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HMRC internal manual

VAT Relief for Disabled People Manual

Air conditioning units: tribunal ruling

The Tribunal case of E Simmons (6622) concerned two air-conditioning units purchased by Miss Simmons, who suffered from multiple sclerosis. Humidity and heat caused Miss Simmons serious discomfort and interfered with her ability to live a normal life. The equipment therefore helped considerably in coping with multiple sclerosis.

One air-conditioning unit was installed in a room in Miss Simmons’ home and a second was a portable device. The air-conditioning units were of a standard type and the manufacturers’ brochures made no claim that the units were of particular use to any class of users. Miss Simmons argued, however, that the design of the air-conditioning units was exactly the same as it would have been if they had been designed solely for use by a disabled person and for that reason they should qualify for relief.

Item 2(g)

In dismissing the appeal, Mr Oliver QC ruled:

“The Tribunal finds as a fact that the air-conditioning units were designed for general purpose use. As a matter of law, the words of Item 2(g) impose, as a condition for zero-rating, that the sole purpose of the design of the equipment in question be for its use by a handicapped person. The fact that the design would be the same whether the equipment was to be used by a handicapped person or for the general purposes does not bring the equipment within the words of Item 2(g). The wording specifically limits the class of zero-rated equipment to single-purpose designed equipment, i.e. equipment manufactured to a design for the sole use of handicapped persons; and it does not admit the inclusion of general-purpose equipment such as these air-conditioners.”