Senator calls for VAT exemption for Cork-based Irish Community Air Ambulance

Senator calls for VAT exemption for Cork-based Irish Community Air Ambulance

Irish Community Air Ambulance.

THE Irish Community Air Ambulance could face an annual VAT bill of more than €320,000 if is not given an exemption.

That is according to Cork Senator Jerry Buttimer who raised the issue in the Seanad yesterday, with a call for legislation covering the existing VAT relief scheme to be reviewed to include the service.

He said the service has been tasked 490 times last year and 225 times so far this year.

He continued: “This exemplifies the range of services the organisation provides and the dedication of its crew and the staff. The number of tasks in which Irish Community Air Ambulance has engaged has increased by 20% and these tasks include an increased number of farming-related incidents. Each task costs €3,500, which clearly represents value for money, saves many lives and ensures people are transported for treatment quickly.” 

The helicopters used by the Irish Community Air Ambulance are leased from a UK-based company, Sloane Helicopters.

Following Brexit, the company is setting up a company this month to enable to it continue operating in Ireland from which the helicopters will then be leased, Senator Buttimer said.

He continued: “As a result of this new arrangement, Irish Community Air Ambulance will be charged VAT on its payments to Sloane Ireland.

It also pays VAT on the fuel used to power its helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS, aircraft.” 

He added: “I am advised that the charity will be pay €320,000 in VAT in a full calendar year based on its current levels of service. Should it provide an additional air ambulance base in the future in support of the National Ambulance Service it would expect to pay in excess of €640,000 in VAT in a full calendar year to provide our rural and urban communities with a vital lifesaving service. 

"This will represent a significant cost for the charity, providing a vital service in support of the National Ambulance Service, as it is only a partial VAT recovery due to its charitable status, as the Minister of State knows.

"This VAT bill could instead be used by the charity to fund an additional 92 lifesaving missions each year.” 

And he said: “The additional VAT costs will place an additional and significant burden on it in terms of fundraising that would not appear to be an equitable outcome, given that an exemption is in place for sea rescue craft.” 

Minister of State Sean Fleming told the Seanad that the issue is a budgetary one. 

He elaborated: “For the Senator's information, a review of that scheme is being undertaken by the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and the charities sector and a report will be published in June or July. Therefore, it will be possible to discuss this issue well in advance of the budget in the autumn.” 

In a tweet, the Irish Community Air Ambulance said: “This is a significant step for our services and will help us to continue working everyday to provide emergency pre hospital care to people throughout Ireland. #HeliMed92"

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