NHS Criteria Crisis? Will The Change In VAT Finally Move The NHS To Review Their Qualification Of Candidates For Cosmetic Procedures?
Released on: December 19, 2011, 12:21 pm
There have been several reports in the media in recent months
suggesting that the government is to add VAT to cosmetic surgery
procedures. If this is true patients will be charged an extra 20% on
the procedures that they undergo. However, the picture is even more
worrying for the NHS which, under certain circumstances, offers
cosmetic surgery for free. If the VAT rumours are true then the NHS
will find itself under financial pressure at a time when it can ill
afford to be so. In this article we will look in depth at the
government proposals on taxing cosmetic procedures and their effect on
the NHS. We will then decipher whether the NHS will ultimately be
forced to review their qualification for candidates undergoing cosmetic
HM Revenues and Customs
In autumn 2011 HM Revenues and Customs stated that they wanted to clarify the
existing legislation on which types of cosmetic surgery attract VAT. They claim that
any cosmetic surgery carried out for medical reasons is not taxable. However,
surgery simply carried out to improve appearance should be taxed. The department
said this had always been the case and new legislation had not actually been
introduced. Cosmetic surgeries disagreed arguing that this tax had never been
enforced so if it was now suddenly going to be enforced law it was, in effect, a new
law. However, the boundaries between cosmetic surgery for medical and aesthetic
reasons are not always as easy to define as, say the difference between rhinoplasty
surgery to help alleviate problems with breathing and liposuction to tackle a pesky "muffin top".
A surgeon could argue that a female requesting breast enlargement surgery needs it
to combat depression, a medical condition. Breast enlargement would traditionally be
seen as an aesthetical procedure but in this instance it may be passed as medical.
Indeed, HM Revenues and Customs admit that each case needs to be judged on its
So where does this leave the NHS?
Under current guideless the NHS only offers cosmetic surgery when it is deemed
medically necessary. Therefore, the new legislation on VAT has no impact on the NHS.
The health service will not have to foot additional bills whilst they continue to
offer medical cosmetic procedures. It seems the NHS will have no reason to review
their qualification of candidates for cosmetic procedures. In fact there are less
likely to do so as any review may lead to non-medical procedures being carried out
which would result in the service incurring the VAT charge.
There remains much confusion over the proposal of adding VAT to cosmetic procedures.
The government themselves claim that some procedures are, and also have been,
taxable. They claim they have not changed their policy but are simply clarifying the
existing rules. It is clear, however, that the majority of cosmetic surgeries have
not been charging their clients VAT for any procedures and the law has not been
enforced. The outcry in the cosmetic industry reflects the panic felt by surgeons
who worry potential patients may desert the UK for cheaper surgery abroad. The NHS,
however, remains unaffected by this change or clarification because all the
procedures carried out by the health service are for medical purposes so they will
never attract VAT. It remains to be seen whether the government enforces the VAT on
some cosmetic procedures but it is clear that the NHS will not be affected and
therefore is under no pressure to review its candidates for surgery.
Contact Details: 3 Wilkin St, Camden, London, NW5 3NL
020 7424 3124
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