Micheál Sheridan, CEO of Irish Community Air Ambulance. Photo: Darragh Kane

Charity: VAT bill would fund 100 missions

Ireland’s only charity-funded air ambulance is calling on the Government to extend its VAT relief scheme after being hit with a €320,000 bill.

The Irish Community Air Ambulance, which has aided the national ambulance almost 1,000 times in the last two years, has seen a rise of 20 per cent in missions this year, each costing an average of €3,500.

The charity leases its helicopters from Sloane Helicopters, a company based in the UK.

In June, Sloane Helicopters will set up a company to enable it to continue operating in Ireland post-Brexit.

Operating under an Irish Airline Operating Certificate (AOC), the new Irish entity of the company will lease helicopters to the Irish Community Air Ambulance.

As a result of this arrangement, the ambulance will be charged VAT on its payments to Sloane Ireland.

In a statement issued to the Cork Independent, CEO of the Irish Community Air Ambulance, Micheál Sheridan called upon the Government to add the charity ambulance to existing VAT regulations under which lifeboats benefit from a full VAT refund.

“Legislation exists for lifeboats to benefit from a full VAT refund. Given we provide a similar life-saving service, we believe we would be eligible for the same VAT treatment,” he said.

Mr Sheridan added that the ambulance’s forecasted VAT bill in 2022 would fund 100 missions and help to provide pre-hospital care to people throughout Ireland.

The Irish Community Air Ambulance has struggled to raise crucial funds throughout the pandemic yet has continued to extend its services where needed.

Speaking in the Seanad on Monday, Fine Gael Senator for Cork South Central, Jerry Buttimer said the VAT bill represents a significant cost for the charity which provides a vital service in support of the National Ambulance Service.

“I am calling on the Minister for Finance to review the VAT relief scheme under section 103 of the Value Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010, and to include Irish Community Air Ambulance under the legislation introduced by former Minister Michael Noonan in 2013 for inshore aircraft,” he said.

The Senator insisted that an equitable outcome must be achieved for the Irish Community Ambulance so that donations given to fund the rescue of people by air are put to maximum use, as is the case with lifeboat rescue.

Exercise care

Meanwhile, the Irish Community Air Ambulance and Macra na Feirme have launched a joint campaign to appeal to all rural communities to exercise care as activity in rural Ireland increases during the summer months.

A busy silage season, increased traffic on the roads and more children moving about farms all combine to present an increased likelihood of serious incidents that could result in the Irish Community Air Ambulance being tasked to rural locations.

Statistics from the Community Air Ambulance show that the summer months are the busiest for the heli-med service, with the highest number of callouts during 2020 occurring in July. There have been 38 farming-related callouts so far in 2021.

John Keane, President of Macra na Feirme said: “Farmers are aware of the many dangers on farm, and always endeavour to ensure these risks are mitigated. However, we know that accidents are going to happen in the weeks ahead, and we are appealing to people living in rural Ireland to stop and think about what they are doing, and whether it is safe.”

The Irish Community Air Ambulance works in partnership with the National Ambulance Service, and is within 30 minutes flying time of any location in Munster.