Guidance

Protective equipment and VAT (Notice 701/23)

This notice explains when protective equipment is zero-rated and children's car seats and travel systems are reduced-rated at 5% VAT.

Detail

This notice cancels and replaces the March 2002 edition of Notice 701/23. Details of any changes to the previous versions can be found in paragraph 1.3.

1. Overview

1.1 Information in this notice

This notice explains when:

  • protective boots and helmets for industrial use are zero-rated – see section 2
  • motorcycle helmets are zero-rated – see section 3
  • pedal cycle helmets are zero-rated – see section 4
  • children’s car seats and travel systems are reduced-rated at a rate of 5% VAT – see section 5

1.1.1 Other reduced rate or zero-rated protective equipment

Certain protective clothing, headgear and footwear for young children may be zero-rated as young children’s clothing and footwear. Further information is in Notice 714: zero rating young children’s clothing and footwear.

1.2 Users for this notice

Use this notice if you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer or importer of products listed in paragraph 1.1.

1.3 Changes to this notice

This notice has been updated to reflect the formation of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Other main changes are:

  • section 2.5 which reflects the updating of standards
  • section 5 which reflects developments in children’s car seats and ‘lie-flat’ travel systems

1.4 Laws that affect this notice

The VAT Act 1994, section 30 holds that goods and services specified in Schedule 8 to the Act are zero-rated. Schedule 8, Group 16 (as amended by SI 2000/1517 and SI 2001/732) specifies when protective boots and helmets are zero-rated.

The VAT Act 1994, section 29A (as inserted by the Finance Act 2001) holds that goods and services specified in Schedule 7A to the Act are reduced-rated. Schedule 7A, Group 5 specifies when children’s car seats are reduced-rated.

2.Protective boots and helmets for industrial use

2.1 Protective boots and helmets that qualify for zero rating

They are zero-rated when all the following conditions are met:

Condition Description Further information
1 The articles must be boots or helmets paragraph 2.2
2 They must be manufactured to the appropriate European or British standard paragraphs 2.3 to 2.5
3 They must bear a mark indicating conformity with those standards paragraphs 2.3 to 2.5
4 They must be for industrial use paragraph 2.6
5 They must not be supplied to persons for use by their employees paragraph 2.7

Paragraph 2.8 explains when accessories are zero-rated.

2.2 Difference between a shoe and a boot

The British Standards Institution defines a boot as having a minimum leg height of 90mm measured vertically from the insole at the back. The European Standard gives the minimum height of the upper (measured vertically from the insole at the back) of 103mm for a size 36 (UK 3) and below, through to a minimum height of the upper of 121mm for a size 45 (UK 11) and above.

Protective shoes that fall outside these specifications are not eligible for zero rating, even if they meet the remaining requirements.

2.3 European and British standards for protective boots and helmets

The protective boots and helmets must be manufactured to the standards:

  • imposed by the European Community Directive on Personal Protective Equipment (the PPE Directive)
  • approved by the British Standards Institution

The relevant harmonised European standards (ENs) and British Standards (BSs) are:

Boots

  • EN 345:1992 and BS EN 345:1993 - Safety footwear for professional use
  • EN 346:1992 and BS EN 346:1993 - Protective footwear for professional use
  • BS 4676:1983 - Gaiters and footwear for protection against burns and impact risks in foundries
  • BS 1870: Part 1:1988 - Safety footwear other than all-rubber and all-plastics moulded types
  • BS 1870: Part 2:1976 - Safety footwear - lined rubber boots
  • BS 1870: Part 3:1981 - Safety footwear - polyvinyl chloride moulded safety footwear.

Helmets

  • EN 397:1995 and BS EN 397:1995 - Industrial safety helmets
  • EN 812:1997 and BS EN 812: 1998 - Industrial bump caps
  • BS 4033:1966 - Industrial scalp protectors
  • BS 5340:1975 - General purpose industrial safety helmets

2.4 Markings

Amongst the markings on them will be one of the above EN or BS numbers and the European Community ‘CE’ mark and the British Standard ‘kitemark’. The ‘CE’ mark indicates conformity with the PPE Directive.

The EN for boots and helmets sourced in other EC countries may be prefixed by another country code such as ‘NF’ for a French manufactured product, or ‘DS’ for one of Danish manufacture.

2.5 Alternative standards

The VAT Act lists the current standards to which boots and helmets must conform to qualify for zero rating. It also indicates that the scope of the zero rate will depend on any future amendments to those standards.

In some instances, particular boots and helmets may have been manufactured to a different specification to those laid down in the harmonised European Standards. These alternative specifications must satisfy the requirements of the PPE Directive and be approved by a ‘notified body’, which in turn has been approved and appointed by the authorities of an EC country. These boots and helmets will still carry the ‘CE’ mark, but also the notified body number.

2.6 Meaning of ‘industrial use’

This has its ordinary and everyday meaning. Boots and helmets that meet all the other conditions for zero rating but are not for industrial use, such as motorcycle boots, are standard-rated.

2.7 Work out who is being supplied

You cannot zero rate supplies of protective boots or helmets to an employer for the use by their employees. Supplies from a manufacturer to a wholesaler who in turn supplies them to a retailer can be zero-rated subject to the conditions set out earlier in this notice. Supplies from an employer to an employee can also be zero-rated, subject to the conditions set out earlier in this notice.

Before you zero rate any supply you should by asking yourself does the
establish your customer is not an employer purchasing boots or helmets for use by employees customer’s trading style suggest that the customer is an employer

quantity ordered suggest a bulk purchase by an employer for the use of employees

nature of the contract indicates a trade order - such as a number of pairs of boots paid for by one customer for delivery to individuals

2.8 Zero-rated accessories

If you fit accessories such as visors or ear protectors as an integral part of a qualifying helmet, you can zero rate the supply of the complete helmet. But accessories supplied on their own are standard-rated.

