Hunt warned stop taxing children and take VAT off school uniforms

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Hard-pressed parents should not be forced to pay an extra 20 percent on school uniforms during a cost of living crisis, campaigners have claimed. It comes as Tory MPs joined calls to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to remove VAT from branded school uniforms in his Budget this week.

The demand comes on top of pushes by Conservative backbenchers for the Chancellor to abandon a 14p hike in fuel duty per litre and an increase of 6p in the £1 on Corporation Tax.

With Tory MPs eyeing the Budget this week as a point of decision on Rishi Sunak’s future as Prime Minister, Mr Hunt’s address to Parliament could prove crucial for the Government.

The National institute of Economic and social Research (NIESR) estimated last week that the Chancellor has around £97 billion head room for tax cuts in his Budget on Wednesday.

But the push on school uniform would only cost the Exchequer around £30 million according to camaigners.

The issue arises because while clothes for children are supposed to be free of VAT the exemption is size limited.

This means larger sizes of school uniforms, often affecting children as young as 11, have to be taxed.

Matthew Easter, Chief Executive of Trutex, a school uniform manufacturer, said: “Abolishing the school uniform tax would help reduce the burden on parents during the cost of living crisis.

“VAT is currently charged at 20 per cent on all clothing deemed to be for children aged 14 and older but, as this is an average, there is an increasing need to buy vatable sizes for younger children

“The Treasury could easily remove this unfair tax on specific school uniform items as these items are not worn outside of the school environment.

“Now the UK is out of the EU, it is no longer subject to the EU VAT Directive so it makes perfect sense to take the opportunity to scrap this tax.

“It has been calculated that such a move would cost the Treasury just £13 million a year.”

Trasury officials have been reluctant to engage in the issue according to campaigners despite the relatively low cost.

However, representations have also been made to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

Northampton South Conservative MP Andrew Lewer, who has campaigned to protect school uniforms, was one of a number of Tory MPs to meet about the issue last week.

He said: “School uniform is a helpful part of the culture of our schools. It acts as a social leveller, helps to reduce bullying, promotes pride and belonging among pupils and the wider community and there is evidence to suggest that it boosts children’s academic performance.

“Yet at present, all clothing and shoes for children 14 years old or older are subject to the full standard rate of 20 per cent VAT.

“While it is understandable that the Treasury is not in a position to remove this tax altogether, particularly as larger sizes could be worn by older children and adults alike, there is an obvious option to remove it for specific school uniform items that are only ever going to be worn by schoolchildren.”

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