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Remove luxury tax on wheelchair parts: Activists
Persons with disabilities, especially those with spinal cord injuries who use wheelchairs, have appealed to the GST Council to take wheelchair parts and accessories off the luxury GST list, pointing out the unfairness in taxing it at the same rate at consumer durable goods like washing machine.
Stating that all wheelchair and accessories/parts imports were excluded from any taxation and Custom duty before GST regime, Vaishnavi Jayakumar of the Disability Rights’ Alliance (DRA) said, “Following the implementation of GST, the entire wheelchair industry is facing tremendous confusion and uncertainty with respect to taxation.”
The Centre had originally proposed an 18 per cent tax but brought it down to five per cent after insistence by disability rights activists. “However, there is a lot of confusion regarding which section it falls under. Wheelchairs come under the category more suitable for cars and vehicles and cushions under ‘fancy furnishing’, which basically is a luxury. Therefore, what the tax on the final product is continues to remain unclear,” she added.
Explaining the ambiguity in classification that is the root cause of all confusion, the activist said wheelchair accessories included pressure-relieving cushions, back and head rests, postural supports such as belts and harnesses, whereas wheelchair parts can be any replacement or new parts like castor wheels, tyres, frame, brakes, motor and controller for power wheelchair.
As of now, they all are being categorised under the 28 per cent list by the Bengaluru Custom officials. “The primary reason being wheelchairs are imported under category HSN Code 8713- carriages for disabled persons (871310 or 871390) that attracts a 5 per cent GST, but if a wheelchair part is imported, the Custom officials automatically apply 871420 due to its description ‘parts and accessories of the heading 8711 to 8713’,” she added.
“We are not to be blamed for being restricted to wheelchairs. Our wheelchairs are our legs. Why are we being taxed for our body parts,” asked Swathi N, a person with disability.