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Tax relief on hearing aids?

Can a company pay for hearing aids for director without benefit in kind?

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I'd always assumed that provision of hearing aids for a director (and staff) would trigger a BIK if provided by the company(employer) following the same logic than "normal" spectacles are a BIK and other healthcare (physiotherapy etc) is a BIK due to the duality of purpose rules.

BUT, I've seen an article by Croner Taxwise saying that hearing aids are allowable without a BIK if required for the work duties on the grounds of there being a BIK exemption on the grounds of disability.  https://www.cronertaxwise.com/community/my-vip-tax-team-question-of-the-...

Looks to be contingent on how badly the hearing loss affects the ability to do the job.  But if this is the case for hearing aids, why not for spectacles/contact lenses?

 

Replies (19)

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By Paul Crowley
30th Mar 2022 13:21

How has the director coped to date?
The relief for specific aids needed for employment.
Presumably the director would not need them unless he was employed

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By Ken Howard
30th Mar 2022 13:37

The director in question has gradual hearing loss that's getting worse year by year - he's in his 50's so prime time for the start of age related hearing loss. He's had two sets of NHS hearing aids over the past few years, but they're really not good enough as they're very basic. He's already got a landline phone with speakerphone and a socket to which he can attach earphones which helps for phone calls, but now he's started seeing clients again after the lockdowns, he's struggling to hear in meetings etc, especially when the client is wearing a mask so he can't supplement by amateur lip reading etc.

As for "need", then, yes, he needs them outside of work too really. At home, he can turn up the TV volume and ask friends/family to repeat themselves, but he struggles in social situations etc where there's a lot of background noise, so there's going to be duality of purpose, but the Croner link above didn't regard the private use as a problem.

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By gillybean04
30th Mar 2022 13:44

Be very careful in assuming everyone with hearing impairment has a disability.

You can be hearing impaired but not disabled. I believe the exemption is based on the disability (and duties of employment) not for a hearing aid.

So some employees may qualify for the exemption and others may not.

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Replying to gillybean04:
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By The Dullard
30th Mar 2022 14:06

All covered very well in the article that the OP has linked to.

And on the basis that carrying out the duties of their employment is a normal day-to-day activity and that the hearing aid is necessary for them to be able to carry out those duties, such an individual would seem likely to satisfy the definition of disabled, for the purposes of the exemption, and thus qualify for the exemption.

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Replying to The Dullard:
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By gillybean04
30th Mar 2022 16:29

Normal day to day activities refers to activities that are normal for people generally, not that specific individual. It also needs to have a "substantial" impact on their ability to carry out normal day to day tasks.

Normally, in the UK, those who are disabled due to hearing impairment would be registered deaf. That may be the case for the director here, but as we were only told of the hearing impairment and not whether it qualifies as a disability, it seemed prudent to check the right criteria has been identified and applied.

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By bendybod
01st Apr 2022 11:11

There is no requirement to be "registered" deaf, disabled or anything else. Under the Equality Act, and in applying for things such as Access to Work, the employee determines whether their problem is long term and has a significant effect on their day to day lives. Therefore any employee can determine that their condition / impairment amounts to a disability and therefore require a reasonable adjustment.

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By gillybean04
01st Apr 2022 15:01

Didn't say there was a requirement.

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By The Dullard
30th Mar 2022 14:04

Spectacles and contact lenses are specifically covered by ITEPA 2003, s 320A.

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A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
30th Mar 2022 14:05

Is the gradual hearing loss a result of his employment there? If not, I don't see how it could be exempt from BIK. There are specific rules for glasses and contact lenses which seems to draw a line between needing glasses to use a work computer and needing them for reading or driving. On the latter I am a case in point, I can manage reading with the help of reading glasses but I need another pair for computers, so of course my employer kindly pays for them (with a reading add of course).

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By The Dullard
30th Mar 2022 14:10

No. this has discrimination at it's root. If the employee needs to be able to hear well and an individual with a hearing impairment can do so with a hearing aid, then the employer cannot discriminate against them and just needs to provide them with a hearing aid to do the job. It's then discriminatory on the part of the State to tax them on such provision.

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Replying to The Dullard:
A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
30th Mar 2022 17:20

Maybe, but perhaps in favour of the director!

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By Rgab1947
01st Apr 2022 15:09

Interesting.

I do have spectacles for computer work which is only used in the office. However I need the distance glasses when going to clients (can I apportion costs - joking). I understand the employer can pay for an eye test without any BIK becoming involved.

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By mjcpage
30th Mar 2022 14:52

As a hearing aid wearer - you do get hearing aids free from the NHS - so any purchase of hearing aids from a private provider would, on the face of it, be a personal preference - I would have thought.

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Replying to mjcpage:
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By Ken Howard
30th Mar 2022 15:21

Does "personal preference" matter though? Is it not like an employee travelling first class instead of second class train? That's personal preference too, but as long as the WEN rules apply, it's still fully allowable with no BIK. Or getting his lunch in a cafe rather than a Greggs meal deal?

Anyway, it's not just "personal preference" with hearing aids as the ones provided by the NHS are simple/basic and lots of people have trouble using them - that's why the private ones are so popular - people wouldn't pay a grand or two if the NHS ones were fit for purpose would they?

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
30th Mar 2022 19:46

.

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Replying to Ken Howard:
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By webpoints
01st Apr 2022 11:04

NHS hearing adds and hearing assessments can equal the private sector. The issue is being persistent with the GP and getting a referral ideally first to an ENT consultant and then through them to the local audiology service, possibly at a hospital, for a full assessment and making sure you have the follow up appointments and adjustments on a continuous basis as hearing tends to deteriorate. And yes, I have two and there is no need to pay for the hearing aids. the NHS also provides free batteries. The NHS hearing aids can include bluetooth. You might need to pay for an office phone which includes bluetooth whioch should be deductible. A bluetooth streaming device worn round the neck can also connect to other devices eg a TV. The charity RNID has good information on this.

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Replying to mjcpage:
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By Andy Reeves
01st Apr 2022 14:49

Agreed. I have had hearing aids for just over three years, initially the free NHS ones, which worked OK. However, I have just upgraded to new bluetooth aids (£4200 for a pair of Phonak Audeo P90-R, if anyone is interested) and they are better, but I wouldn't say they enable me to do my job any better than the NHS ones.

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By paul.benny
30th Mar 2022 16:36

On the basis of the linked article - which appears to quote the relevant legislation, I tentatively vote for there being no bik.

As an employer, I was unaware that this might be possible. The key point for me is the requirement to make such a benefit available to all employees. And in my opinion that requires making it known rather than just saying "we would if asked" - most employees wouldn't think to ask.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By The Dullard
30th Mar 2022 21:29

You could have a "policy" for all reasonable adjustments needed for any disabled (as defined) employees. It doesn't need to be specific, to cover just hearing aids, for example. Then provision is available to all employees.

Most employees then still won't think to ask if you will buy them the electric wheelchair they so desperately desire. Meanwhile, as director you can have your hearing aid (if you needed on) within the exemption.

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