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HMRC internal manual

VAT Relief for Disabled People Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Is there VAT relief for the fitting of kitchens?
Is there VAT relief for kitchen furniture in a new dwelling?
Is there VAT relief for adapting a kitchen?
Is there VAT relief for items made to the individual specification of a disabled person?

Is there VAT relief for the fitting of kitchens?

One area which gives rise to difficulty is the fitting of new kitchens. The fact that there is relief in Group 12 for the supply to a disabled person or to an eligible charity of certain services in relation to bathrooms, washrooms or lavatories, makes it is easy to assume that similar relief exists for a kitchen provided, extended or adapted for a disabled person. There are, however, no such equivalent provisions.

Is there VAT relief for kitchen furniture in a new dwelling?

Kitchen furniture fitted into a kitchen during the construction of a new dwelling, can sometimes be zero-rated in its own right under item 4 of Group 5 (articles of a kind ordinarily installed by builders as fixtures) - see VCONST.

Is there VAT relief for adapting a kitchen?

Subject to the preconditions in VRDP05100 zero-rating is available for existing kitchens under item 2 (g) (see VRDP05100), for supplies to a disabled person or to an eligible charity of:

  • equipment ‘designed solely for use by a disabled person’ (see VRDP03000);
  • the services of installing such items (see VRDP42000); and
  • the services of adapting goods ‘to suit the condition of a disabled person’ (see VRDP43000).

This would mean for example, that the service of fitting a specially adapted unit in a disabled person’s kitchen to suit his condition would qualify for zero-rating under item 3 (see VRDP43000 - ‘The law’). However, the supply of the unit itself would not be eligible for zero-rating and does not render other supplies for the kitchen to be eligible for zero-rating.

Tribunal case

These principles were illustrated in the Tribunal case Donald Bell (1999). The appellant arranged for a kitchen to be altered, to facilitate its use by his wife, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and his son, who suffered from muscular dystrophy. Standard items of kitchen furniture, cupboards, cooker and electrical sockets were installed in the kitchen, but the design and layout allowed Mr Bell’s wife and son to reach and use them. Mr Bell argued that the new kitchen had been designed by the supplier solely for use by his wife and son, both disabled. The kitchen as a whole was therefore designed solely for use by a disabled person. The Tribunal chairman, Lord Granchester, in dismissing the appeal said:

“… we ask ourselves whether the items of equipment supplied by Moben to Mr and Mrs Bell appear to us, using the words in their ordinary and natural meaning, to have been designed ‘solely for use’ by a handicapped person. In our opinion, on the evidence before us, we can only answer that question in the negative. We consider that, on the evidence before us, the equipment supplied by Moben was no different from the standard items of equipment designed for sale, and supplied by Moben, to members of the public generally. The items of equipment were, we hold, simply cupboard units of a style which Mrs Bell and Colin (Bell) could open easily and which were so sited in the kitchen designed for their use that they could reach them easily. The items of equipment, we consider, were neither ‘designed solely for use by a handicapped person’ nor designed for use by Mrs Bell or Colin, they were designed for anyone to use generally.”

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Is there VAT relief for items made to the individual specification of a disabled person?

The VAT Tribunal has ruled that certain items of kitchen equipment and related services can be zero-rated when they are made to the individual specifications of a disabled person.

Softley Kitchens (15034)

The appeal concerned the supply and installation of the ‘Saint Roch’ kitchen, which was ‘bespoke’ designed to the individual specification of each disabled person and featured special units which were more readily accessible by a disabled wheelchair user. The Tribunal confirmed that an entire kitchen cannot be zero-rated but said:

“Each Saint Roch kitchen is designed and manufactured to the specific requirements of the customer and is made individually to order. We find that all the floor based units standing on the high deeply recessed plinth are designed solely for use by a handicapped person and fall to be zero-rated within item 2 (g). We also find that the hob unit described to us was solely designed for a handicapped person (the hob unit was a knee space unit which enabled the disabled person to sit at it). The sink unit’s facing is specifically designed with the needs of the customer in mind. Its depth and height have to be calculated and when it is designed, the designer’s mind is focused upon the particular needs of the disabled person for whom it is designed. We also find that the wall cupboards with the internal pull out drop down fittings should be zero-rated. The same sort of principles apply to these units in that they were designed specifically and solely for the disabled person who is unable to stand and reach up.”

Specially designed equipment

The above decision means that suppliers who design, supply and install kitchens to meet the specific needs of a disabled person will have to charge VAT on appliances such as:

  • cookers and refrigerators;
  • standard kitchen cabinet units; and
  • work surfaces

but will be able to zero rate specially designed equipment such as cupboards which are specifically designed to be accessible to wheelchair users.

‘Design’ or ‘installation’ charges

The charges will have to be apportioned between their standard-rated and zero-rated elements. The fairest and simplest way to do this would seem to be to calculate the total cost of the work, express the standard-rated costs as a percentage of that total, and then apply that percentage to the design or installation charge, to arrive at the standard-rated element. It is however, open to the supplier to suggest another method, provided it is fair and reasonable.

Mass production kitchen equipment

Suppliers of mass production kitchen equipment cannot benefit from zero-rating, even if that equipment might be of more use to disabled people than others.