The School Uniform Tax must be abolished

The leading organisation representing the school uniform industry today publishes a new report calling on the Government to abolish the VAT paid by parents on school uniforms.

  • The school uniform industry has already been working closely with schools to help reduce costs for families, with the costs of compulsory branded uniform items reducing from £101.19 per pupil in 2020, to £93 this year.
  • The new report, published by The Schoolwear Association, shows English parents are paying close to £9 million in VAT each year for school-specific uniforms.
  • This averages out to £2,604 in VAT paid by parents every year across each of England’s 3,456 secondary schools.
  • The Schoolwear Association has committed to ensuring that members pass any VAT cut on school uniform items directly on to families.

With data from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health1 showing that children in the UK are taller and larger than they have ever been, parents are increasingly likely to be paying VAT on uniform items for their children before they reach the age of 14. This means that some families are being penalised over others, simply when their children are taller or larger than average.

Since 1973, clothing and shoes for young children have been charged at zero rate VAT, in line with EU regulations. However, clothing items for children 14 years old or older, or taller or larger than the average, are subject to the full standard rate of 20% VAT. This includes school uniform garments. VAT is a tax levied on non-essential goods and, with most schools requiring students to wear a uniform, there’s no reason for school-specific2 uniform items to be subject to what amounts to a school uniform tax. This is even more so the case now that the UK is no longer bound by EU rules on VAT.

Abolishing VAT on school uniforms would be an important step in helping families to meet the cost of uniforms, especially after what has been a difficult year. Each family would make significant savings over their child’s schooling years, at a relatively low cost to the taxpayer.

Matthew Easter, CEO, Schoolwear Association: ‘The Schoolwear Association is committed to providing excellent value, long-lasting school uniforms to young people who spend on average 195 days a year in these clothes. We have already been working closely with schools to bring costs down for families, and we’ve welcomed the Department for Education’s Guidance on school uniform costs.

“However, with the current tax system unfairly penalising some families over others, there’s clearly more to be done. Now that the UK is no longer tied to EU rules on VAT, this is a fantastic opportunity for the Government to intervene and make school uniforms even more affordable for hard-pressed families across the country.

“As an industry body, we are publicly committing to passing any savings from a VAT cut directly onto families, and will continue to work with schools to ensure their uniform policies are as proportionate and reasonable as possible.”

Notes to Editors

Table showing the average body measurements for a 14-year-old, according to VAT Notice 7143 – according to paediatricians, this has failed to keep up with modern growth changes.

References

  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, UK-WHO growth charts – 2-18 years
  • We understand the Government’s concerns that abolishing VAT on all school uniform clothing could lead to smaller adults taking advantage of the tax cut by purchasing generic children’s uniform items, such as plain shirts, trousers, and skirts, for themselves. This is why we only propose removing VAT on school-specific, branded items, which would only suitably be worn by children at their school. This approach also keeps costs down for the Treasury and taxpayer.
  • HM Revenue & Customs, Young children’s clothing and footwear (VAT Notice 714), March 2015.

School uniform costs

  • Each year, the Schoolwear Association conducts the largest industry analysis of the cost of school uniform, accounting for over 11% of secondary schools in England, clothing over 385,000 pupils.
  • This year we found the average cost of compulsory secondary school uniform and sportswear items is £93 per pupil when they start secondary school.
  • These figures are based on the actual retail price of garments charged to parents in our members’ stores, reflecting the true cost of secondary school uniforms.
  • School uniform is worn for around 195 days a year, and less than half of these items need to be replaced each year.
  • Therefore, the average annual spend per pupil on compulsory items at secondary school works out to just £33.21 a year, or 17 pence a day.

About the Schoolwear Association

The Schoolwear Association represents retailers, suppliers and manufacturers involved in the supply of school uniform, working to drive up standards and embracing a set of core values to make sure that parents get a fair deal.

Established in 2006, we are retailers and manufacturers involved in the supply of school uniform, working to drive up standards and promote a set of core values to make sure parents get a fair deal. Our membership includes over 250 SMEs, which are principally local family businesses, based in high street locations that support their local communities.

Together we clothe over three quarters of UK school children, providing sustainable, long-lasting and affordable school uniform for families across the UK.

Read full report here.