Tax services

A guide to prepaid school fees for parents

In recent times, increasing numbers of educational institutions have started accepting prepaid school fees from parents. This shift towards prepaid fees can offer several benefits, but also comes with its own set of risks. As the fee payer, understanding these implications is essential to make an informed decision about your child’s education funding.

26th June 2024

Benefits of prepaying school fees

Financial stability and Cash Flow advantages

Prepaying your child’s school fees can significantly aid in financial planning. By securing the education costs upfront, you can avoid the uncertainty of yearly fee increases and budget more effectively for your family’s financial future.


VAT exemption

One of the most immediate benefits of advance payment is the current VAT exemption on prepaid school fees. This exemption means that the amount you pay now will not attract additional VAT charges, which can translate to considerable savings, especially with higher education costs.

It is worth noting here that Labour’s manifesto outlines plans to remove the VAT exemption and business rates relief for private schools, with the intention of redirecting funds into state schools. The financial projections in the manifesto estimate that this policy will generate £1.51 billion in revenue by the fiscal year 2028-29.


Discounts and incentives

Many schools offer discounts to parents who choose to pay their fees in advance. This can be a financially advantageous option, reducing the overall cost of education. Additionally, early payments help ensure your child’s place at the institution, providing peace of mind that your child’s educational path is secured.

Risks associated with prepaying school fees

Financial exposure

The primary concern for parents considering prepaid fees is the risk of the school’s insolvency. Should the school face financial difficulties and close, prepaid fees might not be refundable, leading to a potential total loss of the prepaid amounts. It’s crucial to assess the financial stability of the school before opting for prepaid fees.


Regulatory change and economic uncertainties

The tax benefits of prepaying school fees are subject to current tax laws, which could change. If new regulations come into play, such as changes in VAT rules where fees might later be taxed at the time of service delivery rather than at payment, this could affect the overall cost calculation unfavourably.


Inflation and fee adjustments

Inflation is another factor that needs to be considered. If inflation rates increase but the fees have been locked in at a lower rate, the school might struggle to cover rising operational costs, potentially affecting the quality of education or leading to additional charges later.

Making an informed decision

When considering prepaying your child’s school fees, it’s important to carefully weigh these pros and cons. Below are some steps to take:


1. Assess the school’s financial health

Look into the school’s financial stability and history. A school with a strong financial record is less likely to face insolvency.


2. Understand the terms

Be clear about the terms of the prepaid arrangement. Understand what happens if your child switches schools or if the school closes.


3. Stay informed on policy changes

Keep an eye on potential tax and policy changes that could affect the financial aspects of prepaid school fees.


4. Discuss with other parents

Insights from other parents who have opted for or considered prepayment can provide valuable perspectives.

So what now? Effective planning is key

There may be little that parents can do to impact any additional ongoing costs incurred if the VAT status of school fees were indeed to change, our article VAT and school fees explores this further.

There are, however, ways in which the overall tax burden of providing private education for the family can be mitigated, in certain circumstances.  Specifically, where grandparents wish to help with the funding of school fees for their grandchildren, there is planning which can be put in place which helps mitigate the impact of Income Tax.  If structured carefully, this can be highly effective, and it is something we have helped a number of clients put in place over the years.


Our Tax specialisits, David Gage, David Maslen & Ian Mullen advise on all aspects of school fees.  If you would like to discuss this subject further then get in touch.