The Blind Person’s Allowance is an additional allowance which is added to the Personal Allowance if you’re certified blind. If you are registered with a local authority as blind, or if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland and are unable to undertake any job for which sight is essential, you are eligible for the allowance.
The allowance is an additional amount of annual tax free income. There are no age or income restrictions applying to this allowance. If you are not paying tax, or not enough tax to take advantage of the Blind Person’s Allowance, it may be possible to transfer the allowance to your spouse by completing form 575 or telephoning HMRC.
The Blind Person’s Tax Allowance for the 2011/12 tax year is £1,980, up from £1,890 in 2010/11.
In the individual’s spouse or civil partner also qualifies for the Blind Person’s Allowance, each may claim the full allowance, increasing their total tax allowance to £3,780.
People who are registered as partially sighted are not entitled to claim this allowance.
In England and Wales, a person who registers as blind during a tax year may claim the allowance for the whole of that year. Because there are no registers of the blind in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the criterion is that you are unable to perform any work for which eyesight is required. This means that the allowance is not restricted to people who are totally blind.
The Blind Person’s Tax Allowance is the last remaining disability allowance in the tax structure, the others having been absorbed into the benefits system. The allowance has been criticised as being of little value and complex to administer.
Obtaining a Blind Person’s Tax Allowance
Only a third of eligible individuals have claimed the allowance, either because the rest are unaware of it or they simply didn’t have the sufficient income to be able to take advantage of it. Other possible reasons are that it has not been sufficiently publicised, associations for the blind have not promoted it and that the system for claiming it is difficult to understand.
In addition, because the onset of sight impairment is usually a gradual process, people are slow to realise that they have crossed the line to serious impairment of sight. This applies particularly in the case of macular degeneration. Because of this it is important that the visually impaired are tested regularly to ascertain the point at which they become legally blind. It is also important that they realise this may be the case although even while they still have some sight remaining.
The Blind Person’s Allowance is one of 47 tax relief measure which the Office of Tax Simplification recommended scrapping in early 2011, describing them as outmoded and lacking in rationale. The office called for major simplification of the system by eventually merging income tax and national insurance.
If you do not at present receive the Blind Person’s Allowance but think you may be eligible, you should contact the HMRC Welfare Rights officer. This can be done through your local Tax Office.