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HMRC internal manual

VAT Relief for Disabled People Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Golf buggies

What is a golf buggy?

These are familiar vehicles which provide swift movement around a golf course. A general purpose vehicle designed for use by both able bodied people and those suffering from a medical condition will not be eligible for zero-rating under item 2(g) (see VRDP05100) because the vehicle is not designed solely for use by a disabled person.

Is a golf buggy designed solely for use by a disabled person?

This was considered by the Tribunal in two cases:

  • Foxer Industries (14469); and
  • C F Leisure Mobility Ltd (16790).

Foxer Industries (14469)

This case concerned the VAT liability of single seater electric golf buggies made and sold by the Appellant for people having difficulties getting round a golf course. The Appellant believed they were entitled to relief under the Value Added Tax Act 1994, Schedule 8, Group 12, item 2(g).

The Appellant felt that people did not like signing the form at Annex A of ‘Leaflet 701/7/86 Aids for handicapped persons’, because they did not wish to be called disabled, and so their publicity literature stated that “All our prices are zero-rated VAT provided those machines are sold as Mobility Vehicles. In all other cases VAT will be 17.5%. In order to qualify for zero-rated VAT please complete the slip below and return.” There then followed a slip to be filled in which stated “I am unable to complete a full round of Golf without the use of a mobility vehicle.”.

Customers were asked about their particular needs and the buggy specifications - for example the seat and handlebar heights - could then be varied. In dismissing the appeal on the basic design golf buggies, the Tribunal observed that the words ‘Handicapped’, ‘Chronically sick’ or ‘Disabled’ appeared nowhere on the appellant’s promotional material and concluded:

“In the present case although the Appellants repeatedly said that the buggies were specially designed for use by handicapped or disabled people, it is clear that they were using the words “handicapped” or “disabled” in a wider sense than in some statutory definition. It is apparent from the slip which they asked customers to sign in order to qualify for zero-rating, that they regarded persons who are unable to complete a full round of golf without a mobility vehicle as disabled, regardless of the reason for the inability. The Act defines “handicapped” as “chronically sick or disabled”. The mere fact that a person is beyond retiring age does not mean that a person is handicapped. Indeed it is clear that the Appellant considered that many potential users would not wish to be described as handicapped.”

The Appellant was allowed further time to provide particulars of any supply which it contended qualified for zero-rating in whole or in part, because it departed from the basic design. As a result of that further evidence, the Tribunal accepted that one vehicle was sufficiently changed from a design viewpoint to qualify for zero-rating under item 2(g). For this particular ‘buggy’, “a new platform was created, the chassis was cut to shorten it and the golf bag holder was moved to the back to enable the customer to ride with his leg straight”. The modifications for eight other customers, fell within Item 3 and Note (8), which meant that the total costs of these vehicles had to be apportioned. However, in the main, the Tribunal’s original decision was upheld.

C F Leisure Mobility Ltd (16790)

This case concerned the VAT liability of single seater electric golf carts made and sold by the Appellant for persons having difficulties getting round a golf course. The Appellant believed the carts were entitled to relief under the Value Added Tax Act 1994, Schedule 8, Group 12, item 2(g).

The carts were marketed as golf carts and the literature made no mention of the carts being suitable for use by disabled people. Most of the sales were to golfers and golf clubs. In dismissing the appeal the Tribunal Chairman stated:

“It is clear from the use of the declaration in the form of annex D to Notice 701/1/94 that in many cases - even very many cases - the vehicles are in fact used by the chronically sick or disabled, and are very suitable for them; but it is equally clear from the substantial sales to those who do not sign this declaration, and from the material relating to sales generally, that the vehicles have not within the meaning of the statute been designed ‘specially’ or ‘solely’ for the handicapped. They are in fact marketed to the able-bodied and the disabled alike, for example to those who are simply elderly and inclined to less exertion than when they were fitter, or even to those who find the effort of walking the entire course carrying or pulling their clubs uncongenial.”