Friday, 12 September 2008

Instruments of Insanity

My son has taken an interest in the guitar (along with the piano that he has being studying for two years) and so I'd like to buy him a guitar.

Being he's a small chap, I think a 3/4 size guitar would be better than a full size one. I can find one in my local music shop for £35 (or £45 with stand and case) which sounds reasonable to start with. If he shows commitment, we can invest in something better later.

Martin Lewis at Money Saving Expert told me that you can buy instruments VAT free via your local LEA. I just looked into this and sadly I find that the government (in the form of some Civil Service mandarin) has made a hash of it.

Parents can buy instruments without VAT but looking at the Suffolk LEA website it seems pointless doing this. Firstly it takes time, you have to choose the instrument, then ask your LEA to buy it from the shop who deliver it to the LEA up to four weeks later, pay the invoice sent by the LEA and then collect the instrument from the school.

Suffolk County Council charges a fee for this. On a £35 guitar the £5.50 fee is nearly equal to the VAT that would be saved. Maybe worth it with a piano or a bassoon but that's not the intent of the exemption is it?

This is a totally pointless and overly complicated scheme. Why can't schools just give named pupils a voucher or certificate that the music shop can pass to HMRC to certify their sale was exempt from VAT.

There is an Arts Council England scheme which makes interest free loans (0% APR) of up to £2000 for musical instruments.

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