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In the course of undertaking research, particularly social science or medical research, volunteers are required to take part in tests, submit to measurements or be interviewed. They are usually paid a small sum to cover out of pocket expenses and as compensation for the time spent. Some of the volunteers may be members of staff of the University, but their participation in the research is not part of their duties of employment and they do it in their own time and are under no obligation to take part.

Closely related to the above is the use of ‘lay’ people or ‘users’ in research. Here the people in question are invited to attend meetings to give their views on various matters to inform the research process and direction. Often they will be former or current patients, representatives of particular groups such as retired people, or representatives from charities. Payment is made to them for their participation in the meetings.

In the circumstances above, HMRC agree that the amounts paid to those concerned are unlikely to fall within the definition of earnings for PAYE or NI purposes. No employment relationship exists and as such PAYE and NICs would be inappropriate. However, should the sums paid exceed ‘reasonable expenses’ then the payment may be regarded as being taxable. If in doubt, please contact the Tax Team 



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