Court rejects appeals over disabled driver and passenger tax rebates

Court of Appeal says families failed to establish grounds for reversing decisions

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

The families of two children denied tax rebates under a scheme for those who buy specially adapted cars for disabled drivers or passengers have lost appeals over the rejection of their applications.

The Court of Appeal said the families had failed to establish grounds for reversing decisions which found they did not meet the criteria for the scheme.

The scheme was brought in under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994.

The severely disabled or their guardians who drive them can apply for remission or repayment of VAT and vehicle registration tax (VRT) on the purchase of a vehicle, or repayment of VAT on the cost of adapting the vehicle.

The maximum amount of VAT and VRT available is €10,000 for a driver or €16,000 for vehicles in need of significant adaptations. A sum of €16,000 is available where the application is on behalf of a passenger.

Up to €22,000 is available for drivers and passengers if the adaptations cost more than the open market selling price of the vehicle.

A severely disabled person is categorised under regulation as someone wholly without the use of both legs or has the use of one leg but almost wholly without the use of the other leg. They are also those without both hands or arms and people with dwarfism with serious difficulty moving their lower limbs.

The mother of a 16-year-old boy who suffers from hypermobility and a debilitating blood disorder applied for the disabled drivers’ scheme in 2017. The application on behalf of her son, who uses a wheelchair much of the time, was refused.

An appeal to Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal was rejected on the basis he did not meet the strict criteria laid down in the regulations.

The mother of a three-year-old girl, who among other conditions suffers from spina bifida and hydrocephalus, made a similar application. It was refused and also rejected on appeal for also not having met medical criteria.

The families took separate High Court proceedings over the decisions and both cases were heard together.

It was claimed, among other things, the appeal board failed to give any or adequate reasons for their decisions.

Last July, the High Court rejected their cases which were against the appeal board, the Minister for Finance and the State.

They appealed, and in a decision on behalf of the three-judge Court of Appeal, Ms Justice Caroline Costello also rejected their cases.

She found the Oireachtas conferred a discretion on the Minister for Finance as to what criteria were to be adopted in relation to the regulations he makes.

The exercise of that discretion was within the Minister’s powers and there was no suggestion they were exercised capriciously, arbitrarily or otherwise, she said.

The families had not identified any error on the part of the High Court when it concluded there was no basis to suggest that the statutory instrument introducing the regulations had diluted or usurped the provisions of the 1989 Finance Act which created the power to make regulations, she said.

There was also “clear uncontroverted evidence” the process of the appeal to the medical board was fair open and transparent, she added.