ASSISTED INSTRUMENT PURCHASE SCHEME (AIPS)
I would like to turn first to the question of why the scheme applies only to LEA-maintained schools. Local authorities are refunded any VAT they incur in delivering their non-business statutory activities, including the provision of education. The object of this is to prevent VAT falling as a burden on local taxation.
Independent schools are not publicly funded bodies and, therefore, when such schools provide musical instruments to their pupils as part of a music course, they must either bear the VAT costs themselves, or pass it on to students in the price they charge for instruments. Nonetheless music courses provided by independent schools are free from VAT.
With regard to AIPS, many local authorities have introduced voluntary schemes under which they are prepared to subsidise the cost of musical instruments - AIPS being the umbrella term for such schemes. AIPS enables qualifying students to purchase musical instruments through their LEA music service or school (often at reduced prices and net of VAT) for use as part of the normal school curriculum.
The operation of AIPS varies according to the policies of the LEA involved, but the following basic conditions will apply in most cases.
Where local authority schools meet these criteria and are therefore able to obtain a VAT benefit, they may choose to reflect this benefit in the price they charge on to students for what are essentially items to be used in class. However, this is entirely up to the local authority concerned.
When a student receives regular tuition from the LEA's music service there is usually no requirement for him or her to be a student of one of the local authority's schools. If their local authority operates such a policy, this may enable students of independent schools to take advantage of musical instrument purchase under AIPS.
To summarise. It has always been a feature of the VAT system that local authorities can recover the VAT they incur on their non-business activities, including the provision of education. This explains why schools that are not publicly funded cannot be part of AIPS. However, although open only to LEAs and LEA-maintained schools, AIPS itself is a purely voluntary scheme which different local authorities are free to operate in different ways.