Rishi Sunak urged to scrap VAT on life-saving defibrillators

Scottish ministers have written to the UK chancellor urging him to scrap the 20% tax on the equipment.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak urged by Scottish ministers to scrap VAT on defibrillators iStock

Rishi Sunak has been urged to scrap VAT on defibrillators by Scottish Government ministers.

A 20% tax is currently applied to defibrillators, used to restart the heart of people in cardiac arrest.

Although the VAT does not apply to local authorities and charities who purchase defibrillators, Scottish ministers have expressed concern that the cost could deter individuals, businesses or community groups from buying the potentially lifesaving equipment.

In a letter to the UK chancellor, Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes and public health minister Maree Todd have called for VAT to be removed from all defibrillator purchases.

The pair said that the health benefits of having more defibrillators available “vastly outweighs” any loss of tax revenue.

Their letter said: “We know that currently, individuals, community groups and businesses who purchase defibrillators are required to pay a 20% VAT charge at the point of purchase.

“Given the new flexibilities afforded to the UK Government over VAT following EU exit, we would ask that an exemption from the VAT charge on defibrillators, which is currently available to local authorities and charities, is extended to cover all purchases of defibrillators.

Given their proven value in saving lives, this change would minimise one of the often-cited barriers to defibrillator purchase, thus supporting wider efforts to improve their accessibility and usage.”

“We do not envisage this would have a significant impact on VAT revenues and would have a public health benefit that vastly outweighs any receipts forgone.”

The call follows a debate in the Scottish Parliament led by SNP MSP Jenni Minto about the importance of defibrillators and urging the UK Government to remove VAT on them.

Commenting on the letter, Minto said: “For those who suffer from a cardiac arrest a defibrillator can literally be the difference between life and death.

“But it is not just the defibrillator itself that is important, it is ensuring we have a network of close and easily accessible units so that in the event that someone does have a cardiac arrest they can receive CPR as quickly as possible.

“That is why I am delighted that Kate Forbes and Maree Todd have backed my campaign for the chancellor to remove VAT on purchases of defibrillators.

“Many installations rely on businesses or community groups buying them and working out where best to put them and maintain them. So applying a VAT exemption like charities and local authorities have, will make it easier to purchase the equipment and ensure we have an effective defibrillator network across the country.”

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