Disabled flyer takes on HMRC to help others reach the sky

As part of our substantive pro bono efforts, we ensured that our client Aerobility, an organisation that improves the quality of life for disabled people by offering heavily subsidised flying lessons/hours, was able to fly.

The dispute relates to a previous statutory construction case Hausfeld worked on in 2013, where we successfully acted on behalf of the British Disabled Flying Association (BDFA) in a dispute with the HMRC as to the VAT rating for the purchase and maintenance of aircraft modified (aircraft) for use by disabled persons. In 2013, we were successful in securing a ruling by the Upper Tribunal which established that aircraft for the use by disabled persons, are subject to zero VAT rating, provided the evidence demonstrated that they were designed/modified for such use at the time of the sale.

"You folks were a pivotal part of getting her back into the air and more importantly, ensures that G-IDID goes on to change yet more lives."

Neil Tucker, disabled pilot and Trustee of Aerobility


In the dispute Tucker v HMRC, our client Neil Tucker, a disabled pilot and Trustee of the registered charity Aerobility (formerly BDFA), purchased the aircraft from Australia which was specifically modified for disabled use so he could continue to fly as a disabled pilot and for the aircraft to be used for Aerobility’s benefit i.e. to teach disabled people to fly.

While the aircraft was held in UK customs pending customs clearance, the client was informed by the HMRC that he would need to pay full VAT on the imported good. He disputed the HMRC’s assessment and instructed us to assist. We wrote to the HMRC challenging their initial assessment, setting out the basis of the VAT relief claimed and relying on the ruling we secured in favour of the BDFA in 2013.


In early May 2020, HMRC confirmed that they accepted that the zero VAT conditions were met and confirmed that our client is eligible for the VAT relief claimed. A great outcome for our client which the team managed to secure in record time.

Ingrid Gubbay and Chrysanthi Bampali instructed Keiron Beal at Blackstone Chambers and all worked on a pro bono basis.

“I thought I’d get in touch to tell you that 699 is all signed off and ready to fly. Here are some pictures I thought you’d like to see. The next pics will show you 699 in her intended role: bringing smiles to the faces of people with disabilities, some time in summer 2022. Thereafter, I hope to introduce you all personally to the Isle of Wight and to show you around our wonderful charity. I’m sure you’ll love it.”

Neil Tucker, disabled pilot and Trustee of Aerobility