VAT Advisory

HM Revenue and customs have zero-rated Safety Boots and Helmets for certain conditions. This information is provided as an advisory to help you decide if you should be charged VAT or not at the checkout on any applicable items if you meet the criteria.

We’ll help you out along the way by adding some comments below and ultimately only allowing you to govern the selection of zero-rated good that are applicable but it’s our duty to make sure that you know the score…

The VAT notice 701/23 was last published on the 4th of July 2011 and can be found here…


How do protective boots and helmets qualify for zero-rating?

They are zero-rated when all the following conditions are met:

  • They must be boots or helmets

We’ll help you out here by only allowing the products that qualify to be selected

  • They must be manufactured to the appropriate European or British standard

Don’t worry, we wouldn’t sell products to you if they don’t conform to the correct safety standard!

  • They must bear a mark indicating conformity with relevant safety standards

Again, don’t worry, we wouldn’t sell products to you if they don’t conform to the correct safety standard!

What is the difference between a shoe and a boot?

The British Standards Institution defines a boot as having a minimum leg height of 90mm measured vertically from the insole at the back. The European Standard gives the minimum height of the upper (measured vertically from the insole at the back) of 103mm for a size 36 (UK 3) and below, through to a minimum height of the upper of 121mm for a size 45 (UK 11) and above.

Again, you don’t need to measure the footwear! We’ll help you out by only allowing the products that qualify to be selected

Protective shoes that fall outside these specifications are not eligible for zero-rating, even if they meet the remaining requirements.

In a nutshell: Shoes and trainers are subject to VAT like loads of other things!!

What are the European and British standards?

Protective boots and helmets must be manufactured to the standards:

  • Imposed by the European Community Directive on Personal Protective Equipment (the PPE Directive)
  • Approved by the British Standards Institution

The relevant harmonised European standards (ENs) and British Standards (BSs) are:


  • EN 345:1992 and BS EN 345:1993 - Safety footwear for professional use

This is the most common standard

  • EN 346:1992 and BS EN 346:1993 - Protective footwear for professional use
  • BS 4676:1983 - Gaiters and footwear for protection against burns & impact risks in foundries
  • BS 1870: Part 1:1988 - Safety footwear other than all-rubber and all-plastics moulded types
  • BS 1870: Part 2:1976 - Safety footwear - lined rubber boots
  • BS 1870: Part 3:1981 - Safety footwear - polyvinyl chloride moulded safety footwear.


  • EN 397:1995 and BS EN 397:1995 - Industrial safety helmets

This is the most common standard

  • EN 812:1997 and BS EN 812: 1998 - Industrial bump caps
  • BS 4033:1966 - Industrial scalp protectors
  • BS 5340:1975 - General purpose industrial safety helmets

How will they be marked?

Amongst the markings on them will be one of the above EN or BS numbers and the European Community ‘CE’ mark and/or the British Standard ‘kitemark’.

The ‘CE’ mark indicates conformity with the PPE Directive.

The EN for boots and helmets sourced in other EC countries may be prefixed by another country code such as ‘NF’ for a French manufactured product, or ‘DS’ for one of Danish manufacture.

Are there any alternative standards?

The VAT Act lists the current standards to which boots and helmets must conform to qualify for zero-rating. It also indicates that the scope of the zero-rate will depend on any future amendments to those standards.

In some instances, particular boots and helmets may have been manufactured to a different specification to those laid down in the harmonised European Standards. These alternative specifications must satisfy the requirements of the PPE Directive and be approved by a ‘notified body’, which in turn has been approved and appointed by the authorities of an EC country. These boots and helmets will still carry the ‘CE’ mark, but also the notified body number.

What does ‘industrial use’ mean?

This has its ordinary and everyday meaning. Boots and helmets that meet all the other conditions for zero-rating but are not for industrial use, such as motorcycle boots, are standard-rated.

Who is the supply being made to?

This is probably the most relevant and commonly confused part of the VAT notice. Read on;

The supply of protective boots or helmets to an employer for the use by their employees cannot be zero-rated supplies.

So, if you’re an employer and you’re buying footwear for your employees they are NOT zero-rated.

Supplies from a manufacturer to a wholesaler who in turn supplies them to a retailer can be zero-rated subject to the conditions set out earlier in this notice.

So, if you’re a retailer and you’re buying qualifying footwear from Oursoles to re-sell they ARE zero-rated.

Supplies from an employer to an employee can also be zero-rated, subject to the conditions set out earlier in this notice.

As a VAT registered wholesaler & retailer of protective boots & helmets for industrial use Oursoles have an obligation to establish that you, as a customer are not an employer purchasing boots or helmets for use by employees and as such, we may make any amendment to your transaction value in accordance with the VAT notice 701/23

Are accessories zero-rated?

If you fit accessories such as visors or ear protectors as an integral part of a qualifying helmet, you can zero-rate the supply of the complete helmet. But accessories supplied on their own are standard-rated.

So, if you buy a protective helmet at the same time as any accessories for the helmet then they can all qualify for zero-rated supply but if you buy accessories separately then they are not.

If you’ve got any query just get in touch, we’ll try and put you in the picture…