V1.241 Interpretation and construction

Part V1 General principles and rates of tax

V1.241 Interpretation and construction

V1.241 Interpretation and construction

Litigation is inevitable where the meaning or extent of a statute is uncertain or ambiguous, and resolving such problems requires interpretation or construction of the statute. This is the process whereby a meaning is assigned to the words of a statute, and uncertainties or ambiguities in their extent are resolved.

Statutory aids

VATA 1994 s 96 provides definitions for a number of words used in the legislation. Similar interpretation provisions are included in the various orders, rules and regulations made thereunder. The Interpretation Act 1978 prescribes definitions of certain words and phrases commonly encountered in Acts of Parliament; these definitions are presumptive only, and yield to a contrary intention, either express or implied in the Act being interpreted.

The schedules setting out the goods and services which are exempt1, zero-rated2 or taxable at the reduced rate3 are interpreted in accordance with the following rules—


    (1)     the schedules are interpreted in accordance with the notes contained therein4;


    (2)     the descriptions of the groups in the schedules are for ease of reference only, and do not affect the interpretation of the descriptions of items in those groups5.

The words “whether or not tax would be chargeable on the supply apart from this section” in VATA 1994 s 30(1) suggest that zero-rating overrides exemption where a supply could fall within both schedules. This contention is, to a degree, at odds with VATA 1994 s 4(2): “a taxable supply is a supply of goods or services made in the United Kingdom other than

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