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If you or a loved one have a disability or a long-term illness, you’ll no doubt know that certain helpful products and services can be purchased VAT free. Items such as adjustable beds, stair lifts and wheelchairs all qualify as does building work such as installing ramps or widening doors. But did you know that they can also claim VAT relief on specialist footwear?

What is VAT relief?

VAT is a tax that you pay as a consumer when you buy goods and services in the European Union, including the UK. In the UK the standard rate for VAT is 20%. Individuals who are chronically sick or disabled can claim VAT Relief when they buy equipment that has been designed solely for disabled people and is for their own ‘personal and domestic use’.

This means that they pay the retail price without VAT included. Put simply, VAT relief or exemption allows chronically sick or disabled people to buy eligible items at 0% VAT thus saving them money. One of the products included in this list of eligible products is specialist footwear.

What constitutes specialist footwear?

Specialist footwear is defined as footwear that has been designed to be worn by people who are disabled or who have a long term illness. Cosyfeet, who are based in Somerset, have been supplying this type of footwear for over 30 years. They have a range of extra roomy shoes, sandals, boots and slippers that have been specifically designed to fit people with swelling in their feet and ankles which is often caused as a result of a disability or a long term medical condition.

Cosyfeet products are available via their mail order catalogue, on-line and through a number of stockists around the UK, many of which are mobility shops and independent living centres. Their footwear is also recommended by a variety of health care professionals including district nurses and occupational therapists.

Do customers get a refund of VAT from HMRC?

No. It’s actually far simpler than that. Zero rating works by the supplier not charging VAT. In order to waive VAT on your purchase, the government requires a simple declaration to be made as to the nature of your disability at the time of ordering. No proof of the disability needs be shown to any party at any time. All the company or supplier needs to know is the name and address of the person the item is for and what their chronic sickness or disability is. They don’t require a doctor’s letter or any reference numbers.

It’s worth noting that the supplier doesn’t decide whether an item is or isn’t exempt –that’s up to the government. Also, they don’t make any more or less money if they charge or don’t charge you VAT.

Who is eligible for VAT relief?

To be considered 'chronically sick or disabled', and therefore eligible for VAT relief, the government says a person has to fit the following criteria

  • Have a physical or mental impairment that has a long-term effect on their ability to carry out everyday activities

  • Have a condition that doctors treat as a chronic sickness (like diabetes, for example)

  • Have a terminal illness 

A person with a temporary injury like a broken leg would not qualify, nor would a frail older person who is otherwise well and non-disabled.

If you are unsure whether someone is eligible for VAT Relief you would need to ask a doctor or medical advisor as the suppliers themselves aren’t allowed to give medical opinions.

What if a customer can’t make a written declaration?

It may not always be possible for a disabled person to sign a declaration, for example, if the person can’t write due to their disability or illness. In such cases, the signature of a spouse, doctor or another responsible person is acceptable on the declaration.

What sort of footwear is available from Cosyfeet?

Cosyfeet’s range of extra roomy footwear is specially designed to fit swollen feet. It’s much wider and deeper than footwear you would normally find on the high street. It’s also adjustable which is useful if one foot swells more than the other or if feet tend to swell as the day goes on. Some of their footwear features a stretchy material called Elastane which gently stretches to fit over swelling, bunions and problem toes.


Just two of the great styles in Extra Roomy shoes

They also offer a shoe and a boot (called Alison and Sandra) which are specially designed for women with diabetes. They are completely seam-free which means there is nothing to rub or irritate sensitive or vulnerable feet.

For people who suffer with very severe swelling or have lots of bandaging, they have designed an ultra-roomy unisex boot called ‘Rowan.’

Cosyfeet appreciates that people still want to look stylish so they have recently developed a range of footwear with a special ‘hidden depth’ design. This range still offers the same roomy fitting and is suitable for swollen feet, but the shoes look very neat and streamlined when they are on the feet.

Claiming VAT relief on Cosyfeet footwear

If someone is eligible and wants to claim VAT Relief on their first Cosyfeet purchase they must order by post or online as, according to government guidelines, the company is unable to accept the initial VAT Relief claim over the phone. If they are posting their order they will find a VAT Relief section within the Cosyfeet catalogue. If they are ordering online there is a VAT Relief section at the checkout which they will need to complete. Once Cosyfeet has received the completed form they will register the person who is claiming VAT relief. This registration will need to be renewed every three years.
For further information see http:// or call 01458 447275.

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