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Personal subscriptions

This guide sets out the University's position with regards to staff personal membership of professional bodies and academic and learned societies.

Personal subscriptions

The University’s position with regard to staff personal membership of professional bodies and academic and learned societies is that this is a personal liability and should not be charged to any funds administered by the University. An individual can claim income tax relief on subscriptions to professional bodies provided that the body is on the HM Revenue & Customs list of approved organisations.

This is the general rule. However, there are specific exceptions to this general rule where personal subscription may be permitted with the approval of the head of department, having taken into account the tax position of the particular membership (see below).

Where the subscription is associated with a role rather than an individual, e.g. an association of heads of a subject department.

If a corporate subscription is not possible and it has to be an individual here, then where possible the subscription should be in the name of the role rather than an individual person.

Where the Head of Department has deemed that individual membership is necessary for the purposes of course accreditation or research functionality.

It is recognised that in the academic area in particular membership may be not just useful but necessary to the performance of the particular duties.

It may be essential for a department that they have some members of a professional body teaching a course in order for that particular course to be accredited by that body. It may be necessary to be a member of an academic or learned society in order to access research material or to present at or attend a conference. Academic judgement is involved here and so the Head of Department must approve the specific subscription and the justification for it.

Where there can be shown to be a net costs savings on conference attendance and/or journals.

Conferences organised by a professional body or learned society typically have reduced rates for members. It may not be necessary to become a member to attend, but if by becoming a member there is a net cost saving overall then the membership may be approved. When considering whether there is a net cost saving, the additional tax cost of membership to a body not on the HMRC approved list (see below) should be taken into account.

In all cases, where a personal membership subscription is approved for a member of staff, the reason for that needs to be quoted and approved by the head of department.

Student subscriptions

Subscriptions may be paid by the University on behalf of students provided they are wholly necessary for the purposes of their study. There is no tax liability. When paying for or reimbursing the cost for a student’s subscription, do make it clear that this is for a student.

Additional tax cost

Where a membership subscription is approved to a body that is not on the HMRC approved list then a tax charge will be incurred. The University has an agreement with HMRC to declare and pay over the tax due.

  • If the individual is a 40% rate tax payer, then a £100 subscription will result in a tax charge of £89.67, making the cost of the subscription to the University £189.67. This is because in order for a higher tax rate employee to get an additional £100 net they would have needed to have been paid £166.67 which, in addition, would be then subject to an NI charge of 13.8%.
  • For a basic rate taxpayer, the additional cost is £42.25.

This will be met by the University and will be charged to the same project code as the subscription. Heads of Department should bear this in mind when considering the costs and benefits of approving a subscription, as paying a subscription not on the HMRC approved list can be very costly.

When charging the tax to a project, the assumption that will be applied is that anyone on a grade 9 or above (i.e. senior lecturers, readers and professors) will be in the higher marginal tax band. This will be checked at the tax year end and will be retrospectively adjusted for an individual only where the higher rate was not applicable. There will be no retrospective adjustment where, because of an individual’s circumstances, the lower rate assumption was incorrect.

Administrators may find it helpful to copy and paste the HMRC approved list into a spreadsheet and then use the find function to see if the particular body is on the list.


4092 Journals and publications

4132 Subscriptions - corporate

4133 Subscriptions – personal

When processing a personal subscription on ac code 4133, Agresso will require the ResNo (Cat 3) to be filled in and the Product Code (Cat 5). The product code should be selected from the following list:

P-RNB-01 Subscriptions – on HMRC list – individual member of staff

P-RNB-02 Subscriptions – NOT on HMRC list – individual member of staff

P-RNB-03 Subscriptions – individual membership student

In the text field, the narrative should start with the full name of the body. The reason why personal membership is necessary should then be added. It is important that this is done for both expenses and payments made by purchasing card.

Periodically, Finance & Procurement will use P-RNB-02 to charge the tax to the project.

Where an individual membership subscription is taken up at the same time as a conference registration for one of the reasons above, then the coding needs to be split, with the registration going to ac 4003 and the membership subscription to ac 4133.