Is Education VAT Exempt in South Africa?

Value-Added Tax (VAT) is an indirect tax that is imposed on most goods and services in South Africa. It is charged at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale. Understanding if education services are VAT exempt or not in South Africa is important for educational institutions, parents, guardians and students when budgeting for education costs.

With rising inflation and the general high cost of living, South African households need to carefully manage expenses related to schooling and skills development. VAT is a significant tax that can substantially increase costs if incorrectly applied. So it is essential for both providers and consumers of education to fully grasp which services are VAT exempt or liable under current tax legislation.

This article clearly sets out the VAT status of various education supplies. We outline which schooling, university and college fees do not incur VAT, as well as associated services that must charge VAT. Equipped with this guidance, you can accurately factor VAT into your family’s budget for studies and learning programs. Our aim is to provide certainty when planning for ongoing or upcoming education, especially major investments like tertiary qualifications.

Is Education VAT Exempt in South Africa?

Most education services provided by schools, universities, colleges, and other educational institutions are exempt from VAT in South Africa. This means that no VAT should be charged on school fees, course fees and tuition fees. However, there are some exceptions which render certain educational services liable for VAT.

VAT Exempt Education Services

The following education services are VAT exempt according to the VAT Act:

  • School fees and tuition fees for primary and secondary schooling
  • Tertiary education fees charged by universities, colleges and technical institutes
  • Course fees charged by adult education facilities
  • Fees charged by English teaching facilities to non-South Africans
  • Education provided by government schools or educational facilities

So, if you are paying fees directly related to learning at an officially registered educational facility, no VAT should be applied.

VAT Liable Education Services

While core education is VAT exempt, there are some related services that educational institutions provide which are subject to the standard 15% VAT rate in South Africa:

  • Accommodation or boarding fees charged to students
  • Transport fees for learners to and from school/university
  • Stationery, textbooks, uniforms, laptops and other goods sold by schools or universities
  • Sports coaching or classes provided externally
  • Food and beverages supplied such as school tuck shops or campus cafeterias

Why is Core Education VAT Exempt?

Education is considered an essential service that should be accessible to all citizens. Exempting school fees, university fees and course fees from VAT removes a tax burden that could negatively impact learners’ access to education. This upholds the South African government’s objective to provide equal opportunities for all through education.

Making education VAT exempt also simplifies tax administration for educational bodies like schools, driving down costs that may otherwise be passed onto students and parents. Overall, the VAT exemption aims to promote learning and skills development across South Africa’s population.

How Refunds are Treated

If an educational facility charges VAT in error, you as the parent, guardian or student have the right to request a refund of any overpaid VAT. Simply ask the institution to review the fees paid and provide a refund if VAT was incorrectly charged on exempt education services.

When students cancel or withdraw from a course or program, any refunds provided are not subject to VAT, provided VAT was not previously charged. The cancellation policies of the institution would be applied to refund eligible amounts paid.

Check if You Qualify for VAT Exemption

To ensure that you are not incorrectly charged VAT on education services, check that:

  • You are paying school fees or tuition directly to an officially registered educational facility
  • Your fees relate directly to instruction, teaching and learning, not peripheral goods or services
  • You review invoices to check no VAT has been added

You qualify for VAT exemption on core education as an individual taxpayer in South Africa. Always query VAT charged on tuition, exams or annual school fee payments.

Use Our VAT Calculator

To easily calculate 15% VAT on taxable educational expenses, use our convenient VAT Calculator. Simply input the fees total and the calculator will tell you the VAT amount. Our tool also lets you validate that no VAT was applied on genuine VAT exempt education expenses.


Core education services are VAT exempt to encourage skills development in South Africa, making schooling and courses more affordable. But some related costs may still incur VAT, so review fee invoices carefully. If you find VAT was incorrectly charged, request a refund from the educational facility. And use our VAT calculator to easily check taxable supplies. Understanding education’s VAT exempt status allows for accurate budgeting and planning for future learning expenses.


Are Extracurricular Activities Offered By Schools Subject To VAT?

Yes. While core curriculum instruction is VAT exempt, extracurricular activities and programs offered by schools, like sports, music lessons, dance classes, etc. are subject to 15% VAT.

Is Stationery and Textbook Rental from Schools VAT Exempt?

No. Any goods sold by schools, including stationery, textbooks, laptops, and textbook rental schemes are liable for 15% VAT. Only the direct instructional services are VAT exempt.

Are Creche and Nursery School Fees VAT Exempt?

Yes. Educational facilities for early learning like creches, nursery schools and pre-primary institutions also qualify as VAT exempt education under South African tax law.

Is VAT Charged on Accommodation for University Students?

Yes. While university tuition fees are VAT exempt, any accommodation, residence housing, or lodging services provided to students is subject to the standard 15% VAT rate. Meals supplied to students are also VAT applicable.

Are Adult Educational or Hobby Courses Subject To VAT?

It depends. Short informal courses, recreational classes, or hobby lessons could be liable for VAT unless provided by an officially accredited educational institution. Then the course fees would be VAT exempt under South African VAT law covering education.

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