The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, to those who meet certain disability criteria. The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 (S.I. 353/1994). To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:
a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;
b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;
c) be without both hands or without both arms;
d) be without one or both legs;
e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;
f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.
The scheme began in 1968 as a relief from road tax on motor vehicles for mainly wheelchair users with the initial disability criterion at a) above. After a review of the operation of the scheme in 1989, new Regulations were drawn up and the disability criteria at b), c), d) and f) were included. The disability criterion at e) was included in 1994.
A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.
The Group's Report, published in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.
In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. This consideration is undertaken on a regular basis.