The Implications of VAT on Private Schools, Navigating BIK for Education Fees

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As experienced accountants, it’s crucial to analyze the financial and broader economic implications of policy changes, such as the proposed imposition of VAT on private schools’ fees by the Labour party. The debate around this policy has brought forward significant points of contention and clarification, particularly regarding its impact on class sizes and overall educational funding. Additionally, the role of accountants becomes even more critical in helping businesses manage the financial aspects of education fees through Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) strategies, especially in light of new VAT implications.

Understanding the Policy

Labour’s plan, as articulated by Sir Keir Starmer and his team, involves levying VAT on private school fees. This move aims to generate approximately £1.5 billion annually, which Labour intends to reinvest into the state education system. The intention is to address funding gaps and improve the quality of education through initiatives such as recruiting more teachers and establishing 3,000 new school-based nurseries.

Clarifying the Misunderstandings

A recent controversy arose when Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, suggested that this policy could result in larger class sizes in state schools. This statement was quickly countered by other senior Labour figures. Both Sir Keir Starmer and shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson reassured the public that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis indicates a negligible impact on class sizes. They emphasized that the overall policy is designed to enhance state education without overcrowding classrooms.

Financial Impact and Educational Benefits

From an accounting perspective, the introduction of VAT on private school fees represents a significant policy shift with notable financial ramifications:

  1. Revenue Generation: The projected £1.5 billion revenue can significantly bolster state education funding. This injection of funds is crucial for addressing current shortfalls and enabling long-term investments in educational infrastructure and teacher recruitment.
  2. Redistribution of Resources: By taxing private education, Labour aims to redistribute resources more equitably across the education sector. This could help level the playing field, providing enhanced educational opportunities for children in state schools.
  3. Potential Market Adjustments: Private schools may need to adjust their fee structures and financial models to accommodate the new VAT. This could lead to varied responses, including potential fee increases, cost-cutting measures, or enhanced value propositions to justify the higher costs.

Accountants and Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) Strategies

In this new financial landscape, accountants play a pivotal role in helping businesses navigate the complexities of paying for education fees via Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) strategies. Here’s how businesses can maximize tax efficiency in this context:

Benefit-in-Kind (BIK)

If a prospective student is an employee of the company, it is possible for the employer to pay the fees on their behalf as part of their remuneration package. This is commonly referred to as a ‘benefit-in-kind’ (BIK), whereby the employer provides some benefit to the employee, and the equivalent cash value of the benefit is treated as if it were the employee’s taxable income.

Example: University Fees Paid by Company

  • Scenario: Sasha, the Director of Standard Ltd, takes a salary of £30,000. If Sasha pays tuition fees of £9,250 personally, the total cost (including tax and NICs) would be £12,823. If Standard Ltd pays the tuition fees, the company receives corporation tax relief, reducing the overall cost to £11,394.
  • Benefit: This approach reduces the total cost of education by nearly half compared to paying from after-tax income, particularly beneficial for higher-rate taxpayers.
Additional Strategies
  1. Employee Loans: Employers can offer loans up to £10,000 for tuition fees, with tax advantages for both the employer and employee.
  2. Director’s Loan: Company directors can withdraw tax-free funds previously injected into the business to cover education fees.
  3. Employing Family Members: Family businesses can employ their children and potentially use dividends and tax-free payments to cover education costs.


As accountants, it’s our responsibility to provide clear, data-driven insights and strategies to navigate these financial changes effectively. The imposition of VAT on private schools, while generating substantial revenue for state education, also requires careful financial planning to mitigate its impact on businesses and individuals.

By leveraging Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) strategies and other tax-efficient methods, we can help business owners and their families manage education expenses more effectively. If you need detailed advice tailored to your situation or have any questions about these changes, please feel free to contact our accounting firm. We are here to help you navigate through these policy shifts with expert guidance and support.

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