Government say “NO” to VAT changes!
Despite over 6,500 people signing up to the national petition sent to 10 Downing Street in May, the government has refued to budge on the VAT issue. The official response to the petition was published today (Friday) and emailed to every signatory.
Mountain rescue teams nationally have highlighted the case for zero rated value added tax for all its purchases – see team news items on this site 5th & 29th of March – arguing that the only income they have is through charitable donations. Whilst it is true that some items of first aid and medical supplies are already zero, these constitute a very small percentage of a team’s annual running costs and by far the majority of purchases attract 15% VAT. Mountain rescue teams nationally spend an estimated £2.25 million pounds annually; all of which is raised from donations from the public or businesses. If government had to pay to provide the rescue service, which is currently entirely staffed by volunteers, the bill would be hundreds of millions of £. Mountain rescue thought that it was grossly unfair that team members not only give up their own time to train and remain operational but, also have to spend many hours standing on street corners with a collection tin. Raising money to buy the equipment for the team is one matter but to then to have 15% creamed off by the taxman when the money is spent is simply an insult.
It appears that despite intervention by local M Ps, the government does not understand how mountain rescue operates or what motivates people to volunteer for what can be a hazardous task at all sorts of unsocialble hours. The official response to the petition (printed below in blue) refers to VAT relief on lifeboats and vehicles for disabled people! What use is that to a mountain rescue team? Even the reference to ambulances is misleading as although rescue teams use ambulances they are specially designed, constructed and adapted from standard vehicles for which VAT is payable. In 2008 Buxton team had to pay £3,500 VAT on the purchase of its last new vehicle despite a long arguement with the VAT-man.
The Team’s Treasurer said “This is very disappointing. We had hoped for some relief even if it was just on certain types of purchase. The charity pays VAT or other duties on nearly everything it has to buy including electricity, gas, phone and vehicle fuel. It is very misleading to state that rescue equipment is zero rated. The team recently bought new pulse oximeters which were zero rated but the batteries to make the work have VAT on them, the bag they are stowed in had VAT charged on it and the vehicle it is all carried in cost VAT. It effectively means that for every £1 coin generously dropped into a collection box, 15 pence goes straight to the government. It’s a scandal that the public should be made aware of. ”
Mountain rescue will continue to campaign for justice from the VAT-man but it seems likely that the government is set to take a lot more money out of the charity collection tins before the issue is resolved in favour of the rescue teams and its benefactors.
Buxton Mountain Rescue Team would like to say thank-you to all those who supported the petition and who took the time and trouble to append their name.
The Official Government Response as circulated today, Friday 26th June.
Thank you for your e-petition.
The Government fully appreciates the valuable work of mountain rescue and other rescue charities.
There are a number of VAT reliefs available to charities providing rescue and first aid services, including VAT zero-rating for certain specialist telecommunications, aural, visual, light enhancing or heat detecting equipment. Such charities are also able to buy VAT free, medicines, medical equipment, ambulances and certain vehicles designed to carry disabled people. These reliefs apply equally to all rescue charities. Zero-rating also applies to the supply, repair and maintenance of lifeboats and lifeboat equipment used by charities for sea rescue.
Our VAT agreements with our European partners, signed by successive governments, mean that it is not now possible to extend the scope of the zero rates available to charities beyond those permitted by EU VAT legislation.
We have, however, focused on areas where we can provide targeted support for charities. To promote charitable giving, we have made changes to Gift Aid, which have achieved a considerable increase in the number of charities and donors using the scheme, and taken measures to increase access to payroll giving.
Under the Gift Aid scheme taxpayers can make a donation of a sum of money to charity, and the charity can then reclaim from HM Revenue and Customs an additional 28p from every £1 donated. In 2007-8 the Government repaid £898 million to charities under the scheme