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Lingerie company wins fight exempting bras worn by cancer survivors from tax
A HAMPSHIRE lingerie company has won a four-year legal battle to prove that its special bras for cancer survivors should be exempt from European tax.
Bosses at Amoena UK have always argued that their Carmen mastectomy bra, which is designed for women with prosthetic breasts, should be exempt from the European Union’s (EU) brassiere tax.
The bra, which Amoena sells throughout the UK, was designed for women who have undergone surgery for cancer. The firm has always said that the bra is an artificial body part and not normal underwear, which would mean it would be exempt from import duties.
But in 2009 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) declared that it was a bra under EU classifications and would be subject to a 6.5 per cent customs duty.
The firm challenged that ruling, but lost an appeal in November 2011.
But a fresh appeal was launched and has now been upheld.
Judge Greg Sinfield, sitting with Judge Nicholas Aleksander, said Amoena claimed the bra is worn to “compensate for a disability” by holding artificial “breast forms” in special pockets, with padded straps to prevent neck and shoulder strain.
Two years ago the bra was examined by an all-female tribunal panel “not only expert in matters of customs classification, but also experienced in assessing the characteristics of women’s undergarments”, the judge added. That panel said that the bra could not perform any “corrective function”, and concluded “while we consider the breast form is an artificial part of the body, we do not find that the mastectomy bra itself can be so described”.
But on appeal Tim Eicke QC, who represented Amoena, said the tribunal had “placed too much emphasis”
on the objective characteristics of the bra and insisted it was an orthopaedic appliance.
He argued that the first tribunal had “reached conclusions wholly inconsistent”
with guidance on such cases from the Court of Justice of the EU.
At yesterday’s appeal Judge Sinfield ruled that the first tribunal had “erred” in failing to rule the bra part an artificial device.
He confirmed that the item “should be classified as an artificial body part”, adding: “We consider that, on the basis of the facts found by the tribunal, the only possible conclusion is that the Carmen mastectomy bra should be classified as an orthopaedic appliance.”
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