and the DH that the extra funding delivered through the increased Practice Payment relates to core dispensing activity and so contractors' VAT liability will remain substantially unchanged.

If any updated information regarding the percentages to be used in the VAT apportionment is confirmed we will post this information on our website and send guidance to all pharmacies in our Newsletter, Community Pharmacy News. 

Advanced services use the professional expertise of pharmacists and thus are exempt services.

Refunds and exit payments plus all payments for EPS are not payments for any supply made by the pharmacy and thus are outside the scope of VAT. You will need to talk to your accountant about becoming partly exempt if you aren’t already. HMRC Notice 706 explains the partial exemption rules in depth.

In the meantime if you require further information about any of the VAT liabilities discussed in this information sheet please ring HMRC’s National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000. You can call between 8.00 am and 8.00 pm, Monday to Friday.

Links to HMRC website

HMRC website

HMRC Notice 701/57 Health professionals (January 2007) (incorporates the information from HMRC Notice 04/06 on liability of essential and advanced services)

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