By Tolley

The following Value Added Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Opticians
  • Introduction
  • Eye tests
  • Enhanced services
  • Hospital optical dispensing
  • Hearing aids
  • Overview of the standard rate and exempt supplies
  • Apportionment methods
  • Previous HMRC example
  • Further information


The supply of optical services by a qualified optician is generally considered to be for the principal purpose of protecting, maintaining or restoring the health of the person concerned and is exempt from VAT.

Notice 701/57 ; VATHLT2160
Qualified optician

The supply of optical services is exempt from VAT under VATA 1994, Sch 9, Group, 7, Item 1(b), Note (2) and SI 2007/206 (subscription sensitive) by persons registered in either of the following:

  • either of the registers of ophthalmic opticians or the register of dispensing opticians (DO) kept under the Opticians Act 1989 (subscription sensitive)
  • either of the lists under Opticians Act 1989, s 9 (subscription sensitive) of bodies corporate carrying on business as ophthalmic opticians or as DOs

The exemption also extends to the services undertaken by unqualified staff where they are directly supervised by an optician who is registered / enrolled in one of the above.

Ophthalmic medical practitioners (OMPs) are registered general medical practitioners that make both taxable and exempt supplies of health services and the VAT treatment depends on the purpose of the service provided. Most of the services provided are likely to be in the course of diagnosis, treatment and protection of health and therefore are exempt from VAT. However, OMPs also undertake sight and related vision field tests for the DVLA in order to ensure a person remains fit to drive. As these services are provided in order to enable a third party to make a decision, they are standard-rated.

VATA 1994, Sch 9, Group 7, Item 1(a); VATHLT2170

See VATHLT2180 for an overview of how the optical trade operates.

Eye tests
Free eye tests

If the optician provides

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