Volunteering and training
While a student, you may undertake some kind of voluntary work or additional training. This can give you practical experience both of different types of work and workplaces, and may improve your chances of finding a paid permanent job in a sector you enjoy.
This part of the student section is designed to inform you of the tax issues arising whether or not you have been paid for the work you have done.
What is the benefit of doing voluntary work?
Employers often value the commitment you have shown through your volunteering/internship. In addition, you will have learnt other transferable skills such as improved ability to communicate with others, teamworking or organisational ability, for example. It is also likely you will be able to obtain a substantive reference and have an interesting topic to discuss at interviews.
How do I interact with the tax system if I am a volunteer?
Although you may be given various titles for the work you do, it is important to understand your actual status for taxation purposes. Depending on the arrangements made with the organisation you are doing work for, you may be employed, self-employed or neither – that is, a volunteer.
If you are being paid, other than reimbursement of actual expenses, then you are likely to be employed or self-employed, with associated rights and responsibilities.
You may be sponsored on your course by a company. If this is the case, you should check our training contract page on this to understand whether or not the sponsorship payment will be taxable.
Even if the only payments being made to you are for expenses, you may find yourself with a tax liability, depending on the actual payments made to you.
Also, you will want to ensure that any voluntary work you carry out does not end up restricting any benefits that would otherwise be paid to you, or at least understand the potential consequences. While you are a student you may be entitled to claim certain benefits and/or tax credits. In most cases your voluntary work will have no effect on your eligibility to claim these benefits.
To get benefits while you are performing voluntary work, you need to be sure that you can attend interviews, when asked, and that you are free to start work within a short period of time. Further information is available on GOV.UK.
What is the difference between volunteering and being an intern?
Assuming you are not being employed (that is paid for working) as an intern, from a tax point of view there will be no difference.