The following Value Added Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:
This guidance note explores what is meant by food in the context of the zero-rating for food in VATA 1994, Sch 8, Group 1.
For an overview of the scope of zero-rating for food and the exceptions to this, see the Food ― overview of zero-rating guidance note
In-depth commentary on the legislation and case law surrounding the meaning of food can be found in De Voil Indirect Tax Service V4.217–V4.225.
Food (which includes drink) is very broadly defined for VAT purposes and encompasses all of the following:
food for human consumption
seeds, plants, etc for human or animal food
live animals generally used for making human food
VATA 1994, Sch 8, Group 1, General Items, note 1
These four categories are explored further in this guidance note.
HMRC generally takes the view that an item of food is for human consumption if it meets the following criteria:
an average person would consider that the item is food or drink if they knew what it is and how it is used
the item is fit for human consumption
VAT Notice 701/14, para 2.3
Just because an ingredient is not the kind of thing that someone would eat on its own, provided the ingredient is generally recognised as being a food ingredient, HMRC should accept that it is food for human consumption. For example, recognised food ingredients might include products like flour which would not often be eaten on its own but is nevertheless widely accepted as food. HMRC gives views on a number of specific ingredients in VFOOD2200 (see also the tables at the end of this guidance note).
By the same token, basic unprocessed foodstuffs can be categorised as food for human consumption provided they are fit for human consumption.
VAT Notice 701/14, para 3.1
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