Many people lose out because they do not know they might be able to get certain goods and services cheaper if they are 60 or over or have a disability.

VAT (‘Value Added Tax’) is charged at 20% on most goods and services but some things have no VAT or are charged at a reduced rate to people who can show that they qualify for the discount.

Some items - such as many basic foods - do not have VAT charged on them; so everyone who buys food automatically benefits. But in order to obtain a reduction in VAT (and therefore the cost) of some goods you have to prove that you are entitled to the relief.

We look below at the help that disabled people and those aged 60 and over can receive.

What are the reliefs for disabled people?

Disabled people generally can obtain the following free of VAT:

  • Cars and boats: the purchase or lease of an adapted vehicle, or the cost of making adaptations (provided the adaptations are carried out when you purchase it – you cannot buy the new car and then have the adaptations done later if you wish to claim the VAT relief).  There are some restrictions on what qualifies and further changes in the law are planned, which will restrict the extent to which zero-rating will be available.
  • Alterations to your home: some adaptations and building work to meet the needs of your disability (for example widening of doorways).
  • Other equipment: a range of goods if they are specially designed to help with a disability.

You do not need to receive state benefits in order to be ‘disabled’ for VAT purposes, though receipt of disability-related benefits may help you to prove easily that you qualify for VAT relief.

What are the reliefs for people aged 60 or over?

Certain products that increase the mobility of people aged 60 and over can be bought at a reduced VAT rate of 5% when installed into a home occupied by someone of that age:

  • grab rails
  • ramps
  • stair lifts
  • bath lifts
  • built-in shower seats or showers containing built-in shower seats
  • walk-in baths with sealable doors.

If purchasing any of the items, make sure you ask your supplier to apply the reduced rate of VAT if you are eligible. Note, however, that the reduced rate has to be applied by the supplier and installer – you are not able to get the reduced rate if you buy the mobility aids and install them yourself.  

You should note that not all suppliers pass on the full or indeed any benefit of the rate reduction (and strictly speaking, they do not have to), so it may be important to shop around.

Don’t forget, though, that if you are 60 or over and are ‘disabled’ for the purposes of VAT, you may be able to claim to pay no VAT at all under the rules mentioned above.

More detailed guidance is provided by HM Revenue & Customs in VAT reliefs for disabled and older people.

More information

Page first published: 25 May 2016
Next review due: 31 January 2017