Campaigners outraged at ‘disgraceful’ EU ruling


Furious campaigners are considering legal action after the European Union (EU) ruled that imported mobility scooters would continue to be subjected to a ten per cent tax.
The ruling by the customs code committee – despite opposition from the UK government’s representative – only confirmed an EU decision made in 2007.
But the ruling means scooters imported from outside the EU will continue to be treated as general motor vehicles, rather than mobility aids solely designed for disabled people.
The renowned disabled scientist Professor Stephen Hawking said: “For many of us with disabilities, a mobility scooter is literally a lifeline – without it we are locked out further from the world around us.
“To tax the most disadvantaged in society in this way is simply disgraceful.”
The grant-giving charity Elizabeth Finn Care (EFC) said the decision, on 1 July, means mobility scooters will remain classified in the same band as Formula One cars.
The charity said 25,000 scooters are bought in the UK every year, the vast majority imported from Asia, providing annual tax revenue of £6 million for the UK government.
EFC has now linked up with the Royal British Legion – which also provides grants for disabled people to buy scooters – to campaign for the ruling to be overturned.
Rob Tolan, a senior policy officer with EFC, described the committee’s decision as “ludicrous”, “beyond comprehension”, and a tax on disabled people.
He added: “For someone living on a very low income, [the tax]makes a very big difference.”
EFC is now considering taking the committee’s decision to the European court of justice.
The UK has been collecting customs duty on mobility scooters imported from outside the EU since 2007, although the controversy dates back to a “classification opinion” by the World Customs Organisation that has applied in the EU since 1 January 2002.
A spokesman for the UK’s revenue and customs department said some UK importers had been treating scooters in the same way as wheelchairs, and so not paying customs duty, since 2002. He said the department was taking action to recover these tax arrears.
But he said the department had “maintained regular contact with industry representatives, including advising them how a case could be put within Europe for a future tariff duty suspension”.
6 July 2009