Abolish VAT on bike lights, says petition

Mandatory safety equipment is zero-rated, so lights should be too

by John Stevenson   October 4, 2013  

Exposure Strada

Mandatory safety equipment, like car child seats and motorcycle helmets, doesn’t attract VAT. The same should be true of bike lights, says the creator of a new campaign on the Government’s e-petitions website.

Addressing his request to Her Majesty's Treasury, the fabulously-named Paul Power writes:

At the moment, bicycle lights are treated by the Treasury as being a luxury item and subject to VAT at 20%.

As bicycle lights are a mandatory safety accessory, and it is an offence for a cyclist not to have them on their bicycle during the hours of darkness, they should accordingly not be subject to VAT.

Cycle helmets, which aren't mandatory, but are considered by the Government to be an essential safety item, are accordingly not subject to VAT, while bicycle lights, which are mandatory and are an essential safety accessory are treated as a luxury item and subject to VAT at the highest rate.

This is wrong.

Bicycle lights can potentially save lives and reduce likelihood of traffic collisions.

Please abolish VAT on bicycle lights, which would have the immediate effect of reducing the cost of bicycle lights by 20% and make this mandatory safety equipment more affordable to all cyclists.

While that seems unarguably straightforward, don’t expect that if the petition is effective those 3000 lumen UberBright EyeScorcher ZQX tarmac-melters you have had your eye on will suddenly become 16.66 percent cheaper.

Safety equipment generally qualifies for VAT-exempt status only if it meets the relevant British Standard. Most high-power lights don’t, for one reason or another. They’re unlikely to become cheaper, unless the Treasury makes the sort of broad exemption that applies to car child seats, which attract a VAT rate of just five percent.

You can sign the petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/55344

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I have signed it - although I suspect that many other essential safety devices are also charged VAT. How about all the car parts required to pass the MOT test?

Well done on the maths too - to take off the 20% that's been added you reduce by 16.66% (anyone who disagrees is advised to enroll in a degree course in Mathematics).

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [291 posts]
4th October 2013 - 20:59

27 Likes

Yes it's clearly a luxury not to be hit by a car/pedestrian/bike that hasn't seen you in the dark. There is also VAT on Tampons - Ask your missus if she thinks they are luxury items!

posted by jimmyd [95 posts]
4th October 2013 - 22:21

8 Likes

Why has no-one pointed this out before! Great petition (for once), I'll be signing.

jimmyd wrote:
Yes it's clearly a luxury not to be hit by a car/pedestrian/bike that hasn't seen you in the dark. There is also VAT on Tampons - Ask your missus if she thinks they are luxury items!

Somewhere in there, there's a joke about cyclists and tampons being stuck up c...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [930 posts]
4th October 2013 - 22:31

7 Likes

I hate these populist bull..... petitions.

Pricing is set by what the consumer will pay, if that is 250 quid then it is 250 quid whether 20% of it is tax or not.

Pretty sure I paid VAT on a replacement headlight for the car...

posted by AlanD [12 posts]
4th October 2013 - 23:43

7 Likes

I think you will find according to EU rules VAT once it has been added is a one way street, i.e. it cannot be removed. The only option is to have it applied at a lower rate as happened to VAT on domestic fuel years ago.

posted by freespirit1 [186 posts]
5th October 2013 - 6:49

20 Likes

In the forties and fifties a purchase tax was levied on complete bikes but not on components, club cyclists therefore bought frames only and built up with parts they could afford or wanted thereby saving lots of money, it was a popular way of getting the bike you wanted.

antonio

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posted by antonio [989 posts]
5th October 2013 - 7:32

16 Likes

Cycling is a luxury, you always have the option of walking. hence cycling accessories should have VAT, no matter how essential they are to cycling.

