Value Added Tax

Liability ― food and catering

Produced by Tolley
  • 10 May 2022 13:31

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

  • Liability ― food and catering
  • Liability of food ― the basics
  • What is food?
  • Food for human consumption ― general
  • Food for human consumption ― food ingredients and basic foodstuffs
  • Food for human consumption ― ingredients with culinary and non-culinary uses
  • Food for human consumption ― medicines, dietary supplements and food additives
  • Food for human consumption ― examples
  • Animal food
  • Seeds, plants, etc
  • More...

Liability ― food and catering

This guidance note examines the liability of supplies of food and catering.

For an overview of the concept of VAT liability generally, see the Liability ― overview guidance note.

For in-depth commentary on the legislation and case law on supplies of food and catering, see De Voil Indirect Tax Service V4.217–V4.225.

Liability of food ― the basics

When considering the liability of supplies of food, the starting point is that there is a broad zero rate for all food.

However, this broad zero-rating for food is subject to a number of important exceptions. These exceptions are taken out of the scope of zero-rating and therefore will generally be standard-rated.

The exceptions can be conveniently divided into the following categories:

  1. catering

  2. ice cream and other frozen products

  3. confectionery

  4. alcoholic and other drinks

  5. savoury snacks

  6. pet food

  7. home brew kits

As well as the liability of food supplied in isolation, questions frequently arise over single and multiple / mixed supplies. Commonly, these questions arise where businesses supply a mixture of zero-rated and standard-rated food or a mixture of zero-rated food and other items.

What is food?

Food (which includes drink) is very broadly defined for VAT purposes and encompasses all of the following:

  1. food for human consumption

  2. animal food

  3. seeds, plants, etc for human or animal food

  4. live animals generally used for making human food

VATA 1994, Sch 8, Group 1, General Items, note 1

Food for human consumption ― general

HMRC generally takes the view that an item of food is for human consumption if it meets

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