Food ― catering

Produced by Tolley

The following Value Added Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Food ― catering
  • Scope of exclusion from zero-rating for catering
  • What is a supply in the course of catering?
  • Food requiring further preparation
  • Delivered sandwiches and grocery items
  • Packed lunches
  • When is food for consumption on the premises?
  • Meaning of ‘premises’
  • Vending machines
  • Supplies of food on trains, planes, etc
  • More...

Food ― catering

This guidance note explores what is meant by ‘catering’ in the context of the zero-rating for food. Catering is specifically excluded from zero-rating and so catering supplies are traditionally standard-rated. However, between 15 July 2020 and 31 March 2022, a temporary reduced rate applies to most catering supplies, details of which are set out in the Hospitality industry ― temporary reduced rate from 15 July 2020 to 31 March 2022 guidance note. This guidance note does not cover the temporary reduced rate in any depth.

For an overview of the scope of zero-rating for food in VATA 1994, Sch 8, Group 1, see the Food ― overview of zero-rating guidance note.

In-depth commentary on the legislation and case law on catering can be found in De Voil Indirect Tax Service V4.220.

Scope of exclusion from zero-rating for catering

The following catering supplies are excluded from zero-rating:

  1. supplies made in the ‘course of catering’

  2. food and drink supplied for consumption on the premises

  3. hot takeaway food

VATA 1994, Sch 8, Group 1(a), Note 3

These catering supplies are described in more detail in this guidance note.

What is a supply in the course of catering?

Catering is the supply of prepared food and drink, and it usually involves a significant element of service being provided to the customer. Supplies made in restaurants, at weddings and the delivery of cooked meals to the customer’s house are typical examples of supplies of catering.

Food and drink supplied as part of a catering contract will also be liable to VAT at the standard rate (or in some circumstances, the temporary reduced rate between 15 July 2020 and 31 March 2022, see the Hospitality industry ― temporary reduced rate from 15 July 2020 to 31 March 2022 guidance note).

Food requiring further preparation

Just because a meal is pre-prepared (for example a ready-meal), this does not necessarily mean it is a supply in the course of catering. In fact, if a business supplies food that the

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