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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Air Ambulance to be hit with €320,000 VAT bill annually

A senator has been advised that the Irish Community Air Ambulance will have to pay €320,000 in VAT in a full calendar year – based on its current service levels – as a result of a new arrangement.

Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer revealed to the Seanad that should it provide an additional air ambulance base in the future in support of the National Ambulance Service, it would be expected to pay more than €640,000 in VAT in a full calendar year to provide its “vital lifesaving service”.

He said that this is the case as it is only a partial VAT recovery due to its charitable status.

“Irish Community Air Ambulance leases its helicopters from Sloane Helicopters, a company based in the United Kingdom.”

“In June, Sloane Helicopters will set up a company to enable it to continue operating in Ireland as a result of Brexit.”

The new company will operate under an Irish airline operating certificate, AOC, and Irish Community Air Ambulance will then lease helicopters from the new Irish entity.

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“As a result of this new arrangement, Irish Community Air Ambulance will be charged VAT on its payments to Sloane Ireland.”

“It also pays VAT on the fuel used to power its helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS, aircraft.”

“I have been in contact with the chief executive, Michael Sheridan, who has met with Oireachtas representatives and spoken to us individually.”

“This VAT bill could instead be used by the charity to fund an additional 92 lifesaving missions each year.”

On the back of this, the senator has called for a review of the existing VAT relief scheme under section 103 of the Value Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 should be looked at and reviewed.

Tasked 1,000 times

Irish Community Air Ambulance, formerly known as Irish Community Rapid Response, was formed in Rathcoole in north Cork 23 months ago.

In that time, it has been tasked close to 1,000 times by the National Ambulance Service. In 2020, it was tasked 490 times, and so far in 2021, it has been tasked 225 times.

“The number of tasks in which Irish Community Air Ambulance has engaged has increased by 20%. These tasks include an increased number of farming-related incidents.”

“Each task costs €3,500, which represents value for money, saves many lives and ensures people are transported for treatment quickly.”

“In 2013, the former Minister, Michael Noonan, brought in a statutory instrument that provided that inshore aircraft be repaid any, “borne or paid tax in relation to— (a) the supply or hire to it, (b) the intra-Community acquisition or importation by it, or (c) the repair, modification or maintenance for it”.

“I appreciate, and I am sure the Minister of State does, the difficulty for Irish Community Air Ambulance in raising funds in this pandemic but also it is doing life-saving work.”

“The additional VAT costs will place an additional and significant burden on it in terms of fundraising that would not appear to be an equitable outcome, given that an exemption is in place for sea rescue craft. I am not creating a competition or adversarial situation.”

“I am asking that we provide an equitable playing field to a charity that is providing huge service.”

“Irish Community Air Ambulance has benefited each community by its inception, work and the manner of its work. I hope the Minister of State and the Government will look favourably on the request,” the senator concluded.

Farm safety message

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

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