Campaign launched for tax-free helmets while 40% of riders’ hats are estimated to be below the safety standard

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) and the British Horse Society (BHS) have joined forces to campaign for VAT to be removed from the purchase price of all new riding hats.

BETA claims that a reduction in the price of riding hats, achieved by the removal of VAT, would encourage more riders to wear head protection which is up to the current safety standard, reducing the number of serious head injuries.

“It is estimated that 40% of adult riders are riding with hats which are not up to the current safety standard,” said BETA chief executive and secretary Claire Williams. “Research has shown that higher standard riding hats have contributed to a substantial reduction in major head injuries compared with 10 years ago.”

Motorcycle helmets and cycle helmets are both VAT exempt under current legislation. The zero-rating also extends to children’s riding hats, while the purchase price of adult hats includes the 17.5% tax.

The government claims that it cannot extend the zero VAT rate to adult sized hats due to an agreement with Europe.

Labour MP, Paul Boateng, explained: “The zero-rating of pedal cycle helmets was a marginal adjustment to an existing zero rate for motorcycle helmets. However, the zero-rating of riding helmets would create a new and distinctive zero rate, which is not permitted by the agreement.”

BETA intends to focus its campaign on European employment and human rights laws, in an attempt to find a loophole to allow the zero-rating to be extended to adult hats.

“Under European law, an employer must provide employees with clothing which is required for safety reasons,” explained BETA chief executive and secretary Claire Williams. “So why should a jockey or riding instructor pay VAT on a riding hat, a necessary piece of safety equipment, when a motorcycle courier does not.”

Sheila Hardy, BHS head of safety agrees: “What we have here is a tax on safety, and we need to get it removed.”