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Abolish VAT on bike lights, says petition

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

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

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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