Litigation Recent Decisions 11/03/97

Vehicles capable of carrying wheelchairs exempt from VAT

Commissioners of Customs and Excise v Help the Aged (1994)

QBD (Lightman J) 28/2/97

Summary: The supply of specially adapted minibuses for the transportation of persons in wheelchairs by Help the Aged to other charities was held to be exempt from VAT. The Commissioners' appeal was dismissed.

Customs and Excise Commissioners' appeal against the decision of the London Value Added Tax Tribunal, holding that the supply by the respondent of vehicles adapted to carrying passengers in wheel- chairs to three charities was zero-rated for tax purposes. It was common ground that the minibuses supplied by Help the Aged were motor vehicles substantially adapted for the safe carriage of handicapped persons and the only issue was whether they were permanently adapted and within the description of "relevant goods" in Item 5, Group 15, Schedule 8 Value Added Tax Act 1994 so as to qualify for zero-rating. The Commissioners contended that the requirement that the vehicles should be "permanently adapted" meant that the area earmarked for the wheelchair was incapable of being used as a seat for a passenger and that convertibility was incompatible with "permanence".