VAT relief on footwear for older people

If you have a parent or elderly relative, who is disabled or has a long-term illness, you will perhaps be aware that they are eligible for VAT relief on certain products and services they may need. Products such as adjustable beds, stair lifts and wheelchairs all qualify, as does building work that is needed to adapt their home, such as installing ramps or widening doors. However, did you know that they can also claim VAT relief on specialist footwear? What is VAT relief? VAT is a tax which you pay as a consumer when you buy goods and services in the UK. In the UK, the standard rate for VAT is 20%. Individuals who are chronically sick or disabled can claim VAT Relief when they buy equipment which has been designed solely for disabled people and is for their own ‘personal and domestic use’. This means that they pay the retail price without VAT included. Put simply, VAT relief or exemption allows chronically sick or disabled people to buy eligible items at 0% VAT and so saves them money. One of the products included within this list of eligible products is specialist footwear. What is specialist footwear? Specialist footwear is defined as footwear that has been designed and manufactured to be worn by people who are disabled, or who have a long term illness or health condition. Footwear such as extra roomy shoes, sandals, boots and slippers that have been specifically designed to fit people with swelling in their feet and ankles, which is often caused as a result of a disability or a long term medical condition. You can also buy shoes and boots that are especially designed for women who have diabetes. These are completely seam-free and means there is nothing to rub or irritate sensitive or vulnerable feet. How do you buy without VAT? Zero VAT rating works by the supplier not charging you VAT when you buy something from them. For example, when you order something via our website, you waive VAT on your purchase by adding "VATEXEMPT" within the coupon field upon checkout and the VAT is then removed from your purchase price. This provides the government with a simple and straight-forward declaration as to the nature of your disability at the time of ordering. No proof of the disability needs be shown to anyone at any time. All the company or supplier needs to know is the name and address of the person the item is for and what their chronic sickness or disability is. They don’t require a doctor’s letter for example. The supplier of the goods doesn’t decide if an item is or isn’t VAT exempt.That is decided by the UK Government and how they govern the area of VAT Exemption. Who is eligible for VAT relief? To be considered ‘chronically sick or disabled’, and so eligible for VAT relief, the UK government says that a person has to fit the following criteria:

  • Have a physical or mental impairment that has a long-term effect on their ability to carry out everyday activities

  • Have a condition that doctors treat as a chronic sickness (like diabetes, for example)

  • Have a terminal illness

A person with a temporary injury, such as a broken leg, would not qualify, nor would a frail older person who is otherwise well and non-disabled. If you are unsure whether someone is eligible for VAT Relief you would need to ask your GP as the suppliers themselves aren’t allowed (or cannot) to give medical opinions. What if a customer can’t make a written declaration? It may not always be possible for a disabled person to sign a declaration, for example, if the person can’t write due to their disability or illness. In such cases, the signature of a spouse, GP or another responsible person is acceptable on the declaration. What sort of footwear is available? You can buy extra roomy footwear, which is specially designed to fit swollen feet. It’s much wider and deeper than footwear you would normally find in retailers. It’s also adjustable which is useful if one foot swells more than the other or if feet tend to swell as the day goes on. Some footwear features a stretchy material called Elastane, which gently stretches to fit over swelling, bunions and problem toes. You can also get shoes or boots which are specially designed for women with diabetes. They are completely seam-free which means there is nothing to rub or irritate sensitive or vulnerable feet. For people who suffer with very severe swelling or have lots of bandaging, there is also an ultra-roomy unisex boot available. Claiming VAT relief Not all companies operate the same when claiming VAT relief on footwear is concerned. In the case of us, if someone is eligible and wants to claim VAT Relief, on their first purchase they must order by post or online, as according to government guidelines, the company is unable to accept the initial VAT Relief claim over the phone. If they are posting their order, they will find a VAT Relief form inside their catalogue. If they are ordering online, there is a VAT Relief section at the checkout, which they will need to complete. Once the completed form has been received, we will register the person who is claiming VAT relief. This registration will need to be renewed every 2 years.

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