HMRC Clarifies VAT Treatment of Voluntary Carbon Credits (VCC)

July 1, 2024


  • His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced a significant policy update regarding the Value Added Tax (VAT) treatment of Voluntary Carbon Credits (VCCs). 
  • Effective from 1 September 2024, the sale of VCCs will be standard-rated for VAT purposes where the place of supply is the United Kingdom. 
  • This policy shift marks a notable change in the taxation landscape for businesses engaged in environmental services, particularly those involved in the creation, purchase, and sale of VCCs. 
  • This comprehensive report delves into the details of this policy update, the implications for businesses, and the broader context of the VAT treatment of VCCs.

Background on Voluntary Carbon Credits (VCCs)

  • Voluntary Carbon Credits (VCCs) are tradable certificates that represent the verified reduction or removal of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or an equivalent amount of other greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. 
  • Unlike compliance market credits, which are used within regulated emissions trading schemes, VCCs are typically used by businesses and individuals on a voluntary basis to offset their carbon footprint. 
  • VCCs are generated through various environmental projects such as reforestation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency initiatives.

Initially, HMRC considered VCCs to fall outside the scope of VAT due to the lack of a secondary market and the inability to incorporate them into onward supplies. This position has evolved in response to significant market changes.

Key Policy Update

1. VAT Standard-Rating of VCCs

  • Effective from 1 September 2024, the sale of VCCs will be treated as taxable for VAT at the standard rate where the place of supply is in the UK. 
  • This policy change acknowledges the development of a secondary market for VCCs and the incorporation of these credits into business supplies. 
  • Consequently, most VCC transactions will now be subject to VAT.

2. Activities Outside the Scope of VAT

Despite this broad change, certain activities related to VCCs will continue to fall outside the scope of VAT. These include:

  • The first issue of a VCC by a public authority.
  • Holding VCCs as an investment where there is no economic activity.
  • Donations to VCC projects.
  • Sales of VCCs from unverified or self-assessed projects.

3. Terminal Markets Order Relief

  • The Terminal Markets Order, which provides a VAT zero rate for wholesale commodity transactions conducted by members on specified terminal markets, will also extend to taxable VCCs traded on these markets starting 1 September 2024. 
  • This relief aims to facilitate the trading of VCCs within established commodity markets, ensuring that VAT treatment aligns with other traded commodities.

Implications for Businesses

This policy update is particularly relevant for businesses and their agents in the environmental services market who create, buy, or sell VCCs, as well as exchanges operating voluntary carbon markets. Understanding the new VAT obligations is crucial for compliance and financial planning.

Detailed Analysis

1. Evolution of VAT Treatment for VCCs

  • Initially, VCCs were treated as outside the scope of UK VAT. 
  • This classification was based on HMRC’s view that VCCs could not be incorporated into an onward supply and lacked a secondary market. 
  • However, as the market for VCCs matured, secondary trading became commonplace, and businesses began incorporating VCCs into their supply chains. 
  • This market evolution prompted HMRC to revise its stance.

2. Policy Rationale

  • The revised VAT treatment aims to reflect the current market dynamics and ensure that VAT applies consistently to transactions involving VCCs. 
  • By standard-rating the sale of VCCs, HMRC intends to align the tax treatment of these credits with other goods and services, thereby creating a level playing field and preventing tax avoidance.

3. Impact on Environmental Markets

  • The policy change underscores the growing importance of environmental markets and the role of VCCs in corporate sustainability strategies. 
  • Businesses now need to account for VAT in their financial planning and pricing strategies, potentially impacting the cost structure of projects involving VCCs.

Pros and Cons of the New VAT Rules


  • Standardization and Clarity: The new rules provide clear guidance on the VAT treatment of VCCs, reducing ambiguity and helping businesses comply with tax obligations.
  • Level Playing Field: By treating VCCs similarly to other goods and services, HMRC promotes fair competition and consistency in the tax system.
  • Market Integrity: The inclusion of VCCs in the VAT framework can enhance market integrity and transparency, potentially attracting more participants and investments in carbon reduction projects.


  • Increased Costs: The imposition of VAT on VCC transactions may increase costs for businesses purchasing these credits, potentially impacting their carbon offset strategies.
  • Administrative Burden: Businesses will face additional administrative tasks related to VAT compliance, including record-keeping and reporting.
  • Potential Market Disruption: The policy change could temporarily disrupt the VCC market as businesses and exchanges adapt to the new VAT treatment, potentially affecting liquidity and pricing.

Considerations for Businesses

  • Compliance Preparation: Businesses must ensure they are prepared for the new VAT rules by updating their accounting systems, training staff, and seeking professional advice if necessary.
  • Financial Planning: Companies should factor the additional VAT costs into their financial planning and pricing strategies to maintain profitability and competitive advantage.
  • Market Strategy: Businesses engaged in VCC trading or investments need to reassess their market strategies, considering the potential impact of VAT on demand and supply dynamics.


The HMRC’s updated VAT treatment for Voluntary Carbon Credits represents a significant policy shift that reflects the evolving market for these environmental instruments. 

Effective from 1 September 2024, the sale of VCCs will be subject to standard-rate VAT 

where the place of supply is the UK, aligning their tax treatment with other goods and services. 

While this change introduces new compliance requirements and potential costs for businesses, it also brings clarity and consistency to the VAT framework, supporting the integrity and transparency of the VCC market. 

Businesses involved in the creation, purchase, and sale of VCCs must adapt to these new rules, ensuring they remain compliant and strategically positioned in the growing market for carbon credits.

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