HMRC have issued Brief 3 (2019), which aims to clarify that the Department’s policy on the scope of the VAT zero rate for transport services has not changed following the Upper Tribunal (UT) decision in Jigsaw Medical Services Ltd (2018) UKUT 0222.

In this case, the UT heard an appeal by HMRC against the First-tier Tribunal’s decision that emergency transport in a specially adapted ambulance was zero-rated, rather than being exempt.

This decision may be of interest to suppliers that provide transport services in emergency vehicles (ambulances), or in passenger vehicles (such as, out-patient mini-buses) including those adapted for the carriage of one or more wheelchairs.

The supply of transport services for sick or injured persons in vehicles specially designed for that purpose is an exempt supply for VAT purposes.

The supply of passenger transport is zero rated if the vehicle used meets certain seating criteria. The supply of transport in any vehicle with seating to carry 10 or more passengers (including the driver) is a zero-rated supply.

Where a vehicle is designed or adapted to safely carry one or more persons in a wheelchair and, if it were not for those changes alone, the vehicle would seat 10 or more passengers, it is a zero-rated supply.

It is possible for a vehicle designed to carry sick or injured persons to also meet the seating criteria. The transport of sick or injured people in such a vehicle would therefore meet the criteria for both VAT exemption and zero rating. In these cases, the zero rate would take precedence. Not all vehicles designed to carry sick or injured people will meet the seating criteria, so transport of passengers in these vehicles is not zero rated.

HMRC Brief 3 (2019) can be found here.