Rebates on adapted vehicles for the disabled

Buying a vehicle for a disabled driver or passenger attracts a duty rebate that could shave thousands of rands off the vehicle price. But, you MUST qualify.

In the early 1990’s, a group of disabled rights activists approached the South African government’s Department of Trade and Industry and lobbied for a structured system of regulations for waiving the various duties on vehicles bought and used by disabled people. Their argument centred on the fact that disabled drivers suffered some discrimination in that they were forced to pay more for automatic cars, the only type suitable for hand control adaptations. The group, led by veteran activist Neville Cohen, had already secured buy-in to the idea from all the motor manufacturers, and was well received.

The previous system of vehicle rebates was outdated, discriminatory and overly strict. It used an obscure sliding scale which reduced the rebate as the price increased. A vehicle priced over R75 000.00 drew no rebate at all. The new system simplified and streamlined the process. However, some minor issues still remain, but these are largely limited to one or two motor manufacturers.

Rebates on Duties
The rebates only apply to Customs Import Duty on imported vehicles and Ad Valorem Excise duty on locally manufactured vehicles. In both cases the duties are a percentage (about 34%) of the Free On Board (FOB) value of the vehicle, NOT the showroom price. This roughly equates to about a 20% discount of the retail price. Manufacturers such as Volkswagen, who export locally-made vehicles, pay lower duties, so the rebates for these vehicles will be smaller.

Eligible vehicles
Only Right Hand Drive (RHD) vehicles that have been homologated by the SABS and have been, or will be, adapted for disabled users, are eligible for the rebates. These vehicles usually have an automatic gearbox, and will be fitted with accelerator and brake hand control devices or pedal extensions. Vans and buses modified with ramps, interior floor clamps and hand rails for transporting disabled people in wheelchairs are also eligible for the rebates.

If there is a locally made vehicle available that has the required features, an import will not be allowed. The Ad Valorem Excise duty rebate will still apply.

Eligible users
Disabled drivers such as paraplegics, quadriplegics and double amputees who cannot operate foot control pedals qualify for the rebates. Organisations, service providers and individuals who exclusively and regularly transport disabled passengers, will qualify for the rebates. However, a single leg amputee will not qualify, since no adaptation of the vehicle is required.

The Department of Trade & Industry, which issues the permit required for the rebate, is remarkably flexible. For example, the father of two girls who needed 24-hour respirators attached to their wheelchairs qualified for a rebate of duties on the minivan he bought to transport the girls to and from school.

Applying for the rebate permit
Several forms need to be completed and included in the application.

  1. ITAC Application (describes the vehicle being purchased)
  2. Nominated Driver/s declaration
  3. Medical Report (completed by applicant’s doctor)
  4. Report from the Panel of Disability Adjudicators
  5. Written motivation (detailing vehicle adaptations required)
  6. Copy of Driver’s Licence
  7. Copy of driver’s ID
  8. Motor manufacturer’s specification brochure
  9. Homologation Certificate (obtained from dealer)

Applications are administered through the National Council for People with Physical Disabilities South Africa (NCPPDSA) and their regional offices. Approved import / rebate permits are issued directly to the applicant by the Department of Trade & Industry.

In point 4 above, the disabled applicant is physically evaluated by a Panel of Adjudicators convened by the applicable NCPPDSA office in the applicant’s province. The panel determines whether the person’s disability warrants the vehicle and adaptation requested, and therefore whether the application is valid or not. The DTI usually accepts all recommendations made by the Panel, and the entire process takes less than 6 weeks.

In order for your application to be valid, the following points should be considered.

  • Your disability and your vehicle of choice must fit the criteria of eligibility noted above.
  • The vehicle adaptations required must conform to the DTI guidelines. For example, wheelchair lifts and hoists alone do not qualify for the rebate.
  • You should not order or purchase a vehicle before the application process is finalised and a permit is issued. You will lose the rebate.
  • You will not be allowed to import a vehicle model that is also locally made and has the required features (automatic gearbox, etc.).
  • Qualifying individuals may only import a vehicle every 5 years.

Disabled passengers
The rebate system extends to all organisations, associations and institutions that regularly transport disabled passengers. Special schools for disabled learners are eligible for rebates on buses and vans; so are any other associations and institutions that support and care for people with mobility impairing disabilities.

Disabled car hire
Only a few of the fifty-plus care rental companies operating in South Africa are offering automatic hire cars with hand control adaptations for disabled drivers. And all of the models available are in Group C (Nissan Almera) or Group D (Corolla/Polo). See the Car Hire Product Review in the previous issue for more info.


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