VAT relief or special exemption from paying the standard Value Added Tax that applies to most purchases could save you a lot of money on qualifying disability supplies. But to secure the savings, you and the product or service must meet specific requirements.
VAT Relief is intended to benefit people who are chronically sick or disabled by making certain medical and/or disability products and services more affordable. The rules governing VAT relief are extensive and complex, so it’s important to understand the basics of VAT and how VAT relief works in order to get the most benefit from this program.
VAT is charged at the time of purchase and is collected by companies on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). In the UK the standard rate of 20% applies to most items, but there are important exceptions:
- VAT exempt – Some goods and services like rent, private education, insurance, and health and postal postal services are VAT exempt.
- Reduced VAT rate – Many health, safety, and welfare items, including mobility aids for the elderly, smoking cessation products, and domestic/residential electricity and gas, qualify for a reduced VAT rate of 5%.
- Zero VAT rate eligible – Certain products and services purchased for the personal use of persons who are chronically sick or disabled may be eligible for a zero VAT rating, which is the basis of VAT relief.
- For a full list of VAT exemptions and ratings on different goods and services, click here.
Who Is Eligible For VAT Relief?
VAT relief is available only to people who qualify as chronically sick or disabled. For purposes of VAT relief, this includes the following:
- Individuals who have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial long-term negative effect on their ability to carry out everyday activities.
- Individuals who have a condition that the medical profession treats as a chronic sickness. Examples of chronic sickness include but are not limited to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or rheumatoid or severe osteo-arthritis.
- Individuals who are terminally ill.
Age alone does not qualify a person for VAT relief, though people over 60 are eligible for a reduced VAT rate of 5% on specific home aids like –
In order to qualify for VAT relief the person must be chronically sick or disabled, so people with a temporary incapacity or mobility impairment situation like a broken leg are not eligible.back to menu ↑
What Products And Services Qualify For VAT Relief?
Only products and services that are eligible for zero VAT rating and are purchased for the personal use of a chronically sick or disabled individual qualify for VAT relief. Both the item and the purchaser/intended user must meet the requirements in order for the purchase to qualify for the VAT Relief program.
This means that items that are not eligible for zero VAT rating don’t qualify for VAT relief, even if they’re purchased for the use of a chronically sick or disabled person.
It also means that even if an item is eligible for zero VAT rating, it does not qualify for VAT relief unless it is purchased for the use of a chronically sick or disabled person.
Some examples of items that are eligible for zero VAT rating include wheelchairs, powerchairs, and mobility scooters, riser-recliner chairs, adjustable beds, toileting aids and incontinence products, hoists, chair or stair lifts for use with a wheelchair, computer software or hardware designed specifically for the disabled, and devices designed to help disabled people carry out everyday tasks.
Also, services like the installation and maintenance of disability equipment, alteration of equipment or appliances so a disabled person can use them, and home alterations such as adding ramps or lifts or making changes to doorways and bathrooms may be eligible for zero VAT rating.back to menu ↑
How To Get VAT Relief When You Make A Purchase
One of the best things about VAT relief is that it creates immediate savings for the purchaser; you don’t pay the VAT and then apply for a refund, because under the terms of VAT relief the VAT is simply not included in the purchase price.
The first step is to make sure the product you want to purchase is eligible for zero VAT rating; check with the supplier and/or consult the government’s official VAT rating list.
The second step is to request and sign a VAT relief form from the supplier. The form declares your eligibility by affirming that you have a chronic illness or disability and specifying what it is, and it also declares that the product or service is intended for your own personal or domestic use.
If the intended user isn’t making the purchase in person or cannot sign the form, a parent, guardian, spouse, physician, or carer can make the purchase and complete and sign the form. If you’re buying online you can submit the necessary declaration via fax, and approved online forms are also valid.
Honestly in filling out your VAT relief form is crucial. There are significant penalties for making false declarations and for fraudulent evasion of VAT.back to menu ↑
Common VAT Relief Questions
Do I need a doctor’s certificate or other proof of illness or disability in order to get VAT relief?
No. VAT relief is based on self-declaration; you will need to fill out a form stating that you are chronically ill or disabled and specifying the nature of your illness or disability, but you don’t need a doctor’s certificate or other proof.
Are hearing aids, dentures, spectacles, or contact lenses eligible for VAT relief?
No. Standard hearing aids, dentures, spectacles, and contact lenses are excluded by law from VAT relief. However, some specialist hearing equipment that isn’t a standard hearing aid may be eligible, as may some specialist low vision appliances that are not standard spectacles or contact lenses.
Are all classes of mobility scooters eligible for VAT relief?
Not necessarily. Class 1 and 2 mobility scooters, which aren’t intended for use on the road, are eligible for VAT relief. Class 3 mobility scooters are normally intended or adapted for use on the road and, therefore, don’t qualify as invalid carriages for the purpose of VAT relief. However, if a class 3 mobility scooter is designed solely for the use of disabled persons, it may be eligible for VAT relief.
Are emergency alarm call systems eligible for VAT relief?
Yes, if they’re designed to be operated by a disabled person and will enable that person to call for help in case of illness, injury, or similar emergency to either a specified person or a control centre. Ordinary telephones, internal communication systems, intruder alarms that activate bells, lights, or sirens, CCTV systems, or the installation of ordinary telephone lines are not eligible for VAT relief.
Can I get VAT relief on the cost of adding a ramp or widening a doorway?
Yes, in some cases. Suppliers may zero rate the service of constructing a ramp or widening an existing doorway or passage but not the construction of a new doorway or passage, provided the work is done to help a disabled person gain access to or move about within his or her private residence (including the garden, yard, outbuildings, and detached garages).
Are handicapped-access adaptations of bathrooms or lavatories eligible for VAT relief?
Yes, if the work is necessary to suit the condition of a disabled person and the building is his or her private residence (which includes outbuildings and the home).
I’m not chronically sick or disabled, but I’m over 60 and sometimes have difficulty getting up and down. If I buy a riser-recliner, would it be eligible for VAT relief?
No. Even though riser-recliners are zero VAT eligible, they only qualify for VAT relief if they’re purchased for the use of a chronically ill or disabled person.
Can I get VAT relief on any products just for being over 60?
No, VAT relief only applies to products purchased specifically for the use of chronically ill or disabled persons. However, some specific mobility products (grab rails, ramps, stair and bath lifts, built-in shower seats or showers containing built-in shower seats, and walk-in baths with sealable doors) are eligible for a Reduced VAT rate (5%) for people over 60.
Can home improvements like air conditioning be eligible for VAT relief if it benefits a disabled person?
No. Even if general-purpose equipment like air conditioning benefits a disabled person, it can’t be zero-rated because it’s not designed solely for disabled people.
Where can I get more information on VAT relief?
Some excellent official resources on VAT are available online:
You can also call HM Revenue & Customs helpline at 0300 123 1073.