Tax allowances and exemptions

Find out how you might be entitled to reduce the amount of tax that you pay – from the money you earn and for the things that you buy

Blind person’s personal tax allowance

Most people have a personal tax allowance. This is the amount you can earn before you start paying income tax. Your personal allowance depends on your age and your taxable income.

If you are registered as blind (severely sight impaired) then we recommend that you claim “blind person’s allowance”. This will increase your personal allowance and therefore mean that you could reduce the amount of tax you pay.

Unfortunately the blind person’s allowance is not available to you if you are registered as partially sighted (sight impaired).

You can transfer your allowance to your spouse or civil partner, whether or not they are blind. If both of you are registered as blind (severely sight impaired), you can each receive the allowance. You can backdate your claim, but there is a time limit for claiming back tax.

To claim or find out more, call Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on 0300 200 3301. You will need to quote your National Insurance number.

Buy specialist products without paying VAT

You can buy products specifically designed for disabled people – including blind and partially sighted people – without paying VAT on them. This relief from VAT also extends to services to adapt items for blind and partially sighted people; and to spare parts, accessories, repair and maintenance of goods and adaptations.

The items must be for your own private use rather than business use. So, for example, you shouldn’t pay VAT on:

  • white canes
  • CCTV reading aids
  • braille display units
  • braille embossers
  • specialist mobile phones
  • DAISY audio players
  • screen reading and magnification software for computers.

Computer systems specially designed and manufactured solely for the use of disabled people may qualify for a composite or reduced rate of VAT if its components and software similar to the above are included in its manufacture.

VAT relief does not apply to general purpose goods used by disabled people. Nor does it apply to corrective spectacles and contact lenses.

If you need to have any general-purpose goods adapted so that you can use them, anything you pay to have them adapted is exempt from VAT, but you would have to pay the normal rate of VAT on the goods themselves.

Some building work may also be exempt from VAT, including:

  • ramps, doorways and passages
  • bathrooms and toilets
  • lifts.

How to obtain VAT relief on goods or services

Most suppliers of specialised equipment should be familiar with the goods that can be zero-rated under the legislation. You should check with them when you discuss purchasing the goods.

At RNIB we make it clear in our catalogues and online shop which of the products we sell are zero-rated. Other suppliers of goods and services may not realise that they could be zero-rated, and may charge VAT. So you may have to point out that the supplier is entitled to request zero rating on certain goods, as described above.

You should complete an eligibility declaration form and give it to your supplier if you know that the goods and services are subject to zero-rating. This will mean the supplier will not be charged VAT and should take this off your bill.

To get an eligibility declaration form or for more guidance on whether zero-rating applies, call HMRC on 0300 123 1073.

Getting help with tax allowances and exemptions

RNIB is working with HMRC on a project to support blind and partially sighted people with tax and benefit issues. If you need advice about the issues mentioned here or want to know what other tax allowances and exemptions you could be entitled to, call our Tax Advice Service on 0845 330 4897 or email RNIBHMRC-project@rnib.org.uk.

Related links

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Shop online for a wide range of products that you need to remain independent. From talking scales to tactile labels, mobile phones to magnifiers, we can help you keep doing the things you love.

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