VAT Alert: are you paying 20% over the odds for adaptive clothing?

One of the lesser-known rules around VAT is that adaptive clothing – worn by those with a chronic disease or disability to make dressing and undressing easier – should be exempt. Now a leading advice website for families of elderly relatives is issuing a “VAT Alert” to raise awareness of the rules and help save families money.

Did you know that, if your older parent requires adaptive clothing due to a chronic illness, or disability, then they may be eligible to receive VAT relief on purchases of specialist adaptive clothing, providing a saving of 20%?

If the answer is “no”, you won’t be alone. This exemption is not widely publicised, and many of those who could benefit currently pay 20% over the odds for their clothing.

Now advice website has issued what it calls a “VAT Alert” – hoping to raise awareness of the savings available, and advising people on how to go about making those savings. The full guide is available on the link below.

“Being able to dress yourself goes a long way to helping older people maintain their valuable independence and self-esteem,” says the website’s MD Deborah Stone. “Yet poor eyesight, joint stiffness, and conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease and dementia, can mean that older people may struggle with buttons and zips. This is where adaptive clothing can help. The need for help with such intimate and personal daily activities, such as bathing and dressing can often undermine your older parent’s dignity. Helping your parent to stay in control will help to avoid feelings of frustration and helplessness. Investing in specially adapted clothing can make dressing easier and save time for both the individual and their carer.”

What is adaptive clothing?

Some clothing is designed specifically to help carers dress people with severe disabilities, or who use wheelchairs, or are bed-bound. Other adaptive clothing is simply designed for ease of use: garments are typically made of comfortable, sometimes stretchy, materials and feature elasticated waists and flat seams to reduce friction.

“The best adaptive clothing is designed to look just like normal clothing,” says Deborah, “but with easier access to press studs and Velcro fastenings, or perhaps open backs. Some is extra roomy, so that incontinence pads can be easily changed, and other garments may have a longer rise in the back for those sitting in wheelchairs.”

Good design will also enable the garment to be put on frontwards, so there is no need to lift arms or twist while dressing.  These items are therefore of particular use to people who have limited mobility, or who have conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or who have had a stroke.

Who can claim VAT relief?

If your older parent or relative suffers from Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, oedema, heart disease, stroke or one of a range of other chronic conditions, and would benefit from wearing adaptive clothing, they will qualify for VAT relief on the specialist clothing that is zero-rated by HMRC.

However, if they are temporarily disabled – perhaps with a broken limb – or are simply frail, they would not be eligible for VAT relief.

“There is a wide selection of online retailers offering adaptive clothing,” says Deborah Stone, “such as and, and they should help customers to get VAT relief by asking questions at the checkout stage. But not all retailers will think to offer that option. So when you are shopping – either in store or online – do make sure that you establish whether the items are potentially VAT exempt and that this has been taken off the bill. Even if you are buying clothing on behalf of your older parent or relative you are still able to claim VAT relief.”

Read more HERE has also published a guide to VAT relief on footwear for older people