Find out about VAT relief that may be available if you’re a charity buying certain goods and building work for disabled people.
Getting certain goods and building work for disabled people VAT-free if you’re a charity
If you’re a charity you’ll generally have to pay VAT on the things you buy. But there’s VAT relief available on a limited range of goods and building work you buy for disabled people.
VAT relief that may be available if you’re a charity buying certain goods and building work because of someone’s disability, find out:
- how VAT relief works
- which goods and building work can be bought VAT-free
- what HMRC mean by ‘disabled’ and who qualifies for VAT-free goods and building work
- how to prove that you qualify for VAT-free goods and building work
- what to do if you think you’ve paid too much VAT
- how to contact HMRC for more information
How VAT relief works
This is not a VAT refund system and there’s no facility for HMRC to refund VAT to you if you’re entitled to buy VAT-free goods or building work. If you’re entitled to buy VAT-free goods or building work, your supplier will not charge you VAT.
Goods that can be bought VAT-free by a charity
The following goods can be bought VAT-free by a charity because of a person’s disability:
- medical and surgical appliances
- mobility scooters
- equipment to aid the hard of hearing and low vision aids
- specialist beds, chair and stair lifts, rise and recline chairs and other lifting equipment and sanitary devices
- goods that have been designed solely for disabled people
- computer equipment
- emergency alarm call systems
- parts and accessories
A charity can hire or lease eligible goods VAT-free for a disabled person.
Your retailer or other supplier is responsible for checking whether the goods are eligible to be sold VAT-free.
Check VAT relief on certain goods if you have a disability which explains the goods that can be bought VAT-free for disabled people.
Building work that a charity could have carried out VAT-free for a disabled person
This section has information on the building work that a charity could have done VAT-free for disabled and chronically sick people including:
- ramps, doorways and passageways
- bathrooms, washrooms and lavatories in certain charity buildings
- installation or repair and maintenance of lifts in certain charity buildings
- preparation and restoration work
Ramps, doorways and passageways
A charity will not have to pay VAT if they’re having a ramp installed or an existing doorway or passageway widened in order to help disabled people enter or move around in their building.
A charity will not have to pay VAT if they’re having a bathroom, shower room or lavatory provided, extended or adapted if the work’s being done because of a person’s disability and the work’s being done in a building that’s:
- residential accommodation including a residential nursing, care or respite home but not a hotel, boarding house or similar establishment
- a day centre where at least 20% of the people using the centre are disabled
Lavatories and washrooms (not bathrooms)
A charity will not have to pay VAT if they’re having a lavatory or washroom provided, extended or adapted if the work’s being done to assist disabled people and the work’s being done in a building that’s used mainly by a charity for charitable purposes.
Installation or repair and maintenance of lifts
A charity will not have to pay VAT if they’re having a lift installed, repaired or maintained and the lift’s installed for the purpose of helping disabled people move between floors of the building which is:
- a day centre for disabled people
- temporary or permanent residential accommodation
Preparation and restoration work
A charity will not have to pay VAT on any necessary preparation or restoration work if it’s directly related to the VAT-free work described above.
For example, if they have a doorway widened the supply and fitting of a wider door frame and door, removal of the bricks and mortar and the restoration of the damaged decor can all be VAT-free.
Who qualifies for VAT-free goods or building work
You’ll only be able to have eligible goods or building work VAT-free if you’re a charity and, in the case of goods, they’re for the personal or domestic use of a chronically sick or disabled person.
What HMRC means by ‘chronically sick or disabled’
For VAT purposes, a person’s chronically sick or disabled if they have:
- a physical or mental impairment which has a long term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out everyday activities
- a condition which the medical profession treats as a chronic sickness (that’s a long term health condition)
For VAT purposes, the term ‘chronically sick or disabled’ does not include a person who’s only temporarily disabled or incapacitated, for example with a broken limb or someone who’s elderly but is not chronically sick or disabled.
You do not need HMRC’s permission to declare that a person’s disabled or chronically sick and our advisers cannot tell you whether or not someone is disabled or chronically sick. If you’re not sure whether their condition means they’re chronically sick or disabled you may wish to ask them to consult their doctor or other medical adviser.
What HMRC means by ‘personal or domestic use’
This means that the goods are made available specifically for the use of an individual disabled person. The following are not ‘personal’ or ‘domestic’ uses and are not VAT-free:
- goods used for business purposes
- goods supplied to or for an in-patient or out-patient of a hospital or to or for a resident of a nursing or care home where the goods are for use in the care or treatment provided in the hospital or nursing or care home
- supplies made widely available for a whole group of disabled people to use generally, rather than for the personal use of specified individuals - for example, the installation of a stair lift in a charity building for the convenience of disabled people who might use the building in order to meet the requirements of the Equality Act, is not eligible for relief, but the installation of a stair lift in a charity building because of a specified disabled individual person’s needs can be supplied to a charity VAT-free
How to prove that you qualify for VAT-free goods or building work
To demonstrate that you’re entitled to buy the goods or building work VAT-free, your supplier will usually ask you for a simple written declaration stating your eligibility. If the supplier does not give you a form to fill in you can use our suggested version.
You’ll need to provide a separate declaration for each supplier for them to keep with their VAT records.
Do not send any completed declarations to HMRC.
In addition to a written declaration, suppliers may need evidence that the buyer is a charity. This may be either by being registered by the Charity Commission or by being recognised by HMRC with the letter confirming charitable status.
What to do if you think you’ve paid too much VAT
If you think that you meet all the conditions for VAT-free goods or building work but have been incorrectly charged VAT you should ask your supplier for a refund. There’s no facility for HMRC to refund VAT to you.
If your supplier is not sure how to do this they can contact HMRC for advice. Our helpline can give advice in cases of uncertainty but cannot intervene in disputes between customers and suppliers.