CHARITY campaigners are renewing calls for VAT on headstones to be scrapped.
The Joseph Salmon Trust, which helps families who have lost children pay for funeral and related costs, says it could support many more people if the 20% levy was removed.
Marsh couple Neil and Rachael Salmon set up the trust in 2008 following the death of their son, Joseph, from pneumonia in 2005.
They unsuccessfully lobbied the last government to make headstones tax-free.
But they hope David Cameron, whose six-year-old son, Ivan, died in 2009, will be more sympathetic.
Neil said: “We hope the prime minister will know where we are coming from.
“While he may not have the same financial pressures that a lot of people in this country have, he will no doubt be completely aware of how difficult and life-changing losing a child is.
“Families that lose children have a hell of a lot to contend with.
“It’s the most traumatic, distressing, difficult time a parent can have and if you can scrape together enough for a headstone, you find out the government slaps VAT on it. It just seems very unfair.
“Charities like ours are what the government claims to be encouraging as part of the Big Society and yet they are hindering us.”
Under current legislation, funerals, cremations, burials and other related costs that are deemed essential are exempt from VAT.
But the tax still has to be paid on headstones and other memorial items viewed as non-essential.
Mr and Mrs Salmon launched a petition asking the last government to scrap VAT on headstones. Since then the levy has risen from 15% to 20%.
Neil added: “We had a firm ‘no’ from the last government, but with the new government and the increase in VAT, we want them to look at the issue again.
“The average amount we give to families is £2-3,000. The VAT on that is up to £600 and that’s £600 off what we can use to help another family.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney asked a written parliamentary question about VAT on headstones on the couple’s behalf.
In a written response, Treasury Minister David Gauke said: “The services provided by an undertaker in connection with burial or cremation are exempt from VAT.
“However, long-standing agreements with our EU partners signed by successive governments mean that we can’t extend the scope of this exemption to include headstones and similar commemorative items.”
Mr McCartney said: “As someone who is regularly aghast at what comes out of Europe, this seems like another example of some daft EU nonsense that we have signed up to. Seeing as though burials and cremations are already exempt from VAT, I would link having a headstone as part of the process.”