What is a covered walkway?
A walkway is:
- a covered path providing shelter from the elements; or
- a covered bridge above the ground linking buildings and providing shelter from the elements.
In the Tribunal case of Portland College (9815), which concerned an eligible charity providing training and education for disabled students, the walkways were described as follows:
“……..”a series of expensive bus shelters bolted together”. This is very apt. They are flat roofed, the roof being galvanised steel sheets. One side is glazed in toughened glass whilst the other side is open to the elements consisting simply of steel supports for the roof.”
Is there VAT relief for walkways?
Many walkways are beneficial to disabled people, enabling them to move more easily from one building to another. However, they do not incorporate any special features that render them ‘designed solely for use by a handicapped person’ and so are not eligible for zero-rating under item 2(g) (see VRDP05100).
Pre-fabricated covered walkways
The Portland College appeal concerned the erection of pre-fabricated covered walkways. The manufacturer said that the walkways were specifically designed for the college and were provided for the use of people with disabilities. Customs produced the manufacturer’s brochure showing similar structures at Gatwick Airport and Lymington Ferry. The manufacturer said however that the walkways had been designed for the college and then subsequently adapted for the wider commercial uses shown in the brochure. The Tribunal considered whether the walkways could be regarded as equipment or appliances designed solely for use by a disabled person. The Tribunal chairman, Mr A Hilton said:
“I do not question the fact that the sole purpose of erecting the walkways was to provide protection for students, all of whom were handicapped persons, when moving about the campus of the college. The fact that they are also usable by able-bodied persons is a fact which did not influence the college when acquiring the erections. That is not sufficient.”
The Appellant argued that these works qualified for zero-rating under item 8, but this was rejected by the Tribunal chairman, who said that
“The protection offered by the walkways certainly makes movement on the site more comfortable but I do not find that they are necessary as would be ramps or wider doors. To say that route is uphill and so equates to a ramp is not germane to this appeal. The paths or roadways were already there, the walkways were simply weather protection erected over the existing routes.”
“Whilst I have every sympathy with the appellant’s activities I cannot find any justification for the claim that the walkways were designed solely for the use of handicapped persons. They are similar to installations that can be found in many places and cannot be brought within the requirements for zero-rating either under Group 14 or Group 16.”