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Cornwall councillors call for change on defibrillator VAT

September 15, 2015

A VAT levy on lifesaving defibrillators should be scrapped, claims a group of councillors which wants a local authority to lobby the government and European Parliament for change.

In a document, Cornwall councillors said the 20% VAT was “going straight to the Treasury” but could be spent on more defibrillators instead.

HM Treasury said VAT exemptions were made by the European Parliament.

It added that “a number of VAT reliefs” were in place for charities.

‘Devastate communities’

Defibrillators are used to deliver an electric shock to restart a patient’s heart when they are in cardiac arrest.

Cornwall Liberal Democrat councillor Mario Fonk, who is behind the motion, said: “We ask the council to write to the European Parliament asking them to make public access defibrillators exempt from VAT and also write to the UK government asking it whether it could in the interim period consider refunding the VAT through a grant or claim process.”

Paul Williams, founder of Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity, said sudden cardiac arrests could “devastate communities” and that the tax was costing lives.

HM Treasury said: “The chancellor announced £1m of funding in this year’s Spring Budget to help buy defibrillators for public places and support training in their use.”

It said the “significant lifesaving potential” of defibrillators was recognised and a number of VAT reliefs were in place.

“For example, the purchase of a defibrillator is zero-rated when it is purchased by a charity, and donated to an eligible body such as an NHS body or a charitable care institution,” it added.

Mr Williams said the charity had helped provide almost 170 public access defibrillators in locations including schools, sports clubs and entertainment venues across Cornwall.

However, because many were not donated to a charitable care institution or NHS body, VAT was paid.

The European Parliament has yet to comment. The plans will be discussed by Cornwall Council on Tuesday.