On 24 April 2020, the Government announced that the sale of personal protective equipment (PPE) would temporarily be zero VAT. There will be no VAT charged on PPE between 1 May and 31 July 2020 across the whole of the UK, due to the COVID-19 crisis. PPE was previously subject to the standard 20% VAT, which care providers and other businesses requiring PPE were not always able to reclaim. The Treasury estimated that those purchasing PPE could save more than £100 million.
The guidance acknowledged that the zero rate VAT would be of particular help to sectors that can't reclaim VAT on goods due to their VAT exempt status, such as care homes. The UK has been able to review how these supplies are treated for VAT due to the EU Commission supporting temporary VAT reliefs. Although the UK has left the EU, it remains bound by EU rules until the end of the transition period at the end of the year. The new zero rate VAT has been introduced as a temporary, emergency measure, which currently will be in place until the end of July.
The items covered by the ruling include:
- disposable gloves
- disposable plastic aprons
- disposable fluid-resistant coveralls or gowns
- surgical masks -- including fluid-resistant type IIR surgical masks
- filtering face piece respirators
- eye and face protection -- including single or reusable full-face visors or goggles
The Government has published guidance on the use of PPE in the COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) document. It provides guidance for health and social care workers during the pandemic and supersedes previous guidance on PPE. The guidance includes enhanced PPE recommendations, advice on reusable PPE, recommendation on patient use of face masks, and other key information. It also contains information on safe working for all health and care workers and carrying out risk assessments. Additionally, the Government has provided tables outlining recommended PPE for different types of health and social care workers and different settings.
These changes mean that businesses and organisations like PPE4People are able to help more people. The zero rate VAT makes PPE more affordable to those who would otherwise not have been able to reclaim the VAT. In particular, the care sector benefits from more affordable PPE, especially when combined with the removal of import duties on PPE, which was implemented earlier in the outbreak. With the zero rate on PPE set to last until 31 July, it could potentially be extended further if still necessary, although only time will tell if this does happen.
PPE4People is supporting key workers and organisations in the UK by sourcing regulated PPE. The aim is to connect those that need PPE with suppliers using a reverse auction system. Buyers advertise their PPE needs, allowing suppliers to bid for their jobs and giving buyers a choice of suppliers and prices. Buyers can also see ratings for each supplier, left by other buyers, to help them make their choice. Run by a network of volunteers, PPE4People connects workers and organisations with PPE suppliers but remains hands-off when it comes to the supply of PPE.