3.Motorcycle helmets

3.1 Zero-rated motorcycle helmets

They are zero-rated when they comply with one of the following standards:

  • British Standard (BS) 6658:1985 (it will be marked with a British Standard ‘kitemark’); or
  • UNECE Regulation 22.05 (it will be marked with a UN ‘E’ mark - the first two digits of the approval number will be ‘05’).

But BS 6658:1985 covers protective helmets for all vehicles. Helmets that comply with that standard which are not motorcycle helmets are standard-rated.

3.2 Alternative standards

Helmets may also be zero-rated if they comply with a European Standard which offers a level of protection which is equivalent to (that is the same as, or better than) BS 6658:1985 and are marked with a certification mark which is equivalent to the British Standard ‘kitemark’. But at the time of writing, we are not aware of any such standard or certification mark.

For the avoidance of doubt, UNECE Regulation 22.04 is not equivalent to the British Standard.

3.3 Zero-rated accessories

If you fit accessories such as visors, ear protectors or communication systems as an integral part of a qualifying helmet, you can zero rate the supply of the complete helmet. But accessories supplied on their own are standard-rated.

4.Pedal cycle helmets

4.1 Zero-rated pedal cycle helmets

They are zero-rated when both of the following conditions are met:

Condition Description
1 The cycle helmet is manufactured to standards which satisfy requirements imposed by the European Community Directive on Personal Protective Equipment (the PPE Directive)
2 It bears a mark indicating conformity with those standards.

4.2 European and British manufacturing standards

The harmonised European standard is EN 1078:1997. The British Standards Institution has adopted this as BS EN 1078:1997.

4.3 Markings

Amongst the markings on the helmet will be the EN number and the European Community ‘CE’ mark.

The EN for helmets sourced in other EC countries may be prefixed by another country code such as ‘NF’ for a French manufactured product, or ‘DS’ for one of Danish manufacture.

4.4 Alternative standards

Some cycle helmets will have been manufactured to a different specification to the one laid down by the harmonised European Standard. These alternative specifications must satisfy the requirements of the PPE Directive and be approved by a ‘notified body’, which in turn has been approved and appointed by the authorities of an EC country.

These helmets will still carry the ‘CE’ mark, but also the notified body number. An example of an approved alternative standard is ‘Snell B95’.

4.5 Zero-rated accessories

If you fit accessories such as visors or ear protectors as an integral part of a qualifying helmet, you can zero rate the supply of the complete helmet. But accessories supplied on their own are standard-rated.

5.Children’s car seats and travel systems

5.1 Reduced rate children’s car seats

The following products are ‘children’s car seats’ and are reduced-rated at a rate of 5% VAT:

Safety seats

A safety seat is a seat designed to be sat in by a child in a road vehicle so that, when in use in a road vehicle, it can be restrained:

  • by a seat belt fitted in the vehicle
  • by belts, or anchorages, that form part of the seat being attached to the vehicle
  • in either of those ways

It must also incorporate an integral harness, or integral impact shield, for restraining a child seated in it.

Booster seats

A booster seat is a seat designed to be sat in by a child in a road vehicle, and so that, when in use in a road vehicle, it and a child sitting in it can be restrained by a seat belt fitted in the vehicle.

Booster cushions

A booster cushion is a cushion designed to be sat on by a child in a road vehicle, and so that a child seated on it can be restrained by a seat belt fitted in the vehicle.

Car seat bases

A base unit which is designed solely for the purpose of attaching a safety seat securely in a road vehicle by means of anchorages that form part of the base unit and which, when in use in a road vehicle, can be restrained in one or more of the following ways:

  • by a seat belt fitted in the vehicle
  • by permanent anchorage points in the vehicle
  • by belts attached to permanent anchorage points in the vehicle

The reduced rate applies to both ISOFIX (International Standards Organisation Fix) and non-ISOFIX bases.

5.2 Reduced-rated carrycots with restraint straps

The reduced rate also applies to protective travel systems such as ‘lie-flat’ car seat products which allow babies to safely lie-flat whilst travelling in a car and are secured using a 3 point safety harness. These products can also be used with compatible pushchairs to form a pram system.

5.3 Reduced rate children’s travel systems

There are currently 2 types of travel system. The following explains their VAT treatment:

Type of travel system VAT liability
A pram or pushchair and a safety seat that can be fitted together and both of the elements can be used independently of each other. The safety seat is reduced-rated

The pram or pushchair element is standard-rated.
A safety seat, a bare wheeled framework, and a pushchair or pram seat.

The safety seat can be attached to the wheeled framework and it can then be used as a pram. Alternatively the pram seat can be attached to the framework for use as a pram.

The framework is only of use when one of the other 2 elements is attached.

Any combination of the 3 elements may be supplied together.
When the supply consists of just the safety seat and the wheeled framework the whole supply is reduced-rated.

When all 3 elements are supplied together, the pram seat is standard-rated and the other 2 elements are reduced-rated.

When the supply consists of just the pram seat and the wheeled framework the whole supply is standard-rated.

When supplied separately, the safety seat is reduced-rated, the wheeled framework is standard-rated and the pram seat is standard-rated.

5.4 Manufacturing standards for reduced rate children’s car seats and travel systems

The latest safety standard is UNECE Regulation 44.03. Car seats approved to this standard will be marked with a UN ‘E’ mark and the first 2 digits of the approval number will be ‘03’.

5.5 Treatment of vehicles with a fitted children’s car seat

If you supply a vehicle with an integral children’s car seat, or with one as an ‘optional extra’, your whole supply is standard-rated.

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Published 4 July 2011