Also Female sanitary products are a luxury because there are plenty of reusable options, moon cup for instance. I know this because the wife keeps telling me about it, again, and again.

posted by GREGJONES [133 posts]
5th October 2013 - 8:10

24 Likes

GREGJONES wrote:
Cycling is a luxury, you always have the option of walking. hence cycling accessories should have VAT, no matter how essential they are to cycling.

Also Female sanitary products are a luxury because there are plenty of reusable options, moon cup for instance. I know this because the wife keeps telling me about it, again, and again.

I think the idea that VAT is levied on luxury items is rather out of date, possibly because the pre 1973 purchase tax had a variable element depending on the deemed luxuriousness of the product and as poorer people pay more of their income in VAT than richer people the 'luxury tax' idea doesn't really stand up. It is a general tax on consumption, lower income people consume more of their income hence the regressive nature of VAT.

If bicycles are a luxury item because you can always walk instead then presumably train and bus fares are also a luxury for the same reason but they do not carry VAT. By your logic it is walking that is the luxury because shoes are subject to VAT. You could get a taxi and I suppose whether that is a luxury or not depends on whether the taxi firm is registered for VAT. Still, this might all change because private jets only recently became subject to VAT so for quite a few years they were not luxury items but now they are a luxury apparently, although if you buy a really really big jet and paint Hillboy airlines on it then it's not a luxury. Whichever way you travel you can always munch on a jaffa cake as you go, although I can't remember whether they finished up as a luxury or an essential in the end.

posted by hillboy [11 posts]
5th October 2013 - 16:29

14 Likes

Jaffa Cakes are, of course, an absolute essential and are not subject to VAT because they are classed as chocolate-covered cakes and not biscuits.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaffa_Cakes#Categorisation_as_cake_or_biscu...

If Hillboy AIrlines serves Jaffa Cakes, you definitely have my business.

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posted by John Stevenson [1193 posts]
5th October 2013 - 17:31

14 Likes

GREGJONES wrote:
Cycling is a luxury, you always have the option of walking. hence cycling accessories should have VAT, no matter how essential they are to cycling.

So my bike is a luxury rather than an essential. Maybe you could suggest how I travel 10 miles to work at 4am when there is no other means of transport. Maybe it is a luxury for those who take a wee Saturday morning spin. But for me there's no choice and I would welcome a bit of a break on esential accessories. And breathe, ahhhhh

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posted by giff77 [1063 posts]
5th October 2013 - 17:42

16 Likes

Done my bit and have signed it striaght away. I am looking at for a decent light btw - possible the Exposure Diablo for commuting up to an hour both ways.

posted by CyclingDan [39 posts]
6th October 2013 - 19:47

11 Likes

An interesting idea, but perhaps it could be taken a little further by proposing that vat be applied to those luxury fashion items, helmets?

Never been shown to be of use, only purchased because of mass, mostly unpaid advertising, and of very limited life, mostly going to landfill within a couple of years.

The money raised could be used to offset the immediate knee jerk reaction of the treasury that they couldn't afford to drop the vat on lights.

burtthebike

posted by burtthebike [79 posts]
7th October 2013 - 6:26

8 Likes

I've signed it but it will end up the same as helmets. A reduction of VAT gives manufacturers/supplies the opportunity the increase RRP margins when launching latest products the following year and onwards. The advantage of a decrease in price will only be effective for a short period of time, on RRP prices already set.

posted by Roberj4 [197 posts]
7th October 2013 - 12:27

6 Likes

According to the Inland Revenue, children cars seats attract 5% VAT as do sanitary products mentioned above. True, it is less VAT but still VAT.
https://www.gov.uk/vat-rates

The other thing is that lights are not mandatory, they are required between sunset and sunrise. You are not required to use lights if visibility is reduced, eg. if thick fog descends while you are riding - however it would be advisable to use them though. Why? Because bikes are not required to have lights fitted when sold.

BTW, financial services are pretty much exempt from VAT. No justice eh?

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

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posted by ragtag [166 posts]
16th October 2013 - 10:20

6 Likes