A frequently debated subject is that of VAT relief on motorhome adaptations and accessories. I will try to help clear this up with a few examples of what does and doesn’t qualify for this. As always we are open to opinions and I’m simply giving our opinions on things, it may be that you can offer up some information we’re not aware of. I’ve pasted the current information of the government website below.
VAT relief for disabled people
If you’re disabled or have a long-term illness, you won’t be charged VAT on products designed or adapted for your own personal or domestic use. Also, you won’t be charged VAT on:
the installation and any extra work needed as part of this
repairs or maintenance
spare parts or accessories
The product and your disability have to qualify.
Qualifying products or services
Your supplier can tell you, but usually products designed or adapted for a disability qualify. For example, certain types of:
medical appliances to help with severe injuries
braille paper or low vision aids – but not spectacles or contact lenses
motor vehicles – or the leasing of a motability vehicle
building work like ramps, widening doors, installing a lift or toilet
The goods and services that you are buying have to be for the disabled person’s personal or domestic use. HMRC’s guidance advises that this does not include use for business purposes. Thus, HMRC comment that if a self-employed blind person purchases a Braille embosser for a computer that is used in his business, then that purchase cannot be zero-rated. The legislation does not actually define personal use so it may be that some business use should not preclude relief. You should be aware, though, that HMRC could challenge any claim that such goods or services were purchased for personal or domestic use.
The good or services must be just for your own use, not for use by anyone else. However, if you and your partner are both chronically sick or disabled and buy goods and services for both of you to use, then you will not have to pay VAT.
Below I have found an example of what qualifies in a home environment. I have added this as a lot of the examples will cross over to motorhomes/caravans. Hopefully it will also clear up what/why certain accessories are not considered VAT exempt.
Alterations to your home
There is no general VAT relief on building modifications for disabled people. However, some specific building works (including materials connected to the work, preparatory work and making good the immediate area) to adapt a private residence (including garden, granny annex or similar and second home or holiday home) because of your disability can qualify, including:
constructing ramps or widening doorways or passages to help getting in and out of a home or move around inside it
installing, extending or adapting a bathroom, shower room, washroom or lavatory where the work is necessary to suit the condition of the disabled person
installing a lift – such as a stair lift or chair lift – that is designed for use in connection with a wheelchair
installing an alarm system so you can call for assistance.
Unfortunately, some things which you might think should qualify do not, such as:
constructing new doorways or passages
installing, extending or adapting a downstairs bedroom
alterations to accommodate special medical equipment (the equipment itself might qualify for relief, but the alterations to your home do not)
materials from building merchants in connection with works performed by a family or friend for free or in a Do-It-Yourself capacity.
One area that gives rise to difficulty is kitchens. You can only get VAT relief on equipment designed specifically to suit disability, for example, a bespoke knee space hob unit specially made for a wheelchair user to sit at it (however the hob appliance itself would not qualify). Relief is not available on general purpose equipment even though it does, in fact, alleviate disability. For example, a mass-produced corner carousel in a kitchen may make things easier for a person with MS suffering with fatigue or lack of energy, but it is also a convenience for able-bodied people and a better means of utilising space. Although it is undoubtedly of use to the person with MS, it has been designed for general use and not more specifically for a disabled person.
A range of goods and services (bought or leased) might be free of VAT if they are specially designed to help with a disability. Examples include:
wheelchairs and carriages (including most mobility scooters)
medical or surgical appliances – like pacemakers, artificial respirators, artificial limbs or leg braces, (but plasters, bandages, and so on do not qualify as they are not appliances)
electrically or mechanically adjustable beds (must be akin to beds commonly used in hospital wards)
commode chairs, stools and other similar devices to aid with bathing
chair and stair lifts for wheelchairs
computer software designed specifically for disabled people, for example to overcome communication problems
hoists and other lifting equipment including lift and tilt or riser chairs
emergency alarm call systems of the type that link you to a specified person or a central control centre
low-vision aids (magnifying equipment, and so on) but not spectacles or contact lenses
Braille embossers and other similar equipment, such as a braille keyboard
gadgets and devices that are designed solely to make everyday tasks easier for disabled people, like kettle tippers and long-handled pick-up sticks
text telephones, but not hearing aids (unless for the auditory training of deaf children)
specialist clothing, footwear and wigs (but not dentures).
You might also be able to get VAT relief on:
the cost of installing some of the items in the list above
the cost of adapting general-purpose goods to suit your particular needs (including any materials needed to adapt the goods but not the cost of the goods themselves)
repair and maintenance costs of qualifying goods such as those listed above
parts and accessories designed solely to go with qualifying items (for example, a generator purchased to run a stair lift if there is a power cut does not qualify because it is a general-purpose item that could have other uses).
So whilst it is clear that accessories specifically dedicated to disabled use are VAT free (wheelchair carriers, lifts etc) other more generic accessories (towbars, grab handles etc) may not as they could have a more general purpose in the eyes of the government.
Hopefully this is of use to some of you and thank you for reading.
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