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.
Example declaration for disabled people to buy goods without paying VAT Opens new window
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:
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.
Reduced-rate VAT on mobility aids for older people
Contacting HMRC about VAT relief for disabled people
For more help about VAT relief for disabled people you can contact HMRC by email, phone or post.
For information and advice on the VAT relief available for disabled and older people
Opening hours8.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday
Closed weekends and bank holidays0845 302 0203This helpline is part of HMRC Charities. When you call this number, please choose option 1 to speak to an advisor about VAT relief for disabled and older people.