Teacher Hub

How to... Save VAT on an instrument purchase

Written by William Thompson14/09/23

We often get asked about the 'VAT-free' scheme, whether by schools, parents or students, all eager to know if it exists.

Can I really save 20%?  And am I eligible?

The answer in a lot of cases is 'Yes!'  Not everyone can save the VAT, but even in those cases you'll find that our discounted prices are very good value.

We've identified some of the key information and listed it here for you.

What is the Assisted Instrument Purchase Scheme?

The Assisted Instrument Purchase Scheme (AIPS) allows you as a parent or guardian to purchase a musical instrument for your child without paying VAT, ensuring that you make valuable savings off Chamberlain Music's already reduced prices, leading to a huge discount off the RRP.

Am I eligible for the scheme and what are the requirements?

  • The pupil must be in full-time education at a Local Education Authority or Academy School
  • The pupil must either be receiving tuition at the school as part of their curriculum or receiving private tuition in support of a curricular activity such as GCSE music
  • The instrument must be appropriate for the pupil's needs
  • The instrument must be portable (e.g. no pianos)
  • The instrument must be purchased via the school and passed on to the pupil on the school/music centre premises

I am eligible, how do I purchase the instrument?

We supply lots of musical instruments to children around the UK using the AIPS scheme. If you need help, we are on-hand to guide you through the process and help with any queries that you have in regards to selecting the best instrument – please contact us and we will be delighted to assist.

  1. First of all, check with your school, Academy or music centre that they operate the 'Assisted Instrument Purchase Scheme'.
  2. Take a look on our site or give us a ring and choose your instrument, making a note of the model.
  3. Obtain the necessary form from your school or music centre – they probably have a form for you to complete or simply use our one HERE.
  4. Complete the form and pass it along to the school/music centre with payment (please note that the school/music centre may charge a small administration fee and you should check this with them first)
  5. Your school/music centre will generate an official order and submit it to Chamberlain Music
  6. We will despatch the instrument to the school/music centre ready for collection


My school/music centre is part of the LEA yet they do not currently operate the scheme, am I still entitled to purchase an instrument in this way?

  • Yes, this scheme is legal and any child fulfilling the criteria is eligible. Speak to your school or music centre about the scheme and use our downloadable application form if they are unable to provide one for you.

What if my child does not attend a Local Education Authority school, is there a way I could still be eligible?

  • AIPS is a voluntary scheme enabling different local authorities to operate in different ways. If your child attends an independent school yet receives regular additional tuition from an LEA Music Service that operates such a policy they may be eligible if the conditions are followed as per the eligibility notes above.

Can I purchase accessories too?

  • And so long as you make the purchase all together - you can also purchase appropriate accessories making the same savings – items such as music stands, reeds, strings, cases or bags.

What happens with my instrument guarantee?

  • Although the instrument is purchased by your school or music centre, we retain all purchase and serial numbers in the unlikely event any work needs to be undertaken under the warranty.

Some legal stuff

AIPS was not introduced by any legislation, but is considered as closely related to the supply of education, which for qualifying bodies is VAT exempt and other bodies standard rated. However, as local authority and academy schools deliver education as part of a special legal regime, they are taken out of the scope of VAT by virtue of section 41A of the VAT Act, which transposes into UK law Article 13 of the Principal VAT Directive 2006. Therefore they are treated as non-business activities.

While normally non-business activities do not allow the taxpayer to reclaim VAT as it is not input tax as defined by section 24 of the VAT Act, local authority and academy schools are able to claim refunds for the VAT they incur making supplies subject to a special legal regime under section 33 (for local-authority schools) and section 33B (for academy schools). These rules enable the schools to reclaim the VAT on the purchase of musical instruments because they use them for the provision of education.

If you can't find the answer to your question - please email us.