Case D37

JL Burke Ch

RE O'Neill M

No. 1 Board of Review

Judgment date: 26 July 1972.

J. L. Burke (Chairman) and R. E. O'Neill (Member), sitting as a Quorum: The taxpayer's wife suffered a spinal thrombosis and was partially paralysed from the waist down. She was able to walk, though with great difficulty, with the aid of an orthopaedic walking stick but could not negotiate the steps of the two storey home in which she and the taxpayer resided. Her physician desired her to be ambulant as much as possible and recommended the installation of a chair lift to enable her to move from floor to floor. The question before the Board is whether the expenditure on the lift of $2,548 constitutes ``medical expenses'' as defined for the purposes of sec. 82F of the Assessment Act as being a payment ``in respect of a medical or surgical appliance... prescribed by a legally qualified medical practitioner.'' The Commissioner does not dispute that the lift was duly prescribed but argues that it does not meet the description of a ``medical or surgical appliance''.

2. The chair lift is in effect a stairway elevator. It consists of a padded chair which traverses a mono-rail affixed to the stairway and is electrically operated. It travels very slowly (20 feet per second) and in the instant case was used solely by the taxpayer's wife. At first she had to be assisted into the chair but later on she was able to ease herself into it. The engineers who installed the lift said that almost all inquiries for the chair came from people who were suffering a physical disability which prevent them from negotiating stairs.

3. Unlike the lift in
18 T.B.R.D. Case T82 at p. 419 the cost of which this Board held to be not allowable, we think that here it can be said that the lift was ``specifically designed to replace or alleviate an absent or impaired bodily function or medical defect and the use of which, in the commercial sense, is limited in normal circumstances to such replacement or alleviation.'' The passage quoted is from
14 T.B.R.D. Case P27 at p. 140, a case in which this Board allowed a deduction in respect of the cost of a hand control fitted to the car of a taxpayer who was permanently paralysed in the legs.

4. In appearance and function the chair lift in the instant case may be equated to an

ATC 211

invalid chair which is normally designed to enable the patient to travel in a horizontal plane. Here the chair was specifically designed for the vertical. We agree with the Commissioner that an invalid chair satisfies the description of a ``medical or surgical appliance'' for the purpose of the statutory definition and would accord like treatment to the appliance with which we are presently concerned and which has been aptly described by the installing engineers as a ``stairchair''.

5. We would allow the taxpayer's claim. Assessment to be amended accordingly.

Claim allowed

This information is provided by CCH Australia Limited Link opens in new window. View the disclaimer and notice of copyright.