Dáil Éireann - Volume 619 - 11 May, 2006
Written Answers. - Disabled Drivers.
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if there have been changes to the medical criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 since their introduction (details supplied); the changes he has made or proposes to make to the regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17696/06]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with certain physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit. 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. A person 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 has been in operation in some form since 1968. As regards changes to the medical/disability criteria: only criterion (a) was in place up to 1989, when they were expanded by the addition of (b), (c), (d) and (f); and in 1994, the final criterion at (e) was added.
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 on my Department’s website 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, which included the qualifying disability criteria, I should say that given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided in June 2004 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.
The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities including the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the Disabled Drivers Scheme in that regard will be progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. In any event, a car tax concession scheme can obviously play only a partial role in dealing with this serious issue.
Dáil Éireann 619 Written Answers. Disabled Drivers.