If you live in the UK and have a disability you can save money on some purchases and services like building work as you may be VAT exempt.  There are a number of caveats and details but for a potential saving of 20% it is often worth the aggravation.


Who is eligible?

If you have a long-term physical or mental problem, some form of chronic sickness like diabetes or have a terminal illness and you need it for you personal use then you are eligible. Temporary problems such as broken bones do not count.

What can I buy?

This is complicated but comes down to items that relate to a disability or building work in your own house that relates to your condition. Wheelchair users also get exemptions on motor vehicles. In addition services that relate to the items purchased like maintenance contracts are eligible. The HMRC website has the exact list of things that are eligible here.

How does it work?

You need to write a declaration stating that you are entitled to buy the goods VAT free and then supplier handles the administration and deduct VAT before you pay. If you are buying from a company that usually handles VAT exempt purchases they are used to the procedure, but if the company does not know how to deal with it (for example a builder), the HMRC has clear instructions available that you can refer them to.

Import Tax Exemption

As well as the normal VAT relief it is possible to save on taxes when importing goods that would qualify for VAT relief as well as a wider range of goods that are “designed to give educational, employment or social help to people with physical or mental disabilities.”  If you are carrying them in yourself you need to go through the red channel and fill in a declaration.  By post or as freight it is a little more involved with a couple of forms to fill in, detailed here, but still fairly straightforward.

It definitely something worth keeping in mind, particularly when purchasing large or expensive items or if you are planning to carry out building work like making adaptations for someone with a disability.

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