A lingerie company which imports bras used by breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomies has succeeded in convincing the Upper Tribunal (UT) that the garments are orthopaedic appliances and thus exempt from Customs Duty.
Amoena UK Limited argued that its Carmen mastectomy bra, which is designed to hold prosthetic silicon breasts, is an artificial body part. However, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) took the view that it fell within the same category as girdles, corsets, braces, suspenders and garters and was thus subject to 6.5% duty.
HMRC’s stance was upheld by the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) on the basis that the garments did not perform a ‘corrective function’. However, Amoena argued on appeal that they were designed to ‘compensate for a disability’ by holding artificial ‘breast forms’ in pockets with padded straps to prevent neck and shoulder strain.
Allowing the company’s appeal, the Upper Tribunal ruled that, on the facts found by the FTT, the only possible conclusion was that the bras’ essential function was prosthetic and that they should be classified as artificial body parts and orthopaedic appliances.