World Braille Day: Tax and benefits
To mark World Braille Day on 4 January, Reshma Johar explores the benefits and allowances available to people of working age who live in the UK with sight loss.
HMRC are legally required to provide material in alternative formats including braille, large print, audio on CD, text on CD and other formats on request, such as coloured paper.
Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to avoid a worker with disabilities (physical or mental) being put at a disadvantage when compared to a non-disabled person, when doing their job. Any provisions of equipment or services used by the employee in performing duties of employment are exempt from tax (s316 ITEPA 2003). Any minor expenses provided to employees with a disability not covered under s316 ITEPA 2003 could still be exempt from tax (s210 ITEPA 2003), see also HMRC Employment Income Manual.
Blind person’s allowance
The blind person’s allowance is automatically increased by inflation in the same way as personal allowances, and its currently set at £2,500 for 2020/21. Entitlement to the allowance is available up until the person claiming dies.
In order to benefit from the blind person’s allowance an individual must meet one of the following conditions:
is registered as a severely sight-impaired adult on a local authority register in England or Wales.
is ordinarily resident in Scotland or Northern Ireland and because of the blindness the individual is unable to do any work for which eyesight is essential.
In addition to the above, the individual will need to be either UK tax resident for the tax year or if not resident at any time in the tax year, the individual must be one of:
national of an EEA state
resident in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
someone who previously resided in the UK, and is resident abroad for health reasons, either for the claimant, or for any family member residing with the claimant
current or past employee in the service of the Crown
employee in the service of any territory under Her Majesty's protection
employee in the service of a missionary society, or
person whose late spouse or civil partner was employed in the service of the Crown
An individual will be able to claim the blind persons allowance in a tax year they became registered as severely sight-impaired even if the evidence obtained on the registration is in the preceding year.
Transferring the blind person’s allowance
Excess unused blind persons allowance can be transferred to the person’s spouse or civil partner provided that they are living together, and the spouse or civil partner is resident in the UK or meets the above residence requirements.
The couple do not need to be living together in the same property, provided that the couple are still married or in a civil partnership and neither intends to make the separation permanent. The election for transfer is irrevocable once made. The election needs to be made within 4 years after the end of the tax year to which it relates. Use form 575 to request a transfer of surplus income tax allowances.
The election also includes the transfer of any surplus married couples’ allowance (if applicable).
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
The PIP entitles a person to a payment of between £23.60 - £151.40 per week. The weekly payment is split into two parts; a daily living part and a mobility part. The amount paid is based on the claimant’s condition and if they meet the eligibility requirement. A person is entitled to this irrespective of their employment status.
The PIP is wholly exempt from tax (s.677 ITEPA 2003).
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
The ESA is based on the person’s condition and meeting the eligibility requirement. There are two elements, contributory ESA and income-related ESA (now universal credit). A person is entitled to this irrespective of their employment status.
Whilst a claim is being assessed a person aged under 25 will receive £58.90 per week and £74.35 a week if over 25. After the assessment, the weekly rate is £74.35 if the person is in the work-related activity group or £113.55 if the person is in the support group.
The ESA payment is taxable (s.660 ITEPA 2003).
Universal Credit (UC)
Universal Credit is a payment to support a claimant’s living costs. Entitlement to UC is based on the claimant’s condition and meeting the eligibility requirement.
The monthly standard amount is topped up depending on if the person has children, a disability or health condition which prevents them from working or requires help in paying rent. The monthly payment can change depending on the person’s circumstances and earnings. The standard allowance ranges from £342.72 - £594.04 per month depending on age and relationship status.
If the person has limited capability for work and work-related activity the monthly extra is £341.92. If the person has limited capability for work and has started health-related universal credit or ESA before 3 April 2017 then the monthly extra is £128.25. A person caring for a severely disabled person will get a monthly extra of £162.92.
The UC payment is wholly exempt from tax (s.677 ITEPA 2003).
Currently, there are more than 14 million disabled people in the UK. A person with a disability may be required to spend more on care and support and so these benefits and allowances are vital and essential.
International Braille Day
Today the world commemorates the inventor of Braille, Louis Braille. Braille is a key method for people who are either blind or visually impaired to maintain independence by not needing to rely on someone else to order food from a menu or handle their personal finances as examples.
2 million people
According to the 2015 Office for National Statistics, more than 2 million people are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily life. It is said that by 2050, this will increase to over 4 million people. Currently around 350,000 people are registered blind or partially sighted in the UK.
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Reshma Johar is a Tax Consultant at Carter Backer Winter. She is both ATT and CTA qualified with experience gained from practice and her involvement with the CIOT. She has a particular interest in OMB and private client taxes.