Both when purchasing and when selling goods and services, you should take into account the fact that VAT must be paid or transferred. In particular when doing research on assignment, when working for third parties, when borrowing and hiring out personnel and when purchasing goods abroad, it is important to have a clear idea beforehand of the accompanying VAT costs.

Exempted and taxed activities

The University is involved in both VAT-taxed activities and activities which are exempt from VAT. Generally speaking, the courses provided by the University are exempt from VAT, because they fall under the so-called ‘education exemption’. However, there are also activities that do not fall under this exemption. In these cases, the University is seen as a commercial organisation and is treated in terms of VAT in the same way as any other commercial organisation. This is often the case when doing research on assignment, working for third parties, borrowing and hiring out personnel, providing services to third parties, etc.

VAT and purchasing

When purchasing goods and services, the University is usually required to pay VAT.
In the event of an item purchased for a particular activity (project) for which the University itself has to charge VAT, the VAT that is applicable to this purchase and that is directly related to the activity is settled with the Tax Office. This is, of course, not possible if the purchase relates to a VAT-exempted activity. In such cases, the VAT input charge means the costs have to be raised by 6% or 21%.

In the case of international purchasing of goods and services, a number of special rules apply regarding VAT. In addition, the Tax Office sets specific conditions on billing and administration.
When purchasing a product or service from abroad, the obligation to pay the VAT charge on the amount billed is usually transferred to the buyer. The University will receive a bill without VAT. On the basis of the laws and regulations applicable in the Netherlands with respect to turnover tax, the University will then have to calculate the VAT charge and pay it directly to the Tax Office.

Therefore, before proceeding with an order or purchase, it is important to first determine whether there will be additional VAT costs (on top of the amount charged) and whether these will be 6% or 21% of the amount charged.

For more information, see below the section on ‘Information & Contact’. For information on Procurement (procurement procedures, procurement projects, European tenders), see the Procurement website.

Education exemption

The education exemption applies to the following activities:

  • Legally registered education (programmes according to CROHO);
  • Lecturers teaching at universities;
  • Professional training programmes aimed at acquiring the knowledge and skills required to be able to exercise or further specialise in a given profession;
  • Types of programmes or courses that focus on people’s optimal functioning within a given (possibly future) work environment;
  • Education that in terms of its content is derived from legally registered education (contract education); the target group is in this case irrelevant;
  • Providing students with educational materials (at cost price) that are closely related to the courses offered by the University.

The education exemption does not apply to courses that are of purely personal interest, such as hobby-related courses.

For activities (services/deliveries) that do not fall under the education exemption, the question of whether VAT has to be paid is decided on a case-by-case basis. If, for instance, agreements are made with the buyer, client or subsidy provider regarding the price and/or the service provided, it should be clear from the start whether VAT (6% or 21% of the amount charged) will have to be paid to the Tax Office.

Research and VAT

The University acts as a commercial organisation in any activity that falls outside the field of academic education and fundamental research. If, for instance, research is carried out on assignment for external parties (contract research), this research does not fall within the framework of public tasks, and the VAT regulations apply. Similarly, subsidies for research can also be subject to VAT.

Secondment and VAT

Hiring out personnel and providing support and administrative services to third parties is generally always subject to VAT, although, in specific cases, it is possible for secondment to be exempt from VAT. Under certain conditions, the following activities can be exempted from VAT:

  • Secondment of academic staff to another university (in the Netherlands or abroad);
  • Secondment of personnel to other public organisations (such as governmental organisations, city councils or other universities) for a maximum of 12 months, in the context of promoting work mobility;
  • Secondment of teaching personnel to another educational institution whose teaching also falls under the education exemption and whereby the secondment is essential to provide the exempted education and is not primarily aimed at financial gain (no distortion of competition);
  • When so-called ‘common costs’ are used on the basis of a common contract, whereby personnel costs are being shared with another legal entity.

Specific conditions have to be met in order to qualify for one of these possibilities. To determine whether you can make use of the above possibilities for VAT-free secondment, please contact your department controller.

VAT guidelines

The ‘VAT guidelines’ section of the Financial Handbook focuses on the consequences of laws and regulations for the University’s turnover tax, and the consequent instructions and practices for the various departments within the University. The guidelines are intended to support the financial staff in dealing directly with the various aspects of VAT, or in providing advice to the non-financial staff members of their department. The guidelines focus on the following:

  • The position of the University with respect to VAT
  • Taxed and tax-free activities of the University
  • Settlement of  input VAT
  • VAT and international transactions
  • Import duties and exemptions
  • Invoicing requirements and administration

The appendices to the guidelines include an overview of the VAT codes in SAP and the VAT identification numbers within the EU. In addition, a decision tree is included which allows you to determine whether or not a given performance is subject to VAT and when to use which VAT code in SAP.

Information & Contact

The VAT regulations are comprehensive and detailed. Since unlawful actions with respect to VAT can have substantial financial consequences, VAT must be applied and processed in the administration in a proper manner, and in accordance with the laws and regulations in force. The VAT guidelines in the Financial Handbook describe in detail the consequences for Leiden University of the laws and regulations in force with respect to VAT.

For further information and for questions regarding the administrative procedure, please contact your department controller, who can if necessary refer you further to the BB/FEZ department (Karin van der Top, or the FSSC office (FSSC-B&

For questions regarding income tax, please contact the FSSC salary administration and/or the central HRM department (BB/HRM). For questions regarding other taxes (such as inheritance tax and corporation tax), please contact the central BB/FEZ department (Gertjan Boshuizen, e-mail For more general information on VAT, see the Tax Office Website.

Last Modified: 01-12-2015