Wednesday, 26 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
65. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994, were introduced; the amendments to the scheme since its introduction; if his attention has been drawn to any concerns regarding difficulties which medical officers are experiencing with aspects of the primary medical certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10642/99]
Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): The objective of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme is to improve the quality of life of certain disabled persons, through enhancing their overall mobility in a manner consistent with not imposing an unreasonable burden on Exchequer resources. The scheme targets what are costly reliefs at those who are severely and permanently disabled with regard to physical mobility.
The current scheme had its origins in section 43 of the Finance Act, 1968 which introduced an exemption from the payment of road tax on vehicles specially adapted or constructed for and used by disabled persons who, in the main, would have been confined to wheelchairs.
The initial scheme was extended on a number of occasions and a new consolidated scheme of reliefs was provided for under section 92 of the Finance Act, 1989. That section enabled the Minister for Finance to make regulations providing for the refund on road tax, excise duty, later Vehicle Registration Tax, and VAT on the purchase of a vehicle used by certain disabled persons and for the repayment of the excise duty on petrol or diesel used in the vehicle. The resultant Disabled Drivers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1989 came into effect on 21 December 1989.
A comprehensive review of the workings of the provisions of the scheme was carried out in 1993-94, involving wide ranging consultations with the Departments of Health, the Environment and Justice, the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, the Revenue Commissioners, relevant organisations catering for the disabled and opposition spokespersons for Finance. In the course of the review detailed consideration was given to the qualifying medical criteria for entry to the scheme, bearing in mind the various representations which had been received seeking the extension of the benefits of the scheme to many  additional categories of disabled individuals. It was decided that the scheme should continue to focus on persons with the most severe mobility restrictions. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations, drawn up following that review, and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. It is the nature and the extent of the disability which determines a person's eligibility under the scheme rather than the circumstances which have given rise to that disability. The current regulations, namely the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations came into effect on 1 December 1994.
I must confirm to the Deputy that I have no role in determining whether or not a person satisfies the medical criteria laid down in the above mentioned regulations. That is a matter of judgment on the part of the senior area medical officer in the local health board. Where the issue of such a certificate is refused, the person concerned may appeal that decision to the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, an independent board whose decision is final.
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