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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Zero-rate VAT on goods, services and vehicles for disabled people

If you have a long-term illness or you're disabled, you might not have to pay VAT on certain goods and services that you buy or bring into the UK. Certain building work that you have done may also be free of VAT. This guide explains how the VAT relief works, who qualifies for the VAT relief, what types of goods and services you can buy without paying VAT and what you have to do so your supplier doesn’t charge you VAT.

How the VAT relief works

If the goods or services you buy qualify for the VAT relief, your supplier will give you a sales invoice showing VAT at 0 per cent. This means that you won’t be charged VAT. (It’s not a case of you having to pay the VAT and then claiming it back from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Not all goods and services supplied to chronically sick or disabled people are eligible for VAT relief. In general, the items covered by the VAT relief are things that are of practical help to you because of your illness or disability.

Who can buy qualifying goods and services without paying VAT?

You will be able to buy goods and services that are eligible for VAT relief if:

  • you are chronically sick or disabled and
  • you are buying them for your own personal or domestic use.

What is meant by chronically sick or disabled?

For the purposes of the VAT relief, you are chronically sick or disabled if:

  • you have a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect upon your ability to carry out everyday activities
  • you have a condition that the medical profession treats as a chronic sickness, such as diabetes
  • you have a terminal illness

You won't qualify if you are only temporarily disabled or incapacitated, such as suffering from a broken leg or other temporary injury. Neither will you qualify if you are elderly but are otherwise able-bodied and don’t suffer from any chronic condition. If you are over 60 you may only have to pay the reduced rate of VAT (currently 5 per cent) if you have certain mobility aids installed in your home. There is a paragraph within this guide on mobility aids for older people.

What is meant by personal or domestic use?

Personal or domestic use means that the goods or services are supplied for your own private use, rather than for business purposes.

Also they must be just for your own use - not for use by anyone else, or any other chronically sick or disabled people in general.

However, if you and your partner are both chronically sick or disabled and you buy goods or services for both of you to use, then you won't have to pay VAT.

What goods and services can be bought without paying VAT?

If you have a long-term illness or you're disabled, you won't have to pay VAT when you buy any of the following items for your own personal or domestic use:

  • medical or surgical appliances designed solely for the relief of a severe abnormality or severe injury
  • electrically or mechanically adjustable beds designed for invalids
  • sanitary devices, such as commode chairs, commode stools and frames for sitting on or rising from a sanitary appliance
  • chair lifts or stair lifts designed for use in connection with invalid wheelchairs
  • invalid wheelchairs and invalid carriages
  • hoists and lifters designed for use by invalids (this includes ‘lift & tilt’ or ‘riser’ chairs)
  • emergency alarm call systems of the type that link you to a specified person or a central control centre
  • incontinence products, such as disposable/washable pads and collecting devices
  • certain types of auditory aids (but not standard hearing aids)
  • certain types of low vision aids (but not spectacles and contact lenses)
  • the lease of a Motability vehicle

Also, if you are a wheelchair user, you won’t have to pay VAT on motor vehicles for your own personal or domestic use that are designed or substantially and permanently adapted to enable you to enter and drive, or enter and be carried in the vehicle.

You also won't have to pay VAT on any charges made for the installation, repair and maintenance for some of the above items or spare parts and accessories for use in or with the items.

Certain building work to a disabled person’s private residence may also be VAT free. This is limited to:

  • constructing a ramp, widening an existing doorway or passage to help a disabled person enter or move about the building
  • installing, extending or adapting a bathroom, shower room, washroom or toilet where the work is necessary to suit the condition of a disabled person
  • installing a lift designed to help a disabled person move between floors within their home

If you need to have any general purpose goods adapted to suit your condition, anything you pay to have them adapted will be VAT free, but you will still have to pay the normal rate of VAT on the goods themselves.

Only disabled people and people suffering from a chronic illness are entitled to the zero-rating on the items outlined in this paragraph.  If you don’t have a disability or chronic illness and are aged over 60 you may be entitled to the reduced rate of VAT (currently 5 per cent) on certain mobility aids installed in your home. See the paragraph below on mobility aids for older people.

What you need to do to buy qualifying goods and services without paying VAT

You'll have to give the seller a written declaration stating that you are chronically sick or disabled and are entitled to buy qualifying goods and services VAT free. This declaration has to give enough information to show that you qualify. Normally, the supplier will provide you with the declaration for you to fill in and sign. They also have to fill part of it in, and then keep it with their records. If you are unable to sign the written declaration yourself, the signature of your parent, guardian, doctor or another responsible person is acceptable. Faxed declarations and declarations made via the internet are also acceptable.

If you provide a satisfactory declaration the seller will then be able to sell you the goods or services without charging you VAT.

Mobility aids for older people

Any person who is over 60 can buy the following items at the reduced rate of VAT (currently 5 per cent) when they are supplied and installed in their own home or a home shared with friends and relatives:

  • grab rails
  • ramps
  • stair lifts
  • bath lifts
  • built-in shower seats or showers containing built-in shower seats
  • walk-in baths with sealable doors

The reduced rate doesn’t apply if you just buy the goods. The reduced rate applies only if you are having these goods supplied and installed.

Contacting HMRC about VAT reliefs for disabled people

For more help about VAT reliefs for disabled people you can contact HMRC by email, phone or post.

Provided by HM Revenue and Customs

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