Texas – Vehicle Modifications to Accomodate a Wheelchair Do Not Qualify for Exemption

SALT Report 2801 – A Texas Administrative Law Judge issued a ruling regarding a Taxpayer’s refund request for sales tax paid on truck that was purchased and modified to accommodate his wife’s wheelchair.  In 2010, the Taxpayer purchased the truck and paid the required sales tax.  Subsequently, the Taxpayer performed various modifications so that the truck would qualify for the orthopedically handicapped exemption in 34 Texas Administrative Code Section 3.84.

The modifications include the installation of a hoist pulley that was attached to the bed of the truck using chains. The wheelchair ramp was then attached to the hoist and bolted onto the tailgate.  Once the modifications were completed, the Taxpayer filed a request for refund of the sales tax paid when the truck was purchased.  The Comptroller denied the claim on the grounds that the ramp was not permanently attached to the vehicle as required by section 3.84.

The Taxpayer appealed this decision and amended his refund request claiming that he had made additional modifications to the vehicle by installing a specialized seat belt restraint system.  The restraint system is designed to go around the back of the seat and around his wife to hold her in an upright position.

Upon review of the case, the ALJ stated that while the Department does provide an exemption for motor vehicles that have been, or will be, modified so that it can be driven or used to transport a disabled person, section 3.84(a)(2) & (d)(7) requires that any equipment installed in the vehicle be permanently attached.

However, based on the description of the installation process, the Taxpayer was unable to establish that the ramp had been permanently attached to the vehicle. Consequently, the ALJ determined that the Taxpayer was not eligible for the exemption.

As for the specialized seat belt, the ALJ noted that the exemption applies to the installation of  “special seat restraints other than conventional seat belts to allow for the transportation of an orthopedically handicapped person in a reasonable manner.”

However, the seat restraint that the Taxpayer uses simply wraps around the back of the seat and around his wife to hold her in an upright position. Additionally, the ALJ noted that this restraint is a flexible brace that is generally used to restrict a patient’s movement after surgery.  Further, this brace is not intended to be installed in a vehicle and therefore, it does not qualify for the exemption.

For Further Information

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Decision, Hearing No. 104,874