VAT and Non-Surgical Cosmetic Treatments

Posted on the 08 June 2010 at 13:05

Did you know that from 1st October 2010, there will be no restriction on who can operate class 4 lasers and IPL equipment for non-surgical cosmetic treatments?
At the same time, VAT will become applicable for non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

Is there a connection?


Since 1984, lasers (and more recently IPL systems) have been regulated by government because it has been understood that lasers and IPLs are hazardous devices requiring safety controls and properly trained operators.

In 2005, the government commissioned an Expert Group to report on the safety of cosmetic surgery  and expressed concern about poor safety in the laser and light sector. In its response to the report, government accepted the need for more effective regulation for lasers and light.


However, Government have instead decided that from October 1st 2010, non-surgical ‘cosmetic’ treatments, including lasers and light, no longer need to be regulated or registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).


There has been recent speculation that medical professionals and doctors in particular will automatically fall into regulation for all the laser and light services that they might deliver but this is not borne out by a more detailed consideration of the decisions that CQC have made regarding the scope of regulation:

  • All providers of surgical lasers (including laser lipolysis) will remain within the scope of regulation.
  • Medical professionals  delivering laser and light treatments for the purpose of disease, disorder or injury will be deemed as delivering ‘medical treatments’ and will remain regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
  • Medical professionals and non healthcare professionals delivering ‘cosmetic’ treatments will not be regulated.
  • Tooth whitening will not be regulated.


It seems clear from these provisions that the dividing line between regulated and unregulated services is not, as it should be, the risk-class of the equipment in use but whether the treatment is carried out as a regulated activity being the treatment of disease, disorder or injury.


However there are further implications to consider in this situation relating to the definition of disease, disorder or injury and the consequent VAT status of the provider delivering both regulated and unregulated activities.


Treasury is now ready to collect VAT on non-surgical cosmetic procedures and we only await notice from Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to this effect and should anticipate 1st October as the date on which VAT will formally become due on all non-surgical cosmetic treatments.


Even in services regulated by their delivery of treatments for disease, disorder or injury, cosmetic delivery will be likely to attract VAT – in other words, the regulated provider will not be VAT exempt; individually regulated services will be.

This is the second of a two part round-up on the new regulations coming in this autumn, more of this article available in the June edition of The Consulting Room™ Gold Members newsletter.

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Blog Comment(s) [2]

I have a client that has had Azzalure recently and had some really good results. She has one eyebrow that is slightly lower than the other which is an hereditary problem. Although the treatment has worked fantastically she still has the eyebrow problem. Does anyone have any idea how I can resolve this? The eyebrow is fractionally lower (you would never know, but the patient does).

Julie Quinn

The deregulation of Laser and Light based treatments demonstrates the lack of government understanding and also the complete lack of an effective industry lobbying group. I was telling a supplier from Germany this weekend about it and he could not believe how ridiculous this is. In Germany they are tightening the regulations around Lasers, only a Doctor run practice can use lasers and have now made the same regulation for ALL ultrasound body contouring devices.

In the UK we have a situation where Dorris the out of work grocer can decide to use her premises to set up an aesthetic clinic. With a one day manufacturer supplied training course she can then burn someones face off with a CO2 Laser. As long as she gets insurance it's ok! Are we really asking the insurance companies to regulate the medical aesthetic industry?

VAT is bound to come in, and in reality it probably should too, are all Botox clients really depressed? No, but I don't think adding VAT to ALL of the industry treatments would be a problem if it was a level playing field and started recognising the skills required to carry out medical cosmetic treatments.

Maybe I am wrong and this is not designed to collect VAT for the Government but to save more money by allowing the Hospital kitchen staff to carry out Open Heart Surgery - I mean if they can get insurance, it is safe right?

Martyn Roe |