Widening Access Training

Widening Access Training schemes

HMRC have issued revised guidance on the eligibility criteria for Widening Access Training scheme (WATS) courses, this will take effect 01 September 2019.To date NHS employees attending a limited number of courses qualified for tax, and in some cases National Insurance contributions (NIC’s) relief on their pay.

One element of eligibility is that an employee should be in receipt of scholarship income. The definition of scholarship income is that it is usually made as an award, or on merit and does no more than support students in their studies. As all NHS employees are receive a salary, HMRC have confirmed they are not eligible.

It is appreciated some may feel it is unfair if they have a colleague who has previously taken part in the same course as them prior to the change in guidance and qualified for relief; however, HMRC have introduced the new guidance to restore fairness and align the treatment of WAT courses across the NHS as well as with similar schemes in other areas of the public sector.
HMRC have put in transitional arrangements for anyone who is already attending, or who has completed a course in previous years:

Already attending a course that started prior to 01 September 2019
If you are already attending a course which started prior to 01 September 2019 and are receiving tax or NIC’s relief this will continue until your course is complete. This is to ensure no current NHS WAT participant is suddenly left with less take home pay as result of the change in guidance.

Completed courses / Previous years refunds
If you have received a refund for a course completed in previous years, HMRC have confirmed they will not be asking for any monies to be repaid.

Courses commencing on or after 01 September 2019
Not eligible