I've scoured the internet but not really found an answer to this. In the UK those of us with a registered disability do not need to pay the 20 % VAT at point of sale for specially designed equipment that meets the needs of our disability. In my case, talking scales, for example, o in the case of someone partially sighted, a magnifier.
The interesting thing on the HMRC page found here:
In section 4.6 states:
4.6 Computer devices and other electronic devices
Computer devices and systems are increasingly being used as aids to disability. Most are general use products which may be useful for disabled people but are designed to be used by disabled and non-disabled people alike.
Such products can only be bought VAT free when they’re sold as part of an assistive technology system.
Assistive technology involves the pre-installation of specialist software which is specifically required by the disabled individual. Where such a purchase is made, the complete system will be defined as designed solely for use by that disabled person, and will be eligible for the relief.
... Me again...
Looking around it would seem certain points of sale for apple are aware of this and do offer the 0 % vat option where as others do not.
Now I'm unsure how this works. It would seem that if I were to purchase a windows machine and have jaws installed, this would meet the criteria. the problem with apple stems from voiceover being part of all of its operating systems, off the shelf, as it were.
It seems to be a question of is an apple device an assistive device, I certainly think so when using seeing AI on my iPhone, accessing the internet with voiceover or listening to audio description on my apple TV.
This grey area seems to evaporate when looking at windows machines as long as you have a 3rd party screenreader such as jaws installed... Which seems inconsistent.
Anyone in the UK, are you aware of this? Do you know if apple does offer this option or not?
As with many disabled people, our income is usually lower than that of sighted peers. Apple has created an excellent set of tools for us to access the word, email, internet, the local environment, etc, replacing specially made assistive devices and, in many ways, crushing that market with its dominance.
It boils down to this, in the eyes of the HMRC, is an apple device running voiceover considered and assistive technology system and, if so, does apple offer this 0 % VAT at point of purchase?
Note: From exploring this topic on other less friendly forums there does seem to be a kickback at anyone getting a discount of any kind based on their situation, whether it is ability wise or geographic location. My intention is not to create an argument of whether this should or should not exist, I merely want to know if it does exist and if it is something that those of us in the UK have access to.
You've answered your own question
The Windows system is sold as a package that includes a Windows machine and a copy of JAWS. The Apple device is a device.
I didn't actually ask that…
I didn't actually ask that question. I asked how the HMRC views it and, if an apple device is considered specialised when voiceover is taken into account, if apple can, when proof of disability is presented, remove the VAT at point of purchase.
Doing a little more digging:
Has the passage:
HMRC has accepted the judgement of the First-Tier Tribunal in iansyst Ltd (TC05126) that assistive technology systems based on off-the-shelf computing equipment (including laptops, tablets and mobile phones) with assistive software preinstalled can be zero rated when supplied to disabled people for their domestic or personal use. Therefore, the view has been taken that such systems as a whole have been “designed solely for use by disabled people”, and thus come directly within Schedule 8 (Zero-Rating) of the VAT Act without the need for the Extra Statutory Concession which previously applied to computers.
Me again! Which seems to suggest that several apple products do, or will, in fact, fall under this zero rate scheme.
The question is, if apple is aware of this and if disabled consumers can benefit from this scheme. As the largest unified branded IT provider in the UK, I'd like to think its at least come to their attention.
I owe you an apology
Sorry I was a snottty cow. I'm very surprised to find out Apple products can be bought without VAT. I've bought dozens of them an paid VAT every time. I would love to find out more about how to get Apple hardware zero rated - it would save a bundle!
Not at all! I'd agree with…
Not at all! I'd agree with your assessment that windows machines + specific software = accessible hardware and VAT exempt whilst and off the shelf MacBook does not, at least, not when considered to the letter.
It seems a grey area. It seems that the government has some understanding that accessible products are being integrated into consumer products. The whole concept is, like I said, to help lower income households afford equipment that provides accessibility. In the last year I've used nothing but apple's accessibility solutions which, granted, are expensive when considering the cost of their products, but no less expensive when compared with a windows/jaws purchase.
This is, of course, of interest from my own perspective and saving money, but it's also interesting.
going to give my local apple store a call later to find out if they have any clue if this is something or not.
will, of course, report back.
My long ago experience
When I bought my first Mac in 2009 the guy in the Apple store told me that the purchase could be free of VAT without me prompting or even considering that it might be an option. He even took the VAT off the accessories that I bought at the same time. It likely was a factor that there was a school for the blind nearby, as he even knew all about the forms that needed to be completed and took care of these.
When I investigated later on whether the Mac should have been free of VAT, the general consensus was that it should not, although I do recall some other people having similar experiences to my own. It seemed to all come down to VoiceOver being a native feature, and not something added as essentially an after market adaptation to make a product accessible. As you say, contrasted to Jaws on a Windows PC.
I was subsequently told by an Apple store that they had been wrong to sell without VAT and that all stores had now been told that Apple products did not qualify.
It's extremely interesting to hear that things may now have changed again, and that Apple stores may be more receptive to people asking.
Fingers are being crossed!
Zero rating would certainly make me feel better about the M2 Air I am telling myself I am not going to be buying later this year!
This is from ten years ago
Dear Alex and All,
I have, as this is very important, firstly checked with our internal finance team, and then with HMRC directly.
You cannot, repeat cannot, get nil rated VAT relief on items purchased within the UK which are, so to speak, off the shelf none adaptive technologies.
The simple rule of thumb is; if the item comes right off the shelf, and can be used without modification or alteration by the disabled person, then it does not qualify.
Yes, the iPhone has Voice Over built into it, as do all Apple products, yet, the same inclusive or access technology is included in all of Apple's products. This is not a specific modification for the blind user.
As such, Apple's products do not qualify for VAT nil rating under this section of law.
They directed me to the below text, which I have, for ease, copied and pasted below.
It should be noted, that if you obtain a product without paying VAT, where you should have, you are as liable as the vender. In other words, it is not a defence to say,'well, Apple gave me the VAT nil rating…"
Goods and services exempt from VAT
In accordance with group 14 of the zero rate schedule to the value
added tax act 1983.
Blind and partially sighted people, and charities working on their
behalf, can buy certain goods without paying VAT on them. This relief
from VAT also extends to:
- the provision of services to adapt items for use by, or to meet the
needs of, a blind or partially sighted person
- spare parts, accessories, repair and maintenance of such goods and
Goods which have been designed solely for use by disabled or blind and
partially sighted people and which are for personal or domestic use only
will be zero-rated for VAT.
This would include such items as:
- CCTV reading aids
- braille display units
- braille embossers
- speech synthesiser units
- speech output and character enlargement software.
Computer systems which are specially designed and manufactured solely
for the use of disabled people may qualify for a composite or reduced
rate of VAT where components and software similar to the above are
included in their manufacture.
Training in the use of such computer systems may also qualify for a
reduced rate of VAT for individuals where the equipment is used for
personal or domestic use. You should check with your supplier regarding
the amount of VAT to be charged when discussing purchase of you computer
Relief does not apply to general purpose goods used by disabled people.
Corrective spectacles and contact lenses are not relieved from VAT.
If you need to have any general-purpose goods adapted to meet your needs
as a disabled person, 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, washrooms and lavatories
The last paragraph here is important, that the actual item itself is not nil rateable, only the adaption. Voice Over is not an adaption, it is not something specially installed for you, its there for any user, sighted or otherwise.
This has to be right
That Apple products are excluded from the nil rating has to be right, I mean. Were it not, then it would open up a can of worms - are the beeps on an Instant Pot an accessibility feature enabling a blind person to use it? what about TVs with text-to-speech built in? There would be issues with enforceability, evidence and so on. Good thought but I fear we're going nowhere here.
By the way, this isn't just of interest to low income disabled consumers. I make no bones about being a high income disabled consumer. If you give me the VAT I pay back then I'm likely to spend it elsewhere in the economy - another product, a 1968 armagnac, tickets to a sporting event or the theatre. The 20% VAT rate is a nonsense but I shall say no more on that point as this is not a political forum.
I've bought Apple products VAT exempt, but not recently
Please take everything I'm writing here with a pinch of salt in terms of legality. I'm relaying past experiences, not current advice.
I've previously purchased two iPhones and two Macs VAT exempt, so I can safely say that at one point, it could be done. Whether it *should* have been done or not, I don't know. Here, the process was to complete a VAT exemption form in store (forms which weren't available in an accessible format at the time, but Apple Store employees in two London branches were happy to help me complete them).
I haven't brought direct from Apple for a number of years here, but the last time I asked about this was when I was considering buying an iPhone, and on that occasion I got told by an Apple Store employee from one of the same branches I'd shopped at previously that they weren't allowed to complete VAT exemption forms for iDevices anymore. That person seemed quite sure that Macs would still be covered, but couldn't explain the difference. I decided to hold off that day and was planning to dig for more information, but then scored a decent price for the same iPhone used shortly afterward, so I didn't get around to following up.
This is all going back at least 6, perhaps 7 years. I've no clue whether it's allowed nowadays. However, if this has been shut down, I'd probably back a well-written effort encouraging HMRC to reevaluate that decision, because I think a strong argument could be made that adaption is adaption, whether it's part of the OS or not.
Dunno if any of that is helpful really, but that's how it's played out here. I'm due a new phone right about now, would be interested to know if you find out anything concrete.
VAT on Apple Products
I have spoken to the RNIB who sell the MacBook Air and iPhones. They are not allowed to sell these products VAT exempt, as they are not considered specialist products for disabled people.
The fact that apple stores might have sold these products to you under a misapprehension as to the VAT exemption does not set a precedent. it means that they concluded a contract under a mistaken belief. Granted they have to honour that contract (they can't claw bback the VAT from you now) but that's where it all ends. here we have a demonstration in real life of the living and breathing dimension of the common law.