Barristers and advocates, in common with all professions, are only liable to register for VAT when their turnover exceeds, or is likely to exceed, the registration threshold. This means that, at the start of their career, they are unlikely to have to register for VAT. There are, however, sometimes advantages in voluntarily registering for VAT at an early stage as discussed in V6.135 under 'Registration—barristers'.
There are some differences between barristers (those who practise in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and advocates (those who practise in Scotland). These are attributable mainly to the way in which their practices are organised. The general VAT law is the same for both. In this section, the term 'barrister' is used to apply to both barristers and advocates unless the context indicates otherwise.
It is worth highlighting the special rules which apply to barristers in respect of two areas of VAT. These special rules are designed to correct anomalies and prevent unfairness which would otherwise arise out of the way in which barristers practise. The first relates to the recovery of VAT on chambers' expenses (see V6.135) and the other relates to the time of supply (see below under 'Time of supply of a barrister's services').