VAT battle for air ambulance
Published at 09:12, Monday, 19 March 2012
THOUSANDS of pounds raised in Tynedale for the Great North Air Ambulance Service are going straight to the Treasury coffers.
For unlike many other charities, the mercy service has to pay VAT on the fuel its helicopters use.
HM Revenue and Customs pockets more than £24,000 a year of the donations made to the charity, which receives no financial help from the Government.
Now, the Hexham Courant is fronting a campaign to put the life-saving service on an equal footing with similar charities.
The campaign has the support of Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman, who said: “I have raised money for the Great North Air Ambulance in the past and I am a huge supporter of its work.
“I believe this is a good campaign and a good cause, and I support it wholeheartedly.
“I will be more than happy to take up the cause in Parliament and see if we can put this situation right.”
The soaring cost of fuel itself is already hampering the service, but VAT on the £120,000 spent on helicopter fuel this year is a staggering £24,000.
A petition calling on the Government to change the existing VAT rules, has already gathered widespread support.
The Courant is urging its readers to either sign the petition online or add their signatures to a hard copy in the newspaper’s front office.
The petition has so far gathered almost 50,000 signatures and if it reaches 100,000 there is a strong chance it will be debated in Parliament.
The service has saved successive Governments millions of pounds, and is funded by charitable donations given by the general public to run what has proven to be an essential service.
While The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has been spared paying VAT on the fuel it uses since 1977, a similar privilege has not been afforded to the air ambulance.
A spokesman for the Great North Air Ambulance said: “Tynedale perfectly demonstrates the need for the services of the air ambulance.
“The helicopter is able to quickly reach residents in remote locations and transport them not just to the nearest hospital, but to the best hospital to care for their injuries.
“Due to public support in the past, the air ambulance has been able to expand to be able to cover the area 365 days year.
“But the need for the continuation of this fantastic support has not diminished. Our costs are rising, as are the numbers of missions we are being tasked to.
“We would therefore be extremely grateful if residents could get behind the Courant’s magnificent campaign to support the Great North Air Ambulance by removing the VAT on our fuel expenditure.”
The Great North Air Ambulance Service is a charity operating a fleet of helicopters across an area of 8,000 square miles, from the Scottish Borders to North Yorkshire, from East Coast to West.
It is a particularly vital lifeline for those living in remote parts of Tynedale, where a road ambulance trip to hospital from some spots could take over an hour.
Its helicopters can be anywhere in the region within 15 minutes.
On board the helicopter are specialist trauma doctors and paramedics, bringing accident and emergency expertise to the scene, and giving the patient the best possible chance of recovery.
It costs the charity £2,500 per mission to fly, regardless of whether or not the patient is airlifted.
This figure takes into account the cost of the aircraft, its storage and fuel, paying the pilots and the paramedics, the medicine, and other equipment.
The crews respond to hundreds of call-outs a month and to satisfy this demand it takes about £4m a year in fundraising.
The service does not receive any Government or National Lottery funding and therefore relies on the support of the public to continue its work.
Last year, helicopters were called out to 177 rescue missions in Northumberland alone.
A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said: “Only a body that makes or supplies goods or services that are subject to VAT is able to reclaim the VAT it is charged on its costs.
“Normally a charity will not do this when pursuing its charitable objectives and so cannot reclaim its VAT.
“However, in certain circumstances registered charities may be able to reclaim VAT or be exempt from paying VAT on certain items, goods or services.”
l Courant Opinion - page 10.
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
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