This is an extract from the official notice VAT reliefs for disabled people
HMRC Reference: Notice 701/7 (August 2002)

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VAT law refers to people who are ‘handicapped’ and to certain goods designed for severe ‘abnormality’ and for ‘invalids’. We accept that these terms are not now in general usage and can sometimes cause offence. They are used in this notice only where it is essential to accurately reflect the wording of the law.

Which equipment and services can be bought without paying VAT?

If you have a long-term illness or you're disabled, you won't have to pay VAT when you buy any of the following items:

•    adjustable beds, chair lifts, hoists and sanitary devices
•    auditory training aids
•    low vision aids
•    medical and surgical appliances designed solely for the relief of a severe abnormality or a severe injury
•    alarms
•    motor vehicles, boats and other equipment and appliances designed solely for use by chronically sick or disabled people

You also won't have to pay VAT on any charges made for the installation, repair and maintenance of these items, or on any spare parts and accessories needed for them.
Certain building work may also be VAT free. This includes building work on:

•    ramps, doorways and passages
•    bathrooms, washrooms and lavatories
•    lifts

If you need to have any general purpose goods adapted for your use, because of your condition, anything you pay to have them adapted will be VAT free, but you'll still have to pay the normal rate of VAT on the goods themselves.
Also, if you're over 60, then you may not have to pay the full standard rate of VAT if you get certain mobility aids installed in your home.

Supplies to handicapped people
You can only zero rate supplies to handicapped people when:
-   the person is ‘chronically sick or disabled’ -  and
-   the goods and services are purchased or acquired for their personal or domestic use  

What does ‘chronically sick or disabled’ mean?
A person is ‘chronically sick or disabled’ if he/she is a person:
-   with a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect upon his/her ability to carry out everyday activities;
-  with a condition which the medical profession treats as a chronic sickness, such as diabetes; or
-  who is terminally ill.

It does not include a frail elderly person who is otherwise able-bodied or any person who is only temporarily disabled or incapacitated, such as with a broken limb.
If a parent, spouse or guardian acts on behalf of a ‘chronically sick or disabled’ person, your supply is treated as being made to that ‘chronically sick or disabled’ person.
What does for ‘domestic or personal’ use mean?

‘Domestic or personal’ use means that the supply must be made available specifically for the use of an eligible individual (or series of eligible individuals).
Excluded from the terms ‘personal’ or ‘domestic’, and not eligible for VAT relief are:
-  goods and services used for business purposes;
-   supplies made widely available for a whole group of people to use as they wish. For example, a stair lift in a charity building for the use or convenience of all chronically sick or disabled persons who might use the building would not qualify for relief. This is because the charity is making the lift available for the general use of all those people who might require it, rather than for the personal use of specified individuals;
-  goods and services supplied to:
- an in patient or resident of a hospital or nursing home;
- any person attending the premises of a hospital or nursing home for care or treatment; and
- any other person or commercial establishment where the goods are for use by, or in connection with, either of the above,
where the items are intended for use in the care or treatment provided in the hospital or nursing home. For more information see Notice 701/31 Health and Care institutions.

Medical and surgical appliances
You can zero rate the supply to an eligible customer of a medical or surgical appliance that is designed solely for the relief of a severe abnormality or a severe injury.
An ‘appliance’ is a device or piece of equipment with a specific function. It can be designed for use outside or inside the body.
Examples of severe abnormalities or severe injuries include amputation, rheumatoid or severe osteo-arthritis, severe disfigurement, congenital deformities, organic nervous diseases, learning disabilities and blindness.

Eligible items
Examples of zero-rated appliances include:
-   artificial joints;
-   artificial limbs;
-   artificial respirators;
-   heart pacemakers;
-   invalid wheelchairs;
-   leg braces;
-   neck collars;
-   oxygen concentrators;
-   renal haemodialysis unit;
-   specialist clothing;
-   specialist footwear; and
-   wigs.

Non eligible items
Examples of goods that are not zero-rated include:
-   plates or pins for use in repairing broken bones, bandages, plasters or other wound dressings as they are not appliances;
-   medical or surgical appliances that are not designed solely for the relief of a severe abnormality or severe injury, particularly those used in cosmetic surgery, such as breast implants; and
-   dentures - these are VAT exempt when they are supplied by dentists, dental auxiliaries or dental chemists. See Notice 701/57 Health professionals.
Electrically or mechanically adjustable beds, chair or stair lifts, hoists and lifters, sanitary devices

You can zero rate the supply to an eligible person as detailed above for:

-   an electrically or mechanically adjustable bed designed for invalids. For a bed to be eligible for relief it must clearly stand out as being something specialised for the use of invalids. As well as being electrically or mechanically adjustable, it should additionally have specific design features which distinguish it from a standard bed;
-   a stair lift or a chair lift designed for use in connection with a wheelchair. (It is not necessary for the lift to carry the person whilst seated in the wheelchair);
-   a hoist or lifter designed for use by invalids. This includes lifting seat chairs; and
-   commode stools, commode chairs or devices with a warm air drier and bidet jet incorporated, frames or other devices to help sitting on or rising from a sanitary appliance.

Parts and accessories

You can zero rate parts and accessories which you supply to an eligible customer provided that they were designed solely for use in or with goods which themselves qualify for VAT relief as described elsewhere in this section.
Parts means integral components without which the equipment is incomplete. Accessories means optional extras which can be used to improve the operation of the equipment, or enable it to be used, or to be used to better effect, in particular circumstances. VAT relief does not apply to general use items such as standard batteries, even if these were purchased to be used within an item which is eligible for VAT relief. If the batteries were solely designed to operate within the eligible item however, they would be eligible for relief.

Letting of goods on hire or lease

You can zero rate a supply on hire or lease of any goods eligible for VAT relief
Services of installation, repair, maintenance and adaptation of goods

Installing goods

You can zero rate services, to an eligible customer of installing goods that are being installed provided that the goods:
-   are themselves eligible for relief as detailed within this notice; and
-  are not paid for or arranged at the behest of the National Health Service, any other hospital or nursing home.

Examples of services of installation which can be zero-rated when supplied to an eligible customer include:
-   plumbing in a sanitary appliance;
-   wiring up an electrically adjustable bed; and
-   installing a chair lift.