/ Money, Motoring, Parenting

Why should we pay VAT on child car seats?

Baby in child car seat

Child car seats are not only needed for peace of mind in the safety of our children, they’re also required to be used by all children up to the age of 12 (or 1.35m tall) by law. So why do parents have to pay VAT on them?

If you have children, the list of things you have to buy for them seems endless. Thankfully, the two biggest items – food and kids’ clothing – are VAT-exempt, as are children’s shoes, which are another essential and painful ongoing expense dreaded by cash-strapped parents.

And by-and-large, if there’s a safety reason for your purchase, it’s also often VAT-free. VAT isn’t charged on cycle helmets, as long as they meet specified safety standards, for example. And motorcycle helmets, which are mandatory, are exempt too.

If your job requires you to wear special clothing for health and safety reasons, like protective footwear or head-protection, then they’re also VAT-free as they serve an essential function – you have no choice but to buy them.

Why pay VAT on child car seats?

So why on earth should we have to pay VAT on child car seats?

It’s important to point out that the current level of VAT on child car seats is below the now standard 20% rate, with a levy of 5%. Yet this is an item all parents have to buy and use by law. Every child up to the age of 12 (or 1.35m tall) must use a child car seat in order to meet the legal minimum safety standards.

Sometime in the dim and distant past, it appears child car seats were incorrectly classified for tax purposes as ‘car accessories’ which made them VAT-payable. This is fine if your ‘accessory’ is a non-essential option like say, furry dice, fancy wheels or seat-covers. But this obviously isn’t so with child car seats – there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be VAT-free.


No they are an essential item that is a mandatory requirement. I recently had a crash where my wife sustained a fractured sternum and I severe whiplash. The three children who were all in good quality car seats (not just booster seats) were virtually unscathed. But we had to then replace those car seats as they had been in an accident. Then of course you have to change car seats as your child grows. I must have spent over £1000 on car seats over the past 5 years!

Jeff says:
21 January 2011

It shows that the government (treasury) has a very strange view about which items should be zero-rated for vat. If children’s clothing is seen as “essential” and is zero rated, then so should child car seats be zero rated.

Sorry folks, but since a car is not “an essential item that is a mandatory requirement” nor are any accessories fitted to it, and that includes child seats.

Losjkie says:
23 February 2011

VAT is not paid on PPE such as safety boots for work so should in no way be charged on child car seats,
I do not have any children by the way.

Clickster says:
4 March 2011

Hey Jayprime – get your point about a car not being an essential item, but by that nature neither are motorbikes or puch cycles yet the safety aspect of both of; those namely helmets; are VAT free, and in the case of a cycle helmet it is not even law to have to wear one. So when you look at it like this, parents are getting a raw deal, especially when if you think about a car is pretty much an essential when ferrying kids around

You pay VAT on your car and all its safety features: ABS, stability control, seat belts, air bags, crumple zones, safety glass, demisters, heated screens, electric screen washers, etc. Why single out child safety seats. They are just another part of car safety equipment. As a percentage of running costs, the vat on a child seat is infinitesimal.

Just Me says:
19 January 2012

Are your children worth less than the cost of VAT on a child seat?
If your love of money is more valuable to you than the love of your child, then don’t have